Ethics, energy and Brigid

As part of my work with/for Brigid, honesty and integrity have become very important to me. Not necessarily in the sense of telling lies (I’m as prone to an “I’m grand” when I’m really not as the next person) but more in the sense of being true and honest with myself. And this to me spreads out to my actions, my energy and my intent in this world.

It’s come up for me because I had to write a difficult email to someone explaining things I didn’t really want to explain. But here’s my thoughts.

Either we think that our intentions, our energy, our magic, our prayers in this world make a difference… or we don’t. And if we don’t, why bother? To make ourselves feel better? If we do, we need to be conscious and aware of our actions and our energy and how they affect not just our own world, but the worlds of those around us and in the vicinity of where we work our energy and magic. This is really important.

It also comes into money. Where we spend money, we also give support, no matter how peripherally or tangentially. Where we spend our time, where we spend our money, where we spend our energy – these are the things that will grow and grow. We all know this deep down. If everyone in Ireland decided tomorrow they were never going to eat a spud again, and stuck to it, then we’d need to be looking for other crops to provide all the vitamins, minerals and energy the humble spud still provides us with. It would cause farmers to produce other crops. It would have a massive knock on effect.

We don’t of course. It may be a symbol of great torment and pain in this country, but also a symbol of a bloody tasty food and an easy way to feed multitudes. And so we live with our own internal inconsistencies for a few generations more anyway.

For me, Brigid hasn’t specifically asked me to stop spending money with certain companies ,to stop spending time with certain people, to stop supporting certain causes. But she has asked me to be clear with myself about what my intentions are and where my energy is going. I’ll give you an example. I usually very rarely shop in tesco. It’s usually for Cadbury’s chocolate, Green & Black’s chocolate and fresh guacamole. That’s usually it. Occasionally the odd bottle of wine. This isn’t because I have an issue per se with Tesco. It’s more because of things I’ve heard about the way they treat their supplier and because they are a symbol of how insidiously British companies have taken over the Irish market. We may be politically a separate entity, but commercially, many of our towns are populated with foreign companies. Now part of this is a wider trend of globalisation, but with Ireland, the encroachment of British entities is a bit of an alarming trend.

So where I can, I choose to spend my time and energy supporting local Irish businesses. Of course, I also do most of my weekly shop in Lidl, liking as I do the Irish meat, dairy and vegetables they provide. It’s not possible for me usually to shop entirely locally in greengrocers, butchers, etc, for a number of reasons. So Lidl is my compromise. Many can say Tesco also source meat and other produce from Ireland – it’s true, they do – but not enough and they are quintessentially British.

Of course, in recent times, with the virus restricting movement, I’ve been getting more than those products in Tesco, to limit my exposure to the outside world. Tesco has implemented clearer arrangements for people management than Lidl has, the aisles are wider, there’s just more space, so it’s easier to pop in there and steer clear of people. For the short term, I’m overriding my ethics on supporting a foreign entity to keep myself and my family as safe as I can make it.

But for all of us, pagan, Christian, Buddhist, Muslem…. whatever religion or none you ascribe to, remember, where the money goes, the energy go. What are you supporting in where you do your shopping? Where you buy your clothes? Where you go for a pint? Are you happy with those choices? If you are, great! Brilliant in fact!

But if you’re not, then maybe it’s time to take a step back and consider a few things again. Maybe it’s time to look at the practices and energies you are supporting and providing more energy for. Maybe it’s time to look at what kind of world you want to live in and how you can spend money, time and energy to see that world come about.

Brigid really doesn’t care where I do my shopping. But she sure as hell cares what kind of world I’m working towards.

What is deity?

On the last session of my recent 5 week course, I challenged people to think about what they mean and understand by the word “deity”. I thought it might be a good idea to formulate my ideas around this topic for myself as well. This is one of those things that’s not a bad idea to do in general on a regular basis – now, I don’t mean once a week or so, but even annually is no bad idea. Our thoughts and understanding change over time. Our relationship with deity changes over time. It’s important to reconsider and reflect, given our new learnings and personal development. And so, here we go…

To me, there is a single divine force in this world, but we as humans can’t comprehend or cope with the whole of that force. So we filter down this force to what we can comprehend and cope with. And this changes over time. If you think about it, the deity or divine a young child can deal with and comprehend is very very different to an elderly person.

And so, my current appreciation of deity is Brigid, fairly obviously from this blog, I’d say. But there’s so many depictions of Brigid out there, I’d best explain a bit more.

There is an element of supporting the community. What point is there of deity if they don’t work with the community and have communities working with them? What are these communities made of? What type of people are attracted to what aspects of deity?

For Brigid, the healing aspect is all-important. Not just healing of illness, but energetic healing, environmental healing, relationships healing, community healing. There is so so much there in terms of healing to look at and what we can all do to support that.

There is also the aspect of creation and destruction. What do we need to destroy to create more? What needs to be cut away as deadwood to allow new growth? This can apply on a personal level as well as a community level. What anchors to the past are still useful, relevant and valuable and what anchors are now irrelevant, hurtful, and needing to be discarded. Learned from, but discarded.

Finally, there is the element of social justice. Who else but the gods will support us in our pursuit for social justice, looking to help those who don’t have the resources to help themselves. Of course, not all the gods look at this level of society, but Brigid does. Just read up on Brig Ambue to see how much…

Brigid also uses us as her tools to get what she needs done, done. With consent, with acknowledgement, preferably as part of a bargain rather than just her dictating orders, but still… as her tools. She will forge her tools sometimes. She will break and re-forge when needed. She is not an easy deity to follow at times. However…

She’s worth it. There is value, there is joy, there is worth in working with her (she may use the term working for her, but y’know, whatever term suits you!) And while your idea or appreciation of deity may be very different to mine, that’s ok. We all need to do our own work, our own understanding, our own energy to develop our own ideas.

So, what’s your idea of deity? What does deity mean to you?

Brigid and fertility

Last week, I wrote about my ideas on Brigid and war. Another aspect of Brigid, to me, is her link to fertility, of both land and people.

This again is a personal link, since my husband and I have been trying to have a family for some years now and some of my work with Brigid is linked to this. Unfortunately, currently, any fertility going through my body appears to be in the teaching and producing areas rather than the family one.

But there are some more solid links to fertility than there are with war. The most prominent for me is the story in the Latin Life of Brigit (Cogitosus is the author here, Google is your friend for more details!) where she caused the foetus of a fellow nun to disappear. Now it makes sense to me that to know how to make a foetus disappear, you have to have some knowledge of the process of procreation and childbearing, as well as the activities, plants, herbs etc that either promote or suppress it. Indeed, in the lists of penances in medieval Ireland, the penance for abortion was a relatively mild one, being one third the length of the one for actual childbirth (one wonders what activities the clerical leaders were trying to promote here)

As well, there are multiple accounts of Brigid healing the sick, which is standard fare for the early saints, to be fair, but also of causing the recently healed to be re-infected if they didn’t react appropriately! To either heal or re-infect suggests a knowledge of how health and the body works. To know how the body works, especially seeing as how she was a woman herself, makes it seem unlikely she didn’t have an understanding of the reproductive systems – from the female side anyway!

To me, the links to human fertility are strong. I personally extend this to other forms of fertility as well – whether the land, the arts, the crafts, the sciences… all need some element of fertility to produce anew, whether in cycles or in one-off endeavours. Brigid has strong links to the arts and humanities through her being a file (poet in direct translation), and equally strong links to healing through the sheer number of healing wells devoted to her in Ireland. But modern medicine is very different to the traditional ways people tried to keep healthy don’t forget. Very often, the wise woman knowing which herbs in the forest helped keep teeth in your head would save more lives than a doctor giving out medicine – especially if you look at some of the “medicines” that were touted in recent centuries.

A wise woman in many cultures give rise to fear – while priests rarely if ever showed interest in the process of childbirth, they were sometimes resentful of the power of the women who did. (please note: not all priests!) A woman who had some control over the mysteries of life and death, birth and death, would have power in the community, especially when that woman might also be, saints preserve us, independent of men!!

In Ireland though, because for many centuries, women were left alone for a variety of reasons and the bean feasa or wise woman was a regular and valued member of the community, being the only source of medicine for the poor. When you have a rebellion every generation or so, a famine every generation or so, are severely oppressed and downtrodden… well you don’t antagonise the woman who can help with life’s troubles.

Where does this bring us with Brigid and fertility? Well, I still have hopes. Technically, it’s still possible for me to bear a child, although there is that imaginary clock ticking. Brigid will support me in becoming who I need to be become – hopefully without a trip back to her forge for re-tempering! – and I believe in her.

What does this look like in my daily life? I take my folic acid. I work with my darlin husband to ensure sex is enjoyable, varied, and try and make an effort around ovulation time. We prepare mentally, physically and emotionally for children entering our lives.

And I pray. I meditate. I read. I research. I work on past traumas. I work on new traumas. I do all I can do. And I wait. She’ll make it happen when it’s right. And if it isn’t right… well, we’ll have to live with that. But there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth on the day we agree all hope is lost!!

When it comes to the land – things are a bit different. Ireland is still a breadbasket and modern advances in agriculture help us get more out of our land without exhausting it. But for centuries, the farmers, the fishermen, all had their rituals to ensure the fertility of the land on Imbolc or St. Brigid’s Day. Whether it was the sheaf of oats outside the door for her to bless on her path over the land or the shellfish scattered in the four corners of the house, there were many households busy to ensure the fertility of the coming year around the 1st February. There were customs too about no wheels to be turned before noon, and how to manage the butter and the dairy on this day as well. I’d strongly suggest Seán Ó Dúinn’s book on Brigid for a very detailed account of this folklore.

It may be personal because of the difficulties in my own life, but for me, Brigid is intrinsically linked with fertility. Whether creating or destroying, as in my last post, she is there, she has power and she will use it.

Brigid and war

I’m currently teaching a class with the Irish Pagan School on Brigid in Ireland, going back into the lore and seeing what we can and can’t extrapolate from the stories our ancestors told. Last night we were dealing with Brigid as Goddess of Smithcraft and the aspect of Brigid and war came up.

It seems only fair to mention at this point that I have, at best, ambivalent feelings about the idea of war, killing, destruction. However, a fight engaged in righteousness is a holy thing, in my opinion… but this has been used as the excuse for every war, ever, pretty much. So what I’m going to talk about now is war as a destructive force. I’ll leave my rant on the modern military industrial complex for another time and focus on what war might, can and does achieve.

First off, of course, is destruction. Destruction of lives, families, livelihoods, land, buildings, monuments, knowledge, society… War destroys. It’s what it does. And – this is rarely an unadulterated Good Thing. Even World War 2, which many would agree is a good thing to have destroyed the power of the Nazis and their reign of terror, led to millions of deaths, a massive refugee crisis, destruction of economies… There are still scars from that war visible over most of the world and it’s almost 75 years since the ceasefire was declared.

If that war can have such massive effects more than 7 decades later, can we really say it was a good thing? I say no. Yes, finishing the power of the Nazis was a good thing, but a better thing would have been to prevent their policies being implemented at all. And we must remember, they were voted into power by a democratic process. (How they retained that power is another story…)

I cannot look at any war and say, yes that was a worthwhile and good war. It was worth the destruction and loss of life. Even the War of Independence here in Ireland (1921-1922) – yes, it brought us freedom from our oppressors, but I can’t help looking at the attempts to gain such a thing through peaceful means and despair.

So, ultimately, I have to agree there is a time for violence. I may regret it and pray I never need take part in it, but there is a time for violence. Peaceful protest gets us so far… but I’ve not seen peaceful process finish any of the great liberation movements of the last century: civil rights activities in the US, Europe, etc all involved violence, the current (admittedly unstable,with the advent of Brexit) situation in the North of Ireland was only brought about because of a violent campaign and I’m sure you can think of examples in your own community.

So where does this leave us with Brigid? Well, she was there in the army camp in Caith Maighe Tuiread 2 (as is sometimes referred to as The Rebellion 🙂 ) so I think we can say she sees the need for war in some cases. But I don’t think I see her on the front lines unless things get very bad and everyone’s called out to raise weapons. I see her more in the supportive roles: making sure the injured get care and attention, everyone gets fed at regular intervals, damaged or lost weapons are replaced and repaired. I see her standing in from of her home, ready to defend it from invaders, but not taking the fight to the invaders home. I see her in between an attacker and their victim, protecting those who need protecting rather than attacking herself. I see her protecting the land from whoever wishes to destroy it.

She is not a pacifist, no more than I am myself, but she sees fighting as a last resort, as the last defense, as something not to be glorified, but just another job that needs to get done on occasion and a less than pleasant one at that.

Of course, this is UPG. This isn’t verified in any way shape or form. These are my thoughts and how I interpret her stories and actions as I see them. You may differ. I can’t see her as a war goddess. If you think – the smith creates weapons of creation and destruction. No farm could survive without the smith’s arts, yet no war would be fought without them either.

And here we come to the crux of it: the powers of creation and destruction. Sometimes, things must be destroyed so that other things can be created and grow. Sometimes we must take up our weapons and defend our homes against invaders, whether of abhorrent ideology or physical force, no matter how much we despair of the waste.

Sometimes in the forge, when things go wrong, you have to toss the lump back into the fire, remelt it and start again. She’s got experience in the forge. She knows this. It just doesn’t mean she revels in or enjoys it.

Imbolc ritual

It’s buried in the “About Me” section somewhere, but I run a Facebook group called Brigid’s Forge. (Link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/318562765289760/) For Imbolc, I’m holding a short (roughly about an hour) ritual for the group members. It’s free, but it’s only for group members for now.

Joining the group is easy, if you’re already on Facebook. Click on the link above and click on the join link. I generally get to approve requests with a day or so at most. I will in the future look into the tech for doing this using WordPress or some other, non-Facebook technology 🙂

Hope I see ye there!!

Health and healing

Well, 2020 arrived with a bang for me. I set a goal to post here once a week and it’s gone beyond that. My apologies. The main reason has been health. I was struck down with an ear infection followed by a headache that lasted about a week. It was less than pleasant.

But on the other hand, it led me to examine my healing practices, particularly in relation to herself. Now, I practice energy work, reiki reflexology, but I will be the first to admit that before Christmas, I had let my own energy levels stagnate, drop, and leak from me. I was doing, doing, doing with little or no work to replenish that energy and allow myself to recover and renew myself. That was not the most sensible thing I’ve ever done.

So, over Christmas, I took a decision to plan something for myself that would allow me to replenish and renew. I should note that I subscribe to the school of thought that an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure, where it’s at all possible. So I keep myself hydrated and make sure I get plenty of fresh air to prevent headaches. It works… most of the time… but not this time. To be fair, my time in the fresh air has been limited of late. It’s winter in Ireland, which means damp, dreary, grey days – not conducive to venturing outside. But I need that outside time… This is where adulting is hard, making these decisions for ourselves and deciding what we need to do versus what we want to do.

I also agreed with myself and Brigid that I would go for a fancy Balneotherapy bath once a month in the local hotel spa. This fulfills a twofold purpose – it forces me to take a half hour where I can only lie back and relax. I can’t read, watch TV, look at Youtube, etc, I can only lie back, meditate possibly and enjoy the experience. The second purpose is that by doing this, taking a ritual bath, I can go back to reading the odd male author. This time last year (well, more like December 2018), I got this odd notion to only read female authors. It seemed like it was my own idea for a while, but after a few weeks, it became clear, this was an instruction and to be obeyed. It’s rare something like this comes up for me, so I stuck with it – besides, there are plenty of female authors out there to be reading, I didn’t really notice the loss. Until that is, I started looking for research on Brigid, life in Iron Age Ireland, and things like this. It seems in this area, the field is almost as dominated by men as the engineering field is. This posed a problem, because she wants this book written, but I needed to read male authors to do the research. While I’m grand with personal gnosis for personal practice, I don’t want to be passing off the results of my meditations and rituals as grounded fact. So, we compromised and agreed that this would serve the two-fold purpose of renewing my energy and “cleansing” me to allow me to recommence reading male authors.

My first bath was just after Christmas on the 27th December. Just know, I was empty at this point. I mean, if I was the fuel gauge on a car, I would no longer be flashing red, but I was still in the red… I wasn’t sure if this bath would allow me to read male authors again, or not, but I needed the renewal. And renewal I got. That bath felt like 8 hrs sleep in 25mins. The combination of water, lights, soothing music… it was a healing and powerful experience, probably because I was so empty, I soaked it all up like a sponge.

A few weeks later, I had signed up for a cacao (pronounced c’cow for those who, like me, had no idea how to pronounce it!), dance and sound gong experience. I knew no one going, had no idea what to expect, but I had experienced dance and sound gongs before and cacao is close to chocolate so how bad could it be??? It was amazing. The cacao tasted lovely and definitely gave an energetical boost to me. The dancing… oh the dancing…. I love to dance. I really love to dance, but I habitually convince myself it’s too much hassle to go along to events where I can dance as I wish (freeform, spiritual, trance, however you like to describe it – the kind where you move without steps or heed to orders!) I danced for at least 2 hours and I loved it. It was like an awakening of my body, a reaffirmation that this body of mine is here for enjoyment and love, not for just being a workhorse. As we lay down for the sound gong experience, I kept moving. My hips rolled, my backside lifting and lowering, my knees splaying and coming together again… I must have looked like someone on drugs, and I suppose it kind of felt like that, but it was more energy coming back to me. More of my tank being filled. And to be fair, I came home and jumped my husband (with his consent of course) so refilled my sexual energy as well.

What has this to do with Brigid? Well, here’s where the personal gnosis comes in. The energy work I do is closely related to Brigid the healer for me. And when I don’t have the energy, when I allow that energy to run down and be diminished as I have been, I don’t have the energy to facilitate healing for either myself or others. I believe that Brigid’s rituals must have included rituals to replenish this energy for her healers and workers. Healers also need healing. And dance is such a free and easy way to replenish this energy. I know that there are parts of the world where dancing is frowned upon or outlawed completely, but here in Ireland, thankfully it’s not. And so, this needs to become part of my spiritual practice. Dance as healing – it’s something Gabrielle Roth links to in her 5 Rhythms dancing (which was my first exposure to dancing other than prescribed steps. The instruction to just move my body as I felt like was a shock to this Irish dancer!) But this can’t be new. Dance has been part of the human experience for millenia (personal feeling there, I don’t have a reference for that) although throughout history, certainly in the Common Era, there have been plenty of times and places where it has been restricted, outlawed, frowned upon and otherwise controlled.

I don’t have a brat Bhríde right now, but this January 31st, I will be leaving out a red ribbon or two to serve in that capacity in the future. (it doesn’t need to be a red ribbon, it just needs to be a piece of cloth, it’s only that I happen to have two pieces of red ribbon that I can use for this purpose this year) I will be using this ribbon in my new practices of energy renewal and replenishment throughout the year. I don’t know the firm outlines of these practices as yet, but I’m working on them. I’m also looking at ways to improve the foundations of my life: sleep, food, water, movement.

I will share some of these practices with you as I come across them, but for now, the monthly spa bath and regular dancing are forming a major part of it!! As for herself – she’s happy I’m paying attention again and is in agreement with what I’ve decided on so far. Of course there’s a payback as well, but we’ll get into that another time!

%d bloggers like this: