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September 16th. 2015 ...
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Publicly Other: Witchcraft in the Suburbs
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Article ID: 13934
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“The Goddess dwells within the center of our beings, deep within the collective unconscious of humankind.” -- D.J Conway
A figurine rests on my altar, molded from red earthy clay. I painted her gold and carved on wavy lines, shaped arms, head and torso. Her closed eyes conceal mystery and inner wisdom. The clay goddess embodies the Divine Feminine. To me, spirituality is a spiritual relationship with the Divine Feminine. The Goddess Brighid reflects qualities in me, who I am and what I am about. As the goddess of poetry, she inspires me to express my inner creativity. Poets have venerated her for centuries and continue to this day.
Brighid is the Celtic Mother Goddess I choose to honor. She is one of the most powerful Celtic goddesses. She comes from the Tuatha De Danann (People of the Goddess Danu) , from early Ireland. She is the daughter of the Daghda, The God of Great Knowledge. They were one of the mythic races that settled in Ireland and were the ancestors of the modern Gaels. The Goddess Brighid is known by different names such as Brighid, Brigit, Brigantia, and Brigindo. Her name is derived from the Celtic brig or “exalted one.” She is the Great Goddess of healers, poets, mystics and smiths.
I have studied my ancestral heritage in relation to the Goddess Brighid. Her origins are Celtic and I have a Celtic background. This is another reason why the Goddess Brighid speaks so personally to me, a part of my natural heritage. I also enjoy listening to Celtic music and learning about Celtic mythology, legends and lore.
Imbolc occurs on the second of February and is one of the four major Celtic festivals dating back to Druid times. Imbolc means “in the belly”, as cows and sheep were known to give birth to their young at this time. Oimelc (meaning milk, or ewe’s milk) , Imbolc or Imbolg is the cross quarter festival that heralds the beginning of the spring quarter of the year and the end of the winter quarter. At this time of year, the first signs of spring emerged and were a welcome relief to the Celts. Milk was sacred to the Celts as food supplies were low because of the harshness of winter.
Imbolc is the time when Brighid is venerated because she is the Triple Goddess of the fire of poetic inspiration, health and fertility and of metalworking and crafts. At rituals of rededication, offerings of milk and corn dolls are made to her. The Triple Goddess aspects show the stages of a woman’s sacred journey through life. The three stages are maiden (spring) , mother (summer) and crone (fall to winter) .
Brighid is a solar deity of light. Solar deities honor the sun. Her attributes are light, inspiration and all skills associated with fire. She is a Goddess of spring and summer. Two aspects to the Goddess Brighid combine the Maiden (spring) with the Crone (fall to winter) .
The Celts honored the five elements of earth, air, fire, water and spirit. Water and fire were sacred to the Celts. Water was seen as a portal to the Otherworld and as a source of healing. Sacred springs and wells were devoted to her and remain powerful sources of inspiration, healing and purification. Holy wells dedicated to the Goddess Brighid can be found in Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales. The holy wells are reputed to have healing powers. People make pilgrimages every Imbolc to the wells for prayers and healing, especially at the well of Faughart, assumed to be the birthplace of Brighid, located in an old church. Offerings of ribbons tied to trees near wells are petitions to Brighid.
A sacred fire still burns in her honor to the present time at Kildare in Ireland. The Flamekeepers tend the flame on a 20-day cycle from sundown to sundown. Brighid herself is said to tend the fire on the last night before the cycle begins again. Brighid originated as a Goddess. The Christians later made her into a saint because the Irish would not abandon her. Her sanctuary at Kildare, Ireland became the home of the Christian variant of Saint Brighid of Kildare. Her sacred flame will never be extinguished.
In Britain, Brighid's counterpart was Brigantia, a warlike figure of the Brigantes tribe near Yorkshire, England. She is similar in aspects to the Greek goddess Athena and the Roman Minerva. Later, as Christianity moved into the Celtic lands, St. Brigid was the daughter of a Pictish slave who was baptized by St. Patrick, and founded a community of nuns at Kildare.
In addition to her position as a goddess of magic, Brighid was known to watch over women in childbirth, and thus evolved into a goddess of hearth and home. Today, many Pagans and Wiccans honor her on February 2, which has become known as Imbolc or Candlemas.
Like many Pagan holidays, Imbolc has a Celtic connection, although it wasn’t celebrated in non-Gaelic Celtic societies. The early Celts celebrated a purification festival by honoring Brighid. In some parts of the Scottish Highlands, Brighid was viewed as Cailleach Bheur, a woman with mystical powers who was older than the land itself. In modern Wicca and Paganism, Brighid is viewed as the maiden aspect of the maiden/mother/crone cycle.
I have an altar in my home where I store and display my sacred tools. I meditate there to gain wisdom, inspiration or develop my intuition. My black ceramic cauldron symbolizes the, the symbol of magical transformations and element of water, dark womb of the goddess, inspiration, the wellspring of the earth. My clay goddess doll and the cauldron resonate most deeply with me as emblematic of the Goddess Brighid. Incenses burn in my cauldron. The fragrant smoke drifts to the ceiling, inviting inward reflections.
I invoke the goddess Brighid to honor her, to be healed or seek comfort. I celebrate Brighid by making corn dolls, writing poetry, baking cornbread and performing in rituals at the time of Imbolc to rededicate myself. I leave offerings for her on my altar at all times of the year such as seashells, flowers, potted plants or gemstones. A piece of coral I found at the beach resembles the figure of a woman, which to me, is also representational of the goddess.
I pray to her for poetic inspiration, to gain knowledge, to increase my awareness of my higher self and meditate to develop my psychic skills. I meditate to receive messages from the Goddess, which arrive as flashes of intuition for my writing. I sit at my altar, light incense and candles, and write drafts of poems that flow from my pen with the aid from the Goddess Brighid. An invocation is a form of using words to invite a deity or angel into your space. My altar is the temple where I can write in a sacred space, the conduit of energy and communications.
Aspecting is invoking the deity’s own energy into your body instead of the space around you. Aspecting is usually done with the intent of self-transformation. A sample invocation of appeal to the Goddess Brighid would be:
Bright Brighid of the healing waters
Descend upon me this day
To lend your strength to my tasks
Of aiding me in my writing.
Blessed Brighid of the cleansing flame
Let your energy fill my body
My hands are your hands
My words are your words
Mother, daughter, sister, Brighid
Come to me now!
Continuing with my writing, I imagine Goddess Brighid filling me with her strength and own essence. Afterwards, I thank the Goddess Brighid for her assistance in the aspecting and writing.
I attended an Imbolc Ritual to rededicate myself to the Goddess Brighid. Women of different ages and backgrounds that shared a common interest met at a friend’s house for the ceremony. We stood in a circle around the table for the ceremony.
We began the ceremony by calling the quarters or directions of air, fire, water, earth and spirit (north for earth, east for air, west for water and south for fire) . This is to seek protection from unwanted energies from entering the sacred circle once cast. We lit candles on the table according to the quarter called and acknowledged that we were gathered this night to honor Brighid. We all focused on what was negative in our lives and swept the negative energies under the table with a broom. This is a symbolic action to ensure the energies are banished. Members took a turn to sweep with the broom, asking that the Goddess bless them for the coming year.
A cup of milk was offered to Brighid first, then poured into a bowl on the altar and passed round the circle to each member. The priestess said, “May Brighid lend her blessings to you this season.” Oatcakes were passed round in the same manner.
In the Dedication Ritual, each member was encouraged to ground herself and find inner peace. When we were ready, we individually expressed our dedication to the Goddess Brighid and the God of Mabon. I said: “I dedicate myself to the God and Goddess. Thank you for the blessings you have bestowed up on me this last year.” Then we closed the circle and the ritual ended. We called the quarters in the opposite direction that they were called at the beginning. If we began in the east (air) and ended in north, then we would begin with north (earth) and end with east.
Afterwards, we all joined in a feast to ground ourselves from the ceremony. We chatted and relaxed. Rituals always uplift my spirits and are a chance to release negative tensions. I feel more strongly connected and closer to the Divine Feminine after a ritual. I revere Wicca because it honors the Divine Feminine. I derive inspiration and love from the rituals, strengthening my faith and bond with the Goddess.
The other members receive something from the ritual, each in their own way, whether that is love, courage, inner strength or protection. We had all gathered to honor the Goddess, the Divine Feminine, worshipped by our ancestors dating back to Neolithic times. The Goddess is a symbol of the unity of all life in nature.
Neopaganism and Wicca have 800, 000 followers in the United States alone. One main reason why it has attracted so many is that Wicca empowers women. There has been a patriarchal power structure for centuries that has long discriminated against women. The Mother Goddess has been revived. The Goddess Brighid is ever present and guides me in my life, blessing me with her light and wisdom. I would like to share a final prayer to the Goddess Brighid with you:
You are a woman of peace,
You bring harmony where there is conflict,
You bring light to the darkness,
You bring hope to the downcast.
May the mantle of your peace cover those who are troubled and anxious. And may peace be firmly rooted in our hearts and our world. Inspire us to act justly and to reverence to all Goddess has made.
Brighid, you are a voice for the wounded and weary.
Strengthen what is weak within us.
Calm us into a quietness that heals and listens.
May we grow each day into greater wholeness in mind, body and spirit.
May the Goddess Brighid bless you with her inspiration.
Location: Halifax, Nova Scotia
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Bio: Heddy Johannesen is a freelance writer living in Halifax and writes for various magazines and writes poetry.
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