Brigid

Brigid’s Holy Day

As I posted in my last blog, I was part of a group celebration of Brigid on the 1st of February. It was delightful.

For most of the day I was working, so I could not do my usual activities of reverence for Brigid, such as cheese making. However working at the amazing Sacred Well, I was able to utilize our Community Altar room and set out a water offering a candle for Brigid for the day. I also took the liberty of listening to Celtic music pretty much exclusively all day lol. But I eagerly look forward to the end of the day and the small ritual that was planned by our Brigid priestesses.

Under the cloak of darkness by the light of the bountiful full moon our small band of mischief and heart took to the bay, to a much favored spot known by our Cauldron sister Rowan. The moon was a glorious galleon on the foggy sea, luminous and steady. The rocks stood in silent witness as we gathered there on the liminal edge of space and time. The grey cloaked sky melted seamlessly with it’s loving tranquil sea. We had a few items to set up our altar. A bowl filled with precious water collect in that silvery moonlight. Candles to glow, small and cheerful echoing the powerful light above them. Apples and bottles of precious spirits for offerings.

Hail the Lady of fire and spirit. The Exulted One

Hail the Lady of fire and spirit. The Exulted One

We gave thanks and offerings to the three realms for their continued balance in our lives. Our leading Priestess made a heartfelt invocation to her beloved Lady Brigid that pulled down moonbeams on the water and parted the veils to swell our hearts with the power and love of the exulted goddess Brigid. We had gathered petitions and gave offerings on others behalves as well as ourselves. During that quiet time of whispered wishes and tearful prayers, our words were met with the gift of sea birds landing gently on the water. When prayers of health and well being for loved ones trembled from our lips a flock of geese flew out from the bay with hushed grace.

Brigid's Holy day 2015 (2)As our last words of humble reverence and honorings were raised up to the sky, our toes felt the moist touch of the sea that swelled up to meet us. As the tide took out the apples on their playful hands, we dipped out cloths in the waters blessed by Brigid and hurried back to firm ground.

There were many words spoken in sacred communion. Above all we lifted each others name in gratitude and praise and heaped glory upon the Lady of Well and Forge. Our small cauldron of five powerful women prove that with sincerity and devotion much can be accomplished. The rest of the year lays ahead of us, and we fully intend to prove ourselves worthy to be priestesses of our beloved gods. No matter how the year changes, we have made a wonderful start. I am very proud of us.

When I returned home, I had enough energy to set out my cloths and things to be blessed by Brigid that night and light a candle for her. In the morning I tended to my altar and poured her another offering of milk and honey, and set the flowers I had bought in her honor in the Cup of Glory. Simple and yet complete.

A linen shawl made by my grandmother. A cotton cloth made by me. A hair bauble given to me by my dear friend that was bought in Ireland.

A linen shawl made by my grandmother. A cotton cloth made by me. A hair bauble given to me by my dear friend that was bought in Ireland.

No matter what your celebrations looked like, I hope that you are blessed with health and joy at this time of year. May we all feel the hope that spring and the goddess of inspiration can grant us.

Brigid's Holy day 2015 (4)

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To Brigid

Cauldron of the Celts – Sacred Calendar Year – Brigid’s Holy Day

Being a Gaelic Polytheist that does not currently have a Gaelic Polytheist community at hand, I spend a lot of my time and effort being a public priestess in a interfaith pagan coven known as CAYA Coven as I have found the community aspect to be so very enriching to my life and practice. Over the years CAYA has grown to the point where we can now group off into devotional affinity groups of priestesses that share a deity or culture or other grouping. One such groups that I am apart of is the Cauldron of the Celts. All of us publicly dedicated to deities that fall under the “Celtic” umbrella. Currently that means Irish and Romano-Breton but in future could include Gaulish, Welsh and so on. Being a multi-faith group means that everyone is coming from a different angle as far as practice and so forth but I have to say that it has been refreshing to have more people to talk about the lore and cultural background of things, as well as be able to share our devotions and put on some truly wonderful rites for the gods.

In that vein we have collective decided it would be a good idea to start a Sacred Calendar year for the group, with a holy day selected for each of our dedicated deities. Understanding that nothing about this is particularly Gaelic but a more modern adaptation to further foster reverence and honor to the gods. It also provides an opportunity to share with the wider community, and be of service. With that being said the first day of reverence this year starts with Brigid, and below is a humble offering for all those who feel called to partake.


To Brigid

Cauldron of the Celts Sacred Calendar Year – Brigid’s Holy Day 2/1/15

The Cauldron of the Celts, a multi-faith devotional group within CAYA Coven, is endeavoring to establish our Sacred Calendar Year. Each priestess is publicly dedicated to a deity who falls under the wide “Celtic” umbrella and has chosen a date on our modern calendar year to be a day of reverence to their deity. In an effort to connect with other devotees and be of service to the public we share this calendar and some of our own workings, that we may all raise up the Gods names in honor.

Our calendar year begins with Brigid’s holy day on Feb 1st.

The priestesses of Brigid, Foxfire Kells and Doyenne Rowan, invite you to send us any petitions you wish to make before the goddess and we will offer them to her in supplication and gratitude on her holy day. You may email them at cauldronofthecelts@gmail.com.

Below are a few words from the priestesses of Brigid:

Imbolc is celebrated in honor of the goddess Brigid between January 31st and February 2nd; the name of the holy day comes from the Old Irish imbolg or oimelc, meaning “in the belly,” referring to the season of lambing and ewe’s milk. Brigid emerges from the silence of winter to herald the coming of spring and new life and growth; she is also a goddess of the forge, of the hearth, of poetry and inspiration, and of healing. Her symbols include lambs or sheep,  wells, writing implements, acorns, apples, milk, snowdrops and crocuses, and, of course, fire.

Imbolc falls during the Celtic tree month (a neo-pagan construct based on Robert Grave’s interpretation of the ancient symbolic language of ogam) of Luis (lweesh), which is the Gaelic name for the rowan tree, so one activity you can do is to make a protection charm of 2 crossed rowan twigs bound with red thread. For more information about the history of the Rowan and red thread charm you can find a incredibly thorough article here.

Another one of Her traditions is to leave out cloth or clothing to be blessed by Brigid on Imbolc, often to be used for healing and protection purposes for the following year. Given the current events happening, Her face of healing is very clearly one that is needed in the world and in our community.

To welcome and honor Brigid into your home and life, you may wish to perform the following ritual:

Lay out a white or yellow cloth
Place a white candle in the center
Arrange around the candle 3 acorns and/or apples, a small bowl of fresh water (spring water or melted snow is ideal), a sprig of juniper, and a small bundle of wool roving.
Prepare an offering plate with a piece of bread spread with soft cheese and a drizzle of honey, and some apple slices.

Light the candle and contemplate what new projects or endeavors you want to nurture this year. How will you tend to these goals? How will you tend to yourself? What parts of yourself or your life are beginning to emerge with the Spring? How do you keep the fires of your creativity and motivation burning as the year wears on?  Do you make space in your life for pleasure and the warmth of family (however you define it)?

Say a prayer or sing a song to Brigid to bring her into the room.
Feel free to use or adapt this prayer, as you wish:

My good lady Brigid,
I call upon you to light the fire of inspiration in my heart,
to warm my hearth and burn away the cold shroud of winter,
just as the snowdrops burn through the frozen ground to burst forth in flower
and give the promise of renewal.

My good lady Brigid,
I offer you my devotion and gratitude
for the many ways you bring joy and beauty to life in the world.
May my lips ever sing your praises and my hands bring comfort and healing;
ever may the embrace of my favour glorify your name.

Offer Brigid the bread with cheese & honey and the apples, for sweetness and sustenance.

Dip the juniper sprig in the water you have charged and asperge your house to bless and protect you in the coming year.

More Links and Points of interest:
Detailed article about the customs in Ireland and Scotland of Là Fhèill Brìghde
:http://www.tairis.co.uk/festivals/la-fheill-brighde
Craft Ideas for Imbolc: http://unfetteredwood.blogspot.com/2014/01/crafts-for-imbolc.html
video from Gaol Naofa on the celebration of Imbolc: http://youtu.be/oEieym5uI7k
Podcasts from Story Archaeology about Brigid and her various tales:  http://storyarchaeology.com/category/series-01-mythical-women/mythical-women-05-the-search-for-brigid/

Cauldron of the Celts 2015 Sacred Calendar Year:
Feb 1st – Brigid’s Holy Day
March 19th – Sulis Minerva’s Holy Day
June 21st – Honoring of the Selkie
August 1st – Lugh’s Holy Day
August 9th – An Dagda’s Holy Day

In Honor of Bride

Imbolc has never really been one of my BIG holidays. Usually I note it with leaving out some milk and honey, lighting a candle, saying a prayer and so on. It just always seemed to get overshadowed by Beltane, Lughnasadh, and Samhain. Bride, or Brighid, while someone I acknowledge and pay respect to, never was a deity I had much contact with. There seems to be much…conflicting information about the “date” of Imbolc. I’ve always gone with the information that I found early in my studies of Irish Folk Traditions which coincides with this lovely site: Là Fhèill Brìghde which states that her Saint day is Feb 1st, with traditional celebrations being on the Eve or the 31st. Now…apparently in other paths and traditions Imbolc is set for the 2nd or today.  Frankly I don’t give much credence to our calendar anyway, at least not spiritually.

So I celebrated yesterday, and in much greater style than ever before. You see Bride had done me a great service and honor last year, and continues to do so. If you follow my tumblr you may remember me saying, I”m a plant killer, and the poor little rosemary bush that was not looking so good. Well the refugees didn’t make it very long, but the rosemary bush survived. I prayed, I watered that little beauty with Bride’s well water, fed it eggshells and coffee. Half of it died, may that half rest in peace, but the other lived on. So it’s a little mangled but ALIVE. And lo what did I spy not but a few days ago?…

Bride's rosemary

It’s blooming!! Two beautiful little periwinkle flowers! Oh I was so happy. I was so happy and I knew. “It’s Imbolc.” And so it was that on Feb 1st, I gathered the supplies and went about having a grand feast for the Fiery Arrow who saved my little plant. Well it’s her little plant now, I hope to keep it growing into a large plant. And from hence forth I shall celebrate Imbolc and Bride at the first blooms of her rosemary bush. I’m quite thrilled about it all.

So first up, I went and walked my ass down to the local store to pick up some milk and supplies for the evening. Traditionally Imbolc was about the “milking”, the time with the cattle and sheep came back into their milk from the dry winter. As I have no cows, sheeps, or goats, and we’ve just established up above that for now Imbolc shall be at the first rosemary bloom, the fact that traditionally people wouldn’t have had enough milk to make fresh cheese at this time isn’t going to get in my way of making fresh cheese. If you have never made fresh cheese I HIGHLY suggest you try it out. It’s wonderful, and easy. Well farmer’s cheese is. I have my lovely friend and high priestess Yeshe Rabbit to thank for introducing me to the wonderful practice of farmer’s cheese for Imbolc. It’s a memory that I cherish.

Here is the recipe for the nuts and bolts of what I make.

Pot O' Milk

You start with a pot o’ milk. I bought a full gallon and used about 3/4 of it here in my favorite pot. If you can get your hands on raw milk all the better, sadly that was not going to happen today. Turn the stove on high and wait for that delicious pot of white to start to boil, stirring occasionally. You have to WATCH it. It’s very hard for people like me with no patience. But the reality is that you don’t want you’re milk to scorch or get to a full boil. You just want it to start to bubble a little. It’s gotten to the point where I can hear it. There is a energetic change in the calm cool milk when it’s just about to start boiling. Around the edges is usually where it starts to show first. Just as the tension is high, the bubble beginning to make their way to burst through the surface, some big thing is just around the bend, you can feel it, an explosion, power, something just a bit longer….turn OFF the stove!

And now you add your acid. Could be the juice of a whole lemon, could be apple cider vinegar, could be wine. I’ve done it with all of them. This time I used lemon and apple cider vinegar because my little lemon didn’ t give me enough juice. Stir it around in your warm vat of milk and you should immediately start to see a chemical reaction. Suddenly there will be swaths of yellow watery liquid amoungst clumps of white milk. Keep stirring all is well. Let it sit a bit if needed tell you can clearly see a separation.

The Constitutional Separation of milk and whey

Mmmm curds.

At this point you should have a vat of curds and whey. Yep this is the stuff the Little Miss Muffet ate. Looks tasty no? But wait we aren’t Muffets sitting on our tuffets. We’re here to honor Bride, to offer her some delicious salty creamy white cheese that is flavored with her rosemary and made with love and adoration. So we continue onwards!

Straining the whey from the curd. Now you can use store bought cheesecloth, which…is…well crap to be honest. You’ll have to triple it up if not more to make sure the poorly woven fabric doesn’t lose some precious curd. I’ve heard of people buying the cheapo cloth diapers and using them. I may look into that my self. But for the time being I use a thin loose woven handkerchief that was my grandmothers. I imagine if you could get your hands on handkerchief weight linen or cotton it would be wonderful too. OR if you are a fancy person with lovely different size mesh sieves that works too lol.

Straining with a hanky

Now, I have my colander and such in a bowl, to save the whey. Whey is packed with the nutritional minerals and vitamins, double points for raw milk. I wanted to save it to use in place of the water for my bread recipe and in my cooking, and for an purification bath (it’s great for the skin). Up to you really. I will say that you should not use this whey to water your plants, because it is acid whey (we used acid to separate the milk instead of rennet) and will burn them. If you do want to save it, let me tell you there will be a lot of it!

Ok so, our curds and whey are separated, now what? Now we season! Basically if you want your cheese to be flavored now would be the time.

Almost Cheese

I chopped up some of that lovely rosemary, and salted to taste. Mmmm looking mighty good. Stir it up. Now take the ends of your cloth and pull them together and start twisting the lovely little hobo bag, squeezing out the excess whey.  At this point you have options. You can start eating it now. Leave it as is, and refrigerate it. Or put it in a mold and apply pressure to further solidify the cheese. I went with the latter. Lathered up a regular bowl with a thin coating of lard (you heard that right) and squished that white cheesey goodness in. Covered it with the hanky and weighted it down with the bowl of whey. Put in fridge and by dinner, ta da!

waiting on Cheese

With that setting, I moved on to making bread, cleaning the house, cleaning the altars, sweeping the porches, anointing the doors. Then back into the kitchen for more cooking! It was stewed chipotle beef, mashed taters, and cabbage for the feast. Light the candles, say a petitioning prayer, make offering to the rosemary bush, make offering to Bride, and then sup.

Homemade bread

Bride's plate

Bride's candle on the Altar

The Feast!

All and all it was a lovely day. I felt quite content, and went to bed happy that Bride’s candle would burn throughout the night. Winter barely touched us this year, but I’m hoping Spring will linger and bless us with prosperity. Bright blessings to all!