A Solitary Imbolc Ritual
by Rob Henderson and Kami Landy
written March 31st, 1999
Adapted from the Shining Lakes Grove 1999 Imbolc Rite, written by the SLG Liturgists
with sections shamelessly stolen from the StoneCreed Grove Solitary Liturgy
(This is my first attempt at writing a solitary ADF ritual. Well, perhaps "writing" isn't the right word, more like "assembling". Our Grove's Imbolc Rite this year was more scripted than our usual fare, and I thought it would be a good opportunity to do a solitary ritual. I'm adding some running commentary in the parentheses, so you can understand not only what you're doing, but why you're doing it. -- Rob)
[Kami's commentary will be in brackets, like so.]
(If you've got your Dedicant's shrine set up, you should use that for this ritual. If you don't have such a shrine, you can make do with representations for the well (a bowl of water) with a piece of silver for the Well offering (a coin is fine), the fire (a candle - three candles, or a three-wicked candle, would be best), and the tree (a branch placed in a pot of soil is good). You'll also need:
- a separate bowl of water and a candle (to receive the blessings of Brigit)
- offerings for Brigit (see below for suggestions)
- offerings for the Outsiders (food or drink)
- For purifications: mud or red ochre; salt water; incense or smudge stick
- a straw "dolly" or rowan stick to represent Brigit, and a straw bed for her (optional)
- For the return blessing: red, white, and black ribbons attached to the frame of a doorway (optional)
[Irish words used in the ritual:
Biodh sé [bee sheh] -- let it be so!
Failte romhat [failcheh rowat] -- be very welcome
Go raibh ma agat [GO ruh ma A-gat] -- thank you (singular)
Go raibh ma agibh [GO ruh ma A-giv] -- thank you (plural)
Slán agat [slan A-gat] -- go well (singular)
Slán agibh [slan A-giv)] -- go well (plural)
--a is pronounced [ah] for the most part.]
(Are you sick of these parenthetical comments yet? Me too! Let's get going.)
[When we begin a ritual, first we purify the space and our selves, placing ourselves between three realms. Find the center of your working space, or of the traffic pattern of your home if you wish to see the whole thing as a microcosm of the sacred universe. In my house, there is a place where the steps up, the steps to the basement, and the traffic pattern between rooms, all meet. The corner of that wall is my center point.]
Go to the center and place a dab of red ochre or mud from your local area upon your forehead and wrists, or toss upon the ground a handful of seeds, dirt or salt, saying "Upon the firm and life giving land I stand."
Then take some salt water, walk the boundary of your space sprinkling it—preferably in nine splashes—and say "The sea surrounds me, separating the wild from the tame."
Third, light a stick of incense or a smudge stick and wave it in an arc over your head, saying "Above me the sky, realm of order and of wonder, that shall not fall as long as time endures."
Consecrating the Shrine
Pour water into the Well, saying:
"By the Goddesses of Waters
By the Gods of Waters
By the Powers Under the Earth
I give thanks for the Waters of the Well.
Let this vessel be as the Triple Well of Blessing in this Sacred Grove of Druidry."
Light the Fire, saying:
"I kindle this Fire
To be a Flame of Magic
To be a Flame of Claiming
To be a Flame of Inspiration
To welcome the Gods and Spirits to this Sacred Grove of Druidry."
Walk around the ritual space three times, clockwise.
(We begin the ritual by defining our sacred space, and preparing ourselves for ritual. The walking-in-a-circle may seem silly, but I've found it to be an effective way to get into a "ritual mindset". Besides, I like doing silly things.)
[From this moment, everything we do and say will be done and said in the place and the presence of the gods and spirits. Therefore, first we ask the blessings of inspiration, that our words will be a fit offering:]
(We start off by asking Brigit to inspire us, to make our voices and our words as beautiful as possible. You may not want to invoke a deity this early in the rite, so feel free to substitute you own invocation here. In general, we start off by invoking those powers which are most visible in our lives, and work our way toward the ones who are least visible. Our Grove Liturgists tried to make all of the invocations as Brigit-specific as possible, for this rite.)
"Thus do I call and name the Brilliant one; Queenly Bríd, - brings the smith's fire, the healer's fire, the hearth fire, the well of vision, the well of inspiration, the well of healing, - midwife and baker, brewer and weaver, singer and wise one, giver of all great gifts. I call upon Brighid of the blessings, Brighid of the graces, giver of the blessings of inspiration- fire in the head that enflames us with holy words, silver on the tongue that shall fall sweet as honey on the ears of the gods and non-gods this day, grace of eye and hand, grace of voice and carriage, grace of intention and action, so that all that I do here will honour Her this day. Biodh sé!"
(Our next invocation is to the Earth Mother, who is all around us and sustains our lives every day. We make an offering to the Outsiders, and ask them not to disturb our ritual. We then use the Two Powers Attunement to align ourselves with those powers, before opening the portals.)
Invoking the Earth Mother:
"Earth Mother, Mother of Peoples, Source of Waters. Your child thanks you for bringing the life to the land, for giving me a place and a foundation upon which to place my hearth, and I honor you."
Take an offering of food or drink and set it outside the ritual space, saying:
"Outsiders, forces of chaos, you who choose not to be part of our workings, you dwell beyond our firelight and our gates, in the dark places between, you who are primal and unbounded, raw and untamed. I make you this offering, and ask that you not disturb us during this rite."
Two Powers Attunement:
(by Ian Corrigan)
(You shouldn't read this section out loud while doing it, since it wouldn't work well with the deep breathing you're supposed to be doing. If you can, record a tape of yourself reading this, then play it back during the actual ritual. If you can't, then you can read it from a script and do the best you can with the visualizations. Of course, if you can memorize the whole thing, that would be the best way to handle it!)
Begin, O seeker of wisdom, with your breath... breathe deeply, from your belly... in... and out... make your body comfortable... stretch if you need to, settle in place... and focus on your breath... observe your breath as it flows in and out of your body... and with each breath, allow your body to relax... let your breath carry away tension from your flesh.. relaxing your feet and legs... letting your belly soften and relax... breathing away tension from your shoulders and arms... from your neck... relaxing your face and mouth, your eyes... with each breath your body becoming warmer, comfortable and relaxed... your mind alert and prepared for magic...
Now, with your body still and calm, imagine that from your feet, or the base of your spine, roots begin to grow downward... roots reaching and growing into the earth, down through soil and stone... deepening and spreading... reaching to touch the waters under the Earth... the Earth current... the dark, cool, magnetic power that nourishes and sustains life... as your roots touch this current it is drawn in and up toward your body... your breath draws the Earth power upward... into your body... the invisible, magnetic power fills your legs, energizing and strengthening... waters rise from the earth, into your legs... rising... into your loins... and pooling in your loins, a cauldron of Earth power... You breathe the power upward... rising from the earth, through your loins, rising up your spine... into your heart... pooling and filling a cauldron in your heart with healing, restoring energy... power rising from the deep, through your loins, through your heart... rising up your spine and into your head... filling a cauldron of wisdom and vision behind your eyes... and rising still, filling all your body and flowing out again through the crown of your head... through your hands... flowing out around your body and back into the earth... the power under the Earth flows in you... grounding you in the source of life...
Now imagine the sky overhead... The sun and moon and, far beyond them, the stars... imagine a single star at the center of the sky, shining directly over your head... the center of your inner sky, your own pole-star...see a flash of light shining down from that star... streaming down between moon and sun... gold, silver and blue-white light... the bright, warm, electric power of the sky... the light touches your head, filling and illuminating the cauldron like sun on still water... shining from above... filling your head with warm, awakening power... flowing down into your heart... warming the cauldron... shining down through head and heart, illumining the waters... downward to reach your loins... The cauldron shines with sky power in your loins... Tingling, electrical light in head, heart and loins... the light flows downward into Earth, and you are shining and flowing with the mingled powers of Earth and sky... the raw material of magic... the chaos of potential and the world order...
These powers are balanced in you... yours to shape and use... always with you in some degree...
But for now, allow the powers to recede... waters to the Earth, light to the sky... knowing that each time you attune to them you become more attuned, more at one with the powers... breath deep... and allow your awareness to return to your common senses... as you open your eyes...
Opening the Portals
(The Tree is aligned with the "World Tree," the center of our cosmos and the axis connecting all three Realms. The Fire when opened as a "gate" or portal carries our words throughout the realms on its smoke; and the Well or shaft becomes the portal to the Underworld and the connection with the primal waters of life. Once the portals are opened, we call upon Mannanan mac Lir in his role as a psychopomp (a fancy Greek word for "god who escorts the spirits of the dead") to guide and protect us in our rite.)
Go to the center of your space and stamp a foot or tap a staff upon the ground, or thump a fist upon the wall if that's the center for you, or sprinkle water from your well upon the branch if you are using one, and say:
"Here I declare sacred center, where all times and places meet. Let it be as the world tree, the central axis of the world, so that all spirits and beings of good will may be welcome here to share in this rite!"
"World Tree, sacred center of the universe. Your roots delve deep into the earth, your branches reach the heights of the sky, and your mighty trunk connects them. May you be the strong center around which this rite revolves."
Visualize the roots of the tree growing deep into the earth, and the branches reaching up to the heavens.
Place the silver in the Well, saying:
"Sacred well, whose waters flow and swirl beneath us. May your depths connect my spirit to the great underground sea and the ageless powers below."
Visualize the bottom of the well connecting to an ocean in the depths of the earth.
Place some incense in the Fire, saying:
"Sacred fire, carry all offerings to the gods and the beloved dead. May you warm all my spirit and my life."
Visualize the smoke and flame connecting to shadowy, stylized places where graceful and dimly seen beings receive the smoke as if it were solid.
Invocation of Mannanan:
"Mannanan mac Lir, Grey Walker, Keeper of the Gates. You guided the Ancestors to the Isle of Avalon. Open now the way and convey my welcome to the Queenly mother, hearth goddess, and to all those others I would welcome at this hearth, that we may share in this celebration together.
Invoking the Kindreds
(We invoke each of the three kindreds, inviting them to be with us during the rite. You may want to visualize them as you invoke them.)
"At this altar, with this candle, in this sacred place, I call to you o ancestors.
We welcome you to join me here, and to welcome as of old, Brigit, the hearth mother, who taught you - as you teach me - the ancient arts of brewing and baking and many great gifts. Ancestors, be welcome!"
Nature Spirits Invocation:
"Spirits of Nature, you who dwell within the land, gently waken to the steps of Bright Brigit.
Be welcome here, You oystercatcher bird and hearth cat, honey bee and milk cow, you serpent coiled to do no harm - you companions of our highest queen, I honor and welcome you
Among all that I welcome here today. Nature Spirits, Failte romhat!"
"High and Shining Ones, gods who are dear to me, be welcome here this day, be honored and join in welcoming Brigit, honored among you as warrior-smith, poet-teacher, weaver and healer and giver of plenty- gifts that each of you may share: Oh divine ones, share in the feast of Brigit."
Deity of the Occasion
(We use a much longer invocation for Brigit - it is her day, after all!)
Beside the hearth or the ritual fire, you will have placed a "Bride's (Scottish spelling of Brighid) bed" - a small straw or wood bed, made up nicely. Open your door, or go to the threshold, or stand by the hearth if you have one. Take a straw "dolly" or rowan stick to represent the goddess, or feel for her presence, and say:
"Brigit I invoke this day,
In the high places and the low,
Beside the hearth fire and at the sacred well.
The gentle queen I call to her hall,
The place where the bed is prepared.
"By her many graces I call to Brigit who graces us this day;
Grace of eye and grace of hand,
Grace of word and grace of will,
Grace of caring, grace of birthing, grace in mourning,
Grace of carriage, grace of courage,
Comforter and mother,
Brigit of the Blessings I name the one
Who blesses us this day!
"Let us greet her, we who know her blessings.
Come weaver and poet,
Come brewer and baker,
Come mother and healer,
Come blacksmith and wordsmith,
Beekeeper and hearth-keeper.
"Thus I call to the Mother and Queen; A bed is prepared at the seat of honor, Come grace the hearth seat, Brigit I invoke this day!"
Place the dolly or stick on the bed, or gesture to the bed by the hearth and feel for the presence of the goddess nearby.
You might place some bread and mead or ale beside the Bride's bed. A good offering would be preparing and kneading bread within the ritual. Write and recite some poetry, sing or tell a story to the goddess as you might do to entertain any guest. Spin or weave a small piece of work and offer it to the goddess- don't burn this one; put it on her shrine if you have one or give it to the next visitor who needs something comforting. Enjoy the sacredness and complexity of domestic work. Make a promise of hospitality to all who need it, or dedicate yourself as a healer, or vow to help a friend in childbirth. These are all the gifts and work of Brighid.
Omen of Return
(We ask the Kindreds, especially the Deity of the Occasion, whether our offering is pleasing to them.)
Using your preferred method of divination, ask Brigit if your offering is acceptable. Since Brigit is a hearth goddess, fire scrying is an appropriate method. She is also sometimes associated with wells of vision and of healing, so you might choose to scry in water.
Take water from the bowl and anoint your head, hands, and feet, saying:
"I take of the water of Brigit, to be cleansed and blessed."
Take your candle and light it from the Fire, saying:
"I ask the blessings of the triple Brigit.
Blessings of inspiration - silver on the tongue;
Blessings of hearth and healing - golden riches of honey;
Blessings of courage, wisdom and strength.
And the light of her flame to guide me this day, as I go forward to rebirth."
Take your candle and go to the doorway, at which you will have placed long coiled ribbons in red, black and white. Uncoil and tape the ribbons around the door frame to make a sort of hoop. This is called the "críos Bríd"- the girdle of Bríd.
Step through this circle, with your left leg first, and feel yourself being reborn. If you are able to go around and come back in by another door, go through the Críos three times. This is a charm for health, plenty and fertility. Then place the candle some place where it can burn safely.
(In exchange for our offerings, we ask Brigit to give us a symbolic rebirth. The water washes us clean of those things we wish to be rid of, the flame represents the spark of life and inspiration, and stepping through a circle... well, I'll let you figure that out. The traditional ritual involved stepping through a large woven hoop, called a "críos" (pronounced "crish"), that was held by two other people. You might not have two other people to help you hold a real hoop, and I wouldn't want you to try contorting yourself through a hoop by yourself while holding a candle, so I suggest using a facsimile or a visualization instead. Also, the traditional manner of stepping through the críos was for the men (wearing pants) to step through, left side first, while the women (wearing long skirts) would have the hoop lowered over them and down to the ground, where they could step out of it. You can choose whichever method you prefer.)
Thanking the deity of the occasion:
"Bríd have I welcomed this day, to my hearth, to my home, to my life. May she go from here refreshed and made more joyous, as her blessing has renewed and uplifted me! Slán agat, a Bhrid!"
Thanking the kindreds:
"You shining ones, nature spirits and ancestors, I thank you for your presence in this rite and in my life! As I return to ordinary time and the daily world, your blessings travel with me. So to, let my blessings and love go with you. Slán agibh!"
Thanking the Outsiders:
"Outsiders, you whose ways are not ours, I thank you for your forbearance. Without you there would be no change, yet in this moment, your absence was as welcome as once your presence was needed! Go raibh ma agibh!"
Thanking the Earth Mother:
"Earth mother, I do not leave you, nor do you go from here, but as this rite comes to a close, once again I thank you for giving firm foundation to this hearth, for providing sustenance and life, that your child can give you love and honor. Earth mother, Go raibh ma agat!"
Closing the portals:
"Here have we met, gods and spirits, ancestors and I. But now the sacred well becomes once again a simple bowl of water, the ancient bonfire once again a candle, and this tree may no longer touch the very arch of the heavens nor its roots be those which hold the worlds in their embrace. Biodh sé!"
"By Land, Sea and Sky, By Fire, Well and Tree
I end this rite.
I go forth with blessing, to bless the world in turn.