Monday, January 30, 2012

Oimealg, Imbolc and Brigid


Thig an nathair as an toll
Là donn Brìde,
Ged robh trì troighean dhen t-sneachd
Air leac an làir.

"The serpent will come from the hole
On the brown Day of Bride,
Though there should be three feet of snow
On the flat surface of the ground."

                                                                                                             


Oimealg, Imbolc and Brigid


Oimealg, ("IM-mol'g),Oimelc (“ee-melc”), also know as Imbolc, Imbolg, Là Fhèill Brìghde (Scot/ Gaelic)  The Feast of   Saint Brigid, in Manx as Laán Arragh (Day of Spring), and as Candlemas or Bridget’s Day in English.  Oimealg or Imbolc refers to the lactation of ewes, or ewes milk.  It is the generative forces of life hearlding in the spring! 

Isaac Bonewits commented that "By analogy with the Gaelic names of the other High Days, we may assume that the holiday was originally called La’áOimelc and was the festival of the lactation of the ewes." further commenting on it's associate with ewes Bonewits said, "In Paleopagan days (and, indeed, until the recent past) the sheep was a very important animal, providing both food and clothing. The occasion of the birth of lambs (not to mention kids and calves) was a cause for rejoicing and a sign of life in the “dead” world of a Northern winter."

The festival of Oimealg falls half way between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox. Placing it at approximately February first or second, in the Northern Hemisphere, or August first or second in the Southern Hemisphere. Oimealg is  as a cross-quarter, the astrological midpoint in the Northern Hemisphere is when the sun reaches fifteen degrees of Aquarius.

The festival is a celebration of hearth and the warmth of the home, as the cold vestiges of winter, give way to the promise of spring. The lambs are birthed,  the crocus peeps through the snows, as soft rains come , and the soft green grasses begin to grow.  The land is readied for seed, and fishermen look to the coasts, and the calming of the seas to set out again.

Oimealg, is also the day, of weather prognostication, the tradition of watching to see if serpents and badgers emerge from their dens for the winter.  In America, it is referred to as Ground Hogs Day.
The Cailleach

There are also two myths associated with Oimealg and the Goddess Cailleach.  Cailleach is the ancient crone/ hag of the Scots Gaelic tradition.  She is seen gathering her winter firewood at this time.  The myth states that if she gathers her firewood on Oimealg  Day, then she intends for it to be a long hard winter.  However, if she is not seen, it is said that she is still sleeping and that winter will soon be over when she wakes.

The second myth, and the one I am more familiar with, is that on Oimealg,  the Cailleach dips herself into the water of the sacred well, bathing in rejuvenation and renewal.  She re-emerges as Bride, Brigid, Brigit, the Maiden of Spring. She is seen as fragile, yet growing stronger, much like her counterpart the very young Sun King, who was born at Yule. As she grows strong, more vibrant , so does the earth, return, renew and awake, growing stronger itself, life more abundant each day.

Brigid

Mara Freeman writes; "It is tempting to view this tender goddess of the early Spring only as she is pictured in Scottish artist John Duncan’s famous picture, The Coming of Bride: a wide-eyed, golden-haired girl, encircled by children.  But behind her girlish innocence is the power of a once-great ancestral deity, Brigid, whose name means “The Exalted One,” queen and mother goddess of many European tribes. She is also known as Brigid, Bridget, Brighid, Brighde, Brig or Bride and some scholars consider her name originated with the Vedic Sanskrit word brihati, an epithet of the divine."

Brigid, is the daughter of Daghda, and one of the Tuatha de Danaan. Her name also means the Fiery Arrow.  From my initial teachings, at the knee of my first High Priestess, I came to know Brigid, as a flame haired maiden, eyes bright blue,  engulfed by a black cloak, carrying a single candle to light the way.  She is a healer, crafter (particularly blacksmithing), and poet.  She the fire that is inspiration,communication, motivation and journey.  These are sacred to her. Brigid is also the  knowledge and the wisdom of a much more ancient deity (the Cailleach) renewed within her.  She is the mystery, and the light that casts the glow of knowledge and understanding.  A maiden of the dawn, her hour is the dark before the dawn breaks.   Just as she brings to life the crocus, pushing it's way through the last of the winter snows, she brings the light, before the dawn.  A Goddess of transitions, with one foot in the dark and the other in the light.  She is new moon shining bright, rebirth the waxing of the cycle.  Yet do not be deceived she is fierce!  A goddess of wisdom and war (skill in warfare), much like her counterpart Brigantia, she is seen and the equivalent to the Greek Athena and Roman Minerva.

St. Brigid
Brigid is another of the Celtic Gods that was brought into the Christian Religion as a Saint.  Thus , is also known as Candlemas, the Feast of St. Brigid.   The legend goes, that she was born to a druid, who's vision bade him to name her after a great goddess. She was born at sunrise, as her mother was crossing a threshold, so she was born neither "within or without".  To the celts and the today's neo pagans, this is a between time, which doors open and magick occurs.  

While there are many legends of St. Brigid where she was Abbess of Kildare,  from increasing yields of milk and butter  of her abby cows, to abundant ale harvests. One of the most memorable is of , appropriately, fire!  St. Brigid was associated with perpetual, sacred flames. Legends tell of a fire at her Abby in Kildare, which was rumored to be one of the three inextinguishable fires of Ireland.  They story says, that the fire burned for over one thousand years.  It was later maintained by 19 nuns at her sanctuary in Kildare. The sacred flame at Kildare was said by to have been surrounded by a hedge, which no man could cross. Men who attempted to cross the hedge were said to have been cursed to go insane, die, and/or to have had their penis wither.  the tale of perpetual flames is similar to the fired tended by the Vestal Virgins, of the Roman Goddess Vesta, or her counterpart Hesita of Greek Myth.  It is also similar to the sacred  flame at Aquae Sulis (Bath) of Minerva.


Celebrating Oimealg

So what fun things can we do to celebrate ?
  • Corn Dollies can be made from oat and wheat straw.   The Doll should be dressed in clothes or wrapped in white cloth as a dress. Decorate it with flowers, greenery, bbits or pieces or bright shiny stones or shells.  Consecrate it with s few drops of holy water, and speaks invocations to Brighid.  It is also called a Brideog ( or little Brid).
  • Brid's Bed.  Collect the straw left from your corn dollies and crosses and fashion a small bed.  Place on the hearth, with a small piece of birch as a wand of Brid. The Birch should be peeled back.  If you have burned a fire on the hearth, scrape the ashes smooth, and check the bed in the morning, to see if the wand has been moved,  or for the foot prints of Brid.  If none are found burn some incense as an offering.
  • Brideog Procession:  This is closely akin to yuletide caroling.  Get a group of friends together, and arrange ahead of time for homes to visit.  Take the Brideog, dressed and carefully cradeled in the arms of a young woman, and process to each of the homes.  When you reach the home, you should be invited in, it is considered rude to turn away Brideog processions.   Entertain the inhabitants with a few songs, and a blessing of Brigit.   Present the family with a Brigits cross if you have one, and move along to the next home. It is generally accepted that the procession is presented with a dairy gift, by the family they entertain, this should be used at a community feast.
  • Weave Brigit's crosses.  These are usually the three of four arm variety.  Save the straw from the Corn Dollies, and soak in water for a few days.  The weaving can be as elaborate or simple as you like.  Place your new crosses near the entry ways of your home for protection.
  • Divination.  This is a wonderful time of year to perform divination for the new year.  Look to divination for the future and welfare of your family, and thier prosperity.
  • On the eve of Oimelc light a candle in every room in the home, as a celebration of the suns return. 
  • Decorate a plough with flowers ribbons, anoint or sprinkle with whiskey.  Leave gifts of food, cakes and milk in the garden.  No plants should be cut or harvested at this time.
  • Spring Cleaning!  This is an excellent time, to air out the house, sweep out the dust and dirt from the old year, replace filters, bring in flowers. 
  • Snow Hiking and signs of spring.
  • Feasting and Bonfires!

Correspondences for Oimealg
  • Alternative Names: Imbolg (im-molc)(em-bowl’g) (Celtic), Candlemas (Christian), Brigantia (Caledonii), Oimelc, Festival of Light, Brigid’s (Brid, Bride) Day, La Fheill, An Fheille Bride, Candelaria (Mexico), Chinese New Year, Disting-tid (Feb 14th, Teutonic), DisaBlot, Anagantios, Lupercalia/Lupercus (Strega),Laán Arragh (Day of Spring) Manx, Groundhog Day, Valentines Day.
  • Animals & Mythical Beings: Firebird, dragon, groundhog, deer, burrowing animals, ewes, robin, sheep, lamb, serpents, any creatures waking from hibernation.
  • Colors: white, blue, red, brown, pink, orange, lavender, pale yellow, silver.
  • Gemstones: amethyst, bloodstone, garnet, ruby, onyx, turquoise
  • Incense & Oils: basil, bay, jasmine, wisteria, cinnamon, violet, vanilla, myrrh, rosemary, frankincense, cinnamon, neroli, musk, olive, sweet pea, wisteria, apricot and carnation
  •  Deities: All Virgin/Maiden Goddesses, Brighid, Aradia, Athena, Artemis, Branwen (Manx-Welsh) Diana, Februa, Gaia, Hesita, Inanna, Jack the Green, Minerva,  Selene, Venus, Vesta and Gods of Love, Fertility and Sun Gods , Aengus Og,Cupid, Dumizi (Sumarian) Eros, Februus and Pan 
  •  Ritual and Symbolism: Cleansing, purification, purity, renewal, creative inspiration, dedications and initiations, naming days,  candle work, house blessings, new beginnings, growth, fertility, welcoming Brigid, feast of milk and bread , dispensing with the old to make way for the new. 
  • Symbols: Brideo'gas, besoms, white flowers, marigolds, plum blossoms, daffodils, Brigid's Wheel, Brigid's Cross, candles, grain/ seed for blessing, red candle in a cauldron full of earth, doll, Brid's bed; the Bride, milk, birchwood, snowflakes, evergreen,  candle wheels,  Priapic Wands (acorn-tipped), and Ploughs. 
  • Herbs: angelica, basil, bay laurel, benzion, blackberry, celandine, coltsfoot, clover, heather, iris, myrrh, tansy, violets, and all white or yellow flowers. 
  • Foods: pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, poppyseed cakes, muffins, scones, and breads, all dairy products, peppers, onions, garlic, raisins, spiced wines and herbal teas.

References

    • Chadwick, Nora, The Celts, 1970:181.
    • Chormaic, Sanas, Cormac's Glossary, trans. John O'Donovan, 1868.
    • Hamp, E. P., 'imbolc, oimelc', Studia Celtica, 14/15 (1979/80) 106.
    • MacBain, Alexander, An Etymological Dictionary of the Gaelic Language, 1911.
    • O Cathain, Seamus, 'The Festival of Brigit the Holy Woman', Celtica, 23 (1999) 231-261
    • Freeman, Mara, http://www.chalicecentre.net/imbolc.htm








Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Invocation to Bride


Invocation to Bride



Drawing to a close, now is the shadowy night
Twinkling and bright, O’ Morning Star light
Dapples with dew, like glistening cold jewels.
From deep within thy villages, and out amongst thy rurals


Quiet is the forest, subdued is the glade
Perched upon a whisper, balanced upon the blade.
Yet from the dark comes the promise of the new day,
Tucked within a black cloak, mane golden as the flame.

Early yet late, when only insane or artists dare tred
Driven by a passion, hunger longing to be fed.
You stir us from our cradles and yank us from our beds,
Drawn by your single candle, down a path we have longed to be led.

By and ancient faery well, stand you and waits
A lone figure upon whom the black cloak is draped
Eyes blue, twin flames burning bright
Flames to match your candle, against the dark is your light.

You are inspiration and passion, a muse to the guilds
You are the healer and the crafter, we are the students to your will.
Mercurial and intuitive, elusive and free.
You are the dusk before the dawn, and the sapling to the tree.

Bride! O’ Bride!
Maiden of the Dawn!
Lover of Creation!
Lady do we long!

Fill us! Mold us! Inspire us to be!
Greater than ourselves, fillers of the need.
~Nyt 2000



I wrote this invocation many moons ago, quite by chance, or perhaps a goddess.  I was working one day, with a bit of free time on my hands.  I had been preparing for my dedication to the Draconian Path.  As one of my assignments, I had to write an invocation for a god or goddess  that I might have an affinity towards.  After many years of study and training on the path, I had finally met a Patron, during my seekers studies.  To my delight and surprise it was Thor.  However, that story is best saved for other discussions. Usually words come easily for me, however on this day I was struggling.  I sent a small plea to the universe for a little inspiration!  Inspiration came!  Spilling forth, like a waterfall of emotions.  I could not write as fast as it came.  When I was done, I read what I had written, and my beloved Patron was not there.  Yet this Goddess who was a stranger to me, stared back, springing to life from the words.  While she is not a patroness for me, she does on ocassion make her presence felt, (smiles) .

This invocation , ever remains one of my favorites, not because I wrote it.  It remains a favorite, because it is pure, unadulterated inspiration! Raw! Exciting! Devouring! Now and then, I will still use it, on a new moon, or perhaps even an Imbolc celebration.  When I begin speaking the words, the world slips away, the feelings coarse through my body, and I am there, before her.  For those moments, she is within me, and in within her, we are one.   I can hear the echo of her hammer, the ringing of her voice, the elusivness of her spirit, the maiden incarnate.

May your day be filled with her joy and inspiration!
~Blessed Be

Monday, January 9, 2012

Legend of Blodeuwedd

Come Oak, broom and meadowsweet,
Come Oak, broom and meadowsweet,
Come Oak, broom and meadowsweet,

Come Bodeuwedd, come Wake!


The legend of Blodeuwedd, the Welsh/ Celtic Goddess is told in the fourth branch of the Mabinogi,  it is from this legend, that I draw the name of my blog. 





To understand the legend in all it's intricacies, it is best to start the story, before her birth!
Arianrhod (also another Welsh/Celtic Goddess)  through the shame brought upon her through mayhem and misadventure on the birth of her two sons by of her brother Gwydion and her Uncle Math.  As retaliation of that shame, her son who later obtains the name Lleu Llaw Gyffes is placed under a tynged, that he may not have a name, or bear arms unless bestowed by Arianrhod herself.  Through magick, and deception Gwydion and Math, trick Arianrhod into bestowing a name upon her son, and giving him arms to bear.  In a rage, she places one last curse upon her son,  to never know a woman of a mortal race.   Again, Gwydion and Math step into, to subvert Arianrhod's curse and from the blossoms of nine flowers; oak, meadowsweet, broom, cockle, bean, nettle, chestnut, primrose, and hawthorn;  the breathed life into Blodeuwedd.  "Flower face", Blodeuwedd is given in marriage to Lleu, the sole purpose of her creation.

However, our story does not end here.  Now, married Lleu is able to assume Kingship, and he and Blodeuwedd retire to their castle.  Sometime later, desiring to see his Uncles again, Lleu undertakes a trip to them, leaving Blodeuwedd behind.   One day, while Lleu is away, Blodeuwedd out with her ladies, meets a young huntsman Gronw, who later seeks shelter at her castle.  They fall in love instantly and perioulsly. Betraying Lleu's marriage bed.   Blodeuwedd's only possible escape from the marriage is Lleu's death.  Even that is not simple.  Gwydion and Math had sometime before worked to ensure their nephews rule, by ensure that only a ludicrous event could cause his death.  Blodeuwedd is convinced to root it out of her husband.  

Lleu returns from visiting his uncles, and Blodeuwedd, resumes her guise as a dutiful wife.  She laments to Lleu that she fears for his life, and he assures her, that his death is ridiculously improbable.  Blodeuwedd begs that he show her, to assuage her fears he does so.  The roof of a bath house is built and a bath placed underneath on a river bank.  He stand with one foot on the side of the tub and the other on the back of a goat.  Gronw, who has been waiting with a special spear, launches it onto the side of the unsuspecting Lleu, who turns into an eagle and flies away to safety.  Gwydion, upon hearing of the attempt and his nephews metamorphosis, searches for him, and upon finding him, returns Llew to his human form.  The Lovers are then tracked down, to avenge the King.  Gronw is killed in much the same fashion of his attempt on Lleu.  Blodeuwedd is found, and cursed to wander only at night, she is turned into an Owl.






Ok so that's a neat bedtime story,  but what is important about it?



To understand any story, it is a good idea, to look at it in the context of the people from whence it came.  The Celtic society was matrilinear.  Meaning that  kingship passed through the female line.  It would pass through the sister of the King, rather than from his own offspring.  In this instance the matirlinear line is Arianrhod.  The heir to the throne should be Lleu.  The tynged's placed upon Lleu by Arianrhod, are meant to rob him of his inheritance, his Kingship, his manhood. 



To the Celts the designation of a king, was made  with a sacred marriage to the sovereign goddess of the land.  thus to become King, one must marry the land itself, demonstrating his sovereignty and devotion.  This is also the explanation of why a good king would ensure the prosperity of the land.  The king and the land were unified as one with the marriage and his ascension.



So we see that Lleu is very literally married to the land, Blodeuwedd, made from the flowers of the earth.  His kingship is thus ensured.   His Goddess/ Queen, is not only a goddess, but the Goddess of Spring Growth, she is made from herbs of healing, thus ensuring his health as king.  For the Celts, a king must be without form or defect. His health of primary importance.



However, when we look to Blodeuwedd, we can sympathize with her plight.  She is created from the earth , from flowers, specifically to fulfill one function, to legitimize and grant sovereignty to Lleu.  While we think that Lleu cared for her, there is little doubt that  anyone was concerned with what she thought or felt.  Blodeuwedd never had the opportunity to grow up, learn or assert her own independence.  She is simply a means to an end. 



As she learns and grows, she become dissatisfied with her current state of affairs, and meets Gronw, with whom she falls in love. For the first time Blodewedd, who has been the epitome of the shy, non- assertive, and dependent female is now asserting herself and making her own choices.


Gronw, the hunter is interesting.  The symbolism as the hunter/horned one, fighting the Lleu/ Sun King/ Oak King, is not lost on us either.  Lleu has come into his prime, he has married at Goddess/ May Queen.  Blodeuwedd, is often associated as the Queen of the May.  Flowering into her full glory!  The Battle ensues, and the Horned One/ Dark Brother/ Hunter/ Holly King is the victor, as the waning of the year begins, carrying us towards the winter.



 It is through Blodeuwedd that Lleu, the king is able to ensure his kingship through ritual death and rebirth.  This is often seen in other myths and stories of Celtic Kings and later the Druidic Priesthood.  Blodeuwedd who is the Goddess of Iniations, completes his iniation with his death and rebirth, solidifying his claim to kingship, consolidation of his power, and assurance of his soverignty and divinity. 



With her punishment, for her part in Lleu's ritual death,  Blodewedd, May Queen, Goddess of Spring Growth, the Wisdom of Innocence, is transformed into an Owl, during the waning of the year.  Again we see the links with the Oak King/ Sun King battle with his Dark Brother. hunter. Horned One, and the transition of Blodeuwedd, into an Owl, towards Samhain.  She is completing her own cycle of life, death and rebirth, transitioning from the wisdom of innocence towards the full wisdom of the end of the cycle. The transition of life and parting of the veil.  The final iniation.



Blodeuwedd is Goddess of emotions, initiation ceremonies the wisdom of innocence and lunar mysteries, she is also known as  the Nine fold Goddess of the Western Isles of Paradise.
She is associated with the fullness of Spring, she is the May Queen.  As her aspect of the owl, she is associate with Samhain.




Both beautiful songs that inspire this blog:
Oak, Broom and Meadosweet ~Damh the Bard
Blodeuwedd ~ Damh the Bard




references: 
The Silver Wheel by Marguerite Elsbeth and Kenneth Johnson
The Apple Branch by Alexi Kondratiev
The Mabinogian

Blodeuwedd, Winter Cymraes


Welcome and Introductions

Welcome to Oak, Broom and Meadowsweet, the blog of my journey in spirituality and craft, through magick and mysticism.

As this is my first post I should introduce myself, and give you a bit of background, before you wonder who this strange person is and why should I care, what they have to say.   The answer is!  I am a very strange person, happily so!  We each touch another life, to further our own growth.  So it is no coincidence you are here.  Let us learn from one another, and in the sharing touch the lives of those around us.

First, in relation to "the Craft" and Spirituality.  I have been a practicing witch for over eighteen years.   I hold college degrees in Humanities and Philosophy (among others), with a minor in Mythology.  I have worked with Asatru for several years, when I was younger, and am degreed in the Jolian (Celtic/ Eclectic/ 1734) Tradition and in the Draconian (Welsh Celtic / Wysardan) Tradition.  In two thousand one, we branched from our parent Draconian Tradition and became Co-Founder and High Priestess of The Circle of the Dragon's Crystal Unfolding Path.  At Yule of two thousand ten, I joined a wonderful meetup group Downtown Circle of the Sublime Elm, and have been honored to assist as co- Organizer.   Whew that's enough to make your head spin!  Eighteen years!  Gods I feel old now.

What does all of that mean?  It means, that I have been exceedingly honored to have spent a large portion of my adulthood on floors in metaphysical bookstore,  on cold concrete steps, huddled  in a booth on a late night at Denny's and at the knee's of many gifted, and wise members of our Pagan Community.  For all of those times, I have rich memories, gifts more precious than silver and gold.  I thank you each one!

As I said, there is no coincidence, we are each drawn to one another, as mentors, students, catalysts, and examples, so that we each might learn and grow, radiating the beauty of the divine from within.  I can see the eye rolls now, Oh gods, a fluffy bunny!  Absolutely Not!!!  I banished bunnies aeon's ago!  While I feel that we all radiate our lights, and seek to grow and learn from one another, I also understand that light can not exist without the dark.  In order to truly experience personal transformation, one must not only acknowledge that they have both light and dark sides, but understand them as well as control them.  Control does not mean repress.  Repression can lead to no end of psychological issues within and individual.  However, I will save that talk for another time.  Back to the light and growth! Tangent's be damned. 

As we move into the light part of our year, even though winter's grasp is still tightly wrapped around us, we see already the promise of Spring.  It is more significant, father south, here in Orlando, Florida.  We can begin already to plan our spring plantings, with renewed excitement.  So here is my query to you. What will you plant this year?  What gentle seed will you plant in the rich soil of your soul, to tend and water.  What harvest will you look to?  Have you planned your planting already.  If you have not thought about it, I encourage you to do so.  Feel free to share it here with us!  Let us begin this journey together!

`Salute