by Autumn Rose

Autumn Rose

Autumn Rose

A complete seasonal ritual includes a Seasonal Activity, also known as Grove's Choice when the ritual is performed by a group.  Below is a suggested Imbolc activity for a solitary practitioner, with a proposed variation for a Grove.

Fill a fondue dish with ice cubes.  Place the dish, along with its base, an unlit red votive candle, and matches or a lighter, at the front of the altar.

Elevate the dish of ice cubes.

Say: This is the frigid Land, stark and barren as the Cailleach holds it yet in her icy grip.  Set the dish down.

Light the candle and elevate it.
Say: This is the fire of Brigid, which warms the frozen Land that it may once again become fertile. 

Place the candle in the base and the dish on top of it.
Say: The struggle between Brigid and the Cailleach is an ancient one.  The Crone will not easily surrender her dominion over the Land.  But the fire of Brigid burns eternally, and only for a while can it be damped.  Now, as it does every year at this time, the struggle begins.  May the fire of Brigid burn bright and hot.  May the Cailleach be driven back to her lair.  I add my warm breath to the warmth of Brigid, to aid in her vital work.

Blow on the ice cubes.

Variation for a Grove:

At the beginning of the seasonal rite the Grove Tender distributes ice cubes to the participants, who then file past the altar and place their cubes in the fondue dish.  At the end of it  the participants again file past the altar, each one blowing on the ice cubes to assist Brigid in her task of warming.

(When the ice cubes are melted, you may wish to save the meltwater in a consecrated vessel to use in a cleansing ritual of your choosing, at Spring Equinox or some other time.)


GryphonSong Clan – Feast of Awakening (Imbolc 2014)

Photo of GryphonSong's Keltrian Druid Altar
GryphonSong Altar

Our group is moving toward preparations for The Feast of Awakening in our area.  We will be enacting the sevenfold blessing of stepping through Brid's Girdle (the Crois Bhrighde ).  Healing and Protecting Mantles (Bhrighde Bhrat) will be hanging in the branches all around our Clan's Nemeton.  Our clan family and guests will be told to take them home but leave them outside all night to fully impart the Blessings of Breo-Saighit...our much loved Fiery Arrow.

"A Brighid,
scars os mo chionn
Do bhrat fionn dom anacal?

[Trans: "O Brighid,
 spread over my head
your bright mantle 
to guard me?]

No fire, no sun, no moon shall burn me,
No lake, no water, nor sea shall drown me,
No arrow of fairy, nor dart of fay shall wound me.

May the blessings of Brid of the Many Names
be with all of our Keltrian family as we collectively
join our Tree selves in the Great Work of awakening the Earth!
As was shared by our Matron


I put songs and music on the wind
before ever the bells of the chapels were
rung in the West 
or heard in the East.

I am Brighid-nam-Bratta (Brighid of the Mantle),
but I am also Brighid-Muirghin-na-tuinne (Brighid of the conception of the waves),
and Brighid-sluagh (Brighid of the immortal host),

Brighid-nan-sitheach seang (Brighid of the slim faery folk),
(Brighid of sweet songs and melodious mouth),
and I am older than Aona (Friday) 
and am as old as Luan (Monday).

And in Tir-na-h'oige (Land of the Ever Young)
my name is Suibhal-bheann (Mountain traveler);
in Tir-fo-thuinn (Country of the Waves)  
it is Cu gorm (Grey Hound);
and in Tir-nah'oise  (Country of Ancient Years)
 it is Sireadh-thall (Seek-beyond).

And I have been a breath in your heart.

And the day has its feet to it that will see me
coming into the hearts of men and women
like a flame upon dry grass,
like a flame of wind in a great wood...

May your hearts open with hope and joy like the first peeking flowers of the coming Spring!

Walk with Wisdom,
Eibhlean and GryphonSong Clan

Mother of Waters: Boann and River Goddesses

The Druid's Path

Mother of Waters: Boann and River Goddesses

by Jenne Micale

Photo of Jenne Micale

Jenne Micale

The mighty Susquehanna courses through the land where I live. Sometimes placid, brown-faced and slow, sometimes she roars to the drumming of the downpour, tearing away streets, homes, livelihoods, lives. She has many moods and many tributaries, fertilizing the farm fields with her floods, drawing human communities to her banks in the days of water transportation.

I especially honor Boann of the Susquehanna in early springtime when – in a normal year – the ice cracks and breaks, freeing her flow from winter’s prison. It’s a treacherous, exciting time, one that can often lead to ice jams that flood neighborhoods.

Rivers are goddesses in Celtic tradition, which is why I refer to the Susquehanna with a female pronoun. It’s an old association, with roots that span Indo-European cultures. Witness, for example, some of the river goddesses of India: Yamuna, Ganga of the Ganges, and Sarasvati, whose river dried up in ancient times but who lingers as the matron of the arts and learning. Goddesses were connected with rivers and springs in both Gaul and the British Isles, which were often the site of healing shrines: Sequana of the Seine, Coventina, Sabrina of the Severn, Brigantia of the Brent, and Sinann of the Shannon, to name a few. James Joyce’s Anna Livia Plurabelle, the personification of the River Liffey in Finnegan’s Wake, is a modern example.

Worshiped today as the Earth Mother, Danu may have originally been a river goddess, linked to streams such as the Danube, Don, Dneiper and others (Rees, 53). Sanskrit literature includes a river goddess of the same name (MacKillop 9), who is the mother of the serpent Vrtra, the adversary of Indra who holds back the waters of heaven (Rees 53).

The river goddess most prominent in Keltrian lore is Boann or Boand, the great lady of the Boyne, considered in some circles to be the Ganges of Ireland. In my own practice, I view Boann as the goddess of all rivers, albeit in localized forms; I invoke Boann of the Susquehanna and Boann of the Chenango, for example. She is the goddess not only of the physical river, but of the celestial river above, the Milky Way and the wheel of time.

Boann’s name is frequently assumed to be derived from Bo Finn, or “White Cow”; an alternate translation would be “Great Cow” (Rua 24) or “She who has white cows.” In some tales, however, her name is also given as Eithne, “sweet nut meat,” perhaps a reference to the hazelnuts that grow around the Well of Segais; Patricia Monaghan believes Boann to be the same as Eithne who is the daughter of the Fomhoire Balor, and who lay with Cian and conceived Lugh (183). Boann has a sister – the goddess of childbirth Bébinn – and even a dog, Debilla (MacKillop 13).

Akin to the connection between rivers and goddesses, the connection of cows with water also has cross-cultural roots.  A Vedic hymn describes Danu laying down with her son “like a cow with her calf” (Rig Veda 150). The Rig Veda, one of the oldest texts in the Indo-European tradition, consistently refers to  the waters released by the storm-god Indra as cows (151), who may be synonymous with the “seven rivers” (161).

In Ceisiwr Serith’s reconstructed Proto-Indo-European pantheon, the ur-deity that becomes Boann is the cow goddess Gwouwinda, a “completely benevolent character” who functions as a wife, mother and bestower of abundance upon her worshippers (67).  Cow-goddesses in other cultures include the Roman Juno; the Greek Hera with her epithet of Bopis, or cow-eyed; and, of course, the many bovine goddesses of India, including the spirits of the waters, the aforementioned Danu and Sarasvati herself (67-68). As one Vedic  hymn states: “Your inexhaustible breast, Sarasvati, that flows with the food of life, that you use to nourish all that one could wish for, freely giving treasure and wealth and beautiful gifts – bring that here for us to suck” (RV, 81). The goddess gives both water and milk, the substance of life itself, the sustenance that becomes fertility and wealth.

For Aedh Rua, Boann isn’t just the goddess of the river; she is the goddess of the moon, who is allegedly referred to as a cow in Irish folk-speech (24). Rua also suggests that she is the river of heaven: the Milky Way, or the “Way of the White Cow.”  In Irish, that equates to Bealach na Bó Finne (Ellis). Interestingly, this also recalls the Greek myth of the Milky Way as milk from Hera’s breasts that spilled as she nursed Heracles.

Tales of the river

In Irish myth, Boann is the wife of Elcmar or Nechtan, who are sometimes believed to be synonymous with Nuada; both the names Nechtan and Nuada are believed to be connected with the Gaulish Nodens. Scholar Jaan Puhvel also links Nechtan linguistically with the Roman Neptunus, the Indo-Iranian Napat and ultimately with the Vedic Apam Napat, the “Offspring of the Waters” who contains a sacred, hidden fire (277-280).

Photo of Anna Livia Plurabelle

Anna Livia Plurabelle

While her husband is away, Boann lays with the Dagda and conceives Aonghus Mag Og, the Young Son associated with love and springtime. To conceal her adultery, she – or, in some versions of the tale, the Dagda -- stops time, making nine months appear as a single day.  His birth thus concealed, Aonghus is given to his half-brother Midhir to raise.

Boann and Sinann, the goddess of the River Shannon and daughter or granddaughter of the sea-god Lir, share an identical myth. The goddess goes to the forbidden well of knowledge and circumambulates it widdershins, whether to gain its power for herself or to cleanse herself of the adultery that conceived Aonghus. Offended, the waters rise up and pursue her. She flees to the sea – giving up her physical body in the process, and becoming the goddess of the newly created river. Interestingly, the creation of the river through death has echoes yet again in India, where Yami -- the twin sister of the death god Yama and the first woman – ultimately becomes the Yamuna.

Boann in particular is believed to be the mother of many of the world’s prominent rivers, with her stream passing underground at various locations and ultimately returning to her source at Nechtan’s well (Puhvel 279). Her interaction with the well isn’t just an act of transgression; like the Vedic Indra, Boann “releases the water for all people – a fact which is acknowledged in most poetic texts, since it is Boand, not Nechtan, who is remembered as the source and patroness of the fertile imagination of poets,” according to Caitlin and John Matthews (17). She is the source of inspiration in other ways as well, since she is believed to be the mother by Dagda’s harper Uaithne of the three strains of music : lamentation, joy and sleep (Matthews 327).

Plucking the strings of my harp, I sing to honor the Mother of Waters both above and below, she who bestows abundance and wisdom hard-won:

White cow
White river
Flower of wisdom
Mother of love
White moon
White foam
Mother of the Waters



  • Ellis, Peter Berresford. “Early Irish Astrology: An Historical Argument.” First published in Réalta vol 3 no.3 1996. Retrieved March 10, 2012 from http://www.radical- astrology.com/irish/miscellany/ellis.html.
  • MacKillop, James. Myths and Legends of the Celts. New York: Penguin Books, 2005.
  • Matthews, Caitlin and John. The Encyclopedia of Celtic Wisdom. Rockport, Mass.: Element, 1994.
  • Monaghan, Patricia. The Red-Haired Girl from the Bog: The Landscape of Celtic Myth and Spirit. Novato, CA: New World Library, 2003.
  • Puhvel, Jaan. Comparative Mythology. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987.
  • Rees, Alwayn and Brinley. Celtic Heritage: Ancient tradition in Ireland and Wales. London: Thames and Hudson, 1978.
  • The Rig Veda. Trans. Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty. New York: Penguin Books, 1981.
  • Rua, Aedh. Celtic Flame: An Insider’s Guide to Irish Pagan Tradition. New York: iUniverse, 2008.
  • Serith, Ceisiwr. Deep Ancestors: Practicing the Religion of the Proto-Indo-Europeans. Tucson: ADF Publishing, 2007.

Note: You can hear me sing the chant above on my album, The Twisted Book, available at


Kilclooney More Portal Tomb – Part 2 of 2

Kilclooney More Portal Tomb

Part 2 of 2

by Steward of the Wood

Continued from Part 1 of 2

Photo of Steward of the Wood at Kilclooney More Portal

Steward of the Wood

The deer we saw were so graceful; and as we passed along the track, they looked up.  In love and deference, they slightly bowed their heads in silent acknowledgement to their Lord, Spirit of the Buck.  At that moment, Steward became aware of the thoughts of the Spirit of the Buck.  He thought, “Steward, on a later journey, you will meet Cernunnos, God of Wild Things and Wild Places.  Cernunnos told me that, like me, he knew you in past lives and even in your current life, he sees you in the forests of the mundane world.  He and his children guide you.  He knows your strong desire to meet and learn from him.”

After a seemingly brief walk, we arrived in the Sacred Grove.  It was about 90 feet across and was encircled by nine enormous oaks.  Their crowns touched on the sides yielding a continuous ring of branches and leaves.  The soil was level and exuded fertility.  Soft to walk on, it was a moist, deep dark brown in color with its top layer infused with leaf mould, surely the home of earth worms and other creatures.

A large stone altar stood in the center and it faced east.  The altar resembled a recumbent stone held within a stone circle that Steward had seen in Scotland with one large stone, six feet long, lying on its side and one standing stone on either side of the recumbent stone.  The standing stones were about the same size as the recumbent stone.  Each stone displayed numerous symbols: circles, wheels, concentric circles, spirals, zigzag lines, and fish.

Finally a well stood on the southeast side near the entrance of the Grove but inside it.  There were nine hazels growing around it in a circle with the crowns touching on the sides and almost touching in the middle over the well.  The well itself was about six feet in diameter and the perimeter consisted of a low stone wall about three feet high.

Since Steward was standing at the southeast entrance to the Grove, he could see the well clearly and it too had similar ancient symbols carved on its stones.  Compared to the altar, more of the symbols on the well were fish.  “Ah, they are salmon and this is the Well of Segais.  It must contain the Salmon of Wisdom who feed on the sacred hazel nuts,” he thought.

Reading his mind, Guide said aloud, “Yes, Steward, this is the Well of Segais.  On a later journey you will meet Boann, Goddess of Springs and Cattle Goddess.  But now, we must not keep her waiting.  Please enter the Grove and offer your praise as you circle the altar, then she will meet you at the eastern portal.”

Steward slowly entered the Sacred Grove.  Tentative at first but with growing confidence, he moved deiseil around the altar.  “Greetings to you loved ones, Nature Spirits: spirit of the deer, of the trees, and birds; so to you Hidden Ones, the faeries, elves, and dwarfs.  I also honor and greet you, Ancestors, my ancestors of this sacred land and Druids of Old.  Gods and Goddesses of my people, my tribe, I honor you and lift you up in glory,” He intoned.  As he approached the eastern portal, he saw movement in the forest and then a woman moved slowly into the Grove.

Tall and lithe, she moved with elegant grace.  Her long, dark, wavy hair cascaded over her shoulders and down her back, helping to frame the beautiful green gown that she wore.  Obviously of fine wool, the gown was covered in Celtic patterns of intricate needle-point.  When their eyes met, blue eyes smiled laughingly back at Steward.  “So you finally came, Steward of the Wood.  I haven’t seen you here since your last life span with us.”

“I have just discovered the portal, Brigid, Goddess of Inspiration, Healing, and Fire in the Hearth,” Steward said.  “Somehow I knew it was you who beckoned me when Epona said ‘She has been expecting you.’  I pray to you daily and we speak in my meditations.  You are even more inspiring to behold in person.  I love you, Brigid, and honor you, dedicating my lives to you.”  Brigid smiled and said, “Yes, we are together frequently in spirit and I guide you as requested.  I know that you are on the Bardic Path and have a request of you.”  At that, Steward slowly, reverently, stepped forward and gently leaned forward as his hands sought hers, in a gesture to kiss them.  With one surprisingly swift motion, she clasped his arms, drawing him to her.  Her embrace was strong for one so lithe.

Steward was enthralled in a state of rapture.  She enveloped him in an embrace that emitted love, healing, yet enlightening and accepting.  When Steward could regain a little of his senses, he felt that they literally glowed, emitting white, healing light.  Inspiration filled his very being…lifting him, skyward.

His spirit soared, banking, climbing, and diving over the forest.  He felt like a giant bird, a hawk, and he began to sense his shape.  And to his astonishment, he was a hawk…a red-tailed hawk.  The rush of the air was exhilarating.  He looked down and even though he was 1000 feet in the air, he could see objects clearly on the ground in forest openings.  Baking left, he spied the Sacred Grove as the distinctive circle of the large oaks.

Suddenly, from above, he heard the shrill call of a hawk.  As he quickly banked to look up, another red-tailed hawk came screaming, and then laughing, past him in a steep dive.  Steward dove following her and then he knew her, it was Brigid!  The pair played on the sylphs of the wind, climbing, diving, circling, chasing, and being chased.  It was ecstatic, beyond inspiring.

Finally, she slowed and circled to place herself beside him as they slowly soared together, side by side in the crisp, blue sky.  Suddenly he could feel her presence inside him, speaking to him.  “Steward, is this the inspiration you seek?”  “It is, my Lady,” he responded.  “Follow me then,” her thoughts spoke.

At this moment she dove for the earth, the Grove in sight.  She circled down in a spiral with Steward following.  He could see their bodies on the ground still locked in embrace, flowing in the rapture.  Brigid, in her hawk-form with wings spread like a parachute and taloned feet outstretched, approached Brigid in her woman-form and the two merged into the woman-form.  Steward followed suit.  The approach was swift and scary but the merging of spirits, as his hawk-form touched his man-form, was quick and effortless.

Back in his man-form, feeling like melted butter in the after-glow of the experience, Steward felt weak but exceptionally good.  Brigid held him, less firmly now and more supportive.  Sensing his weakness, she helped him over to the nearby well where they sat on the stone wall.

Steward of the Wood was the first to speak, “Brigid, you know my request to you for inspiration.  As a Druid and a Bard-in-training, I seek your help.”

“I agree to help you.  How did you like the first lesson,” she asked laughing heartily?  “In all seriousness though, this is a hard, yet extremely fulfilling path you tread.  After many past lives that you have led, it is now time to move into the Druidic realm.  But it is hard at times, joyous at other, and frequently lonely.  Remember, now you serve others.  It is time that your past knowledge is put to use serving the mundane world and the Otherworld.  Past lives as a deer, a hawk, a salmon, a wren, a drop of water, a tree, and many other beings, inform your knowledge.  Bring them to bear.”

“I understand,” said Steward, the words flowing through him like a river.  “I sensed the time was right.  As long as I can remember, the calling of the Earth Mother and her children beckoned me.  My Grandmother, the embodiment of the Earth Mother, firmly guided and sharpened my desire to know my Ancestors.  The Gods and Goddesses called to me and I learned about them in many cultures.  Four years ago, the ancient memories of the Celts and my heritage, imbedded in my genes, spoke to me in a clear voice.  The memories said, “Come home.”

“Listen carefully, Steward,” the Goddess said lovingly but in a slightly forceful manner.  “You are on an ancient search.  This search has guided you through many lifetimes, many cycles, and many eras.  With your interest in walking the path of Druidry, focus on being a Bard now.  Learn those skills.  They will serve you well.  Your teacher, Wren, will lead you.  Give her your full attention.  I will work with both of you.”

“Now the time has come for you to depart,” said Brigid.  “Walk with wisdom.  I love you and am with you always.”  At that, she stood and Steward joined her.  They embraced and Steward closed his eyes, seeking to burn the warm, accepting, loving feelings into his brain.  “Thank you, Goddess, thank you,” he said, the only words that he could muster as he was overcome with deep emotion.

She loosened the embrace and gently separated from him, looking deeply into his eyes…and soul.  “I have helped you in other ways in other lifetimes, but in your human lifetime, you and I are bound closely and you can count on me.”

“And you can count on me.  I dedicate myself to you and this Bardic pathway,” Steward replied.

“Go then, but visit me here often,” said Brigid.

“I pledge to do so,” sighed Steward.

Steward stepped back, bowed slightly to her, and continued the circle deiseil to the entrance on the southeast where guide and Spirit of the Buck awaited him.

Just before leaving, Steward turned to face the Grove.  In a strong, clear voice, he addressed it.  “Ancient Ones, Wise Ones and Hidden Ones, Gods and Goddesses, and Ancestors, I, Steward of the Wood, your child thank you.  I am refreshed as I hope you are by our communion.  It is time for me to depart but I will return soon now that I have discovered the portal.  I thank you with all my mind, body, and spirit.  I thank the Goddess Brigid, for her love and nurture.”

Then he turned to face outward from the Grove and addressed Guide and the Spirit of the Buck, “Are you ready my dear friends?  I cannot thank you enough for your guidance and help.”

“We enjoy your presence, Steward of the Wood.  It is a pleasure for us to have you here and we expect to see you often now.   This Path can be harsh at times, so prepare for some surprises on future visits,” said Guide.  Spirit of the Buck looked at Steward and his thoughts came through to Steward loud and clear, “My son, Steward of the Wood, I have enjoyed your visit.  On future visits, you will join me on forays deep into the forests and Cernunnos and his children will join us.  Also someone else who you just met will be with you from now on.”   At that moment, he motioned upward with his head.  Steward looked up to see a large, red-tailed hawk circling overhead.  As their eyes met, the hawk dipped a wing to Steward and shrieked!

The journey back to the mundane world sped by quickly for Steward.  His mind was swimming as he parted from Guide, Spirit of the Buck, and Spirit of the Hawk as he crossed over the Veil.  So much had happened to him but he was well on the Bardic Path now.  He thanked Manannán Mac Lir for opening the Veil so that he could pass.  “Manannán Mac Lir, I am so grateful to you for helping me by parting the Veil.   Thank you,” said Steward.  “Gladly, I part the Veil for a child of Danu.  Please come often, Steward.”

“I will do so, Manannán.  Walk with wisdom,” said Steward.  Then he entered the passage in the sídhe and journeyed back to the mundane world.

As he exited the dolman, Epona greeted him.  “Steward of the Wood, how was your journey?  Well, I hope.  Did you gain what you sought from Brigid?”

“I did that,” said Steward.  “She has agreed to help me in my Bardic path.  She will serve as my muse and the source of my inspiration.”  At that moment, they were interrupted by a high pitched shriek.  Looking up into the blue sky, they saw a hawk…a red-tailed hawk sailing by.   “It is the Spirit of the Hawk,” said Steward.  “She is the messenger of Brigid and represents inspiration for me.”

Epona smiled and nodded her head knowingly, then turned the white horse toward the gate.  As they walked, Steward reflected on the events of the past few hours.  He had been praying, meditating and seeking guidance and help from the Goddess Brigid as he moved forward as a Bard.  Little had he imagined that those prayers would be answered.  She had soared with him and now he was firmly on his way.

At the gate, Steward looked up into the face of the Goddess Epona.  She was faithful to him and so would he be to her.  “Goddess, thank you.  You have guided me to the Otherworld and I am eternally grateful,” said Steward.

“I understand and gladly serve my destiny.  Please come again, Steward of the Wood.  We await your return,” Epona said.

Steward turned from her, the white mare, and the black dog.  “Where will my journey take me next,” thought Steward as he walked away from the gate?

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Hotfoot from the Gods:

Resistance and Ritual

By Jenne Micale 

Jenne Micale

Jenne Micale

“I hope Brighid isn't angry at me,” I fret.

My husband smirks. “No, Brighid is laughing her ass off,” he replies.

It's Meán Geimhridh, and yet again I've swallowed my inherent dislike of snow and darkness to organize an appropriately solemn rite, one that has us pondering our blessings, rolling around on the metaphysical floor in abject gratitude and making fervent vows to repair the inherent brokenness of human culture. No sublimation of guilt there, no, not at all.

And the mishap happens, right on cue – just as it does virtually every midwinter, in one form or another.

This time, it's the mysterious chimney damper, which floods the entire house with woodsmoke. Then there was the year the candle flame shot up four inches high, refused to be doused and cracked the glass; I had to drown it in the sink after the rite. Then there was the time I set my sleeve on fire during the ceremony and a fellow priestess patted it out.

While I've had my share of ritual faux pas, I usually put on a meaningful ceremony for the Kindreds and the Druids in attendance. Meán Geimhridh, however, eludes me every year.

Oddly enough, it's the unsuccessful rituals that offer the deepest lessons. One-time failures can point to gaps in the planning process, the organizer's knowledge and skill, or the ability to adapt to changing circumstances. Repeated failures, however, are signposts of another type, pointing the way to truths that the group or the individual priest or priestess refuse to face.

Repeated failures needn't involve an actual holy day, in the case of Meán Geimhridh, although that's fairly common. They can involve practices such as meditation, daily worship, even particular types of spellwork. Addressing the situation comes down to a few simple questions: What am I resisting, or refusing to see? What really turns me off, whether it's rational or not?

In my case, I've long had a marked resistance to the winter solstice. In part, it's the connection with what we know as Christmas traditions: gift-giving, greenery, silly music, feasting. The winter holiday is all shiny joy, something that I tend to interpret as shallow. Instead, I'm trying to steer us back into the darkness in all its Gothic glory and atone for the commercialism of the season. Coupled with that is a thirst for something ecstatic: drawing us outside the boundaries of our own beings, to drink at the well of cosmic truth.

No matter which way I slice it, Meán Geimhridh -- Yule, Winternights, whatever name you choose -- is as sweet as a slice of fruitcake, which makes perfect sense.

Merriment -- the gathering of loved ones, gifting, feasting, song -- truly is key to the meaning of solstice. In winter's depths, a community requires some levity to survive. Laughter lightens the darkest night. Companions warm the cold road. You don't survive the winter alone by denying loved ones, silliness, or cake in favor of a dour utilitarianism. By the same token, you can't just ecstatically trance the winter away; you need planning and grounding in the cold realities of the storehouse, whether that's finances in a down economy or the actual food in your root cellar.

Solstice is a dance between survival and celebration, seriousness and joy. After all the preparations for winter's rule, the balance starts to tip on the darkest night. Yes, the coldest months are ahead -- but so is the light.

Celebration is a kind of ecstasy -- the kind that draws you out of yourself, cracking a smile from ear to ear as a loved one rips through colored paper. Solstice is a liminal time when we forget our rules: the social rules of master and servant, the eggshell-walking boundaries of family life and power dynamics, the rules of diets and propriety. We act like children, rejoicing in food, fun, ridiculous songs.

Which is why Brighid laughs at me in this season and sets my sleeves on fire, “You're so damned serious. Lighten up!”


A prayer to Brighid in times of violence

By Jenne Micale

[Ed note: This poem was originally written after the Virginia Tech shootings and is poignant today in light of the Binghamton shootings.]

Brighid, Lady of Healing, fill us with your peace.
Bring peace to those who hear the crack of thunder from a gun in a place of refuge, who see the sunlight glint off its barrel.
Brighid, Lady of Healing, fill us with your peace.
Bring peace to those where shots are as common as the cries of sparrows, where each step on the crumbling walk is taken with held breath and a prayer half-believed.
Brighid, Lady of Healing, fill us with your peace.
Bring peace to those who put the softness of their own flesh and the strength of their bone in the path of the bullet or the blade.
Brighid, Lady of Healing, fill us with your peace.
Bring peace to those with the swift feet or the limping, who flee pain to preserve life.
Brighid, Lady of Healing, fill us with your peace.
Bring peace to those sheeted in red, the wellspring of their blood spilling words and meaning on the ground.
Brighid, Lady of Healing, fill us with your peace.
Bring peace to those whose bodies are unmarred, but whose minds bear the scars of their witness.
Brighid, Lady of Healing, fill us with your peace.
Bring peace to those who stand confused on the shores of the Sunless Sea, their lives the unplucked apples of the Western Isle, their farewells and jokes and love notes unsaid, unsent.
Brighid, Lady of Healing, fill us with your peace.
Bring peace to those whose tears bear the barge to the Otherworld, who hold memories in shaking hands and hearts webbed with cracks.
Brighid, Lady of Healing, fill us with your peace.
Bring peace to those who knit limbs, who tend to souls and hearts, who offer the bread of comfort and the milk of nurturance.
Brighid, Lady of Healing, fill us with your peace.
Bring peace to those who bear witness, who share the words of truth and so drive off the black wings of silence and its carrion crow with their telling.
Brighid, Lady of Healing, fill us with your peace.
Bring peace to those who fire the gun and loft the grenade, to those that maim and those that kill, so that the fire of their rage is quenched in your well's sweet waters.
Brighid, Lady of Healing, fill us with your peace.
Let your waters pour out with the peace of the singing brook scattering sunlight, the peace of the roaring white-maned sea, the peace of the drumming rain and the lake ringed with reeds.
Brighid, Lady of Healing, fill us with your peace.
Let your waters knit wounds and quell the blaze of rage, of pain, the starless deep of despair and the gray slate of indifference.
Brighid, Lady of Healing, fill us with your peace.
Let us swim in your healing waters until we know that we are all enfolded in the same sea, that we are the sea itself, the sea coursing through the salt of our tears and of our blood, turned sweet by your palms into the deep well of compassion.
Brighid, Lady of Healing, fill us with your peace.
A Bhrigid, scar os mo chionn do bhrat fionn dom anacal.*

(*The last line is from Patricia Monaghan's "O Mother Sun")