So You Wanna Be A Priest

Here’s the thing:

I’ve felt for some time that Brighid’s been calling me to priest/esshood. It’s been an inkling at the back of my mind for many, many years and only grew when I helped found Clann Bhride. Earlier this summer after the Orlando Pulse massacre, the necessity and enormity of priest/esshood felt like it could suffocate me. How could I respond most authentically in the face of tragedy and injustice? Submit, seemed to be the answer, submit to your Lady, submit to your community.

I’ve had two tarot readings in the past month – one done by myself, and one from my fiancé – oh by the way blog I have a fiancé and I also moved to New York City and a million other things I have to catch y’all up on – and both of these readings seemed to be whacking me upside the head with a clue-by-four. This is the path and you know it! Stop hesitating and get your life right!

I don’t know… a lot of things, to be honest. I always thought about priest/esshood, both in the sense of dedicating myself to the worship of Brighid in a particular way, and in the sense of taking care of and ministering to others in my community, as something that would happen when I was ready. And one of the biggest indicators of being ready would be feeling ready.

I don’t feel ready.

For starters, I don’t even know exactly what I mean when I say “I want to be a priest and/or priestess of Brighid.”

I don’t know what makes Brigidine priesthood different than just being really really devoted to Brighid. I haven’t done an initiation or dedication or anything similar on my walk with Her. I forget my Flamekeeping shift more often than not and don’t have a regular prayer life at all.

I don’t have peer counseling or conflict resolution skills, or good executive functioning, or a body and brain that work right most days. I get overwhelmed easily and don’t know how to handle my emotions sometimes. I’m not as kind or patient as I think I should be, and I don’t have a clear map ahead of me.

Here’s what I do have.

I have a very, very, very big heart. It is (figuratively) misshapen, bleeds quite often, and doesn’t often know how to hold all the hurt in the world, but good Lord it’s gonna do its best.

I know who I need in my life right now, priestwise, as I struggle with issues of faith and justice and the sticky reality that is being human. I frequently mourn this individual as not currently existing in my life and thinking of all the advice and counsel I’m missing out on. I needed a priest after Orlando. I needed a priest when my Mom went in for cancer screening this week. So I have a clear idea of the person I want to become – at least, part of this person – which is maybe the first step to begin with.

I have an amazing community of fellow devotees in Clann Bhride, and other Pagan and polytheist friends on the internet who support and uplift me. I have a far-flung family who understands this kind of thing and can help me not reinvent the wheel.

I have a beautiful, strong, compassionate fiancé who loves me dearly and has shown me more grace and understanding when it comes to our religious differences (which aren’t really that great, in the long run) than I ever experienced with my Pagan ex. Etienne is the person who, when they walked into the room, caught my eye and made my soul exclaim softly, “That’s who I’ve been waiting for.”

I have a strong sense of justice and equality. And even though it doesn’t feel like it, the fact that I am disabled, and mentally ill, and neurodivergent, is itself a great boon and not a detraction. My priesthood will joyfully reflect all these parts of myself (and not-so-joyfully sometimes, I’m sure) rather than trying to refract light around the places I feel lacking.

And, finally, I have Brighid. If She hasn’t gotten tired of me now then I’m not sure I’m ever going to shake Her – and sometimes I feel like that feeling’s mutual.🙂

So, here we are, and here I am, publicly confessing these thoughts and questions that have flown through my mind. What happens next? I guess I’ll have to stay tuned to find out.

Prayer for Orlando

(Or, the litany of a sad queer Brigidine Pagan)

Shine light into the darkness to cast away our fears and blame.
Set aflame our hearts that we not succumb to inaction and apathy in the face of tragedy.
Warm our souls when we are weary from the crushing weight of living in this world.
Dry our tears when we cry out for salvation and deliverance from hatred.

Lady Brighid, I pray for the LGBTQ community of Orlando.
I pray for our queer siblings across the world.
I pray for the Latinx community whose celebrations were interrupted by gunfire.
I pray for our Muslim brethren who will be unjustly blamed for the actions of one man.
I pray that the Muslim children in my neighborhood are strong in the face of the hatred they will receive.
I pray for our queer Muslim neighbors who are torn between vicious, unjust rhetoric.
I pray that we are not swayed by calls to fascism and xenophobia in the wake of tragedy.
I pray for the victims, who have too soon entered the hallowed halls of our beloved dead.
I pray that we look apathy dead in the eye and kick it in the shins because the best prayers are done with our hands long after the dust from gunfire has settled.
I pray for those working toward an end to gun violence in the United States, because I am afraid every day I step out of my house.

I am scared and I am angry and I am lost, but I look to Your flame and Your light to guide me. As my candle lights the room, may Your candle light the universe.

The behaviour of online Pagans, and why I’m going ‘stealth’ online again

This post is about two close friends of mine who have found themselves in the cross hairs of unfounded accusations. I share this post not to send people rushing off in their defense (which has caused some more drama and I’ve been asked to try to keep more from happening) but to support my friends and point out a huge ton of issues in online spaces, Pagan spaces, and online Pagan spaces. It is distressingly easy for false accusations to spiral out of control and for mob mentality to take over and make harassment seem like a really cool idea.

Treasure in Barren Places

My name has been publicly associated with accusations against someone. If you must read about it, see this post – and most importantly the response below, by Aine, the person being accused. (Trigger warning: the post contains references to abuse, transmisogyny, and disturbing accusations with no forum for addressing them.) The original post contained my real name and links to my professional twitter. (The poster has since replaced these references with my online psuedonym, after I tracked them down and begged.)

For some reason I can’t directly reblog at tumblr the reply that Aine has written – possibly because I’m blocked by the original poster. So I’m posting here instead. In the link above makes she makes clear that she is treating this as libel and dealing with it via her attorney.

I do not know the original poster, nor anything about the situation in the post. I have already been sought out (by other strangers)…

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Finding Grace in Pain

I wrote these thoughts specifically about my own experiences with chronic pain, but they may also resonate around issues of emotional and mental pain, such as working through trauma, bereavement, or depression.

I don’t believe for a moment that Brighid causes us to suffer. I certainly don’t believe She does so to teach us life lessons or to make us stronger people. Religions have been grappling with the concept of human suffering since the dawn of spiritual and ritual life. I believe wholeheartedly that Brighid (and other deities) suffer /with/ us. When we mourn, when we ache, when we face oppression and injustice, our gods walk by our sides. 

I don’t believe Brighid “gave me” a congenital back disorder – I have genetics to blame for that – nor do I believe She takes any pleasure in my pain or struggles to access medical care. I /do/ believe that in the midst of pain I can look to Brighid and see Her presence in my life. She is a goddess of healing, and so intimately knows the reality of infection, inflammation, muscle cramps, and damaged nerves. As St. Brigit She is said to have suffered terrible blinding migraines which left Her debilitated for days on end. As the wife of the Formorian king Bres and the mother of Ruadan, She knows intimately the wracking pain of war unending and the unspeakable depths of sorrow that can only be spoken when cradling one’s dead child on the battlefield.

Grace is drawing near to the font of divinity, feeling the presence of our gods despite – perhaps even because of – the slings and arrows of human life. Grace is our attempt to give speech to the unspeakable, the ineffable, the divine. When I have to plan my day around how many times I can reasonably navigate stairs without too much pain, I am in grace. When I experience so much depression and executive dysfunction that I cannot even leave the house, I am in grace. I may not always be able to feel it and may not always be on the lookout for it, but Brighid constantly surrounds me with Her love and grace. She is there sharing my pain and struggles until it becomes Our pain and Our struggles.

NEW: Finding Brighid in the Ancient Lore

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Clann Bhride

Ever wondered what we know about the goddess Brighid? Curious about our Lady’s lore but not sure where to jump in? Want to read excerpts of myths, poetry, folklore, and legal texts with commentary from our very own Gilbride and Aster Breo?

Clann Bhride is proud to present Finding Brighid in the Ancient Lore, a substantial essay (10,000+ words!) that presents every direct and indirect reference to the pre-Christian goddesses and women called Brighid, Brig, Brid, or Bride in Irish and Scottish lore. We offer this as a starting point for the Children of Brighid to explore how past devotees saw and understood our goddess.

There have also been many other additions to the site as we slowly import content from our Book of Hours to the web. Check back often and don’t forget to visit us on Facebook to join the conversation and fellowship.

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Impressions from Imbolc Advent

My friend and fellow Brigidine flamekeeper Erin Lund Johnson has put together a lovely series of devotional articles creating an Advent season for Imbolc. I’ve been following them for the past few Sundays, with tonight being Imbolc itself, and tomorrow morning being the last of Erin’s celebrations of the return of Bride to the world, and the welcome of spring. At the end of each week’s prayers and ritual activities we are instructed to journal our experiences and impressions, and that’s what this blog post is – a collection of the images I’ve received and the feelings I’ve attempted to cultivate over the past month in preparation for Imbolc.

Each week I closed my eyes and listened to Gabhaim Molta Bríghde as I meditated. I did my best to let go and not strive for any particular experience; in the past I’ve disappointed myself for not getting “enough” feedback from my gods and have gotten upset over some perceived defects of my own. In my self-imposed vacation from solitary ritual I’ve done some growing and thinking. I try to take experiences as they are, with no judgments or comparisons. What I see and experience is not a reflection of my own self worth or Brighid’s love for me. It’s simply how I am in that moment, how my brain responds to ritual, and a million details that are outside my control.

The first week gave me a location for the weeks to come. I have “been” to this place before in meditation; I often have stock locations for exploring my inner world, like a particular meadow in a forest, or in this case, a homestead by the sea. There was an ancient Irish cottage set overlooking the plains leading up to seaside cliffs. A thunderstorm was in the distance and I could see a herd of horses racing across the plains. The cliffs themselves were black, and from my vantage point I could see a trail down from the cottage to the beach, toward a cave half-hidden by a large stone the same color as the cliffs. The cottage itself was homely and warm, with herbs growing on the windowsills and smoke coming up from the chimney.

My first thought upon seeing it, and knowing this was Brighid’s home, was, “Wow, this is way witchier than I thought it was going to be!” I distinctly remember in meditation trying to imagine Brighid as a stereotypical cottage witch, but the image morphed into my head of a scientist in a lab coat with protective goggles and hair pulled back out of her way. Throughout this meditation my perception of Brighid also shifted rapidly to show women of different ages, races, and time periods.

My second week’s meditation was stilted, thanks in part to the pain in my lower back. I’d moved my altar around a bit and unfortunately have no comfortable place to sit in my room. However, I did connect very strongly and swiftly to this pillar of energy and light, set in the same cliffside cottage scene. I remember there being wheeling seabirds and corvids around this pillar and feeling very close to Brighid.

The third week was interesting: instead of meditating while sitting and listening to music, I did a moving meditation where I went through my physical therapy exercises and yoga poses at the base of my altar. The theme was hospitality and I felt not chastised so much as patiently redirected. I realized that I could not focus on hospitality for others if I did not have it for myself. I am part of the greater community and I deserve safety, comfort, and love. Instead of focusing on hospitality as something focused to the outside of myself, I believe Brighid wanted me to redirect it first inward. Self-care is hospitality toward oneself, and I needed to take that duty as seriously as I did all the other work I undertake for my Lady.

The fourth week, tonight, gave me beautiful images of Brighid and myself. The first was a stained glass scene with Brighid above me, reaching down, and myself reaching back up toward Her. This flowed into an ancient, hand-illuminated manuscript in green and gold, inked on vellum and surrounded by flickering candlelight. I felt myself plunge into a racing river and then sink into an ocean, surrounded by seals. Brighid was there in the water with me: pale, young, hair and mantle haloed out around Her in the water. I was transported back to the cottage-by-the-sea where it had been snowing. A gull cried and wheeled above the ocean.

How can I best serve You? I’d asked Her.

Fill your cup, was the response.