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!
A bean feasa of Gaelic heritage shares stories & insights from her animist and 'shamanic' practice on the West Coast of Canada.