Monthly Archives: June 2012

Bright Solstice Blessings!

This is an odd time of year for me, has been for more than a decade, almost without break. The sun is at its peak, the weather is often glorious (certainly it is today), and I am often filled with energy.

At the same time, there is a sadness I cope with. My students, those few who made it through the year-long Art of Ritual class, are preparing to leave the class and go on to . . . whatever. Some have been amazing and excellent and a joy to work with. Some have been frustrating. Some have been absent. Each has been a pleasure (yes, I really like teaching).

Very appropriate for this holy day: the sun may be at its peak, but that means it begins its decline tomorrow. Joy and sorrow meet as one.

Sometimes one will join the coven, most times not. And that is just fine thankyouverymuch. We are not interested in being the largest online coven or school. We don’t do this for the money (which is good, since we have yet to ‘make money’ in the 10+ years we’ve offered the class). We don’t seek out fame. We expect our students to finish the year with a good amount of knowledge under their belts. We expect that they will have an idea of where their next step or path might be. We expect that they will have an idea of what topics they are good at, and which they like, and which they may want to explore further.

Most of all, we expect that they will have high expectations for their next teacher and will be able to determine if someone is selling bullcrap instead of good knowledge.

It’s been a good year.

Upcoming Series

A friend of mine (Di) is working through the book Money Drunk, Money Sober and blogging about it. She’s remarkably fearless and I want to emulate her, so I’m going to try and follow in her footsteps. If you don’t know this book, it theorizes that some of us have an addictive/co-dependent relationship with money, in a way that is similar to drugs, or sex, or . . . It’s an interesting theory.

The next few weeks will see my posts, following hers, every couple of days.

 

Brigid’s Well

I’ve seen it written that ‘all wells in Ireland are sacred to Brigid’; but I think it would be more accurate to say that all wells are sacred to the Goddess. Some, however, are indeed sacred to Brigid, a fascinating example of co-opted Goddess-made-into-a-saint. She is, along with Patrick and Colmba, a patron saint of Ireland and a much-loved object of veneration to this day. Her feast day is the 1st of February, called Imbolc in Irish and marks the beginning of the season of lambing, spring, and lactation.

Located next to the Irish National Stud, just a short walk outside of the town of Kildare, the area surrounding the well has been turned into a small park, perfect for contemplation, no matter what your religion.

Leading up to the well is a series of five small standing stones. Each one, according to local tradition, represents one of Brigid’s virtues: meditation, hospitality, charity, peacemaking, and reverence for nature. The rite is to stop at each stone in turn and dwell on an aspect or quality of Brigid and then say a prayer in between each one.

  • Stone #1: “A Naomh Bríd Gui Orainn” which means “St. Brigid pray for us.” Brigid is viewed as “the Earth Woman”. “Brigid of the land”. “Brigid of the seasons”. “Anois teacht an Earraidh, beidh an la ag dul chun sineadh, is tar eis na Feile Bríde, ardoidh mé mo sheoil.” “Now it’s springtime, the days are getting longer and after St. Brigid’s Day I can hoist my sails again.”
  • Stone #2: Reflection of Brigid as “Peacemaker”, Brigid who crossed all divides. Daughter of a wealthy Pagan Chieftain and a poor Christian bondswoman. The legend where one day a poor man came to Brigid looking for food for his family but there was no food in the house so she gave him her father’s precious sword and said “Go and exchange it for food for your family”. She changed an instrument of death into an instrument for life. “A Naomh Bríd Gui Orainn”.
  • Stone #3: Brigid as “Hearth Woman”. She who keeps the fire lit. She gave a home to all. “A Naomh Bríd Gui Orainn”.
  • Stone #4: Brigid as “Healer”. Many come and tie a piece of cloth on the tree here asking for Brigid’s curative powers to be left on the cloth. “A Naomh Bríd Gui Orainn”.
  • Stone #5: Brigid as “Champion of the Poor” or Brigid “Woman of contemplation”. There is a 32 chapter book written about St. Brigid by the monk Cogitosis. 23 of these chaptes are about Brigid’s love for the poor, the sick, and the lonely. There is a legend where a friend of Brigid’s came to her with a beautiful basket of prime apples. Brigid took the apples to the sick and poor around her to which her friend said “But Brigid, those apples are for you.” Brigid replied, “Well what’s mine is theirs.”

Then one approaches the well. The well is surrounded by a short round wall. This is believed to represent the wall of the womb. Then the well is circled three times “deosil” or “clockwise” to a prayer “Circle us O Lord. Keep protection near and danger afar. Circle us, keep love within our hearts and hatred out. Circle us keeping hope within and doubt out. Circle us O Lord keep peace within and evil out.” It is custom then to leave something at the well. Circling the well clockwise symbolizing unity within ourselves, within one another, and the whole of creation. “A Naomh Bríd Gui Orainn”.

The well flows into a stream which, combined with the sound of the wind in the trees, makes for a delightfully meditative experience. At the head of the stream, a small stone arch has been built, above a pair of concrete “shoes” through which the water flows in two streams. Next to it is a clootie (prayer) tree, where supplicants offer coins and strips of cloth, tied to the tree as “time-capsule” prayers. The entire site has a feeling of deep holiness that transcends the religious differences of Pagan and Christian; this is a site of universal peace and love.

An inscription on the side of the well reads: “St. Brigid, Mary of the Gael, pray for us.” The site is still where an annual celebration occurs (on Jan 31st), with fire-lighting and chanting, and prayerful contemplation. It is customary to gather water from her well because it is reputed to have strong healing properties.

The day was lovely, the place deeply relaxing and energizing at the same time. A truly special experience.

To see our pics: http://www.flickr.com/photos/80042837@N02/sets/72157630021301237/

Newgrange: Connecting With My Ancestors

Imagine this:

It is five thousand years ago, the wheel isn’t invented, the Great Pryamid at Giza hasn’t been built yet, nor Stonehenge. Your people have come across a lovely valley next to a river on the eastern side of the island we know call Ireland. The valley is ideal and you choose to settle here, farming the land and building the wood and hide structures you call home.

The sun is vital to your daily life, and is accorded the highest respect and worship. Its rhythm dictates yours each and every day. During the long summer months you work long days, during the short days of winter you and your tribe tell stories, make plans, and keep death at bay.  You spend several years watching the stars and measuring the sun’s progress, making sure you understand the path of the sun.

The day comes, and the tribe gathers. You will build a monument, a ceremonial structure to honor the Lifesource. The tribe talks about what it will look like, where it will be placed, how long it will take to build. In the end they agree, and commit themselves, their children, and their children’s children to the 30 year endeavor.

And lo! Newgrange was built.

Continue reading

Damn Proud

I just finished my first Muay Thai class in six weeks. I did great — apparently I didn’t lose any conditioning nor forgot the moves I’d already learned.

I will now celebrate with an ice cream sundae.  (NOT!!!)

Seriously: I am damn proud of myself. (Not a statement said lightly.)