Imbolc 2002

It was the best of times;
it was the worst of times—
it was ONCE UPON A TIME...

A report on GOG’s DRUID IMBOLC RITUAL dedicated to Our Beloved Goddess Brigid and to inspired Bards of all centuries, cultures and mediums

Our Imbolc ritual was bright and beautiful. That’s really what I remember of it: lots of white brilliance and clear edges, the whole room white outlined in white, and how warm I felt. After everyone left I was amused to see I was still barefoot.

A great group of people inside a big candleflame. We had around 30 people, including Carolyn, our guest from the West Orange Unitarian Church.

Greg chimed the ritual opening. Norma spoke “the words” and Nej invoked Mother Earth, talking about all the work she does below ground... and asking us to listen to noises around us, to listen to the stirring under the ground under all the city noise. Norma picked up on that, leading us into a group meditation. Then she spoke of the season, talked about Brigid’s brats and lit seven candles across the body of the Brigid dolly that Nej had made from reeds I’d cut.

I pointed out the four directions, talking about our position on the border of a land shaped by glaciers and the sea. Carol handled the well, connecting our well with all the water in the world: underground springs, aquifiers.... Hillary invoked the sacred fire with a Sylvia Plath poem. Nora had our sacred tree reaching down into the well and spreading out, and reaching for the sky and spreading out, and she talked about how it exists in this world in its many beautiful branches.

Norma invoked Manannan Mac Lir and, with Him, we all opened the gates. It was at this point that things started to look very clear and bright.

Erica took the outsiders and the outsiders in us—outside.

Jen Micale sang a beautiful original song invoking Brigid as our muse and inspiration. (See last issue of this newsletter for the song, or check out our web site!) This added to the brilliance in the room. Al invoked the first of our kindreds, the ancestors, by quoting quite a bit of Shakespeare from memory (!) and ending with Shakepeare’s epitaph. Al said that all of us in this room must be blessed because none of us have attempted to move Will’s bones. I had a brief flash of Al standing in a graveyard in his Druid robes. We each called to our specific ancestors.

Sandrock invoked our nature spirits, welcoming back our animal friends and talking about how we also hibernate in the winter. But it’s time to start thinking about what we’re going to do in spring.

Justin invoked the Goddesses and Gods. He ditched what he was going to say at the last minute as inspiration struck: invoking the Goddesses and Gods for the group isn’t as important as each of us honoring our personal Gods and Goddesses through our actions and the sacrifices we make “like wearing a mince pie on one’s head.” We all called the names of our deities. And, since we’d forgotten, we also called to our nature spirits: our towns, rivers, favorite meadows and mountains and roadways and cars, computers, animals, land spirits, houses, cities, loci genius and loci juno. This worked well, and it felt natural to do the two together.

I invoked Brigid as our honored Patroness: a pretty list of Her traditional attributes, ending with a few lines from a charm that She Herself wrote to Gíle-Mhin the Beauteous, daughter of a King:
Thou Nut of my Heart
Thou Face of my Sun
Thou Harp of my Music
Thou Crown of my Sense

and telling Brigid that this was also an expression of our feeling toward Her—that we couldn’t put it any better than She did.

As we passed around Brigid’s doll, we each thanked Brigid for what She’d done for us personally. (The doll was burned ritually by Betty at a Dedicant’s meeting later that month.)

Erica led us in honoring the Bards, reading a list a bunch of us came up with. Then we each called out a line or two from our favorite bards and named them. I held up a Breton Box that Meryl had given me (we’ve got André Breton in a box!) and quoted my favorite line about convulsive beauty. Wendy quoted Robert Heinlein, “always store your beer in a dark place”; Erica read the opening lines of Beowulf in Anglo-Saxon and English. Norma countered with a quote from John Gardner’s Grendel. Jack quoted Gaugin, which made Norma’s head tilt. She quoted Edvard Munch. Rich quoted Dr. Seuss. Deb Sandrock quoted from the play 1776; I quoted my favorite line from that play, “let’s go a’drinkin’ and a’whorin’ in New Brunswick” and everyone gave a cheer for our fair city. Jen Micale quoted Dorothy Parker (who became our “most quoted bard” of the evening) Carolyn quoted Blake, “little lamb who made thee?...” Christina quoted Tennyson; Marcia quoted Robert Graves. Hillary, quoting Sylvia Plath, said she could “eat men like air”. My apologies to those Bards whose quotes I haven’t remembered. I ended with a few lines from Sweeney’s Flight, to honor the non-human Bards in the natural world....
And then we made our praise offerings!

Pattie recited her favorite Dickens lines. Nora sang a song based on Wm. Yeats’ poem The Stolen Child. I read an Edward Gorey limerick about Mary Shelley for Xuk, who had to work late. I also read Charles Bukowski’s poem, The Miracle. Dorothy Parker was quoted again. And again. Wendy and Rich of Music for the Goddess sang their song "In the Belly of the Mother" for us (Buy their tremendous CD! Go to There was more praise that I’ve forgotten. Apologies. And we all sang “Fire Us Up!”

We had a lot of fun with this. And people said that it was difficult to choose which line influenced them; or which line stuck in their heads, or in their ears; or which thing to read, or bard to honor. When the praises were over, I lit a few pieces of evergreen into a nice clean flame, a symbolic burning of the old aches and pains of the winter season and a kindling of the new fires of spring.

Our omen readers chose their weapons—random, or not so random, books off the shelves, and opened them to random pages. Our Stitchomancy (in order):

Norma, flipping open Grendel (p.80): “It will be winter soon. Midway through the twelfth year of my idiotic war. Twelve is, I hope, a holy number. Number of escapes from traps.” (Note: this is the Grove’s 12th year!)

Hillary, flipping open The Complete Plays of Shakespeare to “Love’s Labour’s Lost” (last lines): “The words of Mercury are harsh after the songs of Apollo.”

Marcia, flipping open James Joyce’s Ulysses (p. 153): “They wheeled, flapping weakly. I’m not going to throw any more. Penny quite enough. Lot of thanks I get. Not even a caw. They spread foot and mouth disease too. If you cram a turkey, say, on chestnut meal it tastes like that. Eat pig like pig. But then why is it that saltwater fish are not salty? How is that?”

Deb, flipping open Weetzie Bat to page 73: “So while I was away, all I thought of was you. And one day I saw a sign that said ‘Jayne Mansfield Fan Club.’ The picture of Jayne Mansfield reminded me of how you make that siren noise out of The Girl Can’t Help It, and I went to the place it said. It was a house in a run-down part of town, real spooky and dark, and there were all these people wearing white wigs and doing drugs and watching weird old Jayne film clips and talking about the sick way she died.”

Josh, flipping open Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management to page 419: “The duties of a lady’s maid are more numerous, and perhaps more onerous, than those of the valet; for while the latter is aided by the tailor, the hatter, the linen-draper, and perfumer, the lady’s-maid has to originate many parts of the mistress’s dress herself....”

Wendy, flipping open Devi, The Great Goddess to p. 149 (see 419 just above, you numerology practitioners....): “Now, the revenue collector serves as the first man of the state, and he, together with the chief of police, leads the honorary escort.”

Ed, flipping open Beowulf to p. 167: “Then over the wide sea Swedes and Geats / battled and feuded and fought without quarter.”

We mulled this over. Very confusing omen—too many books, too many people trying to make sense of them. The fish riddle really had us stumped. Why do fish not taste salty? Someone asked, “Do you think this is Manannan? Salt water, fish, Mercury?”

Marcia flipped open Ulysses again, to page 189, and yelped. She read: “Interesting only to the parish clerk. I mean, we have his plays. I mean, when we read the poetry of King Lear what is it to us how the poet lived? As for living, our servants can do that for us, Villiers de l’Isle has said. Peeping and prying into greenroom gossip of the day, the poet’s drinking, the poet’s debts. We have King Lear: and it is immortal. Mr. Best’s face appealed to, agreed. Flow over them with your waves and with your waters, Mananaan, Mananaan MacLir.....”

The clarifying omen is just that: pretty clear. The bards we were honoring are servants to inspiration, not as important as the sources of inspiration, the Gods.

Our immediate interpretation: war and water; conflict; Brigid’s blessings, but say “thank you” and work for it. Conflict of emotions? Manannan removes obstacles.

Or, could this be seen as a conversation between Brigid and Manannan, with Manannan starting it with the Grendel quote, Brigid following with the Shakespeare (talking to Manannan) and then the omens alternating between them? This would leave Brigid telling Manannan to “flow over us.”

Well, we didn’t ask a specific question, just asked them to talk to us....
Anyway, we’re still mullling it over.

We consecrated the waters and most of us drank. We passed out Brigid’s brats; cloth hung out on Imbolc night when a big wind and low-pressure got together like Brigid coming through with a gigantic vacuum cleaner. We had tea lights for people to light from Brigid’s candles and take home. We thanked the kindreds, the deities, the bards and Brigid and ended the rite. We feasted and talked for hours.