We’re living in a slightly problematic flat at the moment. (Fortunately we’re also moving soon.) The light in the hallway blew a couple of weeks ago, for about the fourth time since we moved in – we’ve given up replacing the bulb now. Meanwhile, the kitchen currently appears to be haunted, with the fluorescent light in there doing a good impression of a badly-wired disco. And then there’s the damp. It’s really, really damp.
I’ve pulled a lot of Cups tarot cards in the past few weeks. My deck has a sense of humour.
Fire, as a symbol, is more than a flame. I never think about electricity, or light, or heat, or dry shelter, or any of the other good things associated with fire, until they’re not there anymore. The recent floods all over the country have dampened my spirits and drowned my flame. Outside, I’m looking for all the signs of spring, of the return of Áine, the summer sun, in all Her glory. And inside, I’m longing for a decent hearth fire. There’s nothing more wonderful than a fire in the dark.
It burns out so fast, though. It rages, and then it’s gone, taking everything around it with it. There’s a reason SJ calls me a water-elf. There’s fire in me, but it all goes up in a cloud – pfffft, gone in a moment, consuming and destroying.
I have mixed feelings towards fire, which rather parallels my mixed feelings towards my hearth and fire goddess, Brighid.
Brighid is Fire for me. She gets honoured before all the other gods of my household. I go to her shrine, in my kitchen, and light her candle before I talk to any of my other gods. I say her Genealogy every morning and every night…
…And she doesn’t really talk to me. I think I have a very different relationship with her from most of the Pagans who honour her. It’s much more limited. I know who her priests are, and if I want to talk to her, I usually go through them. Some have brought me messages from her unbidden, and some have told me things when I’ve asked. They reassure me that she hears me. And while I’ve been resentful, in the past, that I don’t hear her more clearly myself, I think there are very good reasons why I’m not her priest.
Brighid is a hearth goddess, but I don’t think she’s domesticated. She’s a healing goddess, but she’s as dangerous as she is compassionate. There’s a side to her that’s terrifying – the power of a thousand stars being born in the forge of the universe. The power of real imbas – true, all-consuming inspiration. I’m not a bard, and for very good reasons. I have moments of envy of Brighid’s priests and bards – but I don’t think I really want to be one of them. I’m not cut out for truly letting the fire rage through me.
I’ll be moving house on the day when Imbolc is traditionally celebrated (and how appropriate, when I asked my hearth goddess to get me out of this damp, sickly flat). I won’t be able to do most of the things that I usually try to do in honour of Brighid on Imbolc Eve – leaving out the ribin Brighid overnight, that traditionally brings healing to headaches (which I could really do with!), not doing any work that involves wheels turning, making a St Bride’s Girdle (said to protect from painful bones), starting to plan my spring planting. I’ll try to do some of these things, but I’m going to be so busy with trying to get the spirit of winter out of my life that I don’t know if I’ll notice springtime at the door.
The sixth of February is one of St Lasair’s traditional days. (Yep, there are also some local deities associated with Imbolc.) Lasair is the first in a triumvirate of goddesses-who-became-saints from Munster. Each of them is associated with a stage of the harvest cycle – planting, ripening, reaping. If it looks like spring has sprung – or begun to spring – on the sixth, I’ll start celebrating it in honour of Lasair. I’ll do some of the Imbolc stuff then, especially planting the first seed, and having a day off any work that turns wheels. (There are wheels in my computer. This is always a challenge.)
But first, Brighid. First, Fire. First, I call back the warmth and the sun, even in the darkness and the damp and the cold. She is always honoured first.
She can be the power of a thousand suns, but she can also be that hold-your-breath moment before the tiniest spark lights up the deepest darkness.
Gabhaim Molte Bríghde (I Praise Brighid)