Brigid, Imbolc, Imbolg, etc

It’s that time of year again, when I’m picking up my brait Bhríde (the extra i in “brat” is cos it’s plural there, yup, I do multiples!), making sure the house is visitor-tidy and maybe even Mammy-tidy, seeing about walking the bounds and grounds and generally doing an energetical tidy up as well.

I’ll be celebrating Imbolc on Sunday this year, mainly cos Monday is a very busy work day. These things have to be adaptable as well. I’m seeing a lot of people asking about food to eat, rituals in a COVID world, offerings to leave, etc, etc. So here is a bit of what I’ll be doing, although there isn’t really a set piece I do.

I’m a solitary practitioner, although my husband does get dragged into things at times. I mean, he’ll definitely partake of whatever meal I cook on Sunday anyway 🙂 But for me, a group ritual is not something I’ve ever engaged in really. However, I know for many in the COVID world, this might be their first time celebrating Imbolc alone. And it’s a bit scary for some, concerning, different, that sort of thing. It’s fairly impossible to recreate a multi-person ritual with one person, especially one that was designed and written for public spectacle. But, you know what? This is an opportunity for you to make the most of your own ritual – or even not have one at all.

As an idea, here’s a format I sometimes use:

  • Plan what you want to do.
  • Do any cooking and baking beforehand – trust me on this one! Ditto with shopping for special items. Have everything handy when you start. Including any favourite prayers or songs.
  • Make a sacred space. this might be a clear space on the floor. It might ordinarily be called your kitchen table. It might be the couch. Really, what makes a space sacred, is that we make it so. Clean this area as best you can – physically as well as energetically, now mind. (If you can – herself can and will take into account physical limitations or realities)
  • Mark out, even if only mentally, what space you are counting sacred.
  • Lay out some candles or some lamps or some wool or thread or something to mark the boundaries of the sacred space.
  • Dress in the clothes you want to wear for the ritual – this can be as dressed up or dressed down as you like.
  • Take a minute to gather yourself, some deep breaths, quick meditation or prayer, bit of music, whatever takes your fancy.
  • Formally step into the ritual space with intention.
  • Start with lighting the candles or turn on the lights.
  • Say a prayer or sing a song.
  • Spend some time in meditation.
  • Share food with herself. Share a drink as well – doesn’t have to be alcoholic, milk is good, tea, coffee, minerals – give the best you can, she will appreciate it. Dairy is always associated with Brigid, cattle were so important in Ireland that beef is grand, lamb is a delicacy in Ireland, home baking is always appreciated, but shop bought is grand if that’s what you have. The important bit here is sharing with her the best you have.
  • After eating, or even before it, maybe throw on some music and have a bit of a dance. Have some time for joy and happiness in the ritual. It doesn’t have to all formal and serious and portentous. I’ve been known to throw on anything from Shakira to Metallica to Clannad to Enya.
  • Spend some time in silence as well. Allow time for her to talk to you, as well as the other way around.
  • Close out with another prayer or song or dance.
  • Formally leave the sacred space with intention.
  • Tidy up 🙂

Now, the above is a rough outline, it might or might not suit you. I’ve spoken above of also walking the bounds and grounds – this is an act of formally claiming our home and garden as ours and declaring our intention of it being our sanctuary. The important thing is the walking with intention (it takes ten mins going slowly!) but I also mix up a jug of water, salt and blood if I’m bleeding, as well as some incense or a candle and pour out the water as I go to physically encircle the bounds and grounds as well. That’s a me thing, not a general thing though.

There’s a whole lot on the web about food for Brigid. I’ve gone into a bit up above there and there are elements of Scottish and Welsh lore that I know of that call out specific plants that would be associated with Brigid. I don’t buy into the whole “sun goddess” thing, so yellow isn’t a big deal with me. Dairy, home baking, good meat and a special meal are generally the way I go. In saying that, I’m not the ultimate guide here. You are. What feels right to you, what you are capable of, what you want to do is important.

There’s whole essays and youtube videos on how to make Brigid’s crosses of varying designs so I won’t bother here, as well as brideógs and brait Bhríde and leaba Bhríde and all the rest. These are fun, as well as being ways to include younger members of the family in all the drama.

Fertility rituals abound in this time of year as well – Seán Ó Dúinn’s book on Brigid outlines a lot of them. From fisherfolk leaving shells in the corner of the house to farmers leaving sheaves of oats outside the door, to ask Brigid’s blessing on the prosperity of the family for the year, there’s plenty of scope to make this suitable for your own livelihood. A pen for writers, a bit of cloth for tailors, something to indicate your way(s) of making a living for her to bless.

Another option is to have a younger member of the family (or indeed, you yourself if you don’t have people around) to go outside on Brigid’s Eve (31st January for me) and be welcomed inside in the guise of the saint or deity, thus welcoming Brigid in for the year. Just be warned, when you welcome her in, her leaving isn’t always easy!

This is obviously a short enough post to cover what is an important day for me. Candles lighting, cakes baking, food prep… It’s a pretty domestic day for me really, which is in total contrast to my usual days. That works for me – you may need to look at something different. But maybe there’s some ideas you can take and use from here. Either way, celebrate the day somehow and enjoy it. It is a celebration remember!

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