THE FESTIVAL OF THE BRIDE
By Yasmine Galenorn
(from Dancing With the Sun*)
Sleet beats against the windows, snow still encrusts the ground, you turn up the heat another notch and curl up with a book and a hot cup of ginger tea as you wonder if Spring will ever return…it is February 1st, the day before Imbolc, the Festival of Brighid.
Brighid (pronounced Breed) is the Celtic Goddess of fire, poetry, healing and craftsmen. She is considered a Triple Goddess, as are so many of the Celtic goddesses, and Her festival coincides with lambing season. Imbolc (from the word imbolg) literally means “in milk”, referring to the ewes’ coming into milk for their lambs.
Imbolc, officially celebrated on February 1st-2nd, is the season of purification and cleansing, it is time to clear your house for the approaching Spring, for the new growth engendering in your life now.
In magickal terms, the Goddess awaits Her husband and on the night of February 2nd, he comes to her in her bed. Traditionally, a basket-bed is fashioned for Brighid, who is represented by a corn dolly. During the night, a phallic wand or phallic shaped loaf of bread is placed in the basket with the doll to represent the coming of the God.
We consider Imbolc to be the end of the Winter season. The altar stands in red and white. On the morning of February 2nd, we add a bouquet of red carnations, a pitcher of cream and Brighid’s Bed to the milk white cloth, red lace, and rose quartz that decorates the altar. Then we prepare the phallic bread for the ritual that night.
The Colors of Imbolc
The colors traditionally associated with Imbolc are white, red and black (Triple Goddess colors). Pink and silver make nice accents.
Incenses, Herbs & Woods
Imbolc is a time of pungent odors. Not only are fiery scents appropriate (after all, Brighid is a Goddess of fire) but the smells we often associate with cleaning supplies and disinfectants seem right at home during this Sabbat.
Dragon’s blood, frankincense and red sandalwood are all appropriate incenses. If you want to focus on Brighid’s healing aspects, you might want to use lavender, heather or lemon.
Birch wood has a strong association with Brighid, as do brambles, blackberries and willow.
¼ oz Carrier Oil (almond, jojoba, etc)
9 drops Siberian Fir Oil
5 drops Lavender Oil
5 drops Frankincense Oil
5 drops Ginger Oil
10 drops Orange Oil
4 drops Nutmeg Oil
5 drops Carnation Oil
5 drops Primrose Oil
Blend all oils, add a few orange blossom petals and a chip or two of garnet and ruby. Bless in circle. Use to anoint ritual objects or participants during ritual.
Green Man Oil
¼ oz Carrier Oil
4 drops Cedar Oil
4 drops Spruce Oil
3 drops Patchouli Oil
3 drops Vetiver Oil
4 drops Citronella Oil
2 drops Cinnamon Oil
2 drops Orange Oil
Blend all oils and add a few snips of fern leaf and a citrine or topaz chip. Bless in circle and use in Imbolc Ritual of the Bride, or for general anointing.
Cleaning–Physical & Psychic
Imbolc signals Spring cleaning time. It is time to clear out the dust that has accumulated from Lughnasadh on and prepare our homes for the activity and growth that generally come during the Spring season.
Begin by cleaning your house. Use a vinegar and mugwort wash to clean your windows and mirrors. Sweep down all the cobwebs, turn the mattresses, vacuum your rugs. Dust under the books and clean off your knick-knacks. Wash all the sheets and then settle down with a cup of ginger tea and a piece of cinnamon toast to rest.
Next, you should psychically clean house. Light a smudge stick (sage and lavender work best at this time of year) and let the smoke billow through your house. Blow it into every corner, behind the doors, under the furniture. Watch for stray sparks when you do this.
Open the windows and wave the smoke outside, visualize it taking negative energy with it. Now ward your house, casting a circle in every room for protection, safety and peace. Do not open these circles. Leave them to settle into the walls.
Throw away all prosperity and protection charms that are dusty and old, and create new ones to in their place. Dust and polish all wooden hex signs, witch bottles and other ritual objects. Anoint wooden, bone and antler ritual gear with the appropriate oils.
This project may take several days, I recommend beginning on February 3rd and allowing a week to go through your home. That way you won’t feel so swamped.
After you have cleaned house, it’s time to clean your aura.
Take a ritual bath. Fill the bathtub with lavender or lemon bath salts and/or bubble bath, or take a bath with lavender or lemon shower body wash. Soak for as long as you like. Scrub your toenails, fingernails, behind your ears–every place you can think of.
After your bath, cast a circle in your (now clean) ritual space and light a piece of self-igniting charcoal (the kind meant specifically for incense–don’t use charcoal briquettes–you can cause carbon monoxide poisoning that way). Drop a few lavender buds on the charcoal and let the smoke drift past. Think about the areas of your life you wish were calm, more peaceful. Ask for ideas and help to create that peace.
Next drop a few pieces of frankincense and some dragon’s blood on the incense. Again, let the smoke drift around you. Think about what you want to strengthen in your life. Ask for ideas and help to create that strength.
Decide what you can do to create peace and strength in your life and formulate a plan you can implement without stress. Never take on too much at this time of year, you’ll need your strength as spring and summer return.
The Pouring of the Cream
An effective end to ritual, or a simple ritual in itself, the pouring of the cream is the best libation you could give to Brighid.
Around midnight take the pitcher of cream off the altar, carry it outside and say:
Lady Brighid, we honor you and return to you the cream that is life itself. We ask for Your blessing in the coming season. Blessed Be.
Pour the cream onto the ground (if there’s snow, pour directly onto the snow) and then spend a moment thinking about Imbolc and what it means to you.
Carnations or Roses?
Although it is traditional among Pagans to offer roses to the Goddess when decorating our altars, somehow I like carnations for Brighid. They’re spicy, belonging to the element of Fire, and they seem so appropriate for this time of year (being January’s flower). So I always recommend red carnations for her altar, on a white cloth. The contrast is striking, and if you can add a piece or two out of rose quartz, it’s even more beautiful.
*Copyright Yasmine Galenorn 1999, and 2020
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