Imbolc – Fire in the Head


Suil Linn a Bhrid! (Walk with us Brighid!)

Today Imbolc (Imbolg, Brighid’s Day) is a day we celebrate the fiery energy of Brighid – the Goddess and Saint.  Some will also celebrate tomorrow (February 2nd) which is also Candlemas and Groundhog day.

These things should give a bit of insight into what Brighid is known for:

  • Eternal flame
  • Firetending
  • Weather lore
  • Candles and the Catholic church

The information abounds beyond my simple page into the history of this venerated woman.  To me – she is The Lady of the Flame.

My path with Brighid is a very intimate story that I will share with you.  It is the basis of everything that drives me forward, all of the fears that lay in my heart, and the undying faith I have in Brighid — and the Flame.

Back when my family was new and my divorce even newer, my sons and I lived in a family home in Philadelphia.  As my sons were of ill-health being preemies, their medical care was extensive and the hospital visits too frequent to count. I was on state assistance for food stamps, health, and funds.  School was in my future, but work must be put on hold until they were stronger and could attend daycare safely.  There weren’t any options really open to me at this time – we made the best of it usually.  This year was different.

The Christmas season was looming and I …I was broke.  This was the first real year for Christmas; the boys were old enough to get the gist of the festivities and expectations from their older cousins.   And I had nothing.  Not a tree, not a light, not one gift.

To ask my family would be like asking a building to tear itself down so it could build me a house. None of us have really had any wealthy moments in our life.  However, this was one of the worst time in my life I could remember.

We did our best. We made homemade decorations using newspaper and construction paper – we found ways to be happy and jolly during the day.  I even managed to get a tree from one of the street guys as it was too small and probably would never sell.

Still, I had nothing to give and no guarantee of a visit from the Old Jolly One.   My face during the day was happy and laughing, but at night – I would do nothing but cry the moment I was alone.

A friend of mine had given me a book to learn and celebrate the Eight High Holy days of the Wiccan faith — I was a solitary practitioner then and quite new to the subject.  I wasn’t much for spell work as I often found it was “cheating” – asking the Gods to do something when you yourself could do it just fine.  But I couldn’t do it just fine and I wasn’t.  Something had to give.   I had asked from all those I could – swallowing pride and practically begging.  “I’ll see what I can do.” was usually the answer.

One night, the boys went to bed early. Only two days left until Christmas day, and I in the pits of sorrow and despair, I took up the book.

Going to the room I used for rituals – I prepared the circle space, showered, and then began the ritual.  The spell was simple enough: dress and light a green candle and tell the Gods your monetary needs.

I knelt on the floor, taking up the candle in my hands and resting the unlit tip to my forehead, I begged and sobbed my story to the Gods.  I cried so much I dressed the candle – not in oil – but in tears.  Things felt hopeless and my options dwindling away with each minute.  I prayed from a place in me that was raw and primal. It was fierce and honest.  It was for my sons.

Setting the candle on the pentacle on the floor, I lit the wick.  Saying the words from the book – I stepped back and knelt again.

Keening is an Irish word – it means to wail and cry in sorrow;
typically for the departed. The Goddess Brighid was said to have invented Keening.

A sound erupted from me in that silent space, that had no description.  It was deep, dark, and from the core of the voice of my soul.  Words and prayers of my own tumbled hurriedly from my lips.  Words. Words that I could not stop. Words that felt as if I was tearing them from some locked space, allowing these shameful things to find air and space.  Words that spoke to all that I wouldn’t even say to myself.  Words rushed as I rocked. I rocked in such a fevered pitch I lost track of space and direction.  I was feeling dizzy and wild, like I was going to fall over or the room was tilting. The words raged, the rocking continued and as I looked around, I noticed the room brightening.

The candle …the candle flame! It shot up like a line of fire to become this thin column of dancing color and light.  My mind exploded — I thought I was delirious.  I rubbed my eyes to see if the flame would resume its normal height, if it was a trick of my eyes or hysteria – but it did not.  It had grown to be 2-3 feet high!  Shocked and startled, I shot back in fear; nearly falling in the process.  My mind was racing!

What should I do?
Was this a good thing?
Was this supposed to happen?

And then I heard it – I heard Her.

“Hush now dear one, be still.”  Recalling this brings tears to my eyes even now! The dancing flame continued: “Sit and listen to me.  All will be well.  All will be well.  You’ve done so well my dear, now go and rest.  In the morning – you will see.  Go and rest now, you are so tired. You’ve been so strong. I have this now — I have heard you and I will take this. Go to sleep now my dear one. Go and rest.”

The tears and the sobbing of mine had ceased at some point.  The candle flame was still looming tall and bright.

In the mirrors of my glistening tears, I saw the figure of a thin willowy woman in the flame.

I thanked her in my heart and from my lips.

Reality and panic began to set in now… What to do with the candle?? I couldn’t just leave it!  Do I put it in the tub? Do I snuff it out?? Should I sleep on the floor?  Just when I was choosing this last option and began to lay on the wood floor – the candle, no… the air around the candle…made this *SNAP* sound! Something I can’t even describe and then the room filled with smoke as if someone had thrown water on a huge bon fire.  The smoke was so heavy it started the smoke detector in the hall.

I ran from the room to muffle the alarm so it wouldn’t wake the children.  When I returned to the room, the smoke had cleared completely and there, on the floor stood the green candle. The flame had resumed its normal height of an inch.

I put the candle on my nightstand, so it would burn tended the night through, and went to bed.  I felt as if I had stepped into bed already asleep! No tossing or lying awake – I was out before I could even be aware of my pillow. The next morning – Christmas Eve’s day – I woke early to clear the room and tend to the candle.  She still burned happily and looked like a normal candle.

Did I imagine all of this??? Was it my hysteria and tears that I remembered? Was it a dream?

And before an inkling of the dread was allowed to touch my heart, I heard a whisper in my head: “I have this”.

For the rest of the day, I threw myself into our routine.  The children woke, we had a happy breakfast and began dressing for the day. They were to go to their father’s for their Christmas celebration.  While they were gone, I was going to make something to bring to the family pot luck the following day and to see if I could make something from the bits and bobs in the cellar.

Just after midday, in the romantic and memorable acts of doing the laundry, there was a loud knock at the front door.  It sounded urgent and heavy, the knock of a man really is the only way I could describe it.  Thumping, impatient and loud enough to have the neighbors hear.

I opened it to be greeted by four strangers standing staggeringly down the marble steps- all of the with large, black trash bags, which appeared quite full of pointy things.

They asked my name and I confirmed it.  These merry mysterious people said someone put my name in for the Secret Santa donation! I was never told what parish or family had put me on their list. …but here I had four bags of age/gender appropriate gifts and two bags full of food.

They put it all in the living room on the floor, tossed a Merry Christmas over their shoulders, and left in a whistle.

Much later I had discretely asked everyone I knew if they had done this marvelous thing – but they all said no.

      Dumbfounded. 

ˈdəmˌfound/

verb

past tense: dumbfounded;
past participle: dumbfounded

greatly astonish or amaze.

Now there is a word.

I opened the bags and laid each item on the floor as it they were the gifts of the Three Kings themselves! I found I was surrounded by gifts and clothing for my sons – and even a few clothing items for me!  If there was ever a moment to drop to your knees in thanksgiving – this was it.  My heart was bursting with so many emotions that day.  Love, gratitude, confusion, and more – it was overwhelmed honestly.

The Lady in the Flame – She is who made this happen.  It was that very day that I dedicated myself to this nameless one of the flame.   She, who would look after my family when I could not.  Who could hear the sorrow of the heart and find the balm. Who could see the pride and not fault it for its source and intentions.

It wasn’t until February that I learned of the Fire Goddess of Ireland called Brighid.  At the first ritual of Imbolc I was to attend, the priestess wore a crown of lit candles (similar to that of St. Lucy) on her head. When she spoke, it was Brighid’s voice and words, not her own.  She walked and spoke in a trance, presenting an augury for all who gathered. And I felt Her tender fingers on my heart again.  It was She! This divine being who stood in the flame that December evening. Now my Goddess had a name!

Brighid.

I would like to say that my life has been a piece of cake since then; that magick was the solution every time.  It wasn’t.  I’ve had challenges and sorrow; joys, triumphs and more that I could never have planned to face.  Looking at my life I can see that I am still in a very good place today.  My sons have grown to men now. Out on their own – creating their own lives.  Forged from the metals of Her fire – they have survived …

…and so have I.

On this Blessed Imbolc, may you find your flame bearer.  The one who you can cry to in your time of need and know you are being heard.   Whether of the ether or the mundane world – no one is alone.  Not really.   Light your fires, lay your Bride’s bed outside – for She is Coming!  Open your doors – your homes and your hearts!  She is Coming! Let the warmth of humanity into your life.  Let Her spark ignite you as it did me.   Let Her in! Suil Linn a Bhrid! Walk with us Brighid!

 

 

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