What to Remember When Waking
In that first hardly noticed moment in which you wake,
coming back to this life from the other
more secret, moveable and frighteningly honest world
where everything began,
there is a small opening into the new day
which closes the moment you begin your plans.
What you can plan is too small for you to live.
What you can live wholeheartedly will make plans enough
for the vitality hidden in your sleep.
To be human is to become visible
while carrying what is hidden as a gift to others.
To remember the other world in this world
is to live in your true inheritance.
You are not a troubled guest on this earth,
you are not an accident amidst other accidents
you were invited from another and greater night
than the one from which you have just emerged.
Now, looking through the slanting light of the morning window
toward the mountain presence of everything that can be
what urgency calls you to your one love?
What shape waits in the seed of you
to grow and spread its branches
against a future sky?
Is it waiting in the fertile sea?
In the trees beyond the house?
In the life you can imagine for yourself?
In the open and lovely white page on the writing desk?
by David Whyte, from The House of Belonging, Many Rivers Press
(inspired by the Imbolc essay by Jude Murray of Ceibhfhion.)
Today is the ancient celebration of Brighid, Imbolc, or Candlemas, as some may call it. And for our friends in the Southern Hemisphere, we wish you a Blessed Lughnasadh today!
This is a cross-quarter Sabbat, meaning that it falls halfway between the astronomical times of Solstice and Equinox, making it between Feb. 1 and 3, depending on your tradition and desire for celestial precision. Another sky marker of Imbolc for those of us above the Equator is that it is celebrated when the Pleiades are at their zenith in the sky at sunset.
By whichever name or method you like, Imbolc (usually pronounced “Imm’-ulg”) is the time when we of the Old Ways dedicate to new studies, renew our spiritual devotions, undergo initiation to a new level of practice, or perhaps simply bless the seeds of our intentions for the coming year.
Those of us who align our lives with Mother Earth’s seasons, the rhythms of stars, Moon, and sky, and the moving arc of light and dark across the Wheel of the Year know that regardless of the self-destruction of the fossilized old era and its human-created drama and chaos, the time of rebirth and renewal has come.
Even though there is still harsh Winter ahead for many more weeks, the dark time of the year is truly over. With the newly born lambs now coming in, and the first callings of mating birds, hope is assured. Imbolc is Life’s Promise: no matter what craziness and dark fears the human race is conjuring, Nature is bigger, stronger, and will abide.
Feel the shift, inhale the fragrant winds of change. Dawn comes earlier each day. The sap in the trees is rising. Blossoms are plotting their debut. Roots are feeding the green shoots that will soon burst through snow and cold mud.
Pay attention to this.
Limit your news diet to only what you need, in order to act on behalf of what you value. More is toxic to the spirit and runs quite counter to the Divine Promise of this time. Indeed, the dying system and its hateful, desperate machinations would love to trick us into doubting our power, and the power of our mother, Gaia.
Although we have all been drenched in foul waters of geopolitical poison and devastating judicial and ecological regression, Imbolc is the proof that the Wheel of the Year always, always, always turns.
Trust this Turning. It is far older and more potent than the smirking, wicked little men telling lies, pulling their strings, and cheating the system.
Balance and regeneration are the innate ways of the Earth Herself. This, too, shall pass.
We, the women and men of spirit and Earth awareness, will never waver in our love and dedication to wise stewardship, alignment with the living wisdom of our beautiful planet, and peaceful cooperation with all orders of Life.
For now, we can see that hope dawns, no matter what. No matter how many shadows and spells of hate-filled fear are thrown by the dying paradigm, the light has assuredly grown longer and stronger since we lit our candles together at Solstice.
All of us can feel the stirrings of life in the land. Dawn comes after night, and Spring after Winter. And slowly, ever so slowly, healing glimmers beyond the devastation of the still-raging conflagration of the pandemic.
Inspiration from the Lands Down Under
Look southward to our friends below the equator, who are celebrating Lughnasadh this day. Let us all break bread together, they with their hearty harvest loaves, we with our Brigid bannocks. See how they hold up their loaves for the blessings of this day, illuminating the proof of nourishing yields awaiting us, too.
For just as they joined us in our Solstice Wreath lightings, sharing their Summer wreaths of flowers and vines, we can know from their celebrations today that our own time of healing, growing, and life’s vigor is inevitable and assured. The curtain is rising on the bright new year, and the changing of the age, too.
Courage, my darlings! Be of good cheer.
We Will Never Lose Our Way to the Well
We can harmonize with this joyful, loving energy by choosing new ways to nurture our spiritual growth and service.
One of my favorite ways to observe this holiday is to bless some actual seeds that I will be planting, once the ground is warm and the danger of frost has passed. They may represent a creative dream I have for the coming growing season, or fondest wishes and hopes about my cherished relationships. Or they may simply be seeds chosen to help our wild neighbors in our woods.
Here at Laurel Hill, our home in northern Durham County, North Carolina, we are blessed with fresh, sweet water that gushes from a well with its source deep in our sacred land.
So at this time, especially mindful of recent droughts and other threats to safe, plentiful drinking water, we humbly ask Brighid to bless and protect our well and, indeed, all the waters of the world. (To read my essay about the Goddess, Brighid, whose time this also is, I invite you to visit here).
Even if you use city tap water, the ancient wisdom and magic of this sabbat suggest you might take time today in sacred space to bless your faucets, sinks, and pipes with thanksgiving, song, and other devotional practices.
It’s easy to take it for granted that most of us can turn on the tap and unlimited clean water comes out. But as tragic events around our nation and the world continue to warn us, we are extremely fortunate for this life-giving gift, and it is one that can vanish or be poisoned, with little warning, and all too often, little to no remediation.
The Light of Awakening
Other rites you might consider at this time include celebrating the return of the Sun’s light. In many Pagan homes at sunset, it is a tradition to light every lamp in the home, for at least a few moments. Or you might like to light a special candle in every room. Alternately, light a red candle and place this in a prominent window.
If you have snow on the ground where you live, walk in it for a while, and draw a magical symbol of the Sun, as your message to the sleeping Earth, encouraging Her to awaken.
Whether you have snow or not, if the weather is not too dire today, take a mindful walk around the areas near your home. Recall how those places feel during High Summer. How are the sounds, smells, tastes, and feelings now different?
As you remember the Summertime, send that memory out to the trees, plants, creatures, devas, and other beings with whom you share your neighborhood. I personally like to do this by singing, humming, or chanting.
You, too, can call to Gaia’s slumbering children, reminding them that Winter’s grip is loosening, and soon you will be welcoming their presence. Or, like the traditional Morris Dancers, you can dance upon the sleeping Earth, ringing jingle bells, and smacking magical sticks together to awaken Her creatures.
With your songs and words, you are engaging in the original sense of the word en-chantment: to chant or sing with intention, to achieve a desired result. By doing so, you bless and bring to life all within the sound of your voice.
You can also do this to invoke the protectors of the Land — the ancient Underworld beings who are the guardians of Gaia’s well-being. I am sure you agree that we are in great need of their assistance, as there has been a devastating undoing of the past progress on environmental protections and mediation we all worked so hard for. And so much more still needs attending.
So as you celebrate the strengthening of the Sun’s fire, take this opportunity to establish or deepen your cooperation with them.
Listening to the Stones and the Clouds
This is also an ideal time to refresh your acquaintance with the magic of poetry, one of the Goddess Brighid’s great gifts to humanity.
As Joy Harjo, the first Native American to be named United States Poet Laureate, observed, “When I began to listen to poetry, it’s when I began to listen to the stones, and I began to listen to what the clouds had to say, and I began to listen to Other.”
For those of you (a rapidly diminishing number, I hope!) who think you are not fond of poetry, let me invite you to erase all the tedium you may associate with it, tainted by drab school-teachers with no soul. Surely the glorious inaugural poem by Amanda Gorman has opened up a new appreciation for everyone.
But know this: Poetry is the oldest form of spellcraft, and it is always more vibrant and alive when spoken aloud, for that is its true nature.
And much of it is far hotter and more inspiring than the sanitized bits we were made to plow through in school. (So you might want to go back and read aloud the poem I shared at the top of this post).
I could go on and on, of course, but the day is moving along, and I have more enchantments of my own still to attend to.
So I will close for now, simply noting that in whatever ways you choose to honor this happy time, I wish you merry meet, and merry part, and merry we shall meet again. Blessed be.
Brighid of the mantle, encompass us;
Lady of the lambs, protect us;
Keeper of the hearth, kindle us;
Beneath your mantle, gather us;
And restore us to memory.
~ Caitlín Matthews, A Blessing for Hearth Keepers
With deepest gratitude to RJ Stewart, Anastacia Nutt, and all the Shining Guardians and Teachers in my life.