A Simple Irish Spring Ritual for Families

In the traditions of my Celtic ancestors, tomorrow was considered the first day of spring: St. Brigid’s Day, or Imbolc.  A feast of hearth and home, this was also the day when the Goddess Brigid* began bringing the world out of the womb of winter’s dark and into the awakening of the seasons of light, sparking the new growth of tree buds and sprouting plants.  Winters in the north Atlantic can be dreary (I happened to have lived in Ireland during the the rainiest it had seen in 60 years!  It was dreary indeed) so it seems reasonable that spring would be so anticipated.  This year, Imbolc follows a fabulous full moon, calling for prayers of gratitude and relishing in what is lush and already present in abundance.  I’ll be spending the day in the quietude of woods, and the evening with community in a healing sound bath and meditation practice.

It has taken several years to start building these holy days into my life’s rhythms, against the grain of mainstream culture--and I am a single person, with a pretty flexible kind of schedule!  I am aware of my privilege in this regard, and also of the gift given from being raised in a family that was steeped in heritage and holy days.  Consequently, as I’ve grown in my own spiritual path, I have had a heart for the nurturing of the spiritual life of families. 

Though we’ve been on hiatus the last 6 months or so, I had been leading monthly spirit circles for families called Circle Round.  In lieu of us gathering together in person, I wanted to share a simple outline to observe the shift of this season with your family.  This simple ceremony could take just 15-30 minutes, with alter construction time.  Don’t stress if you can’t do it on February 1st!  Give yourself permission to do it any time this month.

1.  Create an Imbolc Altar. 

This might include:

  • A large bowl in the center for the water offering
  • A candle or a ring of candles around the bowl, for fire.
  • A bulb or dish of seeds
  • Tokens representing your dreams for the coming year
  • Photos of loved ones or places in the world in need of healing
  • Shells or Images/figurines of water creatures like dolphins or fish
  • Have a jar of water, either that you’ve collected from local sources like streams or rainwater—or just use tap-water.  

2.  Share with your Little Ones:

  • The Irish called this Spring’s Beginning
  • When you put a seed in the ground, what does it need to grow? Rain and Sun!  Water and Fire!
  • Brigit is the Goddess/Patroness of Sacred Fire and Healing Water
  • In honor of the Sacred Fire of the Goddess, Imbolc is a celebration of creativity
  • In honor of the Sacred Water of the Goddess, Imbolc is a celebration of healing

3.  Ask your Little Ones:

  • What else do we need fire for? (Warmth, making food, etc)
  • What do you like to build/make/create? (Songs, legos, drawings, etc)
  • What do we need water for?  (Drinking, bathing, playing!)
  • Is there anyone you know that is sick we can keep in mind today?

4.  Fire Blessing: If age appropriate, take turns lighting a candle and sharing something, or about something, you have recently created.  Kids might each find a poem to recite, sing a song, or show a painting they have recently made.  Or they can simply answer the question: How are you being creative right now?

Then say the following prayer: I (say your name) light the fire of the Goddess Brigit.  May she clear away the need for things to look perfect!  And ignite within me the joy of creativity.

5.  Water Blessing: Take turns pouring water into the center bowl, saying the following prayer:

I, (say your name), bring water to the Blessing Well.  May St Brigid bless the waters of the world, for the healing of all of creation!  I especially pray to bring healing to (name anyone who is sick or any water animal/species, or place in the world you want to send healing)

When each family member is complete, you can:

  • go around the circle again and each collect the blended water in their own containers, while singing Healing Water Sacred Flame.  Children can have these as their own blessing water.
  • OR one member sprinkles water from the bowl on the family with a branch while all sing the song in response

Imbolc Chant to St Brigit
Healing Water
Sacred Flame
Brigit come and heal us
Healing Water
Sacred Flame
Bring the hope of Spring

Listen to the chant here:

May the dawning spring bring lightness, laughter, and new life to you and your little ones~
Blessed be!
Kate

PS: I'm thinking of bringing back Circle Round!  Are you a local Tacoma family?  Is this something you would like to see offered again?  Please let me know in the comments below, or send me an e-mail!

*Note: Wait.  Brigit?  Or Brigid?  Goddess or Saint?  I know I am inconsistent with how I use these terms and spellings.  To me they are of the same essence, a weave of the ancient traditions with later Christian influences.  There is lots of fascinating scholarly work out there about this!  Please explore and let me know what you find!

Source: Circle Round: Raising Children in Goddess Traditions by Starhawk.

 

Why I Live by the Moon (and 3 ways you can too)

The morning of the Solar Eclipse last month, I taught an outdoor yoga and meditation class.  The women (it just so happened to be all women) gathered, and just before we started, I took a quick trip to the restroom to do my thing, and also to make sure I knew where they were and were in working order.  In addition to finding the public park bathrooms open and in reasonable shape, I discovered I had started my bleed.

I know, this is a bit of a personal share, and I’ll be honest that it makes me a bit nervous.  Where certain aspects of female bodies have been idealized and sexualized over the millennia, the fact that most female bodies bleed for a significant portion of our lives has been shrouded in shame and taboo.  Most of us have been conditioned to at best tolerate, at worst loath (and self-loath) this fact.*

If this had happened 4 or 5 years ago, I would have been irritated and inconvenienced that this was happening today of all days, just before starting a class, just a day before leaving for a 5 day camping trip.  I was relieved to observe, though, that I felt relief and also joy and pleasure and this deep sense of satisfaction at the discovery that I was in my cycle of release and renewal on this epic day of celestial convergence.  It was a relief to find myself at least a little bit more free of the culture of shame that, I believe, has eroded one of the female body’s greatest super powers: the power of Lunar cycling.  

Now, to be clear, I don’t always bleed on the New Moon.  But the fact that I did this time around did not strike me as just a happy cosmic coincidence.  I have been tracking the phases of the moon and my Moon for about 3 1/2 years now, and when they align, I know it is because of a careful tending of that relationship to both celestial bodies (mine and Mother Moon’s) and that the Goddess suggesting I have a LOT of letting go to do, which is why she's matching me with Luna's pull. 

I know, I know: this is going to sound like a whole lotta woo.  But it seriously has been one of the most valuable rhythms I’ve established over the last three years that has brought sanity and sanctity to an aspect of my embodiment that had previously been embarrassing, tortuous and dreaded.  It has also gotten me in a sweet rhythm of pausing to reflect every several weeks, to just big-picture check in with how I’m doing.  What are my dreams?  What have I been working on that is flourishing?  What needs a little more focus?  Or maybe needs to be discarded for the time being to tend to at another time?  

Because we are part of a planetary and cosmic ecosystem, I believe that these patterns of self-reflection with the cycles of the natural world are a critical practice for aligning with the Earth’s wisdom.  And this isn’t a thing of small consequence.  A friend reflected to me just this week that, even as our labors of justice work seem to be drops in the bucket against the “evils” of the world, one thing that brings her a semblance of peace is remembering that the Earth, the Cosmos, Creation, at least, is resilient.  The Earth knows how to renew and renew again, and I believe—or I trust?  I hope?  I have faith?  I choose to orient to the possibility, because it brings me peace?—that the the Earth will make it through whatever we throw at her.  Whether or not we do…well, perhaps that’s up to us--how we care for ourselves and each other.  One way I think we can improve our odds is to sync up and catch the waves of her (and the neighborhood celestial bodies’) wisdom, and to nurture caring, contemplative, spiritually-resourced and socially awake communities around these rhythms (more on this to come).

Ok.  Say I buy all this, at least a little bit.  How, then do I match up with the Moon?  First, just notice that she’s up there.  Start looking for the moon everyday and say hello.  Watch her phases.  Pay attention.  I want to own, too, that I share from the lived experience of a cis-gendered able-bodied fertile female.  I try to write from my own lived experience and yours may be different.  Here are a few additional things to know about the Moon and simple practice starting points that I hope are appropriate for persons with varying kinds of body.

1.  Moon Energy pulls on the Water Element.  Water element relates to fluidity and flow.  Particularly relevant, especially if you are cycling with the Moon, or living in community with anyone who is, is that it (the water element) governs emotions.  So yeah, you actually might feel a little more wacky around the Full Moon or your Moon time.  That is real!  Kiddos are especially sensitive to this.  But rather than acting upon all the emotions that surface at this time, (or re-acting to those surfacing in those around you) consider treating like a surge of water washing through to clear out the old stuff.  This is power!  This is healing!  This is a massive clearing of old energy!  You’re going to feel it as it comes through, and you might want to try to have that really sensitive conversation right now with your partner or colleague, but it’s actually not a good time.  Just give it a few days.  The water will settle.

2.  New Moons are a chance for tying up loose ends, releasing, and clearing space to plant new seeds of intention.  There is an energy of emptying and beginning again that comes with each new moon.   Spring planting used to be done on the first new moon after frost, touching into this clean slate energy.  I think this is also partially why I felt such relief to start bleeding on the morning of the Eclipse.  I had been feeling all sorts of scattered and weird, knew my bleed was around the corner, but thought I had a few more days before it would come.  When I started bleeding earlier than expected, it prompted me to say no to a handful of things, to make the choice that a few things I’d been working on were “good enough” to be done, to build in some down time, and to just refocus my attention on scheming, dreaming, and planting my intentions for the coming cycle.  I have some of my best visions, most creative ideas and affirming downloads during New Moons.  I like to draw simple pictures or mandalas that capture the images and words that Spirit plants in my awareness at this time.

Two years ago, the New Moon happen to fall on my birthday!  Quite auspicious!

Two years ago, the New Moon happen to fall on my birthday!  Quite auspicious!

3.  Full Moon’s are a moment for celebration and recognition for what is present and for plucking from the vine the abundant fruits of our labors.  It’s no mystery that the Full Moon brings out magic.  Myths and stories worldwide describe the beautiful and mystical creatures and circumstances that reveal themselves under the Full Moon.  Full Moon’s are a time of relaxing from the labors of cultivation and reveling in the fruits of our work.  It’s at this time that I ask: what do I already have?  What can I take pleasure in?  What is available to me right now just by the simple stretching out of my hand to pick it from the tree?  It’s a good time to say thank you to everyone and everything that supports and sustains you, a time to soak deeply in what is nourishing and rich.  It’s also a time to assess how your New Moon seeds are doing, calibrate and narrow in on what seeds took root, and forgive yourself and others while releasing any efforts that aren’t catching hold this time round (you can always plant them again another cycle!  It just might not be their time)  The last several years of Full Moon Revivals (a monthly women’s circle I used to host) involved a chanting and meditation practice to the Goddess Lakshmi, yogic Goddess of Abundance.  Little luxuries call in the presence of the Goddess, as simple as taking a bath with rose petals, or doing some self-massage.

Still curious?  Want more?  

If you are a woman-identified person and want more Moon Magic bringing sanity and sanctity into your life, check out Moon Circle, a 9 week in-person gathering of Spirit, Sisterhood, and Celestial Syncing (starts Oct. 5th, the next Full Moon, but early-bird pricing ends TODAY!  Register here.)

For all folks across the gender spectrum, plan ahead for the fall series of New Moon Group Reading and Dream Circles (next one is Tuesday, Sept. 19th—register here.)

Stay tuned for some additional (free!) resources for starting your own love affair with La Luna.  In the meanwhile, look up and drop in.  The Goddess is near.

    *A note about bleeding: I acknowledge that I write from a normative and privileged assumption of able-bodied cis-gender femaleness.  I think there is some deeper work that I and my peers in this field can/should do addressing how "women-only" spaces re-enforces a binary and biology-based gender paradigm, and the trouble in what can be the exclusionary celebration of the physical features and experiences of the female body as what “makes me a woman”. I have not done this work yet. I ask your pardon and welcome feedback from folks with other embodied experiences—transwomen, women without uteri, or women for whom for whatever reason can’t or don’t rally around bleeding as a symbol of their womanhood. 

    A bow of gratitude to my teachers and sources on this subject:

    • Emma Juniper Clare of juniperclare.com
    • Rachel Alcyone
    • Moonology, by Yasmin Boland of moonology.com
    • Awakening Shakti, by Sally Kempton
    • Saida Desilets of saidadesilets.com