First: obligatory holiday greetings and blessings for a season of hope, joy, and peace for you and yours.
Second: It has been an embarrassingly long time since I’ve updated this blog, and there has been a lot of uncomfortable but necessary change going on in my life. I feel like the exact nature of those changes and a detailed State of the Sage should wait for another post, because I’ve just been hit with a spark of something and I’m going to do my best to capture it right now. Strike while the iron is hot – and, considering Who I’ll be writing about tonight, the blacksmithing metaphor couldn’t be more relevant.
Third: I have just finished my first ritual to Brighid for the first time in months.
You know that embarrassing moment of running into someone who used to be an incredibly close friend of yours who, for whatever reason, you’ve fallen out of contact with – not that there was a falling out, but life started getting in the way and you always meant to return that email or poke them on Facebook and just never got around to it – and all you can think about it what a jerk you’ve been for not taking five minutes to sit down and see how they were doing? So you make a shallow attempt at small talk, smile brightly, and quickly excuse yourself with the promise of catching up later, in the future, at some point that is not now. Now, you’re being followed by a nagging feeling and you know you really should pick up that phone and dial that number you know by heart and explain just where you’ve been all this time – but every second you put it off makes the rift a little bigger, and the bigger the rift is the harder it is to pick up that phone.
At least, that’s how relationships go for me. (So note: if it’s been awhile since I talked to you, it’s probably not your fault. I’m more than likely huddled in a ball of anxiety instead.)
I’m not always good at putting into words just what Brighid meant and still means to me. When the whole Lady of the Stars thing happened on the Cauldron last November, for the first time since Christianity I could finally call myself a theist again with more assurance than not. For the majority of my post-Christian spiritual career, despite all my efforts, prayers, entreaties, and times I did nothing more than bang my head against the wall, I could not feel the present of Deity. I couldn’t feel anything – my early Wiccan days and my experiences at Bryn Mawr’s Pagan group let to a lot of angst over an inability to sense energy, feel the power of a cast circle, or connect with any unseen forces at all. When the Lady came knocking at my door (and the door of several other members of the Cauldron), I felt a complicated mix of relief, humility, uncertainty, and yes, a little bit of fear. Fear not of Her, but of what this meant in my life now, and fear that even with this ‘proof’ I finally received that somehow, my belief wouldn’t be enough. And when the Lady led me to/revealed Herself to be Brighid, all those feelings intensified.
Over the past several months, nearly all of my spiritual practices and commitments have been pushed to the side. I have a million and one reasons for this: my time, energy, and dedication have been used up elsewhere as I entered my senior year, began working on my honors thesis, helped my coven prepare Roanoke’s first Pagan Pride Day, navigated the choppy waters of running a Pagan club at a Lutheran college in Virginia, dealt with one of the worst professors of my college career, and found myself in a relationship with the most amazing, brilliant, beautiful young woman I have ever met. All of these things, good and bad, have taken a toll on my already dismal time management skills, and my ongoing struggle with anxiety and depression have made what little free time I had to myself into a less than ideal opportunity for tending to my own spirituality. I stopped posting at the Cauldron (though I’ve started lurking again), put my Dedicant Path work on hold, and let my shrine to Brighid go untended. This semester hasn’t been a complete spiritual black hole – Loki, of all people, has been popping in and out for a few months, and I’ve recently developed an inexplicable fascination with Kemeticism and a few of the Netjeru – but it has felt like all my personal progress has ground to a halt if not started sliding backwards.
One of my greatest regrets in all this has been neglecting my relationship with Brighid. Unfortunately, I oftentimes have a very all-or-nothing attitude which impedes much in my life. Either I’m devoting myself to Brighid (whatever I take that to mean), or I’m not talking to Her. Either I have time to sit down every day and work on the Dedicant Path, or I’m not working on it at all. Either I’m painting with black paint or white paint, and don’t even talk to me about exploring shades of gray, much less different colors. And so I’m walking by my Brighid shrine in my school apartment, trying not to feel guilty for letting the altar cloth get bunched up or not cleaning up incense ashes or leaving the offering bowl unfilled. The few times I reach out through prayer I feel nothing, so eventually I stop trying, and suddenly it’s winter break and I have all this time now to sit, ponder, and reflect. Suddenly, I’ve run out of all my old excuses.
I hadn’t intended to talk to Brighid tonight, no more than I’d intended to start talking with Her in the first place. The top of my bookshelf, recently cleaned with the rest of my room since coming home for the break, has become home to a few candles and a vase of dried flowers in anticipation of becoming Someone’s shrine. After my evening devotional, this space caught my eye and I was moved by a sudden burst of inspiration. Candles were added, rearranged, and lit; I moved my icon of Brighid, a small painting commissioned by a friend, to rest against the vase. I looked at the eyes of my painted Brighid, poised with hammer in midair above Her blacksmith’s anvil, look of serene focus on Her face. I apologized, I prayed, but it wasn’t until I sang the Lady of the Star Fire chant and fell into silence that I could hear Her still, quiet voice again.
You can always begin again, She told me. You can always come home. I am here.
“I am here,” I repeated softly in reply.
Hail Brighid, Lady of the Star Fire, Starsmith, the Great Illuminator, the still-point of my turning world – hail, and welcome. It’s good to be back.