contemplativeinquiry

This blog is about contemplative inquiry

Tag: Brighid

DRUID ALCHEMY

“In the foreground we see Brighid. She is both Brighid Goddess of the Holy Flame and Holy Well, and a woman in her service, a Fferyllt, or Druid Alchemist, who combines the powers of fire and water to create harmony, balance and transformation.

“In the traditions of the nineteenth and twentieth century Druid revival, the Fferyllt were Druid alchemists who were said to live in the magical city of Dinas Affaraon, in the mountains of Snowdonia. Much of the work of DruidCraft can be seen as an alchemical process of uniting and combining different elements of the self to achieve wholeness, illumination and a release of our creative potential.” (1)

The words and illustration above are from The Druidcraft Tarot, where the writers are Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm and the illustrator Will Worthington. The card in question is the trump numbered fourteen, conventionally named Temperance. Here, after the manner of C. G. Jung, it points to the work of psycho-spiritual development. Affirming the fundamental unity of spirit and matter, it encourages us to extend the bandwidth of our experience beyond that provided by our early conditioning in modern mainstream culture. This work is placed in the context of modern Druidry and modern Druid training – specifically that offered by OBOD (see http://www.druidry.org/}.

Philip Carr-Gomm discusses this further elsewhere: “Alchemical Magic involves working on yourself. It is called alchemical because in alchemy the idea is to change ‘base metal’ into gold, the ordinary into the extraordinary. Our goal is to do this with our own lives, our own selves.  That is much of the purpose of following a path such as Druidcraft. … The idea in alchemy is that you start with the ‘base metal’ that is equivalent to all the raw material that you possess as a personality and a soul. Then, by following a spiritual path, you gradually transform this into a quality of being which literally radiates. That is why people who are on this path often have a quality of youthfulness and life which is almost tangible.” (2)

To this day, I have a section in my regular practice liturgy in which I say: “a blessing on my life; a blessing on the work; a blessing on the land”. My use of ‘work’ is an alchemical reference, invoking the classical alchemical opus as a transformative metaphor. I experience this as among other things a healing work, in a healing container, though it might not always feel that way. We can take the legacy of painful, problematic and confusing experiences and find the hidden gold within them.

There can be another discovery too. Jungian-influenced therapist Matt Licata writes: “through this exploration, we come to discover that although suffering feels and is personal, it is also archetypal and, as the Buddha noted, universal in human experience. The invitation is to allow our broken hearts, confused minds and vulnerable emotional bodies to serve as a bridge to a place where we make embodied, loving contact with the ‘others’ in our lives – not only the external others but the inner others who have become lost along the way.”

(1) Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm The DruidCraft Tarot: Use the Magic of Wicca and Druidry to Guide Your Life London: Connections, 2004. Illustrated by Will Worthington.

(2) Philip Carr-Gomm The Magic of Wicca and Druidry Lewes, UK: Oak Tree Press, 2013

(3) Matt Licata A Healing Space: Befriending Ourselves in Difficult Times Boulder, CO: Sounds True, 2020

IMBOLC ADVENT

Erin nighean Brighde* has recently written about ‘Imbolc Advent’. I like this term. Where I live, mid-January could feel cold and dull and flat. It could be a time of post-festive blues, and a very long way from spring. My cure, from the early 1990’s, has been the eight-fold wheel of the year, now lived by many groups within and beyond the modern Pagan community. It has enriched me enormously.

For the last week or so I have been leaning in to Imbolc, the festival that, at the beginning of February (Northern hemisphere), celebrates the return of the light, the appearance of early flowers and traditionally also the birth of lambs. In Druidry, it is strongly linked to the Goddess Brigid. My leaning in to Imbolc this year has been interwoven with the transformation of three initially parched hyacinth bulbs (a late seasonal gift) in a pot of dry earth. The change began when I saw them draw water from a saucer. Its rapid disappearance was like watching a speeded-up film. Within a couple of days, stalks had burst almost alarmingly out of the bulbs, and it was not long before the scented bell-like lavender blue flowers emerged from the spikes. I realize that this was a contrived indoor event, but I have experienced it over the last week as a stunning display of life and growth, and hence an image of Imbolc Advent.

During the life-time of the Druid contemplative group, we tended to meet outside the festival times, partly to avoid clashes with other commitments, and partly to practice tuning into the year at other times. We could do this by taking the previous or following festival as a reference point and notice the mid-term difference, or we could more simply pay attention to the world we were in at the time of meeting. Over time, we developed a greater sensitivity to the rhythms and tides in the year as nature’s unfolding processes, since we were not focusing on the festivals themselves as events. Nonetheless, they remained important markers for our experience. They helped to provide us with a common language and orientation. That being said, I remember something special around Imbolc, out of all the eight festivals. The fire in the hearth, the arrangement and decoration of the space (snowdrops in particular) gave us a powerful experience of Brigid as a presiding energy, making Imbolc one of our most resonant times.

*Erin nighean Brighde https://hereternalflame.wordpress.com/2018/01/14/imbolc-advent-2018/

BOOK REVIEW: BRIGID

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Timely and highly recommended. Brigid: Meeting the Celtic Goddess of Poetry, Forge and Healing Well is shortly due for release in Moon Books’ Pagan Portals series. Author Morgan Daimler describes it as “a resource for seekers of the pagan goddess specifically”, offering “both solid academic material and anecdotes of connecting with Brigid in a format that is accessible and designed to be easy to read”. On my reading, this is an accurate description, and in my estimation Brigid takes its place as a valuable addition to modern pagan literature.

As Daimler points out, the Celtic Goddess Brigid is well known and popular. In the Gaelic-influenced world, she has an alter ego as a powerful Christian saint. Yet what we know, or think we know, is selective and potentially confusing for today’s pagan seeker. “The lore of the Catholic saint is attributed to the pagan Goddess, and some people see shadows of the Goddess in the saint. For many people new to Brigid, or to studying Celtic or Irish mythology, it can be extremely confusing to try to sort out the old beliefs from the modern, to tell the Irish from the Scottish. The end result is that some people who are drawn to honor the Goddess Brigid find themselves lost in a seemingly endless assortment of possibilities”. Yet, in an intentionally short and simple book, Daimler does a great deal to sort out potential points of confusion and help her readers to find their way. She also includes an important chapter on Brigid by Other Names – which include the Brythonic Brigantia, the Gaulish Brigandu and the name Ffraid in Welsh.

Brigid devotes considerable attention to mythology, and to traditional lore and festivals (including a reference to the American groundhog day). But, as a modern Polytheist Pagan, she also has a lot to say about Brigid as she is today, including modern versions of practices like the making of offerings, flame-tending, the creation of altars, divination, meditation and prayer. There is a complete chapter on Prayers, Chants and Charms. Above all, Daimler shares something of her own journey, and the numinous experiences she has had through her Brigid connection from the beginning of adolescence to a present in which she is devising Imbolc rituals with her children. Standing as she does in Irish Reconstructionist Polytheism, she says that “I do not think that the religious framework we use to connect to the Gods matters as much as the effort to honor the old Gods itself. I think that we can all do this respectfully and with an appreciation of history without the need for any particular religion”. Brigid: Meeting the Celtic Goddess of Poetry, Forge and Healing Well amply fulfills its author’s aim of helping its readers to benefit from time spent “getting to know Brigid”.

 

BRIGHID AND THE ORAN MOR

Truly inspiring! I am greatly moved by Joanna’s  eloquent and powerful piece. It’s great when someone else in in the current of a similar yet distinct inspiration.

Down the Forest Path

This is a reblog from my latest blog post at Moon Books. I hope you enjoy it, and do let me know if you’ve had similar experiences. 🙂

I had meditated and tranced for nearly an hour before my altar, to the sounds of the birds outside and Heloise Pilkington on my cd player. http://www.heloisepilkington.com/index.htm  My cats joined me, sleeping in their respective spots, their purrs vibrating along my spine.  As the incense burned out, I came back to myself, having danced with my goddess, diving in her mysteries and those of my own soul.

I was ready now. Time to go out, to seek her, to seek the awen.  I packed a small bag with more incense and some water and made my way out of the house and onto the heath. Taking my time, walking slowly, I feel more graceful after my time spent at my altar…

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FUINN II: THE POETRY OF PRACTICE

I’m a Pagan Druid, happily placed in a tradition that values poetry and seership over dogma and system building. I experience my practice as a sort of poetry. In this poetry of practice, I am held in a compelling myth of origin, an ever-now origin, and I have found a new way of working with it.

My new collection of Fuinn (Ceile De chants in Scottish Gaelic) includes a very simple one which goes A Hu Thi (ah – hoo – hee) repeated over and over again. The Ceile De interpretation, a Celtic Christian one, is that this chant “represents the three stages of the unfolding of creation … A– the Great Mystery draws in its breath … Hu – that breath is breathed out, and creation is born from out of the Mystery … God becomes matter … Thi – the Divine nature, beingness and intention acts within the field of intention … Some Ceile De would say that this final stage represents Christ Consciousness.”

It’s a bit different for me. I’ve been working with this Fonn daily for a couple of weeks now.  I don’t chant. I use slow deep breathing with a silent awareness of the sounds. I find that for me, the A sets up a sense of latency, a subtle pulse and vibration on the brink of becoming. I feel it in the quality of my inbreath, as a kinaesthetic song. Hu the outbreath feels more vigorous and intentional; there’s a real sense of movement, expressed as exhalation – the breath moves out from my body, through my nostrils. Thi breathed in feels like the delighted expression of a new reality, one that I share in, distinct yet inseparable as a sentient being. This generally brings up feelings exhileration, gratitude and joy. It leads me on to the use of another Fonn as a contemplative and devotional prayer, which I wrote myself using my collection of Fuinn as a model.

A Brighde, A Brighde, solus an domhain; A Brighde, A Brigdhe, Brighde mo chridhe

A Vree-jah, A Vree-jah, solus an dowan; A Vree-jah, A Vree-jah, Bree-jah mo cree

Brighde, Brighde, light of the world; Brighde, Brighde, Brighde my heart

Brighde is the breath, the practice and the Fuinn. When writing my Fonn I wanted to build a felt sense of Brighde as cosmic birther, initiator into being, with a seat in my heart.  Her name evokes power and the prayer invokes relationship – identified as She is with primal generativity and the deep powers of life and land, and also One who inspires skill and accomplishment in those She supports and fosters. Through my experience of relationship and connection, deep levels of feeling and intuition are satisfied, in some way met. I feel empowered, with a sense of having more resources available to me. Why would this be? I don’t really know. What I do know is the value of practice as poetry, and the magic it holds.

The Ceile De can be found on http://www.ceilede.co.uk

FUINN

Elaine and I returned from London yesterday afternoon, feeling pleased about our London venture. I’ll say more about that in a later post. Suffice it to say here that we found a ready interest in the possibilities of Contemplative Druidry and hope to return to London later in the year.

We discovered that the fourth CD of the Ceile De Fonn series had been delivered through the mail in our absence. Fonn is a Gaelic word that simultaneously means song, state of mind and the Land. The Fuinn (plural) are sacred chants which “work on many different levels, they harmonise the three parts of us that relate to the three meanings of the word itself – the spiritual, the otherworldly and the physical”. Indeed the Ceile De tradition “uses the imagery of three worlds that, when healthy, blend harmoniously: … the soulful, the spiritual and the physical and are represented here by the Sea, the Sky and the Land. When we are at one with the One we see that these three worlds are also One; our perception has changed and we have discovered ‘the Kingdom of Heaven'”.

The fourth CD was recorded earlier this month, around the time of Imbolc, and has a strong Brighid theme. I bought it in response to my own strong sense of a Brighid current in my own life and practice during the same period – one that goes well beyond the simple acknowledgement that Imbolc is widely seen as Her time. My spiritual note isn’t quite that of the Ceile De, which currently stands as a form of Celtic Christianity in which Brighid is honoured beyond the level of her customary sainthood. But many of the Fuinn, or words from them, presented here can fully support my own Pagan path through chanting, mantra meditation and contemplative prayer. I have worked with Fuinn before, and also have a paidirean (pronounced pahj-urinn) – a set of rosewood prayer beads with (in my case) an equal-armed gnostic cross bound by a circle. Now, with these new chants, I am coming back to them.

For me, experientially, Brighid is the Goddess of inner alchemy and ruthless compassion, and not quite the figure evoked by the Ceile De, though I can respond to Her gentler manifestations as well. But I feel a strong attraction to Gaelic, and Scottish Gaelic in particular, as a sacred language. I like chanting and listening to chants. I like being reminded that ‘contemplation’ in my own practice interweaves meditative, devotional and energetic elements. During recent weeks I have felt a closer connection to Brighid and I will opening myself more systematically to this connection in the coming period.

The Ceile De can be found on http://www.ceilede.co.uk

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