Though normally we eagerly anticipate Imbolc as a sign of Spring; by ritual we had accepted the fact that Winter was never truly to come and though there might be some snow falls, we would not have frozen ground to break through nor endless days of white quiet making us stir crazy. Perhaps not.
The day started with cooking and cleaning and preparing for whomever as always. But really before that even we walked the land and dressed the Bridget shrine. And with the weather so cooperative Bryan had spent days clearing around the shrine, letting the air and water flow. And we did not have to make fire days before and our Bridget’s cloth – though blown down- was not frozen. These preparedness rituals support our ritual work, simplifying and making smoother.
Our first fire was kindled with embers from our wood stove, as later our hearth fire would be brought to life with burning wood from the ritual fire. I love when smolder turns to flame with the gentle breath.
We began by burning last year’s calendar, something we traditionally do on New Year’s Day, but something that with the weird weather had just dragged the time onwards. Each page folded outward like flower petals and wrapped thrice in a red ribbon, the calendar caught flame while we chanted- “Burn old year burn, may last year’s troubles never return”. It became a family stomp around the fire, and it being our family the stomp grew increasingly animated or silly, as in the ministry of silly walks.
The calendar had just become full ashes as Amber arrived. It had been more or less a year since we gathered with her and her chocolate chip cookies for ritual and we made tea together. Amber is one of our more musically inclined and inspired grove friends and she brought her tie-dyed ukulele for Bridget.
Susan arrived with warm apple pie, sun-shaped and mouth-watering. She is like a goddess with flowing blond hair and cloak-like clothes. Her warm smile is always reassuring and her hugs like family. We sit and drink tea and eat sweets and cheeses.
Sharon called to say she’d be late, we are always farther than one thinks. We didn’t know if we could wait but time flies with good cookies and catching up, each telling our hurricane survival stories with either me or Bryan tending the fire. I bring stuff to the 5 circle fire pit as Sharon (our ADF Regional Druid) arrives. She is the first ADF person in a long time (who is not of our group) to attend a ritual and we feel blessed and excited.
We hung out pre-rit for a while and then nudged towards ritual by ringing the gong 3 times- each louder and fuller than the last. Processing past the home fire (now smoldering and smoking once again) and my cloak outstretched on the garden fence like welcoming arms we first go to the Bridget shrine. I had visited her earlier in the day offering words and gratitude and prayers standing over the stream, neither within nor without. Bryan carried the wreath, cyser, and sheaves of stalks. He first lights the tiki torch and goes to retrieve the small Bridget idol as the stream gurgles and rushes. He spends a long time trying to get the Bridget candle lit and finally comes back across the stream holding everything.
We process through what will be the garden to the 5 circle fire pit. By the hand dug small pond (now more filled in from the hurricane wash) which serves as our sacred well, there is a steel bowl of cold water for our lustration. Using dried vervain as a wand and following Bryan’s example, we each dip the wand into the water and shower ourselves. Cold and flashing like a thousand crystals, it sparkles on my face and I fling it over the boy and we laugh.
Marching and dancing around the circle (again the silly walks), we find our space and Bryan spends more time with the Bridget idol putting her securely in the willow tree, planted more than 10 years ago, our sacred tree.
Old sunflower seedheads for the Earth Mother who feeds us and supports us. Lighting the flame of love in the east- small candles in each of the directional fire pits to aid the fire ignition in the wind.
Struggling to keep a flame, how hard it is for the day to dawn for the spark of creation to stay alight and though each fire lit and smoked every person felt the need to support the flames adding branches, tending the fire.
Trying hard to light the center fire, so well crafted but not taking the hint, finally with the final candle it works.
Oil sacrifice for Mannanan but still a weak fire then then our sacrifice for Bridget, bringer of the flame. Our sacrifice was accepted with crackling blaze. The fires were alight and alive.
Our personal offerings were so powerful-one asking for support that her life be a help to guide through these earth transitions, the boy giving equal fractions of a cedar circle to each of the fires, another offering a flask of Irish whiskey, me giving thanks for direction, and finally the singing of a beautiful song recently written bringing us again and again back to the season, to the fire, and to Bridget. Then Bryan offered our final sacrifice-the fragrant and spitting Yule wreath and sheaves of grasses and stalks culled from in our early too warm winter garden clearing. The flame which had such challenged and humble beginnings soared large and bright and loud.
Bryan had made new stick runes from the terminal branches of our shagbark hickory and shook them onto the ground. Randomly gathering 2 handfuls (one of 4 and one of 5), Bryan turns to his son who picks one- the one of four - which we used for the Kindred and then the other of 5 became a clarification from/for Bridget.
the original 4 included a spare twig imposter so it was actually 3. “isn’t there a blank rune” and then Bryan told his Ralph Blume story
the first one was Mannaz- the self or Man
Nature Spirits was Nathuz or Need
the God’s & Goddesses was Tirwaz or Tir :direction in the north star kind of sense, the spiritual warrior, judgment and justice and the balance
for Bridget and the Season-
Dagaz or Day
Othala or Odul – the Sacred Enclosure
Sowelu – the Sun
Birkanu- Beginning /Birth
Isa or Ice
Johnny True Mirror arrived just in time for the waters which we take in – abundant, smoky and cool in our wine glasses.
Then the magic work of the Dance through Bridget’s Girdle- the expanding rope bound with knots and the sweet grass circle enclosing the Bridget’s cross. 3 times round for 7 times the luck. After the second cycle around with each of us going through, in, over, and across the rope circle, we passed around the virtues as well. Each chose one or sometimes two.
Johnny True Mirror offered his magic work of honoring money and our release from it’s power by holding a $20 bill over the smoke and then tearing it into pieces for each of us to offer to the fire. Quite the breath work there (especially for the boy) with a collective gasp at the ripping and exhale at the offering. A full release, emotional and actual.
We then burned that piece and our virtues. All our offerings ashes.
Giving thanks. Burned by smoke. Drained by ritual. Fire dying.
Giving thanks with oils flaring and special thanks to Bridget with Kevin’s Bailey’s Milk Spirit.
Gathering everything up to invite Bridget in. Bringing her in and onto our hearth, and lighting the kitchen fire.
Pies and Quiches and Salad and Cookies.
Our table of food and family. The difference between chaos and randomness.
The fire smoking until dusk, we feed it more as everyone leaves.