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Brigid is Written in the Water

I wrote this a few years back and want to share it with you as we honor this night.


It’s almost Imbolc and I am sitting here, thawing my feet after an outdoor ceremony. We invoked Her Name, as Protector of the Waters. We used a small candle that had been lit at Brigid’s eternal flame in Kildare to light our fat vigil candles–a few of them even stayed lit in the freshing breeze.

We met before sundown in a public park to stand in solidarity with the waters and people of West Virginia. When we planned this event it was a typical southern Appalachian winter day–warmish, sunny, the promise of a new planting season in the moist air.

But weather changes and we have the saying around here that if you don’t like the weather you should wait half an hour because it is bound to change. And change it did. Our mild day turned into a brisk afternoon with snow showers that looked like blizzards and snow flakes bigger than half-dollars. The wind got up and the temperature went down.

In the gazebo of the river park, we smoothed out a green cloth and one woman brought flowers and another brought a bag of wood chips that had been left by a local beaver. We laughed about beaver chips–were they for beavers or by beavers or made of beavers?

We circled up around a picnic table as the light began to fade. Hand found hand as we grounded ourselves and arranged the bottles of water we’d brought from home. We spoke of our hurt and anger and frustration about the poisoned waters of West Virginia. Some of our circle-mates were from West Virginia and some of them had just gotten back from there, delivering water from our hills to theirs.

There was memory alive in that small circle and our Ancestors were also there, bearing witness to us as we bore witness, too. And still the old rivers mingled in their joining and headed north, always north. Brigid stood with Her people, as she always has and always will and She paced the pavillion as we each held the big jar of our mingled waters and wept over it and blessed it.

She tiptoed down through the snow with us to stand on the icy wooden overlook, as we sang, as we honored the old river and poured in our offering of healing and grief and mercy and grace.

I can feel my toes now and am grateful for the circle in the brisk night, for the clean water that has made my hot tea, for the presence of Brigid as we grieve our own carelessness and stupidity. How can we not expect to lose the things we don’t value? How we can love water enough to save it and thereby save ourselves?


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Awash in the Uses of Magic

But what tools do we really need to do the simple and required magics? Only this my heart and these my two hands.

I stand with the Queens as my allies, here in the Realms beyond the Veil.

I’ve gone poetical tonight.  You may blame my name or the fact that I’ve been listening to Shakespeare all evening. But I have spent some time resting today–after the excitement and hard work of celebrating Imbolc and beloved Brigid–and contemplating the deepening of my magical practice. I have been doing magic in one form or another for half a century now. The practice has become consistently more intentional and stronger over the years. And there have been many gaps in practice and certainly gaps in formal training.

So I am both simplifying and intensifying my practice as the Moon (and the year) waxes. I have found there are weaknesses in how I do what I do, so I am working to recognize and mend them. This is happening through meditation, contemplation and, of course, practice.

Practice, I hear, makes perfect. But, in my case, I will be happy if practice can achieve improvement and a better consistency of effect.

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A New Pair of Boots and the Bride’s Bed

bits and bobs and Imbolc very, very soon

I got a new pair of work boots today and they came in a big cardboard box.


With Imbolc only a few weeks away, my thoughts are turning to prep for that sweet holy day, and one of the fun things to do is create a bed for Brigid, a place for Her to rest Her head as She travels the land, with Her companion cow. It’s a lovely thing to do with children but is also a fun way to prepare ourselves for this shifting season.

We’ll look at several ways to prepare over the next few weeks and you are invited to do the things that make your heart sing.

Irish folklore includes stories of Brigid travelling the land, bringing blessings (and we assume, fertility) to all She meets. Sometimes one may see tiny footprints in the ashes from the hearth fire. Sometimes small gifts are left for the littles. And in the spirit of another kind visitor from December, sometimes it is very wise to leave Herself a shot of good whisky and a bowl of oats for the wee cow.

My daughter and I used to leave out the bed every year. The bed was made from a shoebox and had a soft mattress, a little pillow and a pretty coverlet. There was a little cup and saucer from Bonwit-Teller that held tea or whisky.  And there was a saucer full of oatmeal–and sometimes an oatmeal cookie– for the happy cow.  We talked about the blessings She brought to our house and we marveled at the love She bestowed on us throughout the year. It is a small enough thing to leave out a soft space for Her to rest Her head and a sup and a bite.

Try it with your littles–or for yourself–this Imbolc season.  Be as fancy as you like–a lace hankie as coverlet? A hand-knitted tiny pillow?  Do what best pleases you and I guarantee it will please Herself as well.

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I’ve Forgotten the Bhrat…again

It is Imbolc and there is still much to do. With one eye, I am following the results out of Iowa and wishing NC had a caucus process because it seems so interesting. With another eye, I am reviewing the Mother Grove Imbolc ritual for Saturday night. But my third eye is set in the past, in the circle of women who came together yesterday for a day-long retreat with holy Brigid.

First, there was soup and bread in the kitchen, holding its richness and nourishment for us. Then there was a small altar set squatly in the snow. And there was a bowl of fire—bright, warm, alive in the center of the circle of women.

We were sitting close together, compressed in the courtyard circle. We shared bits about ourselves and by noon, we had cried together, laughed together, contemplated the mystery of mothers and daughters together. Because mother issues loom so large in the culture that holds us, it invited us to create an alternate motherline that led us straight back to Brigid.

We practiced our healing and our dancing. We wandered in the wood and we listened to the voices both inside and out. There was soup and good bread, and fruit and cookies, too.

The time in the wood was mostly silent. A hawk stooped as the journey began, and the young crone held onto the beloved elder crone for dear life.

By the time the soup was finished, we were a tribe of women, a village of sisters. We ended our time together with smoored candles of Brigid’s sacred Flame and a simple ritual of yarn that wove us wrist-to-wrist into a vessel of magic and healing.

Inspiration. Transformation. Healing. Fire.

I have to set out the Bride’s bed tonight and leave her some of the very best whisky in the house. I do this in love, and also in gratitude for Her goodness, Her presence.

Last night, I had come off a very busy weekend and had a carful of stuff from the retreat. Sundown came and I realized that, not only had I not put out the bhrat but it was somewhere in the full car. I was too tired to go out and find it.

Today, I unloaded the care and put everything away. And as I sit here, I have an image of the bhrat setting in the solarium, waiting to be placed on the wet Appalachian soil of my side yard.

Honestly, I won’t forget it again. As soon as I’ve posted this, I’ll take it out.

But for this moment, my eyes are in the past, considering the power and beauty of these women who are forged in fire, whose souls are sharp steel, who will never again be vanquished. With such an army of glorious and entwined women, what could be accomplished in these Tower Times, in this old and tired world?


Brigid’s crow


Altar in the snow

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Imbolc and Candlemas and the Too-Early Promise of a Too-Soon Spring

We only got cold weather a few days ago.  Until then it had been unnaturally warm–and now it is unnaturally cold. Mountain winters have always been unpredictable and climate change seems to make that even more true than it was when I was a child.

People from around here who are about my age will remember that glorious year when we missed so much school. The weather was our co-conspirator. Every Sunday night (for weeks!), there would be a fall of heavy, perfect snow.  Schools would be closed, of course. The temperature would hover just below freezing and there was sledding and snowball fights and snow folks.  Long about Thursday, the temperature would rise just a bit and the back roads would clear almost enough. Almost.  Parents would shake their forefingers at us and exclaim–Back to school on Monday!

Ha ha ha. Sunday would be bright and cool, and the afternoon sky would darken after Sunday dinner.  It would start snowing by sundown and…repeat. Like Dylan Thomas, I was never sure how long this lasted but it seemed to take up the better part of a month. 

It was glorious. 

I am preparing for Imbolc–or Bridnasadh, as I call it–which is rightly called Féile Bríde in Gaeilge. As soon as the Winter Solstice has been duly celebrated, I am digging out my little piece of turf and dreaming of my other homeland. The one that isn’t these old southern highlands.

I have a new pair of shoes so there is a brand new shoe box to create the Brid’s Bed. I’m thinking of creating that little space as my homely art for this weekend. I’ll post pictures if I do.  Next Friday (15th), I’m leading a workshop on Imbolc prep at Asheville Raven and Crone.  Here are the details for that–Getting ready for Imbolc? Learn all about the traditions of the season–the Bridey Bed, clouties, Wheels, candles, water blessing, spinning, new fire, the Bhrat…There will be show and tell and places to create your own Wheel, tie a cloutie and practice healing. There may even be coloring sheets for your inner Irish child. Join Byron Ballard for one of her favorite celebrations and all it entails. There’ll be some soda bread and butter, too. Suggested donation ($10) to help with Byron’s Pantheacon expenses.

And we’re doing the 2nd annual Brigid, Dark and Bright retreat on the last day of the month. Here are those details–We’ll gather at the Maya Angelou Peace Garden to learn more about Brigid–Irish Goddess and saint–and to link our lives to Her inspiration and example. There will be poetry and fire and the making of vessels and healing techniques and ritual and clouties and song and dance and wanders through the woods. And soup and soda bread and lots of good hot tea. Space is extremely limited–we probably can’t comfortably do more than ten in addition to the helper folks. $50 for the day. Contact me if you have questions. This is the second year for this hands-on retreat. If you were part of this adventure last year, I invite you to return and re-experience this power and wonder. And if you are new to dear Brigid, this is a welcoming form of engagement.


Mother Grove Goddess Temple’s South altar, all tarted up for Imbolc




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A Long Season of Imbolc



Brideog from the weekend retreat

Samhain usually seems impossibly long, mostly because there are so many things to do, so much preparation for the powerful hinge that happens as Winter descends. We grown used to it after all these years of doing public rituals and events. And when mid-November arrives, we’ve taken some time off and slept in a couple of times and are eyeing the Winter Solstice.

I prepped for Imbolc, as you know, by adapting some of the material from Alexander Carmichael’s “Carmina Gadelica.” A set of new Brigid prayers, ready for, well, for praying.

I went to the Brigid spring to nab some water and leave some love. I attended a small and powerful Brigid event at Mother Grove and created and led a public ritual the following evening.

This past weekend, a colleague and I led a Brigid retreat that was deep and rich. And tiring.

So I had a bit of a break on Monday and tried turning my thoughts towards the Vernal Equinox. But I started putting away the clouties and the Wheels. I put the candle from Kildare back in its green box and put the triple Brigid on my altar.

And what I’m thinking of doing tomorrow?  Adapting a few more of those Carmichael-collected incantations.

Nah…I don’t think Imbolc is quite finished with me yet.