Brigit's Day has come and gone and never before have I been so aware of the change as I am this year. Last year was a dismal one and the winter particularly so. But over the weekend a subtle change occurred and I've been feeling the shoots of my usual enthusiasm and creativity return.
This year, for the first time, one of our number was unable to come on the evening of her day, so after taking the shawl out to hang on a tree for Brigit to bless, I dressed the Bride doll myself, made up her bed, decorated with snowdrops, shells and quartz and softened with the wool I'd gathered from the Park at Hawarden, went to the door and standing on the threshold, holding the door jams, I sang an invocation to invite her in. The song I used is one by Nickomo and Rasullah - it's very gentle and evocative. I sometimes play it on my whistle as I can't sing in tune, but this year I sang and it didn't sound too bad! You can find details of the songbook with the music and the CD, both called the Song of the Land, on Nickomo and Rasullah's website. (Their Brigit's Blessing is lovely as well.)
It was quite special to have this time alone meditating on Brigit and as I was choosing ribbons and sewing them in place to make a gown for the rush doll I felt in touch with previous generations of people who had made a figure to represent the return of spring, not only in Ireland, but I suspect in other countries in the distant past. I was also aware of the festival as one of the return of the light, of the sun, the very first spark of spring rather than spring itself. It chimes for me with the perception of Brigit as a goddess of the dawn, of the beginning of light, of enlightenment.
The next day, Brigit's Day, I made lunch and my two friends came to celebrate with me. After we'd eaten we recited Ruth Bidgood's Hymn to Sant Ffraid (Brigit's name in Welsh) for 3 voices, as we have done for the last few years. This year I was the first voice and I felt the words at the beginning resonate with me:
month of Sant Ffraid.
Earth has long lain white, rigid,
locked into lifelessness.
Ice on river, no lively running:
ice on field, no soft furrow:
ice on byre, no boon for beasts:
ice on hills, no high pasture:
ice on heart, no hope leaping."
And later, a moving on, a freeing as I said the words:
month of the quickening,
month of Brigid the Threefold,
muse, healer, goddess of fire.
Ice clutches copse and cataract;
earth faints with cold, craves to be free.
In grey of grim dusk,
in black of bleak night,
a cry dies, a life is given.
Blood blots the Bridestone,
flame springs, fire supplicates -
Bride, goddess, bring now
the breaking, the slaking,
the flowing, the growing!"
Several pages later, in unison, we invoked Ffraid:
"We call you now to walk on the riverbank,
to break the ice, to free the river.
We greet you now
from your churches and your wells,
from the cold sea-coast and the colder hills,
with the immemorial cry,
'Ffraid is come! Ffraid is welcome!'"
After this we set to work weaving crosses. The rushes came from a different place this year and were thicker and stronger so they didn't bend so easily but we persevered. While we worked we shared some poems and talked about our lives.
I feel as if I am moving into a new phase where I crave more simplicity, more of an uncluttered life. I've always been reluctant to remove side shoots from plants or some of the apples that form a cluster and prevent just one or two reaching a good size. All things want to live, the life of plants spills out into these growths, who am I to stop them? But last summer I began to see, or to feel in my bones, how this may stunt growth and weaken the plant. If I want good-sized fruit that ripens well, it's necessary to limit unchecked growth. I could see the analogy with my own life - how 'spreading oneself too thin' may result in a weakening, especially when one's energy is limited, as mine is. I was beginning to crave the cutting down of ideas and projects so that I could focus on the few important things that I would like to bear a rich fruit.
So this is my agenda for the year ahead. I hope to be successful in this. I'm beginning to declutter, it feels more urgent as I may move at some point to be nearer my siblings or my son and family since my mobility is deteriorating. In which case I need to start clearing out the many drawers and cupboards in this house, getting rid of the dross and giving away things which aren't useful or beautiful, things which, in a subtle way, I feel are weighing me down. I hope to emerge lighter, more focused, more fruitful, more fit to engage with whatever lies ahead.
I certainly feel a renewal of my spirit. But last year has not been wasted, for one thing it has shown me that I haven't achieved that Still Centre which enables one to keep one's balance, one's equilibrium, through the vicissitudes of life, though I have moved some way towards it. This gives me the prod I need to spend more time in practice - with meditation and ritual work centred on Brigit, with yoga exercises to make up for my lack of walking, with carefully chosen creative work and with Being-in-Nature. My Buddhist calendar for February supports me in this resolve, saying:
'It is better to practice a little than talk a lot.' Muso Kokushi. Or write a lot perhaps?! (But I hope to write my blogs a little more regularly, though shorter posts perhaps.)