It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

Or is it? I know – there are a whole load of think pieces and “how to make Christmas stress free this year” type pieces coming out at this time of year. And honestly, I worry about some of the advice given. I mean, I’m not sure when I’ll do the food shop this week, never mind get a facial or a relaxing massage. So I’m going to share what my Christmas period will look like.

I’m working until 3:30 tomorrow (23rd December) I may or may not be putting up some Christmas lights or a tree after I finish work, but who knows how my energy will be. My husband isn’t in any condition to put up decorations, so we may just be lighting a few extra candles instead of decorating the house, and you know what? It’s not the first time we’ve done this. It’s ok. We survived. If decorations aren’t your thing – skip them.

On Christmas Eve, I’ll probably be doing the shop for the week. My aim would be to get to Lidl as soon as it opens and stock up for the week. There’s only two of us, we’ll probably have duck on Christmas Day, we still have crackers and napkins from a few years ago – be grand. For the rest of Christmas Eve, I’ll be recording the daily videos for the upcoming 30 Days of Brigid course, starting on 1st January. I have to pre-record the videos, because otherwise it’s too much stress on me. At least if I can set things up a week in advance, I can relax and adjust as needed and pay attention to what support people need during the course rather than worrying about uploading videos. Hopefully I can get the back broken on the 30+ videos in one day, so I can leave them to upload overnight.

On Christmas Day, I’ll be preparing the Facebook posts and emails etc for the course, linking them to the videos and making sure the words are alright and I haven’t accidentally written a curse instead of a prayer. I’ll also be spending a good portion of the day snuggling on the couch with my darling husband, although we haven’t decided what DVDs we’re going to watch this year. I may see if I can persuade him to a rewatch of True Blood…

On Stephen’s Day, I’ll be finished up the 30 Days of Brigid stuff and hopefully managing some more hours snuggling on the couch. Or sleeping. Or both. I can multitask, y’know!

On the 27th I’m back in work for the annual shutdown, 3 days of highly organised, safe mayhem on site, where my job is to spend the days walking down jobs and making sure permit conditions are adhered to. And to be available for people to bring me issues to solve, concerns to listen to, that sort of thing. I rarely have to come up with solutions you understand – people mostly want to just talk through the issue and get support for the decision they make. But it means for the 27th – 29th, I’ll be busy.

On the 30th, I’m hoping to work from home, and keep an eye on any start up issues after the shutdown. That evening, husband and I will be heading up to my parents to see in the New Year with them. Also hoping for some dedicated sleeping time here as well – Mam has already given me a piece of Christmas cake, some mince pies, Christmas pudding and her extra special, Bailey’s chocolate biscuit cake, but there’ll be more goodies for the New Year as well. Mam is an amazing cook and baker and she goes all out this time of year, so it will be a lovely time.

We’ll be back home on the 2nd January at the latest, back into work on the 3rd.

I mean, we don’t have kids, we don’t have too much visiting to do (for those wondering my husband’s parents are in the UK and we’ll hopefully get over to them in the New Year sometime – we ruled out travelling at Christmas years ago!) but it’s still hectic with little time for rest. So we’re cutting back on the non-essentials. We have a tradition between the two of us that on Christmas Day we have our starter for breakfast, main meal for dinner and dessert for tea/supper cos that suits us. And there won’t be a great deal of fancy prepping either – I like cream cheese with lemon juice and red onion wrapped in smoked salmon for starters, husband likes eggs of some description. Main meal is a roast duck with spuds, carrots, parsnips and gravy – basically, if it can be thrown in an oven to cook, I’m ok with that. Dessert will be some of that lovely biscuit cake or Christmas pudding with brandy butter or ice cream. If I’m feeling really energetic, we might get custard with it. St Stephen’s Day is leftovers day. Microwave day. Possibly even takeaway day if things get really bad.

We deliberately reduce our social engagements and our housework and all the rest of it at this time of year, because we know we’ll be exhausted. And this took a while to arrange for ourselves. But it’s still busy, because of the minimal days I have off work this year. So things like decorations may not happen. And you know something – that’s ok.

Everyone talks about the importance of the real meaning of Christmas, but when you take steps to allow yourself that rest, that reflection time and that has a knock on effect on the outward symbols of the season, people start to worry or give out or not like it in general. So here’s my advice to you this Christmas – be strong for yourself and your family. Hold the lines you need to hold to make it as good a Christmas for you as you can. Ask Brigid for help – she’s usually more on the seeping through boundaries side, but she’s good at holding the really important ones – think of the forge, and the hammer blows and the shaping of things to work for you. Here’s the energy we need this season.

Brigid, at this season, help me and my family, by blood or by choice or by circumstance, to create the holiday we need and want this year. Help us to establish and hold our boundaries against the creeping tide of expectation and other people’s wishes. Help us give ourselves the gift of a period we feel happy about rather than exhausted by.

The strange ways the work can take us

Recently I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube videos from someone called Love 518. It’s a wonderful channel, where a hairdresser takes people’s hair that has been matted, or untended for a long time and she carefully unmatts it (no I don’t know if that’s a proper word, but ye know what I mean right?), tends it carefully and sends them on their way feeling some pride in themselves again. She is also really careful with her people, offers some amazing masks to allow them to keep anonymous and gives them hairstyles they love and feel good about.

Why would I think a random hairdresser in Miami, Florida is doing the gods’ work? Well, she’s giving people back their respect. She’s giving people a new start. She doesn’t give a damn how or why the hair gets matted, she regularly says none of us know when we might have a bad run of luck or have mental health issues, her aim is trying to give people back their hair. She just accepts people as they are and where they are and move on.

And hair is something that’s really obvious when there’s something not right. Skin is easy enough to keep clean and looking semi presentable, but hair… well hair can go wrong very easily. All it takes is a bad week and the knots get amazingly difficult to get out. Add a few weeks, a month, a few months, and hair gets really messy and difficult and a big job to tackle, and sometimes -well sometimes that’s just too damn much to face into. And so, it gets worse and worse. Now my hair isn’t too curly, ( I think I’m about a 2B according to this evaluation) but it still knots easily, and knots are the first step to matting for me.

But I don’t need to go to the hairdresser regularly to keep control over my hair, I can throw it into plaits when I need to, it’s easy enough to deal with. Added to which, I like it long because at least I can throw it up in a pony tail as well. But I like my hair. There are times when my hair is the only thing I really love about my body. (Don’t worry – there are times I can love other things as well) My hair is my crowning glory and I love it. So, I can completely understand how the work that Love 518 is doing is Divine Work. As far as I can tell, the hairdresser is Christian, but the faith doesn’t matter if what you’re doing is the right thing, in my opinion.

People deserve their self respect and hair is a massive part of that. Recognising that, and then moving to do something to help people – it’s amazing. This hairdresser spend days, 12 hour days on people’s hair and the transformations she makes for people are amazing.

I could rhapsodise for a while here, but go check out her videos. To expand the point – I don’t know if this hairdresser realises what she is giving back to people, but I hope she does. For women in particular, hair has long been considered a “crowning glory” (see the Bible, 1 Corinthians 11:6 and 11:15) and cutting the hair or shaving the hair has been long been a punishment for immodesty or vanity or whatever. Hair can be used to make a statement, it can be a way to identify ourselves or hide ourselves, to stand out or to blend in.

Sometimes, doing the work doesn’t mean lots of praying or fasting or deprivation or whatever else we think of when we think of spirituality. Sometimes, doing the work means taking the skills we already have, taking the work we already do, and pushing it out to help those who need it. What I mean by “pushing it out” is by looking at those skills and talents and work and seeing how we can use them to make this world a better place. Maybe that means you affect one person’s life, maybe it means you affect thousands of people’s lives. It doesn’t matter. To leave the world a better place than we found it is a good thing in general.

For me – engineering is my job, teaching is my work. So I share the way I think about things here, on my email list, in the school, in the facebook group, on the facebook page – all in an attempt to do the work I have to do and to make this world a better place. Mind you, engineering is also my work, cos why have just one bit of work to do – I work for a very practical and efficient deity! Persuading more women into engineering and making sure the ones already in engineering get the supports they need to keep going are also part of the work I do. My work will never be as clear as the work that hairdresser is – the changes I help people make are more private for a start, and sometimes I won’t ever know what changes are actually made, but I have hope. And that keeps me going.

Today, it’s a cold, freezing day in Ireland and I’ve had a tough weekend. I’m going into work tomorrow to face a shitstorm that because of reasons I wasn’t able to sort out over the weekend. But I can and will deal with it and in doing so, I will make the path clearer and easier for the women coming after me. It is unlikely I will have someone weeping on my shoulder because I made a fundamental change to their appearance that helps them to make them recognise themselves again. I have had people be thankful for my teaching and support, which is lovely, but it’s also important to realise that I don’t do this for that feeling, as awesome as it is, and I need to be careful to not depend on that feeling either. That was lies a lot of pain and badness.

I went down a potentially dark path there, but it’s important to recognise that it would be really easy to come to depend on people telling me how great I am, and that’s just not healthy for anyone. Don’t get me wrong – if something I say helps you or affects you or you just want to reach out – please feel free to do so. But it’s down to me to manage the me side of that interaction. And the me side needs to recognise that my feet need to stay firmly on this earth and not be rising up pretending to be something I’m not. I know already my daily practice tomorrow will be a brief gesture towards the east as I get into my car in the morning, long long before the sun rises. I might include a prayer on my way to work and while I’m in work asking for help and for support throughout the day. There’s a chance I’ll remember to say thank you tomorrow evening when I get home safely.

So, I’m not some genius guru with all the answers. I can’t fix all spiritual problems as easily or patiently as Love 518 solves hair problems. But I can help people along the way. I can help with small things (like the 30 Days of Brigid class coming up in January). I can ask the questions to get you thinking. Actually, I usually ask the questions here that get me thinking. And then work them out in the words here. I can help disentangle a problem or a spiritual issue with words, the same as Love 518 does with her combs, her brushes, her hands, her products, her knowledge… but really, it’s down to each of us ourselves to maintain once the help has been had. Just as it’s down to me to make sure I’m not claiming to be something I’m not and I’m making sure I keep up to date on my knowledge for Brigid, for engineering, for my own practices… It’s down to all of us to look after ourselves, whatever that looks like for us. If someone comes to me for help – I’ll give it if I can. If someone keeps coming back asking the same questions, getting the same answers and not working on it – well Brigid lost patience at times so I figure she won’t mind me losing it as well 🙂

That’s not to say anyone needs to be nervous about asking questions. But when someone has put time, work, effort into helping – make sure to do the work you need to do to get the best out of that help. Now there are times when you ask for help (indeed, times when I’ve asked for help) and you’re not in a position to act on the help, or you recognise the value of the help, but you just can’t fit in the work to use the help – honestly, that’s grand. Say it! I had someone say to me a few month’s ago that they very much appreciated the offer of a scholarship but they knew they wouldn’t be able to pay attention to the course right then, so it would be unfair to take me up on the offer. I love hearing people be honest with themselves and me like that. I respect it, I appreciate, it shows self knowledge and awareness.

So where am I going with all this rambling? Watching the Love 518 videos really has me thinking about how I can further help people – and I have a few new ideas coming up. It also has me thinking of ways I can reach out for help for myself as well, in both practical and spiritual terms.

And if anyone can spare a prayer or a candle tomorrow to help me through a tough work day, with challenging weather conditions (for Ireland anyway!) , I’d appreciate it!!

Signs and symbols

This morning, as I left the house and drove down the hill, I saw the most gorgeous fox disappearing into the hedge ahead of me. Well, they were crossing the road in front of me, not that I was driving into the hedge. I’m not that bad, even at 6am…

It reminded me of Brigid, although she was on my mind anyway since I’d just done my “face towards the east and spend a second thinking of her before getting into the car” activity. And then I started thinking about signs. Now, of course, with her links to the clever fox in the hagiographies, foxes always have me thinking of herself, but that doesn’t mean they’re actually a sign of something at all times. This fox was just going about their business. And, I know we had a set of four cubs earlier in the year in the back yard. (It was pure gorgeous watching them play and sniff about and generally being cubs…) So, it’s highly unlikely that the fox was there as a sign to me.

But how then would I be able to interpret a sign or symbol from herself? It’s a fair question. And please remember, interpreting symbols and signs is a personal thing, but what I’m offering here are some ideas to determine if something is a sign or symbol or not.

Well here’s the thing. If an animal or a tree or a piece of the natural landscape is just living away, doing its thing, then it’s probably not a sign, unless it’s for you to live your life as well. If said animal or tree or rock is acting a bit strange – well it could be a sign, but it could also be that the animal is sick, the tree is reacting to something you can’t see or sense, the rock is having an existential crisis… The world doesn’t revolve around us, much as we’d want it to. So, my first thought after thinking “Was that a sign?” is usually pure skepticism. I look for ways for the sign to be natural or an ordinary event, rather than a sign just for me.

But maybe there’s more to it. Maybe you’re looking around and you’re thinking, “Orlagh, I’m in Antarctica, there are no foxes here and one’s just come wandering around the house”. OK, that might be a sign. Or a very confused and lost fox. I’d still be hanging on to skepticism for a while longer. And I’d be seeing if I needed to help said fox, cos if it’s in Antarctica, the only continent where foxes can’t be found, something’s gone wrong somewhere!

I’d look for back-up confirmation (probably after I figured out what on earth the fox was doing in the middle of the ice and the snow!) I’d use a pendulum, cards, prayer, meditation, ogham, whatever other divination tools I had at my disposal to help support the sign I received. And, as I have said before, the more drastic the action to take, the more confirmation I’d look for. I’ll be honest – I usually take the mere presence of my favourite chocolate in the supermarket as a sign I should buy some – which is handy, cos it’s always there! But when it came time to move home from England? I thought long and hard about that. Changing a job? I thought long and hard about it. Moving house? Again, I thought long and hard about it. Wearing a dress instead of trousers – ok, that one takes a little less though.

But you get the idea. If the sign you’re looking for is to completely overhaul your life, change your career, move to the other side of the world – I wouldn’t necessarily be doing it on the basis of one sign. I’d research, investigate what the possible outcomes were, determine how realistic this is and work from there. Now sometimes, we need to work on faith. I mean, when I set up this blog, the school, etc, I was working on faith that it would be a worthwhile endeavor. And it has been – I’ve improved my spiritual life, my physical life, my emotional life… it’s been a really great experience so far and I have hopes that I can use this blog and the school to replace my day job and be able to devote my life more fully to Brigid.

Which would be awesome – but in the meantime, I still need to put food on the table and a roof over our heads. So, working on it!

If you have a crow appear to you in my area – that’s not a sign, the damn things are living in half my chimney pots and sound like people tramping over my roof on a daily basis. If a bald eagle showed up – I’d look into a bit. They’re not known for their Irish journeys too often. If you’re meditation or journeying and something random appears to you – be cautious. Don’t take everything at face value. Check out who or what you’re dealing with. Check how honest and straightforward they are. Irish deities tend towards the straightforward by the way – subtle as a sledgehammer to the face most of the time, to be honest. So if you ask out straight, “Who are you?”, you don’t tend to get the “I am the wind and the air, I am the light at night, I am the whisper in the darkness”. You tend to get “I’m Brigid. Now here’s what I need you to be doing…”

Well that’s my experience anyway. But if you ask someone their name and they reply with “You may call me X” then you can almost be certain their name isn’t X. Or at least now their full name. If they start down the “You may call me Master” just get out of there. No good will come of it.

But you know the most important part of interpreting signs and symbols? Knowing yourself. Be aware of yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, your faults, your areas of awareness, your areas of lack of awareness. Have a think about ways you respond to flattery, to cajoling, to oppression. The better you know yourself, the easier it is to deal with signs and symbols. the better you know yourself, the less need you have of signs and symbols. The better you know yourself, the harder it is for other beings to pull the wool over your eyes.

So spend some time getting to know yourself. Reflection isn’t often promoted in modern life, but it’s a worthwhile exercise. Now, this month’s Patreon offering is a short exercise to help you get to know yourself a bit or maybe highlight areas you might want to pay attention to. You can sign up for as little as a fiver a month. Otherwise the 30 Days of Brigid in January might help explore your relationship with herself a bit more and build that deeper connection to herself, so maybe signs and symbols might not mean as much.

In the end though, how you interpret signs and symbols is really up to you. It’s a deeply personal process and while I can help you discuss things and think things out, really, the meaning of what you see, hear, touch, smell, taste, sense is up to you. Smelling roses – I think of St. Therese of Lisieux and Mary. Smelling lavender – I think of my Nana. The sound of a range being cleaned -I think of my other Nana. The smell of Sweet Afton cigarettes – that’s Grandad. All deeply personal. It would be very strange if smelling Sweet Afton cigarettes made you think of my grandad, unless you’re a cousin of mine, in which case, hi!

Do the work and the signs and symbols mostly take care of themselves. And beware of mysterious messages. Seriously – it’s probably someone up to no good!!


Or rather, the discussion of right and wrong. I had the misfortune to go down a rabbit hole of some very right wing Catholic blogs earlier today and it got me thinking of morality and the notion of an absolute value of “right and wrong”.

I know, deep thoughts of a Monday morning. I blame my weekend…

What shocked me was that these discussions (no, I won’t link them because I don’t want to drive traffic to their sites in any way!) seem to look at a very black and white view of morality. Almost, if not actually, fundamentalist in nature. Now, I know, we get fundamentalist Christians the same as any other flavour of religion, but the standing joke when I was growing up was the closest thing to a fundamentalist Catholic was the auld grannies saying their rosaries before, during and after Mass on a Sunday. We were wrong. Very, very wrong.

There are such things as fundamentalist Catholics and their views on the world are very strict, rigid and controlling. I found it shocking, really, some of the views expressed in these blogs. It’s worse than Ireland in the 50’s. And it brings me back to a line in a Mercedes Lackey book, about a religion changing when priests view their congregations as sheep and start offering answers to everything rather than allowing and assisting people to follow their own questions to the answers that make sense for them. I think this has happened in the Catholic Church definitely. If you look at the early church, there’s a lot of focus on self development, learning for yourself what makes sense and what doesn’t, defining good, bad, right wrong, etc, in the context of your own life.

That’s disappeared by the time we come to the Medieval Church. It’s all about rigid, dogmatic viewpoints, with exceptions for the rich. And I sense the same thought process in some of these blogs I ended up reading earlier. Take any topic in the world and there’s rarely a harsh, definitive, yes/no answer: is violence wrong? Well yes, but what if it’s in defence? What if it’s preventing a greater violence? The ways of life are not black and white, but varying shades of grey for the most part.

There are specific events we can decry and condemn – the Holocaust, mass shootings, incarceration of innocents… but these are specific events. Is there a time I could rationalise a mass shooting as the lesser of two evils? Not off the top of my head, but “never” is a long time to commit to.

Where does this leave us? Well, we can learn the lessons we can from our writings, from our lore, from our modern lives. We can look at what looks right to us, learn from other people’s perspectives, accept we’re not always going to get it right, whether “it” is a singular action or a broader based attitude. We all mess up. We all do things that we think is the right thing but later find out is not. This is human. Learn from it, make amends where possible and move on. Do better next time.

Rigid rules are too inflexible for humans. Declaring that X is right and Y is wrong – well sure, in that situation, but then the whataboutery starts. For example, I will stand behind a woman’s right (or a man’s right) to choose what happens to their bodies. Consent should be a core tenet of medicine as well as every other aspect of life. But if someone has been in a traffic accident and needs life saving surgery and is unconscious or in a coma – I don’t expect the medical staff to try and wake that person up to gain consent. If there are files available to check specific religious views and preferences, fine, but otherwise, go ahead and save the life.

It’s easier sometimes to depend on rigid rules and limitations of acceptable behaviour. It’s a way to dodge responsibility (“I was following orders”) But it’s not enough. Brigid is a liminal deity after all, she lives in the grey, the less definite, the amorphous areas of life, she won’t lay down the law for us in that way. So we have to figure this stuff out for ourselves. There are some things we can follow fairly easily: we can’t give money to every charity, but we can choose where we give money, spend money, etc. We can decide on the things that are important to us – for example, it will surprise no one reading this that I actively work towards getting more woman into engineering positions and jobs. It’s something I feel evangelical about and consider really important. Is it more important that homelessness or poverty or any of the other myriad of social issues plaguing Ireland today? Hell no. But it’s what I’m choosing to work on.

And in saying “yes” to that, I’m saying “no” to other things. I’m ok with this, now. There was a time when I thought I had to support everything but really, I can’t do that. It’s simple. We make choices. Sometimes the choices are the right ones, sometimes they’re not, but they’re ours to make.

So, when someone starts on about morality, have a think about what they mean, where they’re coming from and how they build their morality for themselves. See if their ideas agree with yours and if yours need changing or adaptation on the basis of new information and experiences. And remember, we live in the grey, always the grey.

Showing up

I spent last night at home (in the homeplace, with my parents). This is great, for all sorts of reasons – Ma’s cooking not the least of them- but it also got me thinking. As I’m sure ye expected seeing as how I’m writing about it.

I found myself getting really irritated last night. At first I thought it was because I was reading a book, while they were watching telly, but they kept pausing the telly to talk to me. Then I thought it was because of all the comments on how I looked “frowny” (don’t ask!!) Then I thought maybe I was too hot, cos they tend to keep the place good and warm (well Dad is 83 now, so it’s expected).

But as I woke up this morning, I thought of something I cover in the Preparation for Imbolc course (registration is closed, but you can register your interest for next year here) – being in tune with your body. And I started thinking – I was very much out of my usual routine. Normally, my evenings are quiet, with myself and himself at home, and usually he knows I need to not talk for a bit. My parents on the other hand, don’t see me every day, so when I do see them, they want to talk about anything and everything.

So I instead of my usual quiet, peaceful evening, I had an evening punctuated by questions. Lots and lots of questions. What are you reading? Are you too hot (yes!!) Will I put more logs on the fire? (please don’t!) Are you tired? (Yes) Do you want a cuppa? (No, thanks) What time do you go to bed? (9:30) Are you going soon so? (in 10 mins) Do you remember these doctors? (M*A*S*H*, just FYI) and more and more and more

I’m not used to being questioned like this – and it’s their way of making conversation and keeping in tune with my life. But I still took myself off to bed possibly slightly earlier than I had planned. Because I needed to rest my brain. And this morning it occurred to me that usually, by 8:30, myself and the husband are sitting by the couch in companionable silence, punctuated by brief comments on whatever we’re watching on the telly. I don’t have to think. I can relax, knowing if I don’t answer him, he’ll poke me or say whatever it is again or generally just take it as I didn’t hear him, not as me sulking or not talking or whatever. But my parents usually see me at times when I can stay up late, or I’ve geared myself up for a long conversation, or otherwise prepared.

Yesterday, I had a long day in work and a longer drive afterwards, plus I ate dinner a good hour later than usual, so I was hungry and tired. I wasn’t myself. Or at least not the self that they’re used to seeing these days.

Now, what has this to do with Brigid? Well, here’s the thing. My Dad still got up this morning to make sure the alarm was turned off well before I woke up. He’s just made me a nice cup of coffee to start off my day and he’s going about his business around me as I get started for my day here. There’s no judgement – he knows I was tired last night and he knows I always think the house is too hot and he knows I laugh at them worrying about me being too cold etc in the bed. These are all long standing, loving conversations/ debates we have. And he still loves me, in spite of the differences between us.

We don’t always have to show up perfectly to Brigid either. I’m not saying I believe in unconditional love mind you, but I think my parents accept most of what I am (they really don’t understand the lack of a sport interest, but after 4 decades, they’re getting used to it!) They know that last night I really was tired, out of my usual routine, etc, etc, etc. They also know that all the questions drive me cracked. (Again doesn’t stop them asking, because they are genuinely interested, but, you know, this love thing works both ways!)

I often hear/read people talking about the efforts they go to, to show up for their deity. They dress up, they prepare, they make the effort. And don’t get me wrong – this is great. But when we’re talking about a daily practice, it doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes you show up in your jammies. Or sometimes you show up tired, hungry, sore, grumpy. Or sometimes, you show up and all you can do is sit there because all you have is the energy to show up, nothing else. This is all ok. You don’t need 4 decades of a relationship with someone to start to recognise their energy levels or when something is wrong. OK, sometimes Brigid needs to be reminded we’re human and not inanimate tools, but she’ll recognise this – that we’re not on top form.

Sometimes it will make a difference to what she asks, or when she asks it, sometimes it won’t. And again, that’s ok. Sometimes we’re tired, hungry, lost, and we need a kick up the bum. Sometimes we need rest. Sometimes we can afford to take that rest, sometimes we can’t. This is all life and it’s not perfect.

So, I suppose, here’s what I’m saying. There’s a saying here in Ireland that home is the place that when you go there, they have to take you in. My parents will always take me in… and so will Brigid. If I have faith in nothing else, I can have faith in that. Maybe you don’t have that. I know I am very lucky with the parents I have, however irritating at times they can be. They love me, want the best for me, care for me, support me… not everyone is so lucky. I’m also lucky in the husband I have, for many of the same reasons. I have two places in this land that if I show up, I will be able to enter the home. And I have my home in Brigid as well – although that’s not so much she must take me in, as she will take me in.

I can rest in her when I choose. My showing up on a daily basis is sometimes as basic as a few deep breaths or taking a few seconds to recognise her in my life. Sometimes it’s launching a massive three month course at short notice, or a 30 day course at even shorter notice! Levels of “showing up” exist…

So here’s what I’m saying. Our deities know, deep down, they really do know, that we’re human. We’re not machines. (Although as an engineer, machines can be temperamental as well sometimes!) You can show up dirty. You can show up tired. You can show up hungry. You can show up grumpy. You can show up wishing desperately you could be doing anything else at all. The important thing is to show up. The important thing is to even show up long enough to say “I can’t show up today”. I know it sounds daft, but really – it’s not.

Communication is as important in deity relationships as in human relationships. Your deity knows you can be tired, hungry, out of sorts etc. Still, take the 30seconds to show up. Consistently showing up is more important than showing up looking glam or energetic or anything. Consistently showing up is the basis of any relationship and deity is no different.

And now, the parents are both up so I’m off to enjoy my morning porridge with fresh fruit – fancier than normal – and maintaining that relationship for a while longer!! And remember – show up. Regardless of how you look or feel. She won’t mind.

We don’t always have the choice

I met a friend for brunch this morning at 11 in Tramore and four hours later was going to the sea to wash my hands in the water – I didn’t want to wash my feet, cos I was wearing tights and they’re a pain to put back on wet feet… The sea, or Someone connected with the sea, had different ideas. Now to be fair, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. I was only soaked ankle deep. But I was still wet – my tights, my runners (which I had planned to wear to work tomorrow) my feet, were all wet and all the hot air in the world in the car on the way home wouldn’t dry them.

Image of my wet foot, in black Sketchers runners, leg covered by black skirt with with patterns of moon, sun and stars on it, tarmac covered in sand in the background.

Now, when I go to the sea, I generally wash my feet. It’s not something I ever thought was a requirement, although sometimes it is, but usually, I can figure out when it is and isn’t a requirement. But today, I was given no choice or hint at all that my feet were getting wet regardless of how I felt about the matter. It happens this way sometimes with deity and to be fair, wet feet aren’t the end of the world though. (Just don’t tell my Ma, ok? She’s spent the last week trying to cure me of a bad cough so getting wet feet, if she finds out, could lead to a wooden spoon situation…)

It’s not the end of the world. I live in the modern world, I got dry as soon as I got home, it’s unlikely I’ll have lasting effects from my unexpected washing. And, to be fair, it could be a joke on her part as well, to have my feet washed it whether I willed it or no. There might be nothing there at all other than herself having bit of a laugh with me. I’m sure she enjoyed it!

But sometimes the things we have no choice over have higher consequences. Obeying the rules of the road for example – not obeying them leads to consequences, even if it’s “just” a fine or a few points on the license. Obeying rules in work means we get to keep out jobs. Now some rules in work I take more seriously than others. Safety rules make sense to me – most of the time – so following those rules are almost second nature to me. Some rules, like clocking in and out on time, make sense from a business sense to make sure you’re giving the hours to the company you’ve agreed to (even if giving them hours doesn’t always mean giving them work, time is one thing it’s easy enough to track). Other rules, like some I have seen regarding dress codes in some places, mean I will never work for those places. High heels are not for work, in my opinion and definitely not for 40+ hours a week! And yet, there are still people who think dress codes that include heel heights are ok (yes the link is from 2017, but that was only 5yrs ago!!) So there are rules I’d view as reasons not to work somewhere, but I’m lucky to have that choice. Many people don’t.

In school, on the roads, in life, in work – there are always choices we make that then limit our further choices from that point forward. So, by working in a medtech company, I follow rules regarding designated attire in production areas and personal hygiene. When I worked in a steel company, I followed rules about wearing some (very uncomfortable at times) personal protective equipment. I choose not to go into consultancy at this time because I don’t have the patience for the image control required there. Not everyone has the choice. To me, if you have a choice between taking a job that forces you to dress a certain way or starving/ being homeless/ all the other bad things that happen when you have no money and no social welfare net… that’s really no choice at all in my opinion.

And sometimes it happens that way in spiritual life as well. We always have the choice to say no, or to not doing something a deity asks us to do. Or we may consider a request to be less important than a different request, but our deity doesn’t think the same. If we say no or choose to go a different way than our deity suggested, there may be consequences for that. We may ask for help, and our deity gives us the help we ask for but with consequences we didn’t expect. Sometimes we don’t have the choice. Sometimes we technically have a choice, but the other option is so bad that we don’t consider it a choice at all.

And sometimes our deity takes the choice out of our hands altogether! And puts it in our feet. I wish I could do a proper side eye emoji on WordPress! So, I suppose what I’m saying is, I’m using a fairly light hearted example here – no major consequences for me today, but if Brigid or indeed any deity, is asking you to do something and you really don’t want to do it – ask what the other options are and any of those are more acceptable or less abhorrent to you. Yes, it is possible to say no to deity. I’m not saying there will always be consequences, but it’s good to know what you’re getting into whether you agree or disagree with any ask or request. If something is non-negotiable… well there’s always options. They may not be options you like, but there’s always options!!

The things we love

This is Bruno. Bruno is 42 this Christmas- yes I got him from my aunt on my first Christmas. He’s named after the dog my grandparents had when I was growing up, a sheepdog who was so well trained to look after me that, even at the age of 16 when he could barely walk, he’d get himself between me & the door until Grandad told him it was OK for me to go out.

But back to the teddy, Bruno. Bruno has just had his sewing & washing session. There are parts of Bruno that are now more thread than teddy, so I’m thinking I may have to get some teddy material and do some more intensive repairs soon. As for washing… I can’t remember the last time I washed Bruno. To be fair, I don’t tend to cry, throw up, wee on him as much as I used to either!

Because yes, growing up, Bruno (and Big Ted to be fair, but there’s no way Big Ted would fit in the washing machine) was my confidante. He was clutched while I cried, while I was sick, while I was angry, while I was lonely, while I was happy… he has slept with me the vast majority of the nights I’ve been alive, yes, even now. My husband is a wonderful man in many ways and realised fairly quickly in our relationship that he either put up with Bruno or there wouldn’t be a relationship.

Why am I making a big deal of this? Well 1) Bruno’s just been washed so he won’t be in my ned for a few nights til he dries out (yup timed for when I’ll be distracted with my spa trip) and 2) I was thinking of the care and attention we give to inanimate objects* compared to the care and attention we give to ourselves. Self care is something we talk about a lot in the modern world, but it’s mostly about bubble baths, or face masks or things. We don’t usually talk about the fundamentals.

And yes, this is linked to my preparation for Imbolc. Aside from the more esoteric stuff, I’m also looking at the absolute basics. Sleep is usually #1 to check in with. Am I feeling rested or tired in the morning? Am I feeling like caffeine is an essential vitamin or something pleasant to drink? Am I depending on chocolate or other foods to “get me through the day”? None of the above is evil & wrong of course, but I also know there will be a lot of social engagements in the coming months and having a good foundation of sleep will help immensely.

Sometimes this means giving the bedroom a good deep clean & tidy out. Sometimes it means investing in some nice candles. Sometimes it means new jammies. Sometimes it means stocking up on bedtime tea. Sometimes it means changing nothing at all. But it’s good to give it a think.

And it’s entirely possible you have a think and say, yup, I’m happy with my sleeping habits. It’s possible you’re reading this thinking, yes, I’d feckin love more sleep but where do I fit it in?? It doesn’t have to be sleep, sleep is just where I start. But start thinking of how you treat a precious object or a small child.

In particular with small children, we’re careful they have enough sleep eat at regular intervals, eat food that supports them and they enjoy, have comfy clothes suitable for their activities… now how often do you look at yourself that way? How often do you think to plan out quiet time for yourself? How often do you put yourself last so that you’re running on dregs?

We can’t all suddenly change our lives overnight of course to put ourselves first all the time and turn into magical people who have it together all the time! But even thinking about it is hard sometimes. So, take a few mins, or 30 seconds if that’s what you’ve got, and think of something you can do to put in supports to yourself? Even if that’s a comment on here asking if I’m completely out of my mind, a vent in an email to me, a chat with a friend. Because if I spent 2 hrs this morning sewing up my teddy, I could surely spend 10mins putting together a breakfast for myself right?

* just a note, Bruno is obviously not an inanimate object. Just like all teddies, he’s a wonderful confidante, great friend, supportive counselor. And a brilliant pillow when needed as well.

Would it surprise you to know…

… that my preparation for Imbolc begins in earnest on Tuesday with a trip to a spa for a couple of nights? Why? Well the first phase of my preparation framework is physically focused and the first phase of that for me is my body. My body is not quite in rack and ruin right now, but it’s feeling fairly beat up – 2+ months of an ear infection, a chest infection, lingering cough… there’s been a lot going on, and my body needs some downtime.

Now this trip has been planned for about six months, I’m going away with my Mam and combining my own need for luxury and pampering with her birthday, Christmas and Mother’s Day presents. Well, I couldn’t expect her to go alone right? We’re off to Monart which is yes, expensive, but also, very much worth it to me and I’ve been saving up so I can relax and not think about the money while we’re there. I fully intend spending the three days in my swimming togs and robe and slippers, with lots of steaming, saunaing, infra-red-heating, hot pool bathing… I can’t wait.

See, preparation for a ritual usually involves deprivation and restraint – but it doesn’t have to. Sometimes we need this pampering. Sometimes we need the luxury. Now, I can’t always afford to go on a fantastic trip like this, but then, if I couldn’t do the spa thing, a fancy bath at home would be taking centre stage. (To be clear, a fancy bath at home will be happening several times over the coming months as I prepare for Imbolc, as well!) I have stocked up on bath bombs and candles and bubbles etc. And I can transform my usually pedestrian bathroom into a lovely candlelit paradise as well to help with the ambience.

There will be other preparations that are less fun of course. Making sure I can meet my own eyes in the mirror is always a fun exercise, not, but it’s necessary for me to know that I’m on the right path still and doing the right thing. There is rarely a judge as harsh as your own eyes, in my experience. Other people make excuses or take into account what they see an extenuating circumstances – our own eyes don’t though. It’s not that I expect to find I’ve done something majorly wrong – I’ve not killed anyone, stolen, hurt anyone that I know of, so the major stuff is out, but I may find thoughts coming to mind I want to make amends for and get myself back in right relationship with before Imbolc. As an exercise, it’s no harm to do that every now and again.

Because after meeting my own eyes, comes meeting her eyes. And that can be hard as well – especially if I’ve been letting my practices slip and need to make up some ground. Or if I’ve been steadfastly ignoring her increasingly unsubtle hints about something. And getting that back on plan or having a straight conversation about whether or not I’ll be doing something is important to have out before Imbolc as well.

For the next three months, I’ll be working my way through my preparations for Imbolc and some of the prep is the wonderfully luxurious treatments I’ll be undergoing next week and some of the prep is scrubbing the desk I’ll be using as part of my ritual. Some of it is exciting and wonderful and cool, and frankly, some of it is drudgery. But I know I will arrive at Imbolc with a clean slate and prepared for a ritual that suits me, my resources and my needs this year.

it will be an exciting three months, and if you’d like to join me on the journey, you can sign up here. It will be a small group though, so sign up quickly before all the places are filled! The course includes the practical exercises that I go through, and the development of those exercises over the three months. Each month, there’s 2 sessions – the first where I’m outlining the background, the thinking and the exercises, and the second session is where you get to ask or discuss anything that comes up for you when you try them out. And of course, email support as you need it through the three months. I hope to see you there!

It’s a filthy day out…

This is not an unusual comment in Ireland at this time of year. It refers to a very specific kind of rain, where the day is dark, the lights and the fires and the heating goes on pretty much as soon as we get up in the morning and stay on all day. You can’t leave the house without getting soaked to the skin, and yes, you get covered in muck, if you go anywhere on foot or by bike… even by public transport. These are the days when we all end up with sniffles, or colds, or flus, when the Lemsips and the hot whiskeys come out. These are the days when really, there’s nothing better than being the second one home in the evening so that someone else has lit the fire and it’s blazing away in the hearth when you come in.

It’s the kind of day when the rain just comes down, relentlessly, all day. (While we do tend to get rain 365.5 days a year, it doesn’t usually rain all day every day!) And while I know new houses in this country and being built with no fireplaces, I can’t imagine ever living in a house without a fireplace or a stove or something. That feeling of a fire being lit in winter brings with it comfort as well as heat – it’s no wonder our major festivals are called the “fire festivals”. No more than most other societies in the world, we have learned to live with our climate in this country, which means houses built to keep in the heat, plenty of light, and real fires.

But the thing is, our climate is changing. And our houses need to change with it, to a certain extent. Temperatures of 30oC+ are not usual in this country, but we’re getting them more often. The use of air con in this country is limited at best, but I find myself thinking of trying to pick up a unit over the winter in hopes it might be a bit cheaper than in the summer. But fires are as much a part of our Bealtaine and Lúnasa celebrations as they are our Samhain and Imbolc celebrations. And that might be because even in May and August, the evenings can get fairly cool in Ireland traditionally speaking. Of course, no one was determining how big a fire had to be either, but one would assume giving the term “bonfire” would give a certain size element…

But where do we go in a changing world? Even lighting a fire these days can be problematic, since most of our fires require some element of fossil fuels. Do we change our traditions to better align with current practicalities? Well yes, we do. We keep the heart of the tradition, the bit that’s important and we work with the modern practicalities. So, for example, my fire festivals move to the closest weekend to the calendar date most of the time, although at least all four fire festivals now have a bank holiday associated with them! (Despite complaints from people about another holiday in Ireland being linked to a religious holiday, but I think there’s been some education around that as well.) So, even within our own personal practices, we adapt and change things to suit our lives.

When does this become a problem? Well, when someone presents something as “traditional” when it’s really not. So for example, someone claiming that their practice of always lighting a red candle at Imbolc (I’m making this up!!) is a long held, deeply rooted tradition in Ireland, when we know most of the candles in Ireland were natural coloured, cos dyed ones were more expensive – that’s a problem. Someone “suggesting” something by adding in a maybe, as in “maybe since the times of the Tuatha De Danann”, that’s an issue, since we really don’t know what day to day practices the TDD had in their spiritual lives, neither our stories, nor our archaeology can tell us that.

It’s important to know what the traditions are, in my opinion so you can work out how to make them work for you. And as long as we’re all clear on the difference between a tradition (light a fire on Imbolc) and a personal tradition (my habit of celebrating on the weekend closest to the festival), we’re all ok. So you can check out my free class on Basic Intro to Imbolc in Ireland this Wednesday, to get a high level reminder of the traditions in Ireland and a sneak peek at the framework I use to prepare for the Imbolc festival. Or indeed, check out to see those wonderful entries from the Schools Collection. Or check out Lora O’Brien’s and other classes at the Irish Pagan School. But remember, fires were and are an important part of Irish society for a reason – and if you live in a place where wild fires are a significant risk, don’t. Try a candle, or an electrical option. Change the tradition to suit your circumstances, and make sure you understand the heart of the tradition. For me – I’m in work, so no open fires here, but I’m off to get a nice cup of coffee to warm myself up! (For some reason, they won’t allow hot whiskeys in work!!)

Free class!

Last night I took a notion and decided that next Wednesday (9th November, 7pm Irish time) I’ll put on a free class to give a brief (well, brief for me…) overview of Irish traditions around Imbolc. Every year, come January, people start worrying over Imbolc – and I understand, I really do. The period between Samhain and Imbolc is full of various winter celebrations, all over the Northern Hemisphere, or at least the bits that have 4+ seasons.

In the dark of the winter, we turn to community, celebrations, lights, candles, food, drink, stories, to carry us through the dark times of the year. This is the time of year when those of us who suffer from SAD (seasonal affective disorder) have to concentrate a bit more on our mental health, getting light where and when we can (my use of fairy lights and candles dramatically sky rockets from about this point on!) It’s dark and it’s miserable, the weather is crap – especially in Ireland where the rain shows the incredible talent of being cold enough for snow but never quite making the transition…

So filling up the time with celebrations makes sense. The only thing is that Imbolc, coming as it does at the end of winter, start of spring (spring starts in Ireland on 1st February, remember, regardless of weather conditions), can creep up on us very easily as we’re lying around in January, metaphorically speaking, trying to recover from all the celebrating and swearing high up and low down that next year will be different…

So I’m putting together this class now, so people can have it in their heads and include Imbolc in their winter planning. I have started my planning and preparation already for Imbolc, from checking out where the rushes are growing, where the paths have changed, so last year’s access point might not be as safe this year, planning my time in January so I have energy to do what I want to do… this is a hugely important celebration to me, so I take the time to plan it – and yes, the planning and preparation does take the 3 months from Samhain!

The class includes an overview of the Irish traditions, and – possibly more importantly, some ideas for making sure of your prosperity for the coming year! This class will only be available to those who sign up in advance, but the recording will be available if you can’t make it live. Sign up here. Hope to see you there!

EDIT: I screwed up. I’ll be emailing people about this as well, but here we go. I called the class “Imbolc in Ireland” completely forgetting that the amazing Lora O’Brien has a class of the same name over at the Irish Pagan School. So, I’ve changed the name of my class to Basic Introduction to Imbolc in Ireland, because that’s what it is -shorter, higher level overview with a quick intro to my own framework for preparing for the Imbolc festivities!

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