We're just finishing up the 7-day Passion Challenge in the Opening Your Gifts Facebook group, where we've been exploring our past and present passions, healing passion, the sacredness of passion and more. You're still welcome to join the group and explore it for yourself, as well as the previous week's seven special words we gifted ourselves, and then tucked away to be opened later. This week we're celebrating!
Not only do we have a full moon to look forward to on Wednesday morning around 8:30 Eastern time, but it's also known as a Super Moon and a Blood Moon, or even a Super Blood Moon! Before you get too creeped out, I'll share my geeky love of etymology and let you know that the words "blood" and "blessing" share the same lineage, so consider this a good omen. As if that weren't enough, there's a Total Lunar Eclipse at almost exactly the same time! We'Moon 2018: Gaia Rhythms for Women advises, "As the Moon dims look within for what is bright and beautiful. Let the emerging Lunar light cast off shadows, then shine your true colors for the world." I couldn't think of any better encouragement for Opening Your Gifts!
This week we're also starting to celebrate the wonderful cluster of holidays that fall right around the beginning of February, starting with Imbolc, the traditional Celtic harkening of Spring - yes, the really early, almost premature, celebration of winter's end. This occurrence is nowhere near likely in northern New England, where I live, but it's still appropriate to celebrate Imbolc for the season that it is on the land here, now.
In my neck of the woods, folks are happy to have half their hay and half their wood supply for the winter still at hand, per farming tradition, if that's any indication of the duration of this season. Skiers and snowshoers and happy, as well as ice fishers and snowmobilers, especially since we have a pretty good snowpack this year - and it's well above zero, which could not be said for the beginning of the year in much of the North Country.
This week we'll enjoy celebrating not only Imbolc, but also St. Brigid's Day and Groundhog Day, which are all related, believe it or not! While the word Imbolc is related etymologically to lambing and the accompanying mother's milk, the goddess Brigid is one of the most revered and enduring throughout Irish history, based on legends of at least one historical woman (likely a composite character) and eventually transformed into a Catholic saint, for they simply could not see her fade into obscurity. She is the goddess of the healing arts, artisan crafts and bardic arts in Celtic lore. She is also honored as midwife and foster-mother archetype as well as a mother herself, thereby exalting the many faces and facets of motherhood and nurturing.
The website of Clann Bhride: Children of Brighid introduces us to many aspects of this powerful archetype:
"As Brighid (also Brigid) She is an Irish triple goddess, often depicted as three sisters, overseeing aspects of healing, smithcraft, and poetry. In Irish lore Brighid is the daughter of the Dagda and the wife of Bres, gods on opposite sides of a great conflict. It is said Brighid was the first to keen in lamentation over the dead, after the death of her son Ruadan.
"As St. Brigit of Kildare (also St. Brigid or Brig Euit, ‘Brighid of Piety’) She is one of the three patron saints of Ireland and famed for Her compassion and hospitality. St. Brigit and Her abbesses were known to ‘turn back the streams of war’ and encourage us to also act as peacemakers in our own communities. Her flamekeeping order continues to inspire devotional practice today among Christians and Pagans alike.
"As the many, many Celtic Brigidine goddesses (such as the Scottish Bride, the Brythonic Brigantia, and the Gaulish Matres Brigaecae) She is known by Her ‘Brig’ epithets, which translate to ‘the Exalted One(s)’. Goddesses such as the Roman-Brythonic Sulis Minerva (‘The All-Seeing One’), the Gaulish Belisama (‘Summer Bright’) and Sirona (‘The Starry One’) may also be part of this constellation.
"As human women like Brig Ambue (‘Brighid of the Disposessed’) and Brig Brethach (‘Brighid of the Judgments’), She is known by Her dedication to justice, lawgiving, and the protection of marginalized peoples. We grow to know Her by extending hospitality to those in need without expecting recompense, and by dedicating ourselves to acts of justice and truth.”
Many people are still deeply devoted to Brigid, across religious divides as deep as Paganism and Christianity, not only in Ireland but around the world. Her sacred fire still burns bright in Kildare, Ireland, and I myself hold that sacred flame within candles that were lit from a candles that was lit - and so on - from that central flame at that holy site.
There is even now in Kildare, Ireland, the historic site of the convent of St. Brigid, “Solas Bhride … a Christian Spirituality Centre which welcomes people of all faiths and of no faith. The Vision of the Centre is to unfold the legacy of St. Brigid and its relevance for our time.”
Here are a few quotes from the Brigidine Sisters website that illuminate the legacy of Brigid:
“Brigid of Kildare is a patroness of those who have a care for the earth, for justice and equality, for peace and reconciliation. She is a model for a contemplative life.”
“Brigid, in keeping with her Celtic tradition, was wonderfully attuned to the seasons and cycles of nature. She valued the elements of nature: earth, air, fire and water.”
“Many individuals and groups concerned about the environment draw inspiration from the reverence and respect which Brigid had for the land. She is often referred to as the saint of agriculture.”
“The Irish monk, Cogitosus who wrote ‘A Life of Brigid’ (Vita Brigitae) in 650 AD, places great emphasis on Brigid’s faith, her healing powers, her hospitality, her generosity, her great skill with animals, and above all her compassion for the poor and the oppressed.”
”It is generally accepted that Brigid established her abbey and church in Kildare c.470, on the site now occupied by St Brigid’s Cathedral. Brigid held a unique position in the Irish Church and in the society of her day. As Abbess, she presided over the local Church of Kildare and was leader of a double monastery for men and women.”
“What emerges from many of these stories and legends about Brigid is the portrait of a strong and gentle woman, a powerful leader, a good organiser, a skilful healer and a wise spiritual guide. ”
“She is often depicted as a peacemaker who intervened in disputes between rival factions and brought healing and reconciliation.”
Brigid's legacy includes so many diverse, yet integrated talents and gifts, encouraging us to embrace our gifts in this season of beginning a new year and initiating new ideas and energies into our lives. In some traditions, dedications and initiations also take place at Imbolc. Last year's presidential inauguration and the accompanying world-wide Women's March became a rite of passage for many people, inspiring action and activism in new ways and calling on elders of many traditions, from political to spiritual, to welcome more participants into the process of co-creating our world. The first anniversary of that threshold is seeing a lot of reflection about how far we've come and how far we have yet to go to manifest a more beautiful, compassionate, just and prosperous world for all.
It starts with us claiming our gifts, exploring, cultivating them and then choosing what to share and how to celebrate - preferably in the company of a safe, sacred circle of support, so be sure to join the free Open Circle and consider a package with the Opening Your Gifts Guidebook, Reiki and personal wellness guidance for the most support. Be sure to follow the celebrations all week on the Opening Your Gifts Facebook group from creating sacred space around our hearth and home to nurturing ourselves to checking in with that pesky groundhog!
And I'd love to hear from you this week - what are you celebrating? What's your favorite February holiday? If it's Valentine's Day, we'll get to that later in the month, so stay tuned. Meanwhile, on with Imbolc. Blessed be!