No new article this week, as I just returned from a three-day trip to my aunt’s house in Maryland to spend time with my grandparents. With the Brídeog coming up next Saturday (and with two people already signed up to be visited it looks like we won’t have to cancel it again!), I decided to reprint my old pre-Imbolc article, with the dates and phone numbers updated for this year’s events. I hope that everyone in our area can take part in some or all of our tradition to honor our Grove’s hearth goddess!
One of the most eagerly anticipated High Days of our year is coming up next: Imbolc. This is the holiday when we honor Bríd, our Grove’s hearth goddess. This holiday also has many traditions associated with it, from the ancient Celts to the modern-day Irish. I thought I’d share some of those traditions with you, so you’ll be ready to welcome Bríd into your home, and into our rite in February.
One of the traditional ways to honor Bríd at this time of year is to clean your home. The concept of “spring cleaning” has its origins in this practice. And really, when would you rather be doing your annual indoor cleaning? When there are several feet of snow on the ground, or when the flowers are blooming and the birds singing? You may want to use a birch branch to symbolically sweep the floors, as birch is a tree associated with new beginnings.
Another Imbolc tradition is the making of Bríd Crosses, which we use during the Brídeog (see below). Bríd Crosses are woven out of straw, in much the same way that a Native American “God’s Eye” is made. The crosses are traditionally hung over the doors of the home, and protect the home from fire. We’ll start making our Bríd Crosses, along with new clothing for the Bríd dolly itself, at our An Bruane session on January 27th.
One of my favorite Grove traditions for Imbolc is the Brídeog, which we’ve been doing since 1997. It will be held on January 30th this year. Based on a more modern Irish tradition, it consists of traveling from home to home with our Bríd dolly, called a “brídeog” (BREEJ-oag) in Irish Gaelic. The traveling party (a.k.a. the Biddies) enters the home carrying the dolly, along with several hand puppets, and singing loudly. The dolly is then carried through the house as blessings are said. The biddies then ask for an offering of food to help the needy—we accept nonperishable food for Food Gatherers. They then give the household a Bríd Cross (see above) and depart on their merry way to the next home. (If you’d like the Biddies to visit your home this year, contact us at 734-277-1897 or email@example.com .)
The night before each of our winter High Day rites, we hold our Fire Lighting Ceremony, where we bless the ritual flame. The Imbolc Fire Lighting is particularly significant, because Bríd was believed to travel the world on the night before her holiday, accompanied by the cow that nursed her when she was an infant. During the night, we hang two cloths from a bush near the fire. This gives Bríd a chance to visit us during the night and bless them. One of the cloths is cut up into pieces, and the pieces are distributed to the women and children of the community, to bring Bríd’s protection. The other cloth, called the Bratach Bríd, is one of our Grove relics, and kept from year to year to accumulate Bríd’s blessings. The Bratach Bríd was a traditional tool of midwives, used during the birthing process to ensure a safe delivery for both mother and child. Our own Bratach has been present at three births so far.
Finally, the Imbolc rite itself will be held on February 6th this year. I can’t give many details on the ritual, since we haven’t created it yet! Our Liturgists’ Roundtable will be held on February 3rd, and anyone (Grove member or not) is encouraged to attend and help us design our rite.
I hope that these ideas help you to celebrate Imbolc in your own household, and I hope you all have a chance to join us in our community celebration as well! For the dates, times, and locations of the meetings mentioned in this article, see the calendar in this newsletter, or call 734-277-1897 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, for more information on Bríd and Imbolc, Fox has written a few articles about them, which you can read at: http://www.shininglakes.org/deities/bridol.html.
Yours in service to the Kindreds and the Grove,
Rev. Rob Henderson, Senior Druid