This was going to be a post about my nine-day prayer cycle I’ve started for Brighid today and morphed into a general State of the Sage address coupled with musings on what Brighid’s meant to me in my life. A lot of this may sound redundant if you’ve read my blog before or see me post on Facebook or TC.
2014 so far has been a doozy for me. I’ve gotten halfway through my MLIS (Masters in Library and Information Science) which puts me one step closer toward my dream job. I ended a 2.5 year relationship at the end of January to much tears and grief; it was a painful and necessary lesson about how important trust and communication are in relationships, romantic and otherwise. (I’m now seeing someone casually and the difference in my stress and comfort levels are astronomical.) I recently came out on Facebook about being hazed at my first undergraduate school and contacted the dean of student affairs about my experience. That was five years of emotional baggage and trauma I’d been carrying with me and while I’m still processing much of it, I feel like I’m in a place where I can finally begin to heal.
When I first met Brighid I was undergoing a similar series of upsets good and bad in my life. It was November 2010 that I really felt Brighid’s presence and wanted to figure out who this Lady was. I’d just transferred away from a liberal, feminist woman’s college (where I experienced said hazing) to a local private, conservative Lutheran college (where I eventually graduated). I started my school’s Pagan Fellowship (the only non-Abrahamic group at the time and the only group besides campus Hillel that was non-Christian) and generally caused a ruckus in my religion classes as the default Pagan feminist in the room.
(Which, at the time, was a bit of a mystery to me. I didn’t start identifying with feminism or other social justice stuff until the year after; partially this was because of my negative experiences at my first college where I’d been hazed in an environment that professed to respect the safety and autonomy of all individuals. I in fact remember feeling staunchly anti-feminist when I arrived at my second college… despite what all my friends around me thought.)
In September 2010 I started seeing a school therapist. In October I was finally diagnosed by my GP with dysthymia and put on Lexapro to manage some of the symptoms, which I still take to this day. The next month I had a spiritual experience of ‘meeting’ Brighid through Her guise as Lady of the Stars. To this day it remains one of the few instances in my life that I’ve felt the presence of a deity (or any sort of spiritual energy at all). I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the arrival of Brighid in my life came at a time I was trying to figure out how to best support my mental health, nor at a time I was slowly coming into my own as a feminist and supporter of social justice. For me Brighid is, above all, a goddess and patron of healing, both at the individual and societal level. Fire becomes the great equalizer, giving people access to warmth and light that not only allows for survival but encourages thriving and resilience. When one part of the whole experiences healing and equality, the whole follows suit. The whole cannot function without the safety and empowerment of each individual.
“Traditional” religious practice has not always sat well with me. I haven’t done ritual in a very, very long time; I can’t even remember the last holy day I celebrated or the last time I prayed with any regularity. Part of this has to do with my own innate skepticism and bad experiences being raised as a Baptist; I had a lot of not very healthy exposure to religion before I finally cut and run from Christianity in high school and as a result shy away from situations that make me feel spiritually or emotionally vulnerable. Part of this is that I’m just an intellectual creature and my life as a whole (whether it’s religion or social justice or fandom) tends to filter through my head first rather than my heart. Which is something I’m okay with. I spent a lot of time worrying that I was a “bad” Pagan and that this was something that needed fixing rather than seeing it as just how I’m naturally built and prefer to deal with things.
That said, I also see the benefit in pushing my boundaries (safely and with respect to their existence) and continuing to explore my relationship with Brighid. My religious life at the moment is very comfortable. I don’t think comfort is always a bad thing, particularly in terms of making safe space for oneself in an area that may be littered with potential triggers. I do think though that beginning to expand one’s comfort zone in ways that allow one to have full control and autonomy can be healthy and helpful given the right circumstances.
So all these spectacular ramblings in mind have led me to consider a reorienting myself toward Brighid. Working to help release Clann Bhride materials to the public and building up the Facebook community has been pretty spectacular for me. Something that I’ve wanted to do for the burgeoning CB community has been to focus on our Nine Elements of belief and practice. While there’s certainly wiggle room for individual interpretation of each element – and while there’s no one policing the hearts and minds of those who choose to participate in CB’s online community or use our materials – I personally see these elements as a blueprint for building up my own relationship with Brighid. Understanding each element and how it fits into the larger (and growing) structure of Clann Bhride is a way to cement what does and doesn’t mesh with my current spiritual practice and give me a general guide for where I’d like to grow next.
For nine days, starting today, I am pledging myself to daily prayer and devotion to Brighid. There are daily offerings and prayers in our Book of Hours with materials in place for a morning, midday, and evening set of prayers. (These times are relative to the practitioner’s own life. For example, my morning prayers happened around 11:45 AM right after I woke up. My midday prayers were around 4 PM, and I expect my evening prayers will be said around midnight before I go to bed.) Each day I’ll contemplate on a different principle or practice from the Nine Elements. As there are three individual prayers written out for each of the three daily times for praying, then I’ll be saying nine prayers every day – and nine prayers times nine days equals a whopping eighty-one prayers recited over the course of about a week and a half. Not too shabby for someone who routinely forgets to say any prayers whatsoever. 🙂
Here’s what I’m hoping to gain over the next several days:
- An ingrained habit of regular prayer and reflection
- Better memorization of the Book of Hours daily prayers
- More positive associations with things like praying and quiet contemplation
- Writing the first draft of essays which will focus on each of the Nine Elements
- Building the CB community by sharing my experiences on the Facebook group (and encouraging others to do the same!)
I’m sure there will be more advantages to this little devotional project of mine. I look forward to writing about these experiences as I have them over the next nine days. 🙂