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Imbolc 1998

Created by the members of the Sisters of the Silver Branch for Imbolc, 1998.

Just prior to this ritual, we had been studying “sun,” “moon,” and “star” as mythological and esoteric symbols. In addition to celebrating the Goddess, Bride, as patron of inspiration, we wanted to have inspiration and hope to be the major themes of this ritual. In the Tarot, the Star is a symbol of hope and inspiration, so we included star imagery into the altar set-up. We also requested all the participants to bring a star image to the ritual so that the images may be charged with energy leading to inspiration in our lives.

We set the altar up with four deep blue candles representing the night sky. Suspended on black thread among the four candles was a crystal star which, when the lights were lowered, looked as if it were floating just over the altar. Amid the four candles were a statue of Bride in which burned a votive candle, the various stars we had brought, a chalice, a cauldron full of water, coins, and an incense burner with charcoal and incense. Nearby was the beer we would pass around the circle.

Casting the Circle

All face in the appropriate directions

Judy:

I call upon the powers of the east. The divine breath blowing upon the embers to light the spark of creativity.

I call upon the powers of the south. The flaming force of desire that transforms our inspirations into dreams.

I call upon the powers of the west. The sacred wells of tradition which give form to our dreams.

I call upon the powers of the north. The sacred space where the distant dreams of our innermost souls can manifest.

I call upon the powers of the center. The divine spirit manifest in the physical world. May our dreams so manifest.

Invocation for the Star of Hope

CB:

Starlight, star bright, guiding star be here tonight
inspiration, hope and dreams, provide the fuel for all our schemes
illuminate the darkest night, set us on the path that's right.

Invocation of Bride

Doreen:

Bride,
Fiery arrow
Foster mother
Hope giver
Be with us here at Imbolg
And help nurture the spark that is within us all
So mote it be!

Meditation: Journey to Bride

Doreen:

Bride is a goddess who is creative, independent, and yet nurturing. When we do the meditation, you may ask her a question and she will answer it. She is a contact to be encouraged and nurtured.

Meditation:

Close your eyes and prepare for a journey to another time and place where Bride still resides in her fire temple. Let the surroundings fade to be replaced by another scene.

You find yourself walking on a path through hilly, yet open, farmland. It is a very early spring evening and you can smell the scent of fresh grass. The air is clean and smells a bit damp. It is cool and you can still see your breath as you breathe out. Cattle and lambs are grazing and it is quiet except for the gentle bleating and moos of the sheep and cows. It is early evening there and it is not quite dark. The bright orange sun is just starting to set on the horizon and the sky is pink with just a hint of dusky purple. You can still see well enough to make your way along your path. Even though you have never been here before, your feet seem to know the way as if you've done this hundreds of times. You seem to have a purpose and your feet move effortlessly over the spongy grass of the pasture. Everything looks vaguely familiar and you continue.

Up and down the hilly countryside you walk until you come upon a knoll. As you look out over the horizon you see one building near a grove of oak trees. From a distance it resembles a great temple and it is richly illuminated. In the gentle breeze you seem to hear your name being called. The voice that is calling is very gentle, feminine and very persistent. The voice is mysterious yet soothing and almost musical. At first you hesitate to follow the gentle voice. What if you misheard? You carefully listen and unmistakably it is your name that the voice is calling. Keeping in mind that you can return home whenever you wish, you decided to follow the soothing sound, which seems to be coming from the great temple.

As you follow the voice down the hill and move closer to the temple, you notice the hall is illuminated more brightly that anything you have ever seen before. The light seems to be coming from within the temple and you notice that even though the brightness of the light should hurt your eyes, it doesn't. You gaze upon it with ease. The soothing feminine voice beckons you inside. As your eyes adjust to the brightness of the room, you see a great hall and off to the side a door leading to another room. The hall is plain but beautiful with a wooden beam roof and a stone floor. Part of the floor is covered with straw. The voice continues to call and you seem drawn to the huge oak door. Upon inspecting it, you notice that the door is open a crack - the voice gets louder and more insistent. You feel confident and secure, and pushing the door open you notice that there is a large rectangular room and your eyes are drawn to the opposite end where there is a large pit recessed into the floor. In the pit is a blazing fire. This room is not a kitchen and this is not a pit for cooking as there are no cooking utensils near by. There is wood and peat stacked up near the walls of the room. The room should be unbearably hot, but is of a comfortable temperature. You then notice two women in the room. Both of them seem ageless — neither young nor old. They are dressed in varying shades of brightly dyed plaid and wool and are both wearing amber and blue glass jewelry. One is tending the fire and the other is seated in a large high backed chair close to the fire. The woman tending the fire adds more wood, looks up and says, “Oh, there you are. We've been expecting you. Bride awaits. Come, follow me.” You are then brought to the fair haired woman who sits in the chair. Her head is bowed, but she slowly looks up at you. Your eyes look into her eyes and in them you see the wisdom of the ages. You then realize that the spark of creativity, life and passion is within all of us. The only words she speaks are, “What will your flame of growth be during the next wheel of the year? What skills will you use in the coming year?” Think carefully, for it is useless to try to deceive Bride. You hear, in the depths of your soul. The answer of the question you have come to ask. This message or suggestion is for you alone and is for no one else to hear …

(Five Minute Pause)

Once you are satisfied that you have the answer to your question, you rise to your feet. You thank Bride for her wise counsel. You make farewells to the fire tender and promise to bathe in the light of the fire. You feel energized and softly walk out of the room and close the door behind you. You walk through the great hall and into the cool night air. As you start on your journey home you look back at the temple and notice that it is slowly dissolving into a swirling mist. It has disappeared into the cool night air! You then start to become aware of your physical body. You feel your legs on solid ground, your arms are starting to feel heavier and you are aware that you don't feel as light as you are. Slowly and deliberately close down your inner perceptions and return … . Slowly open your eyes and stretch and yawn if you feel you must. Place your hand on the solid floor and feel it beneath you — ground any leftover energy by feeling it course through your body and down into the ground. Shake your limbs and return to the to the here and now — the mundane world in which you reside.

Passing the Chalice

To honor Bride as patron of brewing, we filled a chalice with beer and passed it around the circle three times for all to partake.

Offering to the Cauldron

We thought about what we wanted to foster within ourselves for the coming year and we each placed a coin in the cauldron of water as an offering to Bride.

Jessica:

These tokens represent something — creativity, inspiration, or an emotion — that we would like to foster within ourselves in the coming months. We ask Bride, foster-mother of skills and crafts, to guide us toward our goals. We now cast our tokens into the sacred well.

Giving Thanks to Bride

Doreen:

Bride,
Thank you for being here with us at our Imbolg ritual.
May the hope and spark of inspiration that you have given us tonight stay with us throughout the wheel of the year.
So mote it be!

Dissolving the Circle

All face in the appropriate directions

Judy:

I thank the powers of the center. We step back from the sacred space into the physical world but we are spirits manifesting in the physical world and so carry the mystery within ourselves. I thank the powers of the north. We root our dreams in the physical world so they will have strength. I thank the powers of the west. We nurture our dreams from the wellsprings of our souls. I thank the powers of the south. The force that causes us to manifest our dreams in the physical world. I thank the powers of the air. The wisdom to know when to let go of our dreams so they may become shining beacons to inspire others.

Afterwards we honored Bride as patron of fire by eating a feast consisting of hot, spicy Indian food. Below is a brief introduction to the Goddess Bride.

Bride — The Pagan Goddess

Doreen Motheral ©1998

The Irish Celtic goddess Bride (alternate spellings: Brighid, Brigid, and Brigit — pronounced “breed” or “breej”). was the daughter of the Daghda, or the“Good God.” She was one of three sisters — a Celtic triple goddess. All three of the sisters were named Bride and they were the goddesses of poetry, smithcraft, and healing. However, due to her popularity in Ireland and Scotland, she is also known as the goddess of fertility, motherhood, inspiration, and protection. Many considered her to have a very nurturing nature. She is considered to be a solar goddess and may have replaced an even earlier sun goddess in Ireland. It also may have been that Bride was not a personal name but a name given to all goddesses of this type. In the “Book of Invasions,” she is said to have brought to Ireland two oxen, a great pig, and a huge boar. If Ireland were under attack or any sort of threat the animals would cry out alerting everyone in the village. This gives her a connection with the land as protector and with the fertility of animals.

Her festival is in the spring and is called Imbolg, which, literally translated, means “butter bag.” This is the time of the year that the animals, such as lambs, begin to lactate. The festival date of Imbolg varied greatly from region to region because of the different times of lactation, but was celebrated in early spring, generally February. It celebrates the goddess Bride as well as the coming of spring. The Irish and Scottish Celts were able to see that winter was going to end soon and even though there were a couple of hard months to get through, there was a sense of hope for the coming spring. Today we celebrate Imbolg on February 1st.

Attributes of her divine character are still distinguishable even now in modern Irish and Scottish festivals of St. Brigid of Kildare. The festival of Imbolg is also an origin of Candlemas, a Christian festival, celebrated on the 2nd of February.