A New High Priest in the Apple Branch

Claudiney PrietoI am so very pleased to announce the ordination of Claudiney Prieto of São Paulo, Brazil as a high priest in the Apple Branch – A Dianic Tradition. Claudiney hived out of Mavesper Cy Ceridwen, an Elder in the Apple Branch. This all began, first with my work with Mavesper, then in my travels to Brazil and finally meeting Claudiney via the Internet. Our relationship deepens each time we have the opportunity to visit. I am so very proud to call him “Brother.” As a high priest in the Apple Branch, this also makes him a high priest in the Old Dianic, out of Morgan McFarland and Mark Roberts as well as in the Faerie Faith out of Mark Roberts and Morgana.

Claudiney Prieto is a pioneer of Wicca in Brazil and is considered one of the most respected and well-known authors in Brazil who placed more than one book in the Brazilian ranking of best-sellers.

His most famous book, Wicca – The Goddess Religion, sold more than 200 000 (two hundred thousand) copies in Brazil. He also wrote the books, ABC of Witchcraft, All Goddesses of the World, Rites and Mysteries of Modern Witchcraft, Coven- Creating and Organizing Your Own Group, Wicca for Solitary Witches, Rites of Passage- Celebrating Birth, Life and Death in Wicca, The Arts of Invocation and Wicca for All.

Claudiney Prieto is the founder of Dianic Nemorensis Tradition (http://www.nemorensis.com.br) and a third degree High Priest in the Gardnerian Tradition via Long Island Line. He is also an ArchPriest in the Fellowship of Isis, member of the Fellowship of Isis ArchPriesthood Union and recently became the first man ordained by Zsuzsanna Budapest, receiving the title of Kourete in her Tradition.

He was the creator and founder of ABRAWICCA, the first Brazilian Pagan organization, and currently coordinates the Conference & Wicca Goddess Spirituality in Brazil (http://www.conferenciadewicca.com.br), the largest Pagan event in Latin America with national and international scope, where presenters share theories, thesis, views and discussions on the transformative experiences in Paganism and with the Goddess in her many manifestations.

He is founder and coordinator of the Free University of Pagan Studies (UNILEP), the first online school in Brazil dedicated exclusively to the study of Paganism and Thealogy by distance learning system.

In 2014, Claudiney created the World Goddess Day Project (http://www.worldgoddesday.com/), whose objective is reunite many people around the planet to afford the Great Mother of the world one day of visibility to share her many myths, stories and diversity forms of worship.

He is also the creator and a Trainer in Goddess Blessing and Goddess Healing, systems of blessing and healing centered in the Sacred Feminine.

Currently, Claudiney devotes most of his time to the organization of MYSTIC FAIR BRAZIL (http://www.mysticfair.com.br/), the world’s largest mystical fair and esoteric fair, held annually in São Paulo, Brazil.

Do You Believe in Magic?

I went online to dictionary.com and pulled three definitions for the word “magic.”

The art of producing illusions as entertainment by the use of sleight of hand, deceptive devices, etc., conjuring.

To pull a rabbit out of a hat by magic.

The art of producing a desired effect or result through the use of incantation or various other techniques that presumably assure human control of supernatural agencies or the forces of nature.

Any extraordinary or mystical influence, charm, power, etc.

The magic in a great name; the magic of music; the magic of spring.

The first definition is the one that most people think of when the word is used. The second is what people think storybook witches and wizards do and the third, a great way of using the word when talking about marvelous things in life.

I am going to toss out definition number one because, while valid, it just isn’t the kind of magic I want to discuss.

Let’s look at the second one. Any good witch can tell you, it isn’t the incantation of other techniques that assure the desired outcome, that’s all for effect. It might even be called “fluff.” What does create the desired results is what is happening in the mind as well as the energy applied and even then, controlling the forces of nature is no easy feat! And my magic is never about contolling supernatural agencies. I am not even sure what they mean by that. Is it our goddesses, spirits, our ancestors? I am not sure, but attempting control is not a good idea in any case!

My favorite definition is the last one, not the definition itself, but the actual joy of experiencing magic.

When I was a little girl, I was fascinated by snakes and lizards and yes, even bugs. The idea that a snake sheds its skin was an amazing thing. I would often find those skins after the snake shed it. That was magic in my little girl mind.

When I would come home from playing in the mountains, which I was forbidden to do, it was magic to me that my mother always seemed to know I had been there. In reality she could smell the sagebrush on me but I didn’t know that!

When I was a the beach, the sand crabs I could scoop up in my hands were magic to me. How could they possibly live under that sand in the water as well? I would scoop them up and then watch them bury themselves back where they came from. Amazing! Magic!

Even as a child I found the sun setting over the Pacific a most magical happening. This giant red ball, so brilliant the whole sky would follow suit and turn red as it lowered itself into the far distant water. That surely is where my child mind thought it was going. Magic!

As a teenager I would drive into town on Sunday mornings to go to church. I would always go early so that I could sit on the boulders overlooking the ocean far below me the waves would crash at the base of those boulders sending spray all the way to the top, the smell, salty and fresh. Magic!

My first child was born when I was twenty, after an easy labor. When I looked into his eyes for the first time, this beautiful little boy, all his fingers and toes perfect. Magic!

All my life I have loved trees. It amazes me how a tree can move through the seasons, knowing just what to do! Magic!

Here is a poem I wrote about that one year.

Bare TreeBare Tree, here in the cold of winter,
I stand here and gaze at your branches.
You are so adaptable to the changing seasons.
Each year, as the days begin to shorten,
you prepare yourself for the coming cold,
your leaves turning color and then dropping to the ground.
Those leaves, so full of moisture
would freeze with the cold
and cause you grievous harm.
Your branches would grow heavy with ice and snow.
In your bareness, Tree, you show us your wisdom.
In this time of cold,
You are preparing for future growth.
You are readying yourself for spring
When you will send out new leaves and flowers
and begin the growth cycle again.
Would that I could feel this cycle more within my own core
and know when it is time to be still and to rest,
when to pull back and listen,
when to be still and stand, rooted in the ground,
when to drop what could harm me
and when to go within to ready myself for the new.
Thank you, Bare Tree, for showing me this lesson
Thank you for the gift of your knowledge.

There are so many other things I could share here about my experiences with magic. Lately I have been having many synchronous events. People met, connections made. Magic!

Here’s my point …. Don’t ever let anyone ever tell you there is no such thing as magic!

The Promise of Ananke

I have recently been looking at the Goddess Ananke. Ananke and Her consort Khronos, were primal energies emerging from chaos, producing the world egg and then wrapping themselves around it causing it to burst. Out of that egg came the world and all that it contains. Just imagine, the world being formed by two energies – those of Inevitability or Necessity and by Time. How simple and yet how complex.

The story of Ananke and Khronos is large. Those ancients who held onto this story were not speaking of small things. This is the creation of a Universe. And yet, in the theory of “as above – so below”, we can look and see Ananke and Khronos at work in our lives all the time.

Time and Inevitability – perhaps everything can be broken down into these two principles. With Time and Inevitability, we are born, we age and we die. A life is led, perhaps filled with love, perhaps many things. As children we play and learn and eventually become adults. We marry. We have children. Some step into careers and choose not to procreate, rather putting their energies into work and other kinds of relationships, still creating, just not procreating. Also, it is possible that some of those lives will follow a darker path into poverty, criminality, envy and greed. It is hard to know at birth, the path that will be followed by a child. And yet there is a certain amount of inevitability that when a child is born into a life containing a dark poverty of spirit, that the child may not thrive in healthy wholesome ways in adulthood.

Time and Inevitability – since we are coming out of the traditional Thanksgiving Day, we can use it as one example. Many large families get together with turkey and all the trimmings and football on the TV. We all know that in this large family, there are many opinions, with diversity at play in every way possible. The potential for argument is all there and even happens. It is contained by one thing – love. Love that holds gratitude, that time has brought them together, still alive yet all moving toward the inevitable.

Time and Inevitability – our days leading to night, our summers leading to winter. Here we are, now facing winter. Our summer has long ended, our winter is beginning, the Inevitability of Time brings change. There is hope in that because not only does summer end and winter begin – summer returns. It is Inevitable!

That is the promise of Ananke. That while we may experience Darkness, the Light will return.

Ananke and Khronos were the parents of the Moirae (or the Three Fates). Moirae means “parts” or “shares.” It was believed that the Moirae assigned each person their “fate” or their share in life. These Three Fates were, Klotho, meaning Spinner – the one who spins the threads of life, Lakhesis which means “apportioner of lots” (one who measured the thread) and Atropos, meaning “she who cannot be turned”or she who cut the thread. It was said that at the birth of each man they appeared spinning, measuring, and cutting the thread of life. Life was hard then, the gods of man were stern and inflexible. Life was stern and inflexible.

We know now that life offers choice in how we fill it. We live with Time. It is a constant. We live with one certain Inevitability. In all of that lies choice in how we live while we have life. We will have days of joy and days of sorrow. We will have times to play and times, so filled with stress, we will wonder why we continue. In those days of darkness and even as we face the changing season and move into winter, we know that summer returns. So too, will the light and a return of love. That is the promise of Ananke.

Becoming

The Year 2015 is coming to a close. It is a time of endings and a time of beginnings. That is the wonderful thing about our cycles. We all have the opportunity to end and begin – over and over. Each day, each month and each year. We all scurry about making resolutions for the new year only to see them fail almost immediately.

This is where a good basic magical practice can lend a hand with our resolutions. In every magical act we must first know what it is we wish to manifest. I am not talking some empty wish here but a real look at what we want – really want – for the new year to bring.

If there were one thing I would say needs to be given the most attention in one’s magical practice is the Art of Becoming.

When we cast our Circle and invite the Elements, in truth, they are already there. It is within ourselves that we must become those Elements in order to feel their presence in our Circle. This is why we need to spend so much time studying them for when the studies are finished, we then must learn to feel them, embody them and finally, to project them out to others.

It is the same when aspecting a Goddess – we must become Her. The only way to do that is to first know Her, not just from books and other references, but from our own personal experience as we embody Her.

In my healing method which I call Annym Billagh (the spirit of trees), one learns the healing energies of trees by becoming those trees, by feeling them within and projecting their healing energies onto someone else.

When a member of a Native American tribe dances an animal, he is not just imitating that animal he is becoming the animal in the dance.

When a dancer wishes to portray an image in her dance, she must become that image. When an artist paints, he first learns what it is he wishes to paint. He learns so well that what he wants to paint becomes a part of him and then it is moved onto the paper. When an actor portrays a character on the stage or on film, she must first become that character. When we have a desire, when we wish something to be in our lives, we have to feel and be in that state in order to manifest it in the world of form. We must become our desire.

So it is if we wish to bring in something real with the New Year, becoming takes on vital importance. This year is coming to a close. As with all endings, it is a beginning.

This year, my Circle is honoring Frigga. The Goddess Frigga sits within Her hall and spins thread for the Norns to weave into the great tapestry of all life. She never reveals what is in the thread She spins, but we can tell Her of our dreams and ask Her to spin them into the thread of our life, if She will.

Frigga’s thread is the substance of becoming. We can ask for Her thread and once we have it, we can take it, and shape it, and manifest what is to come in our lives. What will you do with the thread Frigga gives you?

What do you need to know to become your desire in the coming year? Do you have a clear image of what it is you wish to become? Do you have a plan for becoming your desires? Will you be able to take the thread that Frigga has given you, and with your own full embodiment of that desire, manifest your dreams in the New Year?

May it be so! May all Blessings be yours in 2016 and may it be a year of “becoming” all that you can be.

The Blood of Isis

TjetOver the years I have seen the image of the amulet called the Knot of Isis but in all honesty, never paid it much attention. I am on the organizing committee for our annual Goddess Festival here in Austin this year and we have chosen Isis as our Goddess to honor. The intent is to reclaim the Sacred Name of Isis and celebrate Her power, especially for women.

I was supposed to go to Brazil this summer to speak. One thing that was to have happened on my trip was to be my ordination as a Priestess in the Fellowship of Isis. However, because I became very ill and was hospitalized, I had to cancel my trip. In preparation for this ordination, I created an altar Isisfor Her and began to get to know Her. I have always had special affinity for Hathor and Sekhmet or as I call them together, HetHeru. And so, began my relationship with Isis.
The Egyptian Book of the Dead describes Isis as, ” She who gives birth to heaven and earth, knows the orphan, knows the widow, seeks justice for the poor, and shelter for the weak.” She gets Her name, Isis, from the Greeks, but to the Egyptians, She is known as Aset or Iset, meaning Queen of the Throne. Her earliest headdress was that of an empty throne, representing the concept of Her as Throne-Mother, the mother of the king.

The myths of Isis represent the attributes of womanhood: intuition, love, psychic ability, great magical power, compassion and nurturing.

Isis embodied a wide spectrum of qualities: the healing arts, magic, relationships and sexuality, a bridge between the worlds, fertility and much more. She holds in her power the Breath of Life. The message here is that we too have the power within us, a power to save and to heal our world.Tjet

In doing my research I came across many mentions of the Knot of Isis. When I read that the Knot of Isis was also called the Blood of Isis the magic set in! Many of you are very familiar with what happens when suddenly something triggers you and it becomes an unrelenting compulsion to know more!

So I have read every site I can find on the Internet. I have pulled out my copy of Isis Magic by M. Isidora Forrest. I bought The Mysteries of Isis by DeTracy Regula as well as Awakening Osiris by Normandi Ellis. See? Consumed!

There are many guesses as to the meaning of Her Knot. It is often called the Tjet, or simply the Tet. We do know it was used extensively in funerary rites as a protection for the dead. It signified protection both above and below. It also represented resurrection for those protected by it. It was meant to also help those who died to be with their gods after death.

“At the ends of the universe is a blood-red cord that ties life to death, man to woman, will to destiny. Let the knot of that red sash, which cradles the hips of the Goddess, bind in me the ends of life and dream … I am the knot where two worlds meet. Red magic courses through me like the blood of Isis, magic of magic, spirit of spirit. I am proof of the power of the gods. I am water and dust walking.” The Knot of Isis from Awakening Osiris by Normandi EllisTjet

What fascinated me is the idea that it possibly represented the sanitary cloth used to catch the menstrual blood of Isis, the Sacred Mother. It was found in tombs placed between the legs of women who had died while pregnant. It is said that Isis herself used it as sort of a tampon within her vagina while she was pregnant with Horus to keep from having a miscarriage. The Knot was typically found made of carved red stone – carnelian – red jasper – all colors of the life giving Blood of Isis, the menstrual blood of Isis.

“You have your blood, O Isis; you have your power, O Isis; you have your magic, O Isis. This amulet is a protection for this Great One which will drive away whoever would commit a crime against him.” Book of the Dead, R.O. Faulkner

The women who served as her priestesses were healers and skilled midwives. They could interpret dreams and control the weather by combing and braiding their hair (knot magic). They wore fringed shawls wrapped around their robes, tied in a knot at their breasts in such a way as to look like the Knot of Isis, a tradition continued by those who serve her today.

There is an inscription inside one of the pyramids, “Isis and Nephthys work magic on Thee with knotted cords.” Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection by Wallis Budge

I practice knot magic. It gives me great pleasure to know that women have used knots in their magic since these ancient times, again confirming the Power of Isis for women. I use the Knot of Isis for protection, discreetly placed wherever needed. As I identify as a Dianic Witch, I wear the red cord knotted around my waist. There was a time in my life when I did not feel safe in my community. I did not give in to my fear, but instead, braided magic into my hair as I prepared to venture out. I called them my power braids! I chanted as I braided in the magic!

Braid the Magic
Braid the spell
Hold the thought
That all is well.

Warrior Braids do
Braid the charm
Twisting evil
Bending harm.

Braid the Will
Make it strong
Return to sender
Any wrong.

Warrior Braids
Make the spell
Wrapped in love
All is well.

IsisI will be co-priestessing at the opening ritual at our festival and we will be using the Knot of Isis as we invoke the protection of Isis at the Four Quarters.

We, who practice Women’s Spirituality, know well the power of the womb. Our womb space, whether we bleed or not, or even if we no longer have a uterus, is our power center and is what makes our magic so strong. We honor our menstrual cycles and the stages in our lives connected with the birth/death/rebirth cycle of our blood. We honor the power of menstrual blood and use it in our magic. As women, we are connected by our blood. The Knot of Isis, the Blood of Isis, represents that power in us. What more powerful spiritual symbol for women could possibly exist?

Column of Tjets

Budge, E. A. Wallis, Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, NY 1911
DeTracy Regula, The Mysteries of Isis, Llewellyn Publications, St. Paul. MN 1995
Ellis, Normandi, Awakening Osiris, Phanes Press, Grand Rapids, MI 1988
Forrest, M. Isidora, Isis Magic: Cultivating a Relationship with the Goddess of 10,000 Names, Llewellyn Publications, St. Paul, MN 2001

Egyptian Treasures from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo

A Crone’s Life, an Embodied Experience

In January of 2013, I wrote an article here for FAR called Embody the Sacred. In it I wrote,

“If we are to fully embrace living a magical life it is important to remember how to live in our bodies comfortably and safely. If we re-awaken all of our senses, our awareness is expanded and our perceptions clarify and develop. Without this, our magical life will not develop as it could. Our enjoyment of all that is Sacred will be impeded, as if walled in and separated from all that is possible.”

I would like to rephrase this statement just a bit to reflect where I am in my thinking now.

If we are to fully embrace living, it is important to remember how to live in our bodies comfortably and safely. If we re-awaken all of our senses, our awareness is expanded and our perceptions clarify and develop. Without this, our lives will not develop as they could. Our enjoyment of all that is Sacred will be impeded, as if walled in and separated from all that is possible.

To clarify my own personal meaning of Sacred, I see the Sacred as All of Life. This includes everything we can see, hear, taste, smell and feel. It also includes all that is known and unknown to us, quantifiable and intuited. The All is Sacred. I choose to call this All, Goddess, as my own personal preference because I see the necessity of a feminine presence in the All. I am a part of this sacredness, a part of Goddess, for I am a part of the whole. My experience of this sacredness, of Goddess, is through my senses. Of course, we have a lot more senses than the five Aristotle described.

Through many years of learning to be aware of what my senses are open to, as well as placing more of my focus on what my body experiences, rather than what it “thinks” all the time, what I have discovered is that life truly has become an embodied experience. This comes from the sense that I call “knowing.”

About twenty five years ago I became acutely aware of suddenly knowing something that I did not know before. This increased for me as I developed my ability to “journey” or travel via trance to other realms or dimensions of our reality. This “gnosis” seems to have increased with age. It has helped me define my spiritual practice as well as guide me deeper into the Mysteries. I used to need drumming or singing, some outside source to help me trance, but now I just go. When necessary, I ask and just know.

It has also affected my sense of time and space as well as the cycles of sun and moon as I move throughout the seasons. I no longer have to look at a calendar to know that it is a new moon. Or that the moon is at its peak in the light it reflects.

My body feels the changing seasons and responds to them accordingly, and not always when the calendar informs me. For example, I had this incredible burst of energy around the first of February. I was creative, active and productive in my online work and writing endeavors. I got seeds for my garden then as well and had my garden planted before the first of March instead of in April. All of this activity typically hits me mid-March to mid-April in a normal year but this year it came early. Usually it is just now happening but instead I have now leveled off in my energy and found myself in an less frenzied state. Puzzled by that, I had to reflect for a moment and I realized that of course, here in South Central Texas, we really had no winter and our spring began in early February. Small green leaves, early flowering all began then and not now. Now we are fully green except for a few really late budding trees. Our bluebonnets are in full bloom along the highways. It was simply my body’s awareness of the changing season and responding. I was responding to the surge of beginning growth, the need to fuel what is blooming in me.

Because I am basically retired (I don’t have a job that I go to every day), the need to watch the clock has vanished. I eat when I am hungry and I eat what I am hungry for. I dropped the shackles telling me to eat breakfast food at breakfast! I stay up until I am sleepy and I sleep until I wake up. Occasionally I do have to use an alarm but when I do, it feels like an imposition.

It is a comfortable way to be, to live life through embodied experience while at the same time have an active mind, digging and learning all while sharing that knowledge with others. It is a nice give and take with the Universe just as it is a nice give and take with those in my life.

I am excited because I am beginning to feel the energy rising around me again as my summer rapidly approaches. I look forward to completion, nurturing my early spring projects to fruition, ready to embrace their fullness. I am dancing in Her rhythms, in tune with her song.

When You Are Called To Service

When I came to Goddess, I was in my mid-forties and I suddenly had this huge fire burning in my soul. I felt like I had missed opportunities to practice my “calling” for forty-five years. I finally knew what I was born to do and couldn’t get there fast enough. There was a part of me that felt that, because of my age, I had to hurry up and “get there.” Come to find out, we do not ever “get there!” We are simply always “getting there!”

I wrote this for one of my students, recalling my own “fervor” in the beginning and I offer now it to every woman who has suddenly found Goddess and her burning desire to serve.

You are in what those in traditional religions would call “religious fervor.” It is an excitement that comes with a new connection to the Divine in whatever form She appears to us. She captures us, compels us, drives us and sometimes we misread that push and let things go, that in the future, we will depend upon!

Do not sacrifice your career/business/financial security – EVER!!!!! Almost all women called to be of service as Her priestess feel this and find it frustrating only to be able to devote a part of their lives to it. However, whether learning or serving, most of us do it part time and fit it in around our careers.

I will qualify this and say I am only speaking specifically about what I do. Most of us don’t do it for a living. When we start doing it for a living we must ask ourselves continuously, “why am I doing this?” I am not saying we should not ask for money. I started asking for money when I had to live only on my Social Security. I needed to ask for money to cover what it cost me. I know now I should have asked for it before, as an exchange of energy, as it seems to bring more dedicated women when they must give up something for the service offered. I always offer a sliding scale and never turn a woman away. If she isn’t serious, she won’t last in my program. I have very few students. I honestly don’t want more than what I have. How could I give them the time they need if there were more than a few? How would they get the personal one-on-one attention if I were spread too thin to give them what they need?

And then, if I did depend on the money, I would have to ask myself, if I won’t be able to eat or pay the rent without it, what would happen if I had a student who was not priestess material? If she wasn’t honoring commitments or doing the work, and if I needed the money she donated, would I be able to say to her, “this is not for you?”

Always make sure that your financial needs and the financial needs of your future are taken care of! Never sacrifice that for the work you do for Goddess. You are expected to always take care of yourself. The beautiful thing is, when we have been priestessing for a while, we come to realize that even in our mundane lives, if we truly see the Divine in every person, we can minister to all without having to discuss paganism or the Goddess. We just show love and compassion in every moment of our daily lives, helping others and caring for the Earth and all Her creatures.

It is never about “arriving.” The journey is what it is all about. Enjoy the journey, learning what you can. If you are truly called to this service you will remain a sponge your whole life, learning everything that comes your way or comes to your mind! Take your time. Study, take in knowledge and go slow enough that you can assimilate and apply what you are learning! Make sure you get lots of practice, if not by yourself, with others. Ask a lot of questions of those you see out in the world priestessing. Watch them, talk to them, gather everything you need. Make note of the things you see that don’t work and those that do. Pay attention to anything you see that you don’t feel is right, so that you can monitor your own actions in your own work. Learn to listen well. Learn good communication skills. Learn mediation.

Know our women’s history. Know the learned behavior of women who are raised in a patriarchal world. Learn ways to counter those behaviors and then teach women better ways to be with other women and better ways to resolve conflict. Always try to be a role model for others.

Learn to care for yourself. Learn good boundaries and help others do the same. Practice compassion in your life. There are many opportunities to do that every day! Allow yourself to be vulnerable. It is fine to share that you are less than perfect. Open yourself so that those who share time and space with you know that it safe to be open and vulnerable as well. If we cannot be vulnerable with others, we will never feel truly safe to be who we are.

Being called as Her priestess is such a gift! Learn to do it well and you will find that joy spills into your life. It is not that you won’t encounter obstacles or moments of despair, but trust in what you know. Call on your own wisdom to do what is right. Listen to your heart as well as your mind. She called you to this service, She will not let you down.

Imbolc and Transformation

crocus-663160_1920 We are entering the season of Imbolc, a liminal time of year in which we turn the Wheel from winter to spring. Depending on where you live, it can be very difficult to see this change. In colder climates, winter is not over. Here in South Central Texas we can have snow and ice as late as the end of February! I have memories of living in cold climates where winter often continued on into May. What triggered me into an awareness of the coming spring were the beautiful crocus blooms peeking up out of the snow! Seeing that filled my heart with joy and the promise of spring.

Traditionally, Imbolc is associated with many customs. In old Ireland it was a celebration of the first signs of spring. It was a festival of purification often celebrated as a festival of the hearth. It was a time to sweep out the old and prepare the home for the coming spring. In these modern times it is often the time when pagan groups hold their initiation ceremonies. The name Imbolc comes from the word Oimelc which refers to the lactation of ewes; their flow of milk that heralds the return of the life-giving forces of spring. It comes just before the birth of the new lambs, hence the udders filling with milk. It was a time for preparing the fields for spring sowing as well as when they gathered in extra help for the coming growing season.

To me, it is when the Earth, in Her stillness, quickens. When the unborn child in the womb first moves, it is called quickening. I love to think of the pregnant possibilities coming to us soon in this quickening.

In Scotland, Ireland and the Isle of Man, the mythological story behind this liminal time is the story of the Cailleach and Brigit. The Cailleach is an ancient Winter Hag, clearly a giantess, as her apron held the rocks that when dropped, became the mountains. It is the Cailleach who stirs the clouds and dumps the snow, who whips up the storms and the strong winds of winter. As the Winter Hag, she contains the seed of promise. While she is clearly a dark goddess of destruction, at Imbolc she returns to us as Brigid, the Goddess of Spring.

Many Imbolc customs center on Brigid such as the making of the Brigid doll and Bride’s bed. One thing I do every year is to create my own Brigid’s Mantle, by hanging a piece of cloth outside on the Eve of Imbolc (Feb. 1st) and leaving it there overnight. It is said that in the night Brigid blesses your cloth as she passes by. This piece of cloth is now imbued with the healing power of Brigid. This was a favorite of the midwives of old and still is for many who use alternative healing modalities today.

This is an opportunity for transformation in our own lives. As the earth begins its own transformation, we too, can change our lives. Brigid offers us the opportunity to drink from her Sacred Well. In the drinking of her Sacred Waters, we may choose how we wish to transform our lives.

fountain_sanctuaryNo matter what path we walk, whether we honor the Cailleach and Brigid or not, we can all drink from Sacred Waters. Water is made sacred by our own intent. Should you wish to do this yourself, first you must prepare. We have one week to be ready by February 1st. It is good to first clean and prepare a sacred place in your home – preferably the area you feel is the “heart” of your home. Sometime between now and February 1st, sit within this space and write down all of the ways in which you wish to transform your life. Write these changes down with positive statements, as if these changes already exist. You don’t want to say, “Abundance is going to come to me.” You want to say instead, “Abundance flows in my life.”

So make your list. Then create a ceremony in whatever way feels right to you. It is up to you who you invite to your party! You might want to light a candle to set the mood. Fill a glass with water and sit in your sacred space, thinking about how your life looks with all of these changes in place. Really try to see yourself transformed! Take time to be still and quiet with your thoughts. Then, when you are ready, read your statements out loud. You can even shout them if you feel like it! Sometimes when I do this I feel like a cheerleader – cheering myself on! When you are finished, pick up your glass of water and drink it – all of it! Your positive statements have transformed this water and it is sacred. You are now taking that sacred intention and making it a part of you. Step into your own transformation with the Birth of Spring.

Bendis ~ 2014

Cailleach and Brigid

Colorful_spring_gardenAt Imbolc we celebrate the first stirrings of spring. It is a time of rebirth and new hope. The earth begins to wake from its winter slumber, the snow begins to melt, and the first green buds and shoots appear, bringing with them the promise of spring. For most of us it is still bitterly cold outside, and if you live in New England snow still covers the ground. It’s hard to imagine spring is just around the corner when you are still shoveling snow from your driveway.

The transformation we witness each year is a sacred one, one that plays out in the myth of the Celts, and in the way they viewed the Goddess. During this time of year, the myths of Cailleach and Brigid come to mind. While Cailleach, the Winter Hag, is churning the clouds above and dumping snow on the driveway, we know that soon she will transform into Brigid the lovely maiden of spring. Each Imbolc we stand at the precipice, a time of transformation, a time between times. Just as Cailleach transforms into Brigid so too can we be inspired from their myths to transform ourselves, to leave the old and no longer useful behind and to drink from the sacred well in order to be renewed.

Cailleach is arguably one of the most ancient Goddesses of the Celts. In fact, she may even be a pre-Celtic Goddess. Many historians have hypothesized that she may have been the earth Goddess of the original inhabitants of Ireland, prior to their integration with the invading Celtic tribes. She is often described as an old woman with white hair and blue skin. She was associated with a mountain in Ireland called the Slieve na Calliagh. The Slieve na Calliagh is madcailleach_jpge up of jagged rocks which may be why she was sometime said to have very sharp teeth.

Cailleach is best known as a Goddess of cold, winter, and darkness. She was also a Goddess of storms and during the winter months she was said to ride through the air on the back of a wolf, bringing snow and ice to the world below. She also had a magick wand that she used to strike away any hints of green on the winter landscape. While Cailleach seems like a dark figure, she is a necessary side of the Goddess. She is destruction, the bareness of winter and she can bring chaos and change just as swiftly as she can call up a winter blizzard, but we must remember she also wears another face. On Imbolc the Winter Hag melts away, transforming into Brigid the Goddess of fire and inspiration.

There are several legends as to how Cailleach’s transformation into Brigid occurs. In Scotland it was believed that each year Cailleach held the Goddess Brigid captive in a cave, preventing her radiant light and warmth to shine on the earth. In some stories Cailleach turns to stone at the first signs of spring, and Brigid escapes bringing with her renewed fertility and warmth to the world. At Samhain Cailleach awakes and captures Brigid, once again holding her captive through the winter. In another version Cailleach travels to a magical isle (sometimes said to be the Isle of Skye) where there is a miraculous Well of Youth. On Imbolc she drinks from the well and transforms into Brigid.

brighidCailleach and Brigid’s myths remind us how the Celts divided the year. Although we recognize four distinct seasons, the Celts generally divided their year in two, the dark and light half of the year. Although triple Goddesses are prevalent in Celtic myths, dual or two faced Goddesses are just as common. Cailleach and Brigid are two aspects of the same Goddess, their changing faces mirroring the changing of the seasons, and the way the Celts viewed theses seasonal cycles. At times these dual Goddesses appear as a Crone and Maiden, other times they are two sisters. We see this in Aine and Grian, two Irish sister Goddesses, who each ruled half of the year. Whether we see the Goddess as Maiden, Mother and Crone, or as the Winter Crone and Spring Maiden, these two aspects of the Goddess are intrinsically linked. The darkness of the Crone will always give way to the rebirth and new beginning of the Maiden.

So if there is still snow in your driveway, remember that Cailleach is about to take a drink from that sacred well, soon she will be the Goddess of spring. And as the earth around us begins its transformation think about what you can change in your own life. If you were to drink from the Well of Youth what transformation would you seek?

Below is a simple ritual I use each year to invoke Cailleach and Brigid’s energies during Imbolc. May you drink from the sacred well and be renewed!

Drinking from the Well of Transformation:

cup
Brew a cup of your favorite tea or if you prefer use wine. Take the cup to your sacred space. red candlePlace two candles on your altar, one of each side. Blue for Cailleach and a red candle for Brigid. Light the candles and place your cup in-between the two candles on the altar.
blue candle

Take a few minutes to ground and center. See yourself in a small boat. The boat glides soundlessly across the waves, and a cold winter wind blows across you. Soon your boat glides up to the isle’s shore and you step onto the green earth. Shaded by a grove of trees you see an old stone well. The well waters shine with their own light, and you know you have found the Well of Youth. Take a few minutes to consider what kind of transformation you wish to bring into your life. Are their old habits that you need to shed, new ventures you wish to start? When you are ready you dip your hands into the water and drink.
When you are ready take the cup in your hands and hold it over the altar, saying:

Cailleach, blue hag of winter,
Churning storms and chaos in your wake,
Lady of thunder, winter, and cold,
Drink now from the sacred well,
Bring transformation,
And let me change as you do each year

Hold your hands over the cup. Visualize a brilliant white light filling the cup, the light of Cailleach and Brigid, the light of new beginnings and transformation. Then take a sip of your magickal brew. Feel the blessings of Cailleach and Brigid filling you, revitalizing you, as the Goddess’ energies renew and awaken the earth each spring. When you are ready say:

light

Like Cailleach I transform,
I drink from the sacred well,
The darkness within transformed to new light,
I shine like Brigid of the green mantle,
Renewed and transformed by the Goddess!

Pour the remaining liquid outside as an offering to Cailleach and Brigid.

Cailleach Image – Illustration by Jill Smith www.jill-smith.co.uk/…/ pages/cailleach_jpg.htm
Brighid Image – ☆ Brigid Maiden Fire Goddess Banner :¦: By Wendy Andrew ☆

Time for Commitment

Imbolc is right around the corner. The Earth is stirring, warming and readying Herself for Spring. Deep in Her belly new life is quickening, soon to burst forth with new life. It is also the time for us to rise up and dedicate ourselves to new growth, to awaken to new possibilities in our connection to Goddess. Won’t you come join in the dance with us? Come to the safety of our sanctuary to learn and grow within our Sisterhood. Enjoy self-paced classes – rituals for all the full moons and the eight sacred seasonal holidays. Explore Women’s Mysteries in the safety of our Circle.