Vol. 2 – Issue 10
Musings From the Mystic Path
The Month of February
Light and Being Linked In!
This month is a detour from our usual offerings and provides links to few, but rich websites that will inform your spiritual and mundane practice. As I noted last month and the call to simplicity..less is more and allows the space for more to fill…hopefully stirred within you a space of stillness, this issue is one to simply savor in its brevity.
Tesseract speaks to the astrology of the month and weaves information about the Sabbat of Imbolc into its working. More fun facts and stories about Imbolc kick us off in celebration of the Goddess, Brighid. And, Seekers on the Path begins a series of articles focused on bringing the experience of meditation and contemplative action into the flow of your daily life.
“I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.”
Brigid – Imbolc –“The Shining One”
- Where Brigid – Imbolc falls in the Wheel of the year
- Halfway between Yule and Ostara
- Cross quarter Day between Winter Solstice and Vernal Equinox, halfway thru winter January 29th – Feb 2
- It is time to take stock of the lessons we learned this winter, a time of reflection, time to prepare your household/farm/self for the coming Spring season. A time of planting new seeds, deciding where to direct our energy, where we want to grow in the coming season.
2. Meaning of Imbolc – Ewe’s Milk, sheep lactating, new life on plants
3. Imbolc, (pronounced “IM-bulk” or “EM-bowlk”), also called Oimealg, (“IM-mol’g), by the Druids, is the festival of the lactating sheep. It is derived from the Gaelic word “oimelc” which means “ewes milk”. Herd animals have either given birth to the first offspring of the year or their wombs are swollen and the milk of life is flowing into their teats and udders. It is the time of Blessing of the seeds and consecration of agricultural tools. It marks the center point of the dark half of the year. It is the festival of the Maiden, for from this day to March 21st, it is her season to prepare for growth and renewal. Brigid’s snake emerges from the womb of the Earth Mother to test the weather, (the origin of Ground Hog Day), and in many places the first Crocus flowers began to spring forth from the frozen earth.The Maiden is honored, as the Bride, on this Sabbat. Straw Brideo’gas (corn dollies) are created from oat or wheat straw and placed in baskets with white flower bedding. Young girls then carry the Brideo’gas door to door, and gifts are bestowed upon the image from each household. Afterwards at the traditional feast, the older women make special acorn wands for the dollies to hold, and in the morning the ashes in the hearth are examined to see if the magic wands left marks as a good omen. Brigid’s Crosses are fashioned from wheat stalks and exchanged as symbols of protection and prosperity in the coming year. Home hearth fires are put out and re-lit, and a besom (A bundle of twigs attached to a handle and used as a broom.) is placed by the front door to symbolize sweeping out the old and welcoming the new. Candles are lit and placed in each room of the house to honor the re-birth of the Sun.
4. Another traditional symbol of Imbolc is the plough. In some areas, this is the first day of plowing in preparation of the first planting of crops. A decorated plough is dragged from door to door, with costumed children following asking for food, drinks, or money. Should they be refused, the household is paid back by having its front garden ploughed up. In other areas, the plough is decorated and then Whiskey, the “water of life” is poured over it. Pieces of cheese and bread are left by the plough and in the newly turned furrows as offerings to the nature spirits. It is considered taboo to cut or pick plants during this time.
- Time for purification, new signs of life
- blessings of the candles
- cleaning of your home, ritual space
- return of the light, after darkness, since Yule, every day the light is longer
- Middle of winter, holds promise of Spring
Pictish Pagan Roots
Bruide, the Pictish royal throne name, is said to derived from the Pagan Goddess Brigid. The Bruide name was given to each Pagan Pictish king who was viewed as the male manifestation of the spirit of the Goddess. The most sacred place of the Picts was Abernethy in Fife. It was dedicated to Brigid, in Pagan times, and to St. Brigid, in Christian times. Columban monks tended a Celtic abbey there and hereditary abbots were of the Earl of Fife branch of the Clan MacDuff, which survived to the present day as Clan Wemyss (Weems).
- Name variations: Brigid; Bride (Scotland), Brid, Brigit, Bridget, Briganta (England), Brigan, Brigindo(Gaul), Berecyntia,Brigandu(France)
Name means Bright One, High One, Bright Arrow, Power.
Christianized forms: St. Brigit (Irish), St. Ffraid (Welsh), St. Bridget (Swedish), Queen of Heaven, Prophetess of Christ, Mary.
- Irish Transitions and Traditions
When Ireland was Christianized, veneration of the Pagan Goddess Brigid was transformed into that of St. Brigit, said to be the human daughter of a Druid. St. Brigit became a saint after her “death” and was supposedly converted and baptized by St. Patrick. Pagan lore was incorporated into the Christian traditions and legends associated with her as a saint. For example, as St. Brigit, She had the power to appoint bishops and they had to be goldsmiths. She was associated with miracles and fertility. Into the 18th century a women’s only shrine was kept to her in Kildare (meaning Church of the Oak) in Ireland. There, nineteen nuns tended Her continually burning sacred flame. An ancient song was sung to Her: “Brigid, excellent woman, sudden flame, may the bright fiery sun take us to the lasting kingdom.”
- Brigid, is the Celtic Goddess of inspiration, healing, and smithcraft. She is one of the best examples of the survival of a Pagan Goddess into Christian times. She was canonized as St. Brigit by the Roman Catholic Church and various stories are given of Her origins and Her life. She was a Druid’s daughter, described in the Carmina Gadelica as the “daughter of Dugall the brown.” She is reported to have predicted the coming of Christianity and to have been baptized by St. Patrick. Popular folk tales describe Her as the midwife to the Virgin Mary, and She is thus always called upon by women in labor. The Christian St. Brigit was a nun, and later an Abbess, who founded an Abbey at Kildare in Ireland. She was said to have had the power to appoint the bishops of Her area, an unlikely role for an Abbess, made stranger by Her unusual requirement that these bishops also be practicing goldsmiths.
- In ancient times, the Goddess Brigid had a shrine at Kildare, with a perpetual flame tended by nineteen virgin priestesses called Daughters of the Flame. No man was permitted to come near Brigid’s shrine and neither did Her priestesses consort with men. Even food and supplies were brought to the priestesses by women from the nearby village. When Catholicism overtook Ireland, Brigid’s Fire Temple became a convent and the priestesses became nuns, but the same traditions were upheld and the eternal flame kept burning. Each day a different priestess/nun was in charge of the sacred fire and on the 20th day of each cycle, the fire was miraculously tended by the Goddess/Saint Herself.
- For more than a thousand years thereafter, the sacred flame was tended by nuns. In 1220 CE, though, the Bishop became angered by the no-males policy of the Abbey of St. Brigid of Kildare. He insisted that nuns were subordinate to priests and must open their abbey and submit to inspection by a priest. When the Brigidine nuns refused and asked for another Abbess or other female official to perform the inspections, the Bishop was furious. He decreed that the keeping of the eternal flame was a Pagan custom, and ordered the sacred flame to be extinguished. Despite this persecution, St. Brigit remains to this day the most popular saint in Ireland, along with St. Patrick. In the 1960s, though, Vatican II declared there was insufficient proof of St. Brigit’s sanctity, or even of Her historical existence, and She was decanonized, so that the Roman Church’s campaign against Her became successful. Recently, however, despite the initial protests of the Roman Catholic church, two nuns, by the name of Sister Mary and Sister Phil, have reestablished the worship of St. Brigit at Kildare and have relit Her sacred flame, which burns once more. The first modern Candlemas/Imbolc celebration at the ancient site of Brigid’s sacred well in 1997 drew hundreds of people and grows every year in popularity. The flame of Brigid’s love burns brightly once more.
- Brigid/St. Brigit was said to be the inventor of whistling and of keening.
- Candlemas – February 2 – which is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and features candlelight processions. The powerful figure of Brigid the Light-Bringer overlights both pagan and Christian celebrations. This is the feast of the purification of the Virgin Mary, when she was supposed to go to the temple in Jerusalem, 40 days after giving birth, to make a traditional offering to purify herself. As she entered the Temple, an old man, named Simeon, recognized Jesus as the Messiah of Israel, and a “light unto the Gentiles.”
So the Archetype of the Young Sun or Light coming to redeem the darkness – is retold with a Christian twist. Divine light in the darkness of human sin, of renewal and rebirth of light in the dark time of the year, and the new light of heaven, come to transform an old world.
Brigid – Healer/Bard/Smith – the ritual for Brigid on Imbolc centers on inviting the goddess in and offering her hospitality. In some cases a woman was chosen to play the part of the goddess, in other cases the brídeóg was used. The door would be opened to her and she would loudly be invited in, shown to her “bed” and offered specially baked bread. Candles would be lit at the windows and next to her “bed”, songs would be sung and prayers said calling on Brigid to bless all present in the coming seasons, and grant health and protection to the household.
A small broom or white wand would be placed next to the “bed”, and the ashes from the fire would be smoothed down in the hopes that the morning would reveal the marks of the wand, or better yet, the footprints of the goddess herself, either of which would be a sign of blessing. Placing the doll in her bed at night would be followed by a large family meal.
- Goddess of Inspiration – Bard
- Goddess of Smiths – Other rituals involve blessing the forge fires for blacksmiths and Otherworld divinations. In some Scottish mythologies, it is believed that Brigid is held by the Cailleach Bhur during the winter months but escapes, or is rescued by her brother Aonghus mac óg, on Imbolc. In others, it is said the Cailleach drinks from a hidden spring and transforms into Brigid on this day.
- Goddess of Healing
- Goddess/Druidess/Saint – progression of Brigid in Ireland
- PreChristian Ireland, honored Brigid
- PreChristian Northern England, honored Brigantia
- Cailleach and Dahgda – best traits of her 2 parents
- Cailleach staying by the fire – if it is a grey, rainy day, then she will burn thru her fire wood faster, so spring will come sooner
- Cailleach going out to collect more firewood – so if it is a beautiful, sunny day, then she is out collecting more firewood to burn, winter is going to be longer, so 6 more weeks of winter weather
- This is where GroundHog’s day story comes from.
- Fire – Flame, candle, crown, hearth
- Water – Wells, springs, cauldron
- Grain – Brigid Crosses, Goddess in effigy/ Brigid’s Bed, seeds
- Creatures – White cow with red ears, wolf, snake, swan,& vulture
- Talismans – Shining mirror to Otherworld, Spinning Wheel, Holy Grail, Mantle/Cloak (hanging it on sunbeam, when St. Brendan came to visit her at her farmstead, or leaving a length of cloth out on a windowsill for the entire holy day and night. It is believed that the cloth absorbs the energy of the goddess during the ritual, and can be used for healing and protection throughout the year. This would be kept and recharged every year, attaining full power after 7 years.
- Ritual – Brigid’s Girdle – Crios Bride – it was made from braided straw rope and carried in procession with the effigy of Bride throughout the whole town. At each house, occupants were expected to pass through it, to obtain Bride’s protection and good health for the coming year. As they did this, the bearers of the cross chanted a verse. One version goes in translation:
“Brigid’s girdle is my girdle
The girdle with the four crosses
Arise, housewife and go out three times.
May whoever goes through my girdle
Be seven times better a year from now.”
A ritual like this anchored participants in the cosmic order represented by the four directions and the three worlds: lower world, physical world and upper world, mediated by the sacred presence of Brigid.
- Making Brigid Crosses, blessing rushes
- Purification – of home and fields
- Various other names for this Greater Sabbat are Imbolgc Brigantia (Caledonni), Imbolic (Celtic), Disting (Teutonic, Feb 14th), Lupercus (Strega), St. Bridget’s Day (Christian), Candlemas, Candlelaria (Mexican), the Snowdrop Festival. The Festival of Lights, or the Feast of the Virgin. All Virgin and Maiden Goddesses are honored at this time. Different names Imbolc/Candlemas/Brigid/Groundhog’s Day/Aztec New Year/ Chinese New Year
Deities of Imbolc:
All Virgin/Maiden Goddesses, Brigid, Aradia, Athena, Inanna, Gaia, and Februa, and Gods of Love and Fertility, Aengus Og, Eros, and Februus.
Symbolism of Imbolc:
Purity, Growth and Re-Newal, The Re-Union of the Goddess and the God, Fertility, and dispensing of the old and making way for the new.
Symbols of Imbolc:
Brideo’gas, Besoms, White Flowers, Candle Wheels, Brigid’s Crosses, Priapic Wands (acorn-tipped), and Ploughs.
Herbs of Imbolc:
Angelica, Basil, Bay Laurel, Blackberry, Celandine, Coltsfoot, Heather, Iris, Myrrh, Tansy, Violets, and all white or yellow flowers.
Foods of Imbolc:
Pumpkin seeds, Sunflower seeds, Poppyseed Cakes, muffins, scones, and breads, all dairy products, Peppers, Onions, Garlic, Raisins, Spiced Wines and Herbal Teas.
Incense of Imbolc:
Basil, Bay, Wisteria, Cinnamon, Violet, Vanilla, Myrrh.
Colors of Imbolc:
White, Pink, Red, Yellow, lt. Green, Brown.
Stones of Imbolc:
Amethyst, Bloodstone, Garnet, Ruby, Onyx, Turquoise.
Activities of Imbolc:
Candle Lighting, Stone Gatherings, Snow Hiking and Searching for Signs of Spring, Making of Brideo’gas and Bride’s Beds, Making Priapic Wands, Decorating Ploughs, Feasting, and Bon Fires maybe lit.
“The flowers of late winter and early spring occupy places in
our hearts well out of proportion to their size.”
– Gertrude Wistar –
I am fond of this saying from the Zen Buddhist tradition: “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.” This means to me that the seeking for enlightenment, being one with the Divine, becoming aware of my own inner spark, all can happen while I am just carrying out the daily tasks of my life. This seeking doesn’t have to be a precious removal from life; rather, the more fully engaged I am with my own life, the more likely I will come to understand my own place in the All. While I am incarnate on this plane, then I must carry out normal, everyday, and mundane tasks.
I had a moment of awakening just this past week. It was during a break in the winter iciness and there was a day of sunshine and relative warmth and no snow. I took the opportunity to rake leaves that I had missed in the fall and that had been piled up under the recent snow falls. While I was raking, I noticed some pale green new growth: tiny leaves were unfurling. They had the understanding that spring will be coming soon. And I kept raking and piling up leaves. Soon, I got down to bare ground, and I realized that I could smell the earth. Even in the cold of winter, under snow and ice, the compost under the leaves was getting ready. I could smell the possibility of spring being drawn up by the tines of my rake. Rake leaves: remember the cycle of life.
Imbolc comes at just the right time. It is still winter, it will still be freezing. The nights come early. Yet. And yet. I smell the compost. Tiny green leaves are starting to reach up. Snowdrops will be blooming soon; daffodils will once again send up their green leaves even though I think each year, “No, wait! It is too soon!” The daffodils know better than I do: spring is on its way. Imbolc is the holiday that we celebrate at the midpoint between winter solstice (when the night longest) and the spring equinox (when daylight and night time are of equal length). The day light is beginning to stretch for longer times when Imbolc comes to us, and we can feel the stirrings of new life.
Rake leaves: uncover new life: breath in cold air: smell compost: let enlightenment in. Celebrate Imbolc. Celebrate the dawning of awareness, of light returning, of the wheel turning. Never ending. New and old and new again.
Spaces of Serenity
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Do Nothing for Two Minutes
Still your mind and your hands by forcing yourself to do nothing for two minutes. It’s much harder than it sounds, but you’ll feel so good afterwards.
This site leads you through a guided meditation session in increments up to 20 minutes. There are a number of options that allow you to fully customize your experience.
Daily Inspirational Quotes
Read inspiring, positive and wisdom quotes which uplift your spirit and motivate you to follow your dreams, and helps you to live a peaceful life.
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Servants of the Light
To teach, that is our aim. To teach well, and with love. To teach what we have been taught; and in that teaching, to form close knit bonds that will bring all faiths and traditions into one united Brotherhood. The SOL is pendant to the ancient School of Alexandria, where all faiths and beliefs were welcomed, and their knowledge shared. We do not teach any faith or religion, or exalt any one above another. Though we teach the Western Way, we do not oppose that of the East; but look upon it as one of the many bright strands of faith that make up the Divine Pattern.
Asstd. Info and Studies
At Ancient Origins we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.
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The Intersection of Moon Phase, Astrology, Elemental Energy, and Magick
As February begins, we look forward to Imbolc. Imbolc is a cross quarter day and is celebrated at the midpoint between Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox; it will fall on February 2 this year. As it happens, Imbolc occurs two days after the full Moon, which appeared on January 31 and was the second full Moon in January. We will not have a full Moon in February this year. Even though light radiated from the Moon will be waning, the celebration of Imbolc turns the Wheel of the Year toward thoughts of Spring and we can take note that every day brings us a few more minutes of daylight.
Imbolc is a time of renewal and fertility, the stirring of new life, be it lambs or spring flowers: we might see snowdrops poking up through melting snow. Some people celebrate the increase in light daily by lighting candles at night and placing them in the windows of their houses.
As the Moon’s light wanes toward the third, or last, quarter phase on February 7, it will be in the sign of Scorpio, a fixed water sign. Scorpio represents an energy that is anything but superficial. This sign is one that is interested in plumbing the depths of emotions, revealing what is underneath any situation, and in reveling in passion, regeneration, and regrowth. It is the sign that is represented by the scorpion, the eagle, and the phoenix: it is a transformational sign.
As the time of the third quarter Moon phase is one of reflection, introspection, reviewing the result of the intentions and actions started, grown and harvested during the previous phases, we can use the transformational Scorpio energy during this rare month with no full Moon and go deep within. What are we gestating? What will we bring forth in the coming season? What are we waiting for? What will we breathe out in the coming Spring?
Now is when we can take time to remember the light that we can generate from our own energy. We can kindle our own candles and bring our light to share with others. Let us do some candle magick to remember that light and life will be expanding soon.
RITUAL: Cleansing bath with candles
To enhance the energies of Imbolc, a third quarter Moon in Scorpio (water sign), and a month without a full Moon, you can combine candle magick with a cleansing milk bath. This way you can wash away the old and make room for what is coming to you.
First: Gather your materials. You will need one white candle, one black candle, candle holders, and a lighter.
Collect the ingredients for your milk bath. These ingredients include:
1 cup Epsom salt
1 cup powdered milk
1/4 cup baking soda
The Epsom salt can help muscles relax, and the milk and baking soda can help sooth the skin. You will need to combine these ingredients and put them in a container you can close: you will have more than you need for one bath.
Place your candles in the bath room in their holders on a secure surface: we don’t want candles falling in the bath water! Have a lighter at hand.
Fill the bathtub with hot water and add 1/4 cup of your milk bath mixture to the hot water.
Next: prepare for the ritual. Center yourself and breathe deeply with the four-fold breath: breathe out for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, breathe in for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts. Repeat this sequence until you feel calm and centered.
Then, turn out the lights in the bathroom. Notice the darkness, and notice your feelings. When you are ready, light the black candle. Do you feel any different, knowing that you are bringing light out of the darkness? Meditate on the single candle flame for a moment.
Now, light the white candle. Notice the increase in light: now the light and the dark are in a dance together. Meditate on the two flames.
When you are ready, enter your cleansing milk bath. The dark and the light are both present, yet you know light will be increasing. Immerse yourself in the watery energy of Scorpio, of change, of transformation, of starting anew. The salt is from the ocean: remember the primordial mother from which we all emerged. The milk can remind you of spring and the new lambs birthing at this time of year. This bath will cleanse and soothe you and your skin, joints, and muscles will thank you.
Lay in your bath and look at the candle flames. Have they burned down some? Let this remind you that you have burned your energies over the winter; now is a time for renewal.
When you feel complete, empty your bath water, rinse off the milk and salts, and emerge from your bath. Blow out the candles, yet remember that you carry the spark of the divine and light of the life within you. This inner light cannot be extinguished. Carry it forth. So mote it be.
First Steps on the Seeker’s Path
This month’s article is Part One of a series of posts about the practice of meditation and contemplative integration at all levels of being. Last month I discussed the path of devotion and as we move through this series, the devotion that is offered to yourself will be a key component in cultivating wholeness…
Part One: Magickal Meditation
The Gateway to the Human Divine
As physical, mental and spiritual beings it is important that we address the needs of all of these components in order to stay healthy, balanced and whole. If we ignore the Spiritual self and cater to and indulge only the physical, we lose connection with our Higher Self and are driven and guided by our most primitive urges.
If we hermit ourselves away to a life whose sole intent is to ascend out of the plane of incarnate existence, we deprive ourselves of one of our most powerful vehicles of Divine experience- the knowledge of being a Spiritual Being having a human experience.
The bridge between these two aspects is our mental self. The seat of the intellect and analysis that can by seed of thought ascend to the heights via use of thoughtforms or create and manifest into being by use of invention. The care and keeping of a stress-free mind is an area that much has been written about, but still remains tenuous, at best, to take hold of in our fast and over-achieving society.
One of the ways I “steal away” for positive reflection is through the use of visual triggers. On my work desk are a selection of items, each connected to its own story of some joyful, relaxing stream of thought. I only have to look at a particular object and allow it to transport my mind to a place of serenity that I’ve built in connection with that object. In as little as 3-5 minutes, and using a very discreet method in the midst of a work (or potentially stressful setting) I have calmed my mind, set the intent of serenity around myself.
Next Month: Meditative Practice for the Parts of Self
Upcoming Events – 2018
Unlocking the Tarot
Decoding the Signs, Symbols and Journey
For more information. Click here…
Musings From the Mystic Path is published monthly by Coven of the Mystic Path, ASW.
Editor: R. Fennelly, HPs, CMP, ASW
Columnist: L. B., Tesseract
Contributors: Membership/Petitioners of Coven of the Mystic Path, ASW
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