The ancient Celtic holy-day known as Imbolc is a welcomed time of renewal, healing, the first signs of spring, divination and of course brings us Brighid - a fantastic feminine deity, both Goddess and Saint, who survives changing religious beliefs and withstands the test of time.
On the Eve of Imbolc, a common practice is to lay your chosen cloth, or Brat Bhride, outside overnight to receive Brighid's blessings of protection. This can then be worn, given as a talisman, or small pieces sewn into clothing. This year I have set out a shawl my Grandmother wove on her massive loom to wrap around family members and close friends who could use a little extra care. Beside the shawl tonight hangs the altar cloth I use at community medicine gatherings to bring Brighid's blessings to our sacred work there. In years past I have set out various cloths to cut and give out to clients, tuck into my children's pockets, and wrap sacred objects in. I was recently reminded in some areas of Ireland it was believed that a Brat Bhride needed to be set out for 7 years before becoming fully empowered, this I will endeavor to do with my Grandmother McDonald's woven shawl. Perhaps you too have a special wrap, soft cloth or even a cozy sweater to hang outside tonight :)
Another common Imbolc practice is that of the Frith, a favorite of mine that is both rooted in history yet allows for personal associations to come through. The Frith is a particular Scots Gaelic form of divination whereby the omens of nature are read through a doorway or narrow field of vision and is often conducted early February 1st, on Imbolc morning. There are a number of old invocations one can recite and some fairly specific nuances to this practice if one looks a little deeper for them that can really enrich your divination experience. Generally the query on Imbolc morning may regard a new venture, a particular situation at hand, to find what has been lost, or to ascertain how much longer Winter weather will last. This weather divination aspect has survived in the West in the form of Groundhog Day. On February 2nd, interpretations applied to the shadow (or lack of) of famous American groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil is a mainstream form of Imbolc Divination predicting the arrival of Spring. Those who are more familiar with Brighid as a Christian Saint may know stories of Mother Mary and Brighid finding lost Jesus by use of the Frith and associate Candlemas with her blessings and festivities.
If you are new to the Goddess Saint, there is so much more to tell. A wealth of history, stories of miraculous healings, long standing temples and shrines, and a beautiful array of professions, people and animals under her care await your discovery. Perhaps you will find she becomes an integral member of your supporting guides.
So on this late Eve of Imbolc, I wish you good health, clear sacred sight, and a happy hearth.
Íslím don diagacht ionat!
Offerings and Medicine Bundles
On the morning after our shamanic journey circles we have an opportunity to anchor our work in beautiful outdoor sanctuaries during Sacred Places, Solo Spaces gatherings. Today I created an offering of seeds while singing prayers of support and blessings of gratitude in honour of the medicine bundles we created last night. Here I share and speak a little of this sweet experience. If you would like to join us next month, come find event details on our facebook group Medicine Gatherings & Online Support
Night-time dreams are a powerful source of information, healing and wisdom utilizing metaphor, emotion and they tap into the subtle realms of Spirit and your deep subconscious. It can become a beautiful and personal way of working and is accessible to us all. For many, dreamwork is naturally a significant part of their spiritual practice, while others must dedicate to creating optimal conditions, intentions and sifting & sorting the dream medicine from the elements of our ordinary reality - the stuff of the movie we watched, our personal concerns, or mundane tasks that can colour our dreams.
Many of us don't remember our dreams, are plagued by nightmares or maybe reoccurring dreams, and are passive observers. We might periodically have big dreams, wild amazing dreams, lucid dreams even, but then there are those who are truly Dreamers, Medicine Dreamers, Shamanic Dreamers - those who witness or participate in spiritually guided healing work, receive important messages or premonitions and act on such in our waking life. When dreaming becomes medicine, you become a Dreamer of great potential for yourself, the earth, and our human tribe.
I'd like to share some of my journey with dreaming as a spiritual practice in hopes to encourage those who like me, thought only specially gifted people had anything more than ordinary, random, half remembered dreams. I'm also sharing for those who have been working with me in the dreamtime, and those who have dream medicine as part of their Shamanic Living Immersion solo work.
Years ago, before I began intentionally working in this way, I was greatly inspired by those with dreaming medicine yet firmly believed I didn't have the "talent" for such. My shamanic teacher at the time encouraged me with ways to establish a greater connection to this realm; how to track them, how to distill and interpret their medicinal messages and to become an active participant in healing work being done there. My dream time slowly became a very personal and powerful healing time. I began to make progress in reoccurring themes where I was powerless, stuck, or helpless. As I kept fostering this modality I began to have more of an active role, more influence over what choices I made or what I said, there was an awareness that I was dreaming and I could choose to stay in it or wake myself or continue the same dream if I woke. I was able to track changes in my dream themes as my ordinary day-to-day situations became more harmonious and vice versa, as I dove into healing work my dreams reflected my outer world and what I needed to focus on next. My personal shamanic practice started crossing over with soul retrievals & extraction healing, divination, energy balancing and transmutation happening while I slept. Ceremonies took place, deceased loved ones visited, omens and power animals began giving me insights, and as often happens when working with spiritual teachers, mine would visit me in the dream realm too - even after I finished apprenticing or studying with them, they brought more lessons or facilitated healing work. Sometimes I would wake up feeling like I had worked all night - like a spiritual graveyard shift - leaving me some mornings feeling like I had a "dream hangover". Slightly affected by deep work, a little stunned and a bit tired. At some point I began witnessing healing work for my friends and acquaintances. Not just "Hey you were randomly in my dream" type dreams, but "Hey you were in my dream and this profound thing happened" or "this message came through". Often I made a point to let them know in case there was something relevant for them, but sometimes I just let it be whatever it was.
Over these past years of offering community gatherings and a private practice, people in attendance would later share with me that I had visited them in dreams related to their healing work. Friends started telling me I had consoled them, held ceremony together, stood by them in a time of crisis, or held them during an illness. Now that I facilitate immersion programs working more closely for much longer with people, some members tell me I am there with them at night while I too am dreaming of supporting their personal healing work. Similar to journeying for clients, these experiences don't stick in my memory for very long - it's simply not for me to remember, the work has been done, and I have to consciously work at holding it fresh long enough if I am to share with them. While this can make for very active nights, I have worked hard to maintain healthy energetic and physical boundaries, even when people are actively setting the intention to visit in the dreamtime unbeknownst to me. I no longer wake feeling tired from working all night, but periodically I will set the intention to have a non-working night, and of course like all things my dreaming naturally ebbs and flows too.
These medicine dreams sometimes mirror my private practice - I have a drum or rattle, maybe wearing ceremonial clothing, sometimes we are in sacred tents or my spirit guides are there and traditional shamanic techniques are being drawn on. After our recent community Solstice fire I had multiple dreams per night of people fireside continuing their work with form given to what was being released and transmuted. Then came a series of dreams where I was passing gifts to people I'm close with. Each gift had a visible superimposed, energetic or spiritual essence overlaying the gift. These were all either soul retrievals or medicinal gifts from Spirit supporting their individual work. For one fellow I was giving him a carved wooden robin. The moment it touched his hands the world around him felt just like the last puzzle piece had been set in place. All was right. All was restored.
Other times we are in the land of metaphor, yet there is a clear understanding healing is afoot. I like these ones best. I am comfortable with mystery and love when I share seemingly trivial details that instantly make sense to the other. One such dream I had a few nights ago involved someone dear to me who runs a community group and coaching practice. In my dream he was simply setting up a fish tank. Rearranging the plants, selecting which rocks and statues to put in, pouring the gravel. Again each item had a glow of meaning to it. An essence beyond the physical items that had nothing to do with fish. I didn't know what each piece stood for, but as soon as all the pieces were in place that familiar feeling of rightness came over me and I looked up to see a roster filled full with his clients booked far into the future. The next day I shared this dream with him and when I said he was arranging a fishtank he told me it "totally makes sense" to him, that he has been cultivating a new environment for his practice and when an eco-system is in balance things flourish. We both saw this message that spiritual work is being done where his practice will expand to the next level and thrive - just like a healthy fishtank!
Dreaming as a medicinal modality fascinates me. If you are a Dreamer please feel welcome to share your latest and how it relates to your spiritual work. If you are a Shamanic Teacher engaged in dreaming with students, I'd love to connect with you! And if you would like to start an intentional dreaming practice but think maybe you can't, send along a message for some tips or dive in and pre-register for the next Shamanic Living Immersion program. Bless your night-time dreaming!
A bean feasa of Gaelic heritage shares stories & insights from her animist and 'shamanic' practice on the West Coast of Canada.