Imbolc is mentioned in some of the most early Irish writings and there is evidence it has been an important date since ancient times. It was originally a pagan festival associated with the goddess Brighid and it is still observed today as such by Wiccans and Celtic based Pagans throughout the world today in various forms. For those following the Celtic method of time keeping in which nightfall marks the beginning of the next day, this holiday is usually celebrated beginning at sundown on February 1 and continuing through the day of February 2.
Brighid’s crosses are made in honor of her and dolls, called Brídeógs, are sometimes paraded from house-to-house. Brigid is believed to visit the homes of those who worship her at Imbolc. To receive her blessings, people might make a bed for her and leave something to eat and drink. Also, some folks leave items of clothing or household items outside for her to bless. Brigid may also be invoked to protect homes, pets and, for those living in the country, livestock. In Ireland and other places, special feasts are held, sacred wells are visited and it is also a good time for divination.
If you would like to make your own Brigid’s Cross they are fairly simple and easy to make with the right materials. If you have access to gather fresh green reeds or straw these work best. We’ve even made them with the kids out of multi-colored pipe cleaners as craft projects. The more flexible the material you’re using the better because you have to bend each piece in half so dry reeds will break on you. There are several good tutorials online you may use to learn how, including this one:
PEAT is the fuel of the Highlands and Islands. Where wood is not obtainable the fire is kept in during the night. The process by which this is accomplished is called in Gaelic smaladh; in Scottish, smooring; and in English, smothering, or more correctly, subduing.
The ceremony of smooring the fire is artistic and symbolic, and is performed with loving care. The embers are evenly spread on the hearth–which is generally in the middle of the floor–and formed into a circle. This circle is then divided into three equal sections, a small boss being left in the middle. A peat is laid between each section, each peat touching the boss, which forms a common centre. The first peat is laid down in name of the God of Life, the second in name of the God of Peace, the third in name of the God of Grace. The circle is then covered over with ashes sufficient to subdue but not to extinguish p. 235 the fire, in name of the Three of Light. The heap slightly raised in the centre is called ‘Tula nan Tri,’ the Hearth of the Three. When the smooring operation is complete the woman closes her eyes, stretches her hand, and softly intones one of the many formulae current for these occasions.
Another way of keeping embers for morning use is to place them in a pit at night. The pit consists of a hole in the clay floor, generally under the dresser. The pit may be from half a foot to a foot in depth and diameter, with a flag fixed in the floor over the top. In the centre of this flag there is a hole by which the embers are put in and taken out. Another flag covers the hole to extinguish the fire at night, and to guard against accidents during the day. This extinguishing fire-pit is called ‘slochd guail,’ coke or coal-pit. This coke or charcoal is serviceable in kindling the fire.
An Tri numh (The sacred Three)
A chumhnadh, (To save,)
A chomhnadh, (To shield,)
A chomraig (To surround)
An tula, (the hearth)
An taighe, (The house,)
An teaghlaich, (The household,)
An oidhche, (This eve,)
An nochd, (This night,)
O! an oidhche, (Oh! this eve,)
An nochd, (This night,)
Agus gach oidhche, (And every night,)
Gach aon oidhche. (Each single night.)
People have been drinking tea in some form or another and in many cultures for thousands of years in the known historical record. Who knows really when the first of our ancestors might have boiled some dried herbs or other leaves in some water and drank the resulting infusion? Historians say this refreshment likely originated in southwest China during the Shang dynasty as a medicinal drink. An early written record of drinking such concoctions dates to the 3rd century CE, in a medical journal by Hua Tuo. Portuguese priests and merchants were first introduced to forms of the drink in China during the 16th century and drinking it became popular in Britain during the 17th century. The British brought tea production, and consumption, to India, as an answer to the Chinese monopoly on the brew during that time.
Annie’s Remedy has a fine collection of do it yourself tea recipes that you might want to consider trying. Here’s one from their collection I borrowed to share and entice you to visit her site for more:
Chamomile, Lavender And Lemon Balm Tea
This good tasting tea is formulated to calm nervous tension and lift mild depression.
Cautions: Avoid licorice root if you have high blood pressure Ingredients:
Add Ginger and licorice root to taste. Add 10 drops of skullcap tincture if anxiety is preventing relaxation
Additions: Honey (optional)
Recipe Instructions: Use one teaspoon of herbal mixture to each cup of hot water. Infuse for 5 minutes and drink warm before retiring.
Song of Tea by Lu Tung
The first cup moistens my lips and throat.
The second cup breaks my loneliness.
The third cup searches my barren entrail,
but to find therein some thousand volumes of odd ideographs.
The fourth cup raises a slight perspiration;
all the wrongs of life pass out through my pores.
At the fifth cup I am purified.
The sixth cup calls me to the realms of the immortals.
The seventh cup – ah, but I could take no more!
I only feel the breath of the cool wind that raises in my sleeves.
Where is Paradise? Let me ride on this sweet breeze and waft away thither.
Oh yes, as a moon loving, Goddess worshiping Pagan type I do enjoy basking in the light of the moon. But, as a working class stiff, the Monday blues can be quite real too. So I thought I would share some of my favorite memes today highlighting the humorous and sometimes frustrating side of the first day back to the old grind after what was hopefully a pleasant albeit eternally too short weekend. I hope you enjoy and I hope your Monday is better than what is portrayed here. Especially that last one, Egads! LOL! My weekend was mighty grand indeed. We took the kids to a wonderful double birthday party for some friends of theirs and ours then went to a marvelous housewarming party and jam session which featured an interesting mix of vibes and styles from Celtic to Carribean to African, Native American, Blues, Rock and more. It’s good to be eclectic! 🙂
Paddy and Seamus were walking home from the pub. Paddy says to Seamus, ‘What a beautiful night, look at the moon.’
Seamus stops and looks at Paddy, ‘You are wrong, that’s not the moon, that’s the sun.’ Both started arguing for a while when they come upon a real drunk walking in the other direction, so they stopped him.
‘Sir, could you please help settle our argument?
Tell us what that thing is up in the sky that’s shining. Is it the moon or the sun?’ The drunk looked at the sky and then looked at them, and said,
What is retirement really and when did the concept come into being?
So, awhile back I was listening to a podcast and the topic came up about what retirement really is and what it should be.
I think we have been sold a version of it that serves others more than ourselves. In the days of old when families lived in large houses with multiple generations and had a farm, growing their own food and making their own stuff, old people didn’t “retire” as we understand it today. They simply did less physically demanding stuff as their bodies got older. Maybe they helped maintain the farm equipment, tended the garden or whatever they liked to do. The thing is, they were around to impart all their life’s knowledge and wisdom to the younger generations and not holed away in some retirement home somewhere and forgotten about. How did we get from there to where we are today? Well, all that aside, here is an excerpt from a guy in Canada who makes some very valid points I think…
The concept of retirement is a relatively new one. Not so long ago, when we were a more agrarian based society, few people ever retired. Their daily duties just changed. As we grew older, we would take over running the farm, and then we would maybe step back and let our kids do that. Maybe we would take over maintenance of the equipment or something little less physically demanding, but required experience. Maybe we would help out more inside the home. But flat out retirement to travel south or play golf all day was the domain of the ultra rich. Even then, most tycoons were still wheeling and dealing well into their 60’s and beyond.
Nowadays. with retirement plans tanking and pension funds bleeding out, we may find ourselves without the ability to retire once again. However, this time, we won’t have the farm to feed us and the multi-generational home to keep us occupied and close to our loved ones. If we’re very fortunate, we may be able to find a spot in a retirement home and sell our current homes to pay for it.
Me, I have a different plan. My plan depends on me getting prepared to take care of myself and my wife for as long as we are physically able. If my plan works, we’ll also be able to ‘retire’ early. That plan is preparedness.
When you think about it, if you can provide most of your own food, utilities, and medicine and your shelter is bought and paid for, how much money do you really need? Enough to pay the property taxes, run your vehicle, and take care of emergencies. Maybe you need some money for a bit of travel as well. But not as much money as two people working for more than 40 hours a week each generate.
It’s not hard to imagine a household income of around $100,000 a year or about $73,000 after taxes. (Remember, I’m in Canada. Our dollars are about 80% of the USD.) Now, we know a lot of people are going to have mortgage payments around $1400 a month, utilities of at least $400 a month, TV and Internet for another $200 a month, $500 for food, $400 for various insurances, $200 for gas for the vehicles…it goes on and on…
This post continues but I think that gets the point across. Retirement isn’t necessarily the old couple walking along the beach somewhere that they show you on T.V. as an idealized image in order to sell you into whatever investment scheme they are pitching to you. Retirement is about finally doing what you want to do instead of what you are required to do by obligations set by a society based on consume, consume, consume. Buy it now, pay for it later with interest until you are buried in debt. Start working your way towards liberty today!
“I fight authority, authority always wins” – John Cougar Mellencamp
A Limerick: Oh, it doesn’t look like a limerick to you? Try this:
A dozen, a gross and a score
Plus three times the square root of four
Divided by seven
Plus five times eleven
Is nine squared and not a bit more.
So what do I like to do to wind down and relax after a hard day of fighting authority? A nice Guinness and some music always tames the beast for me. Won’t you play a little tune and sing a song of heroic deeds or love and loss with me? Is maith an scéalaí an aimsir (Time is a good story teller.) In days of old, the best place at the fire was reserved for the scéalaí ya know. 😉
These days many lament the fact that public schools have opted to no longer teach how to read and write in cursive script citing that “kids won’t be able to read historic documents!”. A claim I call B.S. on by the way as my home schooled son, who never specifically received instruction in reading and writing in cursive, was able to read documents written in cursive without a problem as he demonstrated recently.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for preserving knowledge in archaic scripts, even those which have only recently become obsolete. But, why stop at modern cursive? Why not teach Ogham, Runes, Old Gaelic Script and Egyptian Hieroglyphics in public school too? After all, some very important documents were written in those scripts too were they not? Ah, but those have been translated and reproduced in modern languages and writing styles. Ah-hah! Exactly! This is where the Declaration Of Independence and Constitution arguments start to lose water I say, playing Ye Olde Devils Advocate (an entity I have no belief in remember). True, things have been re-translated and reproduced in nearly every modern language spoken. But, do you trust the translators to get it right? Hmmmm, now we might be on to something here. I write something and I might mean it a certain way when I write it. A hundred years later someone else comes along and decides to translate what I wrote but that person might not know the context I was writing in when I wrote it. So they write the words that they think I might have meant because, presumably a hundred years later I’m no longer around to ask exactly what I meant. This is why, I believe it behooves us all, to learn old languages, old writing styles and try to understand things in their original context. But, don’t rely on the government school system to do it for you. The resources are out there and freely available. Take the initiative and learn these things on your own. It’s a very worthwhile endeavor.
Brigid’s , Brighid’s, or Brigit’s cross, also with the “Saint” prefix, or (in the Irish language) Cros Bríde, Crosóg Bríde or Bogha Bríde, though not recorded before the seventeenth century, is an Irish symbol. Though regarded as a Christian symbol, it may possibly derive from the pagan sunwheel and is sometimes mistaken as such. It is typically made from rushes or, less often, straw. For kids crafting activities, we’ve even made them from colorful pipe cleaners with good effect. It is comprised of a woven square in the center and four radials tied off at the ends.
Brigid’s crosses are associated with Brigid of Kildare, who is venerated as one of the patron saints of Ireland. The crosses are traditionally made on February 1st, which in Irish Gaelic (Gaeilge) (is called Lá Fhéile Bhríde (St. Brigid’s feast day), the day of her celebration. This feast coincides with the more ancient one of her pagan namesake, one of pagan Ireland’s most important Goddesses. Brigid, is associated with fire, healing and holy wells, blacksmithing, crafts and poetry. Her feast day celebrates the earliest stirrings of Spring, and is called Imbolc. Many rituals are associated with the making of the crosses. It was traditionally believed that a Brigid’s Cross protects the house from fire and evil. It is hung in many Irish and Irish-American homes for this purpose.
She is, perhaps, one of the most complex and contradictory Goddesses of the Celtic people. Brigid can, in many ways, be seen as the most powerful religious figure in all of Irish history. Numerous layers of separate traditions have been interwoven, producing Her story and impact on generations of those who venerate her. She moves effortlessly down through the centuries and has succeeded in travelling intact through time, fulfilling different roles in various times.
Sé do bheatha a Bhríghid, bandia na beatha. (Here is your life, Brighid, Goddess of Life.) – Pádraigín Ní Uallachaín
For more of her beautiful words and music please visit:
Perhaps a transplant from elsewhere, craic has been adopted and become a quintessentially Irish word meaning great fun, shenanigans and a general good time. If you can crack a joke you can be part of the craic.
My friends and I, study languages nearly no one speaks where we live or, sometimes that no one speaks anywhere anymore. We are fascinated by old, archaic writing systems which look like gibberish if you haven’t studied their meaning and maybe still look like gibberish even if you have. But we’re driven by a desire to reconnect with our ancestors in a way that isn’t passed through filters of a dominant culture which wishes to portray a world view that may not be in line with the one we are seeking. We believe that to truly understand it helps to see, hear and experience things in their original context as much as possible. So, yes, we’re serious about what we do. But, anyone who has reached that joyous point in spiritual enlightenment to understand that life is not to be taken too seriously can appreciate that you must also pursue things for the sheer enjoyment of it. Let’s face it, it’s fun to know things that many others do not and it’s fun to see the look on the faces of the straight laced, stone faced guardians of the dominant culture’s ways when you don’t march to their drum. When you dress a different way, talk a different way and enjoy different things than what people “ought” to do and they aren’t quite sure how to react or how to deal with you it’s good craic. It’s probably good for them as well because it puts them off guard for a minute or two and perhaps causes them to consider that life might be about more than going through the motions and doing what society tells us we should do. Sometimes, you just have to do it for the craic.
In the grande scheme of things Pagans aren’t that much different from everyone else. We may have different ways of viewing the world and different ways of interacting with it but we’re prone to the same lapses in judgement, self doubts, personality traits and character strengths and weaknesses anyone else might be. There’s good and bad in everybody to some degree.
The following article was originally published on Our Pantheons Way on July 28th, 2013
During this past week I have been visiting several blogs and finding new ones to follow. I’ve commented on some great posts that I have read by others and in those comments the topic came up again of the fact that Pagans are people too. As people we all have our own individual styles, personalities and ways of doing things. It’s not like there is just one big universal Pagan religion and we all adhere strictly to it’s path and teaching. Paganism is sort of the Linux of the religion world (for those into the techy side of things you might get the analogy). We all bring our own inherited wisdom and customs to the equations, piece it together and roll our own so to speak. Sure, there are various traditions within Paganism which have a more designed view of things and people will come together and work within a system that works for them. It’s a little more complicated than the myriad of denominations to be found within Christianity though. Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, Catholics, etc. all have different views, ritual styles, teachings about their “One True God” but they all call him by the same name and they all have variations of one sort or another of the same book. In Paganism the drift is much farther from, say, Wiccans and Asatruar or even from one Wiccan coven and another. There isn’t a universally accepted “One True” deity or set of writings that all must adhere to. Also, I should note, if you meet an Asatruar please don’t call him or her a Pagan, call him or her a Heathen. There is a difference and they will tell you all about it. I use the term Pagan to universally cover all paths that are outside of monotheism because it’s simpler when speaking or writing to do that than to have to say Pagans, Heathens, Animists, Magi, Reconstructionists, Hellenists, Druids, Lord High Mucky Mucks, etc. ad nauseum, blah, blah, blah. Sorry, but at some point ya just gotta grab one word and go with it or you’ll be all out of breath.
But that illustrates my point. Pagans are People. People in all walks of life have different ways of looking at things so labels just don’t stick all that well anyway. You really have to get to know a person before you can understand how their spirituality inter-relates with them as a person. That’s also why it’s a beautiful thing that there are some of us out there sharing our points of view. It’s good that there are many Pagans who are bloggers, podcasters, coven, group and tradition leaders out there doing their thing their way. Some people will come to my blog and say, well that guy uses profanity and tells bad jokes too much and isn’t “spiritual enough” (Yeah, I’ve heard that one before.) for me but they might go on over to another blog and find exactly what they are looking for and that’s fine. It’s good that we have that diversity because people have their differences but want to find other people who are more like them to relate with either as a friend, teacher / student, or to get together with for spiritual ritual. It’s nice to have a fluid network within a community to allow people to shop around for what works for them rather than see a few that don’t fit, decide the whole thing is a bunch of hooey then drop out all together. I have several friends on my various online social profiles who love the stuff I post and share and others I know have dropped me from their feed or even unfollowed me. I don’t take it personally. I post what I like and those who are like me will enjoy it. That way I am happier because I am not trying to be someone that I am not and those who enjoy my posts are happier because they see someone else who thinks like they do. That’s true whether the people are pagans or something else.
In the shop where I work during the week I am an electrician / Industrial Waste Water Treatment Plant Operator. The people I work with are all facilities mechanics of one sort or another, Plumbers, Millrights, Electronic Technicians, etc. There are many personalities within our work group but one thing is certain, mechanic humor is different from admin humor. The folks working in the cubicles and offices don’t find the same things funny that those of us working on the shop floor find funny. It’s just the nature of the world. People are people. Some people like Coca-Cola and others like Root Beer. Me, I like Guinness. 😉
Anyway, I think I’ve rambled on long enough for this morning. I need to go mow the grass since we got all of that lovely rain last week and we have a double birthday party to go to later today. I hope you all have a blessed and wonderful week. Be good to each other out there and Hail The Gods! Whatever gods you believe in…