Crone in Corrogue: Wild Wisdom of the Elder Years

Glorying in the elder years, a time of spirituality, service and some serious sacred activism

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Imbolc As the Cailleach Leaves

...and Brighid prepares to arrive in her Maiden rainment. In Ireland I always marvel at how the old tales still mimic weather wisdom.  The saying goes the Cailleach goes and gathers firewood on Imbolc for the rest of the winter. If the weather is sunny it means that she needs to stock up for more cold. But if there is precipitation then it will set fare and she needs not re-stock. Of course, the old people round where I live now used to say "A fair February crushes the rest of the year!" But old bachelor farmers are not life's optimists. Anyway, this was the way the Hag in the Mountain was extravagently garbed yesterday round my way.



The Cailleach sent us the first real snow of the winter yesterday. And today, on the Eve of the feast of St. Brigid (who is just an update of the goddess as far as I am concerned, and a nice feisty woman she was by all accounts) we have snow showers. Tomorrow it will be clear and maybe we should go out and gather firewood after all, despite the blooming hellebores and first primroses and aconite. At any rate the Cailleach is having a hooley with the weather right before the Maiden is due to renew the earth.

This year I have been preparing to share St. Brigid's and the goddess Brighid lore and poems from my book "Brigid's Way" with some men residing in our local open prison. The snow postponed it until tomorrow. But I have a tatty old sheet from the Prison Laundry to hang out to make Brat Bríd's for those who would like to have one. This custom really is associated with the saintly Abbess of Kildare, who had a magical cloak that spread astronomically and geometrically in all four directions to obtain land on the Currach (the king's really good land, mind) to found her Abbey. It is credited as her first miracle. However, you like to read the tale - whether as metaphor (getting the king to agree at all, she led him a merry dance many a time and I am sure she was high on his list of Aggravating Women), or as a wonder tale - the abbey happened. And since abbots were bishops and she was, in fact, a female abbot, she was a woman to cock a snook at patriarchy. Born in 453CE (allegedly) she was right on the cusp where Ireland was moving away from the martriarchal and goddess.  She retains the Divine Feminine  of goddess within the new religion right into the new millenium. The Fire Temple was maintained by nineteen nuns who kept a constant vigil to keep the flame eternal. This was a carry over from the pagan temple originally on site. Brighid's flame was rekindled in Kildare town by nuns in 1992. They maintain at Solas Bríd.

So, I celebrate the saint as much as the goddess. Imbolc as the cross quarter day is the New Moon on 4th February. Ireland likes to make a banquet of feast days, making them last over three days. By putting out my Brat Bríd tonight, 31st January, I usher in the season of all things Brigid, Brigit, Ffraid, Bride, Biddy, Maman Brigitte, and Brighid.


I change my altar frequently (especially if I don't have a cloth on it I tend to notice the dust!). I have an altar specifically for today as we hang upon the lintel hinges of the the earth's renewing season. Since the beginning of this year I have kept my altar pared down. Perhaps it is the astrological energies of Capricorn I am feeling. At any rate, I set up my altars intuitively and at the moment I don't want to throw everything I have symbolically got at it. Partly this is because I have the brídeogs packed up for the reading and St. Brigid's Cross weaving tomorrow. But mostly it is what I feels is needed now.


I love my Brighid statue and she rules over the altar from January until end of May, when Danu takes pride of place. I burned dragon's blood this morning for purification. The Harmony bowl has a receptical  for holy well water that surrounds a container for a battery candle; this combines the fire and water energy sacred to both the goddess and saint. This is central. Two votives burn on the left, balanced by two swan feather on the right. In the middle is  card handmade by a friend of a sunflower. Brigid is a solar goddess and the sunflower is also associated with St. Brigid. A quartz crystal and ancestralite crystal lie on top as part of a long term healing intention.(After I took the photo I added a green candle for a healing vigil on behalf of a friend undergoing back surgery today.)

There is some drift wood that looks like a bear claw to me. While both the goddess and saint are always depicted with sheep and cows,  the bear is a more ancient association according to Séamus Ó Catháin in his book The Festival of Brigit. This is long out of print in hardback, but you can read it online or obtain a PDF copy. The link is here: Bear is my power animal. It's time for bear to come out of hibernation.

At the back, far left, is a fallen branch that took my fancy. Hanging on it are the 'seeds' for Imbolc intention that I think Brighid and St. Brigit will support. Although they are technically Christmas or Yule tree ornaments - little white birds inscribed with Faith, Hope, Love and Peace. I hung them to represent the four arms of St. Brigid's Cross - Hope, Love, Peace and Faith. These are the Imbolc seeds I wish to sow. I have put Faith at the most elevated space because a medium friend told me that the energetic word of the year for 2019 is Faith. Despite however things may look, no matter how bleak or unjust,  we must remain strong in our knowing.

This crone feels it in her bones. All shall be well. Let Love, Hope and Peace support that faithful Knowing in this season of new growth.

May Brighid in any and all of her guises bless you in this season of renewal. With Brighid there is plenty. With Brighid there is always enough.


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Bee Smith has enjoyed a long relationship with SageWoman as a contributor, columnist and blogger. She lives in the Republic of Ireland, teaches creative writing and is a member of the Irish Art Council's Writers in Prisons panel. She is the author of "Brigid's Way: Celtic Reflections on the Divine Feminine."    


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