dandelion lights its spark
Lest Brigid find the wayside dark.
And Brother Wind comes rollicking
For joy that she has brought the spring.
Young lambs and little furry folk
Seek shelter underneath her cloak.
~~ W. M. Letts ~~
The Celtic Book of Days by Caitlin Matthews:
the light lengthens, so the cold strengthens” goes the
old saying. The Stark coldness of February seems winter-locked
until we see the emerging tips of snowdrops to herald the return
of Spring. As the lengthening shafts of sunlight pierce the
earth, all growing things put forth shoots; buds begin to open
and flowers bloom in great variety. The season of Imbolc encompasses
the sprouting period of young growth when we emerge from the
introspection of Winter to the fresh hope of each new Spring…
felt the earth yawn this morning
As if awakening from a long slumber
Longingly toward the amber dawn
Saying to the universe
"My days of sleeping are done."
~~ Leanna Aker ~~
storm-days, or “wolf-month”, are the first days
when Spring is come but Winter still has its hold upon the land.
The different forms of winds which usher in the Spring are given
Month of Faoilleach – a sharp and ravening wind
Nine days of Gearrain – a galloping wind
A week of Feadaig – a sharp and piping wind
Three days of Sguabaig – a soughing blast which
ushers in Spring
the Gaulish calendrical tablet, the Coligny Calendar, the month
of January-February was called Anagantios, or “Stay at
Home time”, since it was usually impossible to go far
due to weather conditions…
winter's rains and ruins are over,
And all the season of snows and sins;
The days dividing lover and lover,
The light that loses, the night that wins;
And time remembered is grief forgotten,
And frosts are slain and flowers begotten,
And in green underwood and cover
Blossom by blossom the spring begins."
~~ Algernon Charles Swinburne, Atalanta in Calydon ~~
In the Irish
Tree Alphabet, the letter B is represented by beith or birch.
This tree, which stands as the first letter of the ogham alphabet,
is also the first tree to emerge from the glacial ice when vegetation
grows after an Ice Age…
each blade of grass
vies for attention.
carry tiny blossoms
to astonish us."
~~ Marianne Poloskey, Sunday in Spring ~~
customs in the west of Scotland entailed the newborn child being
passed three times across the fire, then carried three times
around it, always sunwise of course. Lastly the child was washed
in a bowl into which a gold or silver coin had first been put.
The following prayer was then spoken by the knee-woman or midwife
when a child was born and acted as an informal baptism. In celtic
tradition, the ninth wave was the official demarcation beyond
which exile was prescribed. The nine waves with which the child
are here blessed perhaps represent the coming into incarnation
of a new soul…
of the Nine Waves
little wave for your form,
A little wave for your voice,
A little wave for your speaking,
A little wave for your life’s share,
A little wave for your giving,
A little wave for your dowry,
A little wave for your wealth,
A little wave for your life’s time,
A little wave for your healing.
Nine waves of grace upon you,
Waves of the Doctor of salvation.
some places in Ireland, work used to cease on the feast and
devotions at holy wells took place instead. In some places the
ban on work was confined to activities we know to have been
associated with St. Brigid: ploughing, smithwork, and anything
that involved turning wheels (spinning, carting, milling, and
sewing machines). (Danaher, 1972, pp. 14-15)
Irish riddle asks, “Where is the center of the world?”
The correct answer is: “Between your own two feet”.
utterance and movements of crows were regarded as prophetic,
as in this Scottish weather rhyme:
the Gaulish calendrical tablet, the Coligny Calendar, the month
of February-March was called Ogronios, or “the time of
the first of March
The crows begin to search;
By the first of April,
They are sitting still;
By the first of May,
They’re all flown away;
Crowping greedy back again,
With October’s wind and rain.
the Goddess of the Sacred Grove, was worshipped by the continental
Celts and by the citizens of Aquae Sulis (modern Bath in Avon).
Among the Romano-British, Nemetona was often partnered by Mars
Rigonemetris – Mars, King of the Nemeton. A nemeton is
a grove of trees that forms a sanctuary for the gods; such nemetons
were the venues for ancient Druidic assemblies. Nemetona is
the matron of trees, as well as of sacred assemblies; her attributes
are a libation dish and a cask of water…
curious custom of “Bundling” was quite common in
Wales among courting couples who were permitted to remove their
shoes and spend the evening reclining on the bed in conversation
– usually strictly separated by individual bed-coverings.
Although bundling was supposed to be a preparation for marriage,
it did not always follow, but, under the humane laws of Hywel
Dda, the rights of women and of bastard children’s inheritance
were maintained, so that, even if the couple went further than
conversation, it was not considered to be a terminal loss of
honour. Bundling was also common in other parts of Europe and
was a sensible method of courting during the winter months…
sun is brilliant in the sky but its warmth does not reach my
The breeze stirs the trees but leaves my hair unmoved.
The cooling rain will feed the grass but will not slake my thirst.
It is all inches away but further from me than my dreams."
~~ M. Romeo LaFlamme, The First of March ~~
the Highlands of Scotland, the married women of the house created
a Brigid figure from a sheaf of grain and decorated it with
ribbons, flowers, or other objects. With rushes and grain, they
made a sort of bed next to the hearth. After ritually inviting
Brigid to fill this bed, the women placed the figurine. Beside
it, they put a straight, peeled stick of birch or similar wood
to serve as "Brigid's wand," a symbol of sovereignty
or perhaps a phallic symbol. Then they carefully smoothed the
ashes of the hearth. The next morning, the women examined the
hearth for signs of Brigid's favor: the imprint of a foot or
the wand. If there were no such marks, the family assumed that
Brigid had been offended. Steps to appease Brigid—such
as burying a cockerel or pullet alive at the junction of three
streams—were then taken. (Jones, pp. 105-6)
Imbolc sabbat was sometimes celebrated by an unusual form of
folk dance, both in the British Isles and on the Continent.
Men and women in pairs would stand back-to-back, link arms,
and dance. Whether they were actually able to find a rhythm
and do this gracefully is uncertain. However, maybe it was supposed
to be awkward; for some it must have been hilarious low comedy,
watching couples stagger about and fall over!
crescents, back to back (like the folk dancers), symbolized
immortality. This symbol was quite popular among the Celtic
tribes and appears, for example, on the coinage of Queen Boudicca’s
In spite of the fact that it's twenty below
and winter has gone on for five long months,
in spite of being starved, starved almost to death
for greenness and warmth, flowers and birds,
in spite of the deadness of endless classrooms,
shopping centres, television shows,
in spite of the pains in the gut, the migraines,
the wakings, the palpitations,
in spite of a guilty knowledge of laziness,
of failure to meet some obligations,
in spite of all these things, and more,
I have to report that the moon tonight
is filling the house with a wild blueness,
my children grow, excel, are healthy,
my wife is gentle, there are friends,
and once in a while a poem will come.
In spite of the fact that it's twenty below,
tonight I smile. Summer bursts inside me.
~~ Christopher Wiseman ~~
seacoast dwellers, the spring tide closest to the feast was
considered the highest and an opportunity to gather seaweed
for fertilizing. Around Galway Bay, a live limpet or periwinkle
was placed at each of the four corners of the house to ensure
good fishing and shellfish gathering in the coming months. (Danaher,
1972, pp. 13-14)
an army defeated
The snow hath retreated,
And now doth fare ill
On the top of the bare hill;
The Plowboy is whooping-anon-anon:
There's joy in the mountains;
There's life in the fountains;
Small clouds are sailing,
The rain is over and gone!"
~~ William Wordsworth, March ~~
performed on Imbolc at the holy wells of Liscannor (co. Clare)
and Faughart (co. Louth) include ritually washing in the water.
(Berger, p. 72) Also, a Highland Gaelic verse associated with
Imbolc mentions ritual washing by Brigid as a means of ending
the winter cold. (Jones, p. 105) This notion must reflect an
earlier, pre-Christian myth in which a goddess took some action
to end the winter.
wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze."
~~ William Wordsworth, Daffodils ~~
Parade of the Bríde Óg
ancient and early medieval times, a pagan ceremony of a particular
sort was held in areas throughout Europe, especially ones of
Teutonic and Celtic heritage. The ceremony consisted of a procession
in which an image of a goddess was carted about the community,
especially the fields, accompanied by dancing and singing devotees,
priests, and designated attendants. Animals to be sacrificed
and possibly designated human victims also formed part of the
procession. After being drawn or carried through the fields,
the goddess figure was bathed in a lake or spring. The procession
is thought to have occurred in late winter or early spring,
the time of Imbolc. Celtic remains that may illustrate such
a procession include a bronze cart unearthed from a grave in
Strettweg and a panel of the Gundestrup cauldron. (Berger, pp.
cock is crowing,
The stream is flowing,
The small birds twitter,
The lake doth glitter,
The green field sleeps in the sun;
The oldest and youngest
Are at work with the strongest;
The cattle are grazing,
Their heads never raising;
There are forty feeding like one!
their evidence is fragmentary, the aura of fertility hangs about
many of the rituals folklorists have collected: the churning
of butter with the dash, the bedding of Brigid by the fire,
the night-long revelry of young people, and so on. However,
one key element is missing: a male counterpart to Brigid, for
the saint is a virgin. Surely, a male deity once partnered the
goddess in the Imbolc rituals, but almost all trace of him has
been lost or suppressed. One Scots traditional story gives us
a hint: it tells of Aengus mac ind Óg rescuing Bride
from a hag and bringing spring in the process. This is an intriguing
story, but offers too little evidence for certainty...
the powers of the One, the source of all creation;
All persuasive, omnipotent, eternal, may the Goddess,
The Lady Moon; and The God, Horned Hunter of the Sun;
May the powers of the Spirits of the Stones
Rulers of the elemental realms; May the powers of the stars
And earth below. Bless this place, and this time,
And I who am with you.
~~ Scott Cunningham ~~