Imbolc/Brigit’s Day 2011
January 31, 2011As I write, a “monster storm” heads towards me across America’s midsection, and a quarter-million Egyptian people storm Cairo to demand more responsible government.
Tonight, we will put out a piece of cloth, our “Brigit’s cloak,” following the old Irish belief that Brigit treads upon the cloth at sunrise, filling it with healing power. Brigit, called “the woman who turns back the tides of war,” seems an appropriate power to invoke today. I will pray to Brigit on her feastday that the people of Egypt be safe in their struggle. I will also pray that she protects us from the literal storms that rage this winter, and that she helps us to see our part in bringing on such human and environmental weather.
The rituals around Brigit’s Day are various: dressing in white as “Biddy Boys” and begging from door-to-door, braiding six-foot circles of rye and leaping through it, twisting four-armed sun-like crosses from fresh reeds, putting out the Brigit cloak, drawing water from a sacred well. Underlying them, as with all seasonal rituals, is the continuing human attempt to connect with the earth.
In Ireland, Brigit’s homeland, lambs are born at this time, and snowdrops brust into bloom. For us in the frigid upper Midwest, there won’t be snowdrops or reeds or lambs. This land has its own rhythms, its own way of rounding the seasons. So how do we connect with the earth’s energies, not in an artificial way but within the realities of our own place?
Every January, I spend my weekends reading seed catalogues and re-reading my garden journal from the previous year. (I am a haphazard gardener in many ways, but I have learned to take the crumpled seed packets indoors and type the varieties into my computer every day during planting time.) So this year, we decided to mark Brigit’s Day by holding a seed exchange with friends. The name of Brigit’s feast, Imbolc,” comes from the Irish meaning “in the belly,” and although we’re not tending pregnant sheep on our land, we are planning our summer garden. What better way to feel pregnant with possibilities than to share seeds?
Wherever we are, there are seasons and activities appropriate to them. As the latest winter storm piles a couple of feet of snow on our sleeping garden, we will celebrate the seeds of summer. And send forth prayers for the people of Egypt, and throughout the world, that their dreams of freedom and equality will grow and thrive.
"Grace of Ancient Land"
I was thrilled this month to get my first copy of "Grace of Ancient Land," a collection of poems about our farm in Wisconsin, issued by the terrific Voices from the American Land project:
Voices is not just another publisher. It’s a group of people with a visionary idea—to connect people to the wonderful and unique landscapes of America through poetry. As part of this movement, I’ll be organizing some events around the Midwest through the summer and fall. Come join me at one of them! And meanwhile, check out the Voices website and, if you’re so inspired, join them.
"Magical Gardens" complete, new "Meditation: The Complete Guide" up next
No writer could be more flattered than I’ve been, to be invited by two of my publishers to update books than came out in the 1990’s. This month, I finished the new edition of "Magical Gardens: Myth, Mulch and Marigolds," which will come out later this year from Llewellyn Worldwide. In addition to relating myths about gardening from around the world, "Magical Gardens" offers a dozen garden plans inspired by myth. The biggest change I found since the first edition 15 years ago was the amazing gardening resources on the web. I think the new edition will be worth buying just for the astonishing list of specialty garden suppliers. I’m going to be using it to develop my new goddess-themed garden with Aphrodite hostas, Isis daylilies, Athena peonies!
Now that I’ve pressed the send-button on "Magical Gardens", I’m starting on the revision of "Meditation: The Complete Guide," which I co-wrote with yoga expert Terri (Eleanor) Viereck. Curiously, a whole chapter (on yantra or sacred-image meditation) got left out the last time, and that will be added back in, as will some additional meditation forms from various traditions. With new covers and a new subtitle (“Techniques from East and West to Calm the Mind, Heal the Body and Enrich the Spirit”), I think this will be a lovely new edition.
ASWM Meets in East and Midwest
I’m excited to be attending two regional symposia of the new Association for Study of Women and Mythology—in Philadelphia, PA, on March 12-13 (followed by a goddess tour of the Philadelphia Museum of Art!), and in Madison, WI, on May 19. Both conferences are open to the public. See
Happy Brigit’s Day, all, and let us pray for safety for all in life’s storms--Patricia