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.

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