Imbolc 2003

by Jenne Micale

Prior to the arrival of worshipers, we arranged the altar before the sacred tree. Candles crisscrossed in a knot pattern on a white silken cloth, interspersed with white roses, glass beads, and statues of Brigid from Betty’s altar. We assembled small packages of joss paper, pencils and Brigid’s brats, which are cloths left out on Imbolc Eve to receive her blessing. We formed a dolly of wheat, garbing her in white lace. And then the socialization occurred as people trickled in, and then the rite.

I drummed and sang the Brigid song on the porch as the insiders prepared the hallway. Once Norma let us in, Jack went first, escorting Bride in her wicker basket. We received the blessings of earth—a dab of Stonehenge dirt on the forehead, and water—a splash of said stuff, and air —incense, before parting the purple veil and entering the room. Once inside, I sang as they processed, one by one, passing Jack and Bride, taking a package for later use. Jack recited Brigid’s banns as we lit the 13 candles, and then the chime announced the start. We invoked the earth mother (Vigile), the directions (Josh), the well (Sandrock), the fire (Jenniforensic), and the tree (Brenda), the ancestors (Nej), the nature spirits (Deb), the gods and goddesses (Carol) with the usual aplomb and songs. Somewhere in there, Ed summoned Brigid again as muse, while Norma opened the gates, with Manannan.

Erica cursed, drank the outsiders’ offering and left the ritual, as outsiders must. She didn’t come back. And Brigid felt sad at her harsh words, for her husband, Breas, is Fomhoire, and she does not mean to drive any from her service.

After Betty’s long, lovely invocation to Bride, we had the usual praise offerings: a song by Nora, poems by others. Jack offered the portraits of Brigid that he’d drawn while the ritual progressed (click here). We had a main sacrifice scheduled for Bride. As the ritual went on, I sat beside the sacred tree, ready with the water to make offerings in the hazel-nut-speckled well. Brigid, it seemed, wanted to occupy the lawn chair of power. She sat there briefly, and then flitted to Betty’s side to assist in the invocation. “Well, you can use me if you will,” said I, clad in long green dress and torque. “Use me, sit on me. I’ll be your avatar, your vessel, as long as you let me run the ritual.” A silent conversation. And as I gazed at the 13 flames, I seemed to fall into them, dazzled by brightness. The room seemed full of golden light, and my body was filled with a strange giddiness, although my mind was observant, at a distance. Still in control. As the others recited, I smiled in glee—her glee at the honor, the attention; flattery. I realized we had not left a piece of bread aside for her as the main sacrifice. “Why not take it yourself, then?” I asked silently.

And she did. I rose and I spoke but the words were not me. “You forgot my offering. You try to be conscientious, but sometimes you forget. So I’ll take it my damned self.” She spoke through me, and my inner eyes watched distantly as she strode across the room, picking in disappointment over the unassembled feast. She thumbed her nose at the organic milk and the roast chicken. I sensed she wanted sweetness, confections of a sort. She picked out some scones, some carrots (“I like orange”), a shiny red apple (“this will do”) and a half-drunk bottle of hard cider (“this will definitely do.”) “I’d eat them now, but you’re all looking at me,” she said. “So I’ll put them behind the tree. Put them out for me later, don’t forget. You try to be conscientious, but sometimes you forget.” She grabbed the sickle from the mantle, and touched the food. “Since you didn’t bless it for me, I’ll bless it my damn self.”

And then she left, but not entirely, as she was still present in the ritual. Filled with strange rollicking laughter, I fell to my knees. “Now back to our regularly scheduled program.” And then I pressed my head to the floor as I smiled and laughed, filled with a strange fiery energy and lightness. And then on to the omens, which I do not remember. The waters of life, poured and distributed. I played my dulcimer and sang “Brigid of the healers” to the rustle of papers, as participants wrote down the projects they wish to foster in the waxing year. And then I donned my silver cloak and sandals and led the walk outside, to burn the doll and supplications.

We did so, on a nest of yuletide greens. The flames shot upward from the hibachi, brilliant in the darkness, and we stretched our hands forward for warmth. Vigile led chants, and we sang to goddess and god. And then, spontaneously, we broke into “auld lang syne.” I offered the prayers to Brigid, and closed the rite, herding people into the chamber of warmth. Thankfully, Nora supplied me with a plate of grounding food after I draped myself, rollicking giddy and ritual-drunk, on the couch. And slowly, the giddiness drained and I became myself entirely again.

[We had 29 in attendance. To look at a few Imbolc photos go HERE!

Our omens: Broom, Beech, Spindle and Ash. “We have our magical tools, we have our scholarly tools, now we need to work with them in our hearths and in our communities, gathering ancient knowledge from nature herself and from doing in the world.” Additional odd omen: Brenda & Jim’s “Bridget” peirogies. See photos on our website.]