As it has always done, and will continue to do, the Wheel turns. Yule is over, the old year is dead and gone. Though you can’t see it, new life stirs. Of course, it may not feel like it in Upstate New York right now as I look out my window at all the snow coming down. But the days are growing noticeably longer and we know that change is taking place all around us, no matter how small. The Bright One is with us. You can’t help but feel Her presence and Her warmth – Her spark urging and drawing us to awaken from our midwinter slumber.
Traditionally, Brighid presides over Imbolc and for good reason. She is the Maiden in which new life rejoices. We invite Brighid into our homes and lives to help us purify and clear out that which no serves us or is needed from the year prior with Her fire and watery aspects. We ask Her to assist us in divination at the crossroads so that we may know which direction or path to take in the hopes that our efforts will yield a successful and bountiful harvest in the year to come. We call upon Her as midwife to help us take the steps we need to take, no matter how small, to transform our hopes and that which we dreamed of during our long winter’s slumber into reality. As She did so delicately with me, She calls us to come forth and to seek healing if we need it; to guide us to those with warm hearts and strong hands to help us emerge from the winter within our souls and face the challenges and lessons that lie ahead.
Ostara is a very powerful time to take the steps, whether physically, mentally or magically, to attune to the earth’s balancing energies and rebalance what needs balancing in your life. It is time to clean out (if we haven’t already started doing so) to make room for new growth and facilitate creativity. Also take this time to make ready your “tools” (magical and mundane) you’ll need and prepare the “seeds” (spiritual and physical) you plan sew so that they may have enough time to grow and properly come into bloom. I believe it wouldn’t be at all inappropriate to call upon Brighid during this time to lend Her assistance in our efforts as creativity and blacksmithing are both included in Her many fortes.
Beltane is a time to revel in the creative heat of the Bel-fires that act as a catalyst for all kinds of sacred fertility and growth. The fires revitalize and renew us. The Goddess Brighid being a Goddess of forge-fires and the fire of inspiration was no stranger, I’m sure, to the fever-fire of passion. As such, Bel, Lugh or Oghma would make appropriate Consorts for Her if She so chooses. This sacred union between the God and Goddess is sacred to us because fertility is sacred. Without the sacred act of the union, there would be no fertility; there would be no life.
“The Beltane season is a time of fertility, not only for people but for the land as well. In the early spring, many of us who follow earth-based spiritual paths begin planning our gardens for the coming season. The very act of planting, of beginning new life from seed, is a ritual and a magical act in itself. To cultivate something in the black soil, see it sprout and then bloom, is to watch a magical working unfold before our very eyes. The plant cycle is intrinsically tied to so many earth-based belief systems that it should come as no surprise that the magic of the garden is one well worth looking into.” (Wigington, Patti, Magical Gardening Around the World)
Next, the Wheel turns to Litha, or Midsummer. Like Ostara, it has been questioned as to whether or not Midsummer has always been celebrated by our ancient ancestors or whether the solar festivals (the solstices and equinoxes) were actually added later and imported from the Middle East. Regardless of the origins, many Neo-Pagans do choose to celebrate Litha every year in June. “This is a time of year of brightness and warmth. The power of the sun at Midsummer is at its most potent, and the earth is fertile with the bounty of growing life. Flowers surround us with bright colors and seductive fragrances drawing the bees in to ensure fertility and reproduction of the species; which in turn provides us with sweet honey. All the seeds have been planted and the crops are growing in their fields with the heat of the sun, but may require water to keep them alive.” (Wigington, Patti, Litha History – Celebrating the Summer Solstice)
I draw associations here between Brighid’s fiery and watery aspects and the need for balance between the hot, blazing and fiery sun and the need for cool, replenishing and healing water. We also observe the balance between light and the darkness, both in the physical world and within ourselves. Take the time to appreciate and love all the beauty and blessings that have blossomed in your life over the course of the year thus far. There is so much beauty not only in the world and in nature, but also within ourselves. Find it, find your confidence and love. Celebrate it, dance joyously in the sun’s warm and healing rays as this is one of the most cherished duties we have as children of the Goddess.
What does that mean for us? No such great festivals bind us together today as they did thousands of years ago to promote survival. However, we can learn from them that connection is vital for a happy and complete life. Coming together for ritual confirms, builds and strengthens Community. This is also a good time to focus on preparing one’s family and home with some magic around the hearth and home.
“Decide which events, goals or relationships no longer serve your highest and best, make preparations to remove them from your life.”  Throw symbols of them into Brighid’s fire. Now is also the time to finish long-standing projects by the fall. It would also be a good time to bless the tools of your trade in order to bring a richer harvest next year. Again, Brighid being a Hearth Goddess and Goddess of blacksmithing would be more than willing to lend Her assistance if asked in both of these tasks.
The autumn is the season of death; it is a time of transformation. When things are stripped away from us or we feel the need to clean out that which is no longer needed, giving up old habits and attitudes that no longer fit us, we ask Brighid to help us understand the wisdom of transformation. She helps us when we seem to have nothing left or are in pain of loss. She helps us understand that when something is truly finished and no longer useful to our soul’s purpose, we can find ourselves happy at the change. We are renewed. This is the hope hidden within the apparent darkness of transformation.
The veil between the worlds is at it’s thinnest, as it was at Beltane. This is a time to remember and honor all who have crossed over and all that has died. We recall with a sharp pang of memory, the loves so full of promise, the ideas that seemed to gleam, the plans that called to us. We move on, eventually past broken hearts and shattered dreams, stronger for the losses we have endured. But to live most fully, we must make time to grieve the pain of these losses, to give time to the sorrows as well as the joys of life. This is a time that we turn to Brighid to light our way through the darkness to receive warmth and healing at Her hearth. We become still and quiet to acquire or gain any wisdom and knowledge that She has to bestow. We watch as she works and hammers away deep in Her forges, shaping and tempering strong tools from crude metal, transformed by fire and water.
The Wheel turns to Yule. The cold and darkness of winter has been long and hard. The daylight does not seem to diminish or grow as though at a standstill. We seem to be holding our breath, waiting for change. The soul holds still like this, just before great change occurs. It is a silence so profound that it seems as though time has stopped. In this magical moment, we have the chance to set in motion great changes, great happenings. This is the moment when the seeds of new life, new growth, must be planted.
The Winter Solstice, or Yule, was an incredibly sacred time to our ancestors. They recognized and celebrated the “rebirth” of the sun, for they knew that they had made it and the sun was returning. They knew that the worst was over. “Bonfires were lit in the fields, and crops and trees were “wassailed” with toasts of spiced cider. Children were escorted from house to house with gifts of clove spiked apples and oranges which were laid in baskets of evergreen boughs and wheat stalks dusted with flour. The apples and oranges represented the sun. The boughs were symbolic of immortality (evergreens were sacred to the Celts because they did not “die” thereby representing the eternal aspect of the Divine). The wheat stalks portrayed the harvest, and the flour was accomplishment of triumph, light, and life. Holly and ivy not only decorated the outside, but also the inside of homes, in hopes Nature Sprites would come and join the celebration. The ceremonial Yule log was the highlight of the Solstice festival. The log would burn throughout the night, then smolder for 12 days after before being ceremonially put out. Ash is the traditional wood of the Yule log. It is the sacred world tree of the Teutons, known as Yggdrasil. An herb of the Sun, Ash brings light into the hearth at the Solstice.” (Akasha, The Winter Solstice – Yule Lore)
How we yearn for the light in the dark times of winter. Even knowing how important rest is to ourselves and to our planet, how happily we greet the dawn and the spring! Brighid’s flame shines like the flame of a new light and it pierces the darkness and shines into our spirits. Even to this day, we celebrate, laugh and tell stories and seek out companionship during the darkness of winter. Mythically, our role in the cosmic drama is important, for without laughter the sun will not return. So in this dark time, let us all laugh as loudly and as long as possible. For as the ancients knew, the worst is over and we will survive…just to do it all again next year!
by Autumn Sky
Brighid my Mother
so that I may nurture and nourish
Brighid my Maiden
make me fertile, sensuous, feminine
so that I may know the power of my female form
Brighid my Crone
make me quiet
so that I may know the patience
to grow wise with time
Brighid my Blacksmith
forge me strong and true
so that I may stand tall and solid
Brighid my Poet
give me eloquence and a moon-graced tongue
so that my words may find their way
to open eyes, hearts, and minds
Brighid my Healer
wash me clean in health
so that I may touch and heal
myself, my land, my people
Brighid my Warrior
imbue me with courage and dignity
so that I may fight an honest fight
for respect, equality, and freedom
for all minds, hearts, souls, and bodies
Brighid my multifaceted star
no matter how cloudy the night sky
a spot of clarity
all sides combine
one bright one shines
to give me what I need
one woman, one heart, one soul, one mind
but with her on my side
I am so much more
every step a new door
to who I can be
because she makes it so
I can be free to be
who deep down I know
is the woman i have always been