Imbolc blog – A warm January in New England as Brighid walks the land

This Moonth has been rather warm here on the mountain. We started January with a brief spate of snow and cold but soon settled into a pattern of weather that is at least ten degrees warmer than “average” every day. Instead of the expected New England snow we are getting rain. I have started imagining a summer with temperatures that are ten degrees above normal and it is unnerving.

There have been no animals around, no coyotes barking their husky calls at dusk, no deer, bears or moose in the yard. No wild turkeys at the feeders or possums at the compost pile. I am thinking it’s because a local lumber company has been cutting for months, just down the road. My hope is that once they are done and the undergrowth comes back, it will provide food, shelter and an increase in wildlife. The only animals that still seem to be in abundance are the beavers. The pond down the road is expertly blocked up by a mound of silt and chewed branches and is over spilling its banks. States with water issues would do well to think of beavers, they create wetlands wherever they go.

As a good American citizen I have been dutifully trying to keep up with the presidential debates. Last night I tried once again to watch the Republicans. While the Democrats are enthusiastically putting forward new ideas and solutions to improve ordinary citizen’s lives, the Republicans seem fearful. “Americans are terrified” said one of them, going on to declare that ISIL is about to get us and therefore we should be contemplating another invasion of the Middle East. Oddly these are the same people who want everyone to walk around with a gun, despite the fact that thirty three thousand Americans kill themselves and each other every year with guns and the evidence shows that having a gun in the home makes it far more likely that someone in that home will die by accident, homicide or suicide. We sure live in a topsy turvy world.

Besides, how do you wage endless wars and also cut taxes? The sainted Ronald Reagan was mentioned in last night’s debate. But there was not a word about how he grew the military and TRIPLED the national debt. “Voodoo economics” was what we called it at the time.

I was unable to listen to the Republican’s for more than a few minutes. I opted instead to watch the new season of the X-Files on Fox. I can see why Fox wanted that show. If you analyze the plot, besides the usual (and well done) search for extra-terrestrials, the new series is fixated on the idea that the BIG EVIL GOVERNMENT is behind all of the planet’s woes. A perfect propaganda platform for Fox. Watch with a discerning eye and see what I mean.

As I type this it is still January. February 1-2 marks the time of Imbolc, the all-important Fire Festival of the Goddess Brighid, who has been my Patroness for thirty years. On the eve of Imbolc I will put out my clooties (strips of cloth to be used for healing work), a bowl of milk and honey and a dish of oatmeal and butter for Brighid as She passes. I will place a candle in the snow (if we have any!) to burn all night, and make a new “Bride doll” out of straw. Below are some facts about this important Celtic festival, followed by the usual book news and a roundup of the past Moonth’s archeology, religion, herb, nature, political and ethics news. Enjoy!

IMBOLC CUSTOMS

  • Make a Brighid’s cross with your kids
    More…
  • How to lay out a Brighid’s “brat” or cloak
    “A ribbon or piece of cloth exposed on St. Briget’s Eve became endowed with curative powers. It was believed that no work which involved the turning of a wheel should take place on the saint’s day. The placing of a periwinkle in each corner of the kitchen likewise hints at a remote pre-agricultural origin for the festival, but it came to be associated with the pastoral promise of spring, of warmth, new grass, lambs and milk. It is said that the saint placed her foot in water on her feast day so that on that day it begins to warm up each year.”
  • Biddy Boys
  • How to make Bairin-Breac / Barmbrack, a traditional Imbolc bread
  • Song for Brighid (video)
  • Gabhaim Molta Bríghde – Ein traditionelles Lied zu Ehren Brigids. / A traditional song honoring Brigid.Original text Irisch-Gälisch:Gabhaim molta Bríde…
    Ionmhain í le hÉirinn
    Ionmhain le gach tír í
    Molaimis go léir íLóchrann geal na Laighneach
    A’ soilsiú feadh na tíre
    Cean ar óghaibh Éireann
    Ceann na mban ar míneTig an geimhreadh dian dubh
    A’ gearradh lena ghéire
    Ach ar Lá ‘le Bríde
    Gar dúinn earrach Éireann
    English translation:I am praising Bridget
    Who is daughter of Ireland
    She is a daughter of all countries
    We all praise herThe bright light of Leinster
    Bringing light to the country
    The leader of the youth of Ireland
    Our leader of gentlewomenHere comes the dark, hard winter
    Cutting with its sharpness
    But on St. Bridget’s Day
    Ireland’s spring is close by
    Deutsche Version:Ich preise dich, Brigid
    geliebt in ganz Irland
    geliebt von allen
    preisen wir dich.Flamme von Leinster
    erfülle das Land mit Licht
    Jede Frau Irlands liebt dich
    jede gute FrauDer Winter kommt dunkel und kalt
    schneidend und frostig daher
    Aber am Tag Brigids
    Kommt der Frühling zu uns.
  • Virtual Shrine of Brighid  (stop by and leave a prayer)

BOOK NEWS

The book has its own Facebook page and can be pre-ordered now on Amazon.com US or Amazon.com UK

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • The second book is SECRET MEDICINES FROM YOUR GARDEN which is also available for pre-order!SecretMedicinesofGarden
    Secret Medicines from Your Garden
    Plants for Healing, Spirituality, and Magic
    Ellen Evert Hopman
    Coming Spring 2016A guided exploration of herbal lore and healing plants found in yards, forests, meadows, and hedgerows
    • Draws on traditional knowledge and remedies from around the world, including Native American, Celtic, and Egyptian traditions
    • Provides simple recipes to safely make herbal remedies from local plants and honey for first aid, immune support, and treatment of common ailments
    • Reveals the “triangle” formula-making system of William LeSassier
    • Explains how to work with plant spirits, herbal astrology, and Animal Spirit Medicine

    Weaving together ancient wisdom, mystical folklore, and modern plant research, master herbalist Ellen Evert Hopman explores the many uses of flowers, trees, common weeds, and ornamental plants for food, medicine, spiritual growth, and magical rituals. She reveals the herbal lore surrounding each plant, drawing on traditional knowledge and remedies from around the world, including Native American, Celtic, and Egyptian traditions. She includes recipes throughout so you can make medicines from wild and domesticated plants easily found in yards, forests, meadows, and hedgerows, and she discusses what to plant to ensure you have leaves, berries, and flowers all year.The author reveals how to quickly intuit an unknown plant’s properties using the signatures of plants—universal indications and contraindications based on the form, color, and location of a plant. She includes an in-depth section on honey and Bee Medicine, allowing you to appreciate the labors of these plant-dependent insects. Exploring the magical role of herbs in ancient ritual, Hopman provides recipes for Egyptian temple incense and their sacred medicine known as “Kyphi” or “Kaphet,” used to purify the body, banish insomnia, and promote vivid dreaming. She explores shamanic Plant Spirit and Animal Spirit Medicine as well as herbal astrology. She also explains the “triangle” formula-making system of her herbal mentor William LeSassier to help you develop custom herbal remedies tailored to a person’s unique strengths and weaknesses.Showing how to easily incorporate wild plants into your life to receive their healing benefits throughout the seasons, Hopman reveals the power of the bounty that Mother Nature has provided right at our doorstep.Ellen Evert Hopman has been a teacher of herbalism since 1983 and is a professional member of the American Herbalists Guild. A Druidic initiate since 1984, she is a founding member of The Order of the White Oak, an Arch Druidess of the Druid Clan of Dana, and a member of the Grey Council of Mages and Sages. The author of several books, including A Druid’s Herbal for the Sacred Earth Year, she lives in Massachusetts.

    Healing Arts Press

    ISBN 978-1-62055-557-6

    Spring 2016

Below you will find the usual last Moonth’s gleanings from the media.

*Reminder* you can always purchase signed books from this website and get a *personal note* from the author! (me)

ARCHEOLOGY NEWS

HERB NEWS

NATURE NEWS

HEALTH NEWS

RELIGION NEWS

NEWS YOU CAN USE

POLITICS AND ETHICS

 

 

February 2013 blog

Last month I reported that a tiny Saw Whet owl had struck my car. I associated the death of the bird with the then recent gun murders of children in Connecticut, and tried not to see it as a personal omen of impending death. But sadly I was wrong. Within a few weeks my thirteen year old, tortoise shell Soul Cat started going downhill. I took her to the vet and he diagnosed Lymphoma. She had to be put down right there in the office.

The vet was very sensitive to my loss. He wrapped her in a pink towel and placed her in a tiny white cardboard coffin. I brought her back home and buried her in the garden, under the Hawthorn trees that bloom with white blossoms in the Spring and are covered in red berries in the Fall. It is a spot that has become a cat cemetery, two other cats of mine are buried nearby, with natural rocks to mark their graves.

I should have known about the warnings from Owls. A few years ago I had a similar Owl experience as I was washing dishes one evening. It was summer and the kitchen door was open, with only a screen between myself and the three miles of woods behind the house. An Owl started to hoot, right outside the door. I had never heard an Owl that close to the house and I thought it must be on the roof, calling for its mate or its children. The hooting persisted. I thought to myself “Wow, that is a very loud Owl” and I kept washing the dishes. Finally the hooting got even louder and more persistent. It went on for several minutes. Finally I said to the Owl: “OK, I get that this is a message, thank you!” and I knew that someone close to me was about to die.

The next morning I turned on my computer and found out that Celtic scholar and linguist Alexei Kondratiev had passed to the Otherworld the previous day. Alexei was a very important person to me, he collaborated on every one of my books, providing Old Irish and Scottish terms for the glossaries, with pronunciation guides. He was generous to a fault, and never asked for payment. I would send him a smoked wild Alaska salmon after each book came out, by way of thanks. Celto-philes will recognize the symbolism of the “Salmon of Wisdom” and why the gift was so appropriate for him. He was my Druid, the touchstone to whom I went with historical and spiritual questions about the ancient Celts and Indo-Europeans.

(Excerpt from my book SCOTTISH HERBS AND FAIRY LORE, Pendraig Publishing)

Owl – In Scottish Gaelic the owl is called Cailleach Oidhche (the night hag) and is generally associated with Goddesses. In Welsh tradition Lleu had a magical wife created for him out of flowers by the magician Gwydion. When his wife, Blodeuwedd, plotted with her lover Gronw to kill him, Llew escaped by transforming himself into an eagle and flying into a magical oak. After regaining his human form Llew turned his wife into an owl. 9

Seasonally, February first to second (because all Celtic festivals begin on the eve of the festival day and last until sundown the next evening) marks the season of Imbolc, the ancient Celtic festival of the lactation of the ewes, of candle blessings, and of the Goddess Brighid. Here in New England we have a “January thaw” about the end of January each year and I like to think its because Brighid herself is walking across the land, greening the hills where her feet tread. After Imbolc the cold descends again and the world is frozen until early March.

There are very subtle changes happening on the mountain. While the ground is still slushy with melting snow, the Kinnikinnick bushes (Red Osier Dogwood, or Red Willow, Cornus stolonifera ) which the First Nations use to make smoking mixtures for personal prayer and ceremony are flaming red against the backdrop of fog and snow. I suspect the reddening of the branches has to do with the lengthening daylight. Flame-red twigs are also a fitting symbol for the Fire Festival of Brighid, the ancient Celtic healing Goddess who is Patroness of the hearth, the forge, and the fires of poetry and inspiration.

I was privileged to watch a family of muskrats down by the pond, as they added dried rushes to the roofs of their lodges, taking advantage of the thaw. I have found Coyote tracks in the snow behind the house. Beyond that, everything is still frozen in its winter stasis and nature is quiet, slumbering into Spring.

Gwyl Mair (Imbolc):

In my books and articles I have generally been focused on the Irish aspects of the Celtic Fire Festivals. I wanted to understand the “British” take on things so I visited Imbolc in Wales on 12/14/2012 and revisited The Apple Branch – A Path to Celtic Ritual, by Alexei Kondratiev, in order to understand the Welsh aspects of the season. According to tradition Sant Ffraid (Saint Brighid) floated over from Ireland on a piece of turf. (Presumably that is how the Irish Imbolc customs came to Wales).

In Wales Imbolc is called Gwyl Fair y Canhwyllau or “Mary’s festival of the candles” and Gwyl Mair Dechrau’r Gwanwyn or “The Feast of Mary at the Beginning of Spring”.

In English the festival was called “Candlemas” when folk brought their candles to be blessed by placing them on the altar of a church. Candles were also carried in processions or placed in kitchen windows. The mistress of the farm would give the head maid a lighted candle to be used later in the autumn. That candle was to be used during the darkest part of the year, the time for working by candle light, and handed back on February 2nd, when it was light enough that the animals could be fed without the use of a flame.

Divinations were done; two candles were placed on a bench or table and each family member would take a turn sitting between the candles. They would take a drink such as beer from a beaker or horn and then throw the goblet behind them, over their head. If it fell upright that presaged a long life, if it fell bottom up, that meant an early death.

Sunshine on Candlemas Day that meant there would be a good harvest, but if a single crow circled or hovered over the house on Candlemas Eve, that was a bad omen.

* Remember – when you purchase books and DVDs from this site you get a signed copy and a FREE personal note! *

*** Upcoming Workshop Announcement ***

I and my friend Crystalline Ruby Muse, an outstanding Celtic Bard, have created a weekend workshop that will take place this Fall at Earthlands Institute for Environmental Awareness September 20-22, in Western Massachusetts. The workshop is timed for the start of the Fall foliage season, with six vegetarian meals and lodging provided (and airport pickups for those who need them). Folks are registering already, a deposit will hold your space. Find the flier by opening the link below and please share widely!

Celtic Tree Magic Flyer

Celtic Tree Magic Workshop
With Master Herbalist and author Ellen Evert Hopman
And Celtic Bard Crystalline Ruby Muse

Workshop Overview

The ancient Druids of Ireland used the Ogham Tree Alphabet to share coded messages hidden from outsiders. Each letter is named for a tree or plant, and is surrounded with medicinal and spiritual lore. For centuries this language was only transmitted orally in order to protect its secrets.

Using the Auraicept na n-Éces, a 7th century work of Irish scholars, as well as other traditional sources, we will reveal the meaning of this language. We will teach the poetic, spiritual, medicinal and divinatory meanings of these Celtic trees, all of which can be found in North America, in a context useful for modern seekers. We will venture outdoors where we will lead participants in connecting with the trees through meditation, observation, singing and dancing amongst them. Participants will make wands for individual use using the Ogham divinatory meanings as a guide.

We will teach traditional and modern songs and incantations in Irish, Scots Gaelic, and English to deepen the cultural and spiritual context of our work together. The entire course will be interwoven with ceremony created through Celtic Reconstructionist scholarship, offering participants insight into original Celtic polytheistic spiritual practices.

Students will leave with homemade wands and experience in using them; knowledge for using the Ogham as a divinatory tool; deeper awareness of and connection with ancient and extant Celtic culture; some understanding of how to use these trees as medicine; traditional and original songs to sing in Gaelic and English; insight into ritual in a uniquely Celtic context that they can continue to develop in their own spiritual practice; and a greater sense of connection to the spiritual realms as expressed through nature, song, and community ceremony.

This workshop is appropriate for people who are completely new to the Ogham and Celtic Reconstructionist ceremony, as well as people who have some experience but would like to expand their knowledge and skills. It will be roughly one-third lecture, two-thirds participatory experience, which will include space for a question-and-answer format in which to cover the students’ preferred material.

For information on costs, more about the presenters, and the location of the workshop (in Petersham, MA at the beautiful Earthlands Institute for Environmental Awareness) please download the flyer.

Below you will find this Moonth’s assortment news, freshly gleaned from the internet;

NATURE NEWS

CELTIC NEWS

ARCHEOLOGY NEWS

HISTORY

LANGUAGE NEWS

DRUID NEWS

RELIGION NEWS

HEALTH NEWS

POLITICS/ETHICS

May Brighid spread Her cloak of healing, peace, and inspiration over everyone who reads these pages. A blessed Imbolc to all!

* Remember – when you purchase books and DVDs from this site you get a signed copy and a FREE personal note! *