After autumn equinox I consciously looked for crone models as 'sponsors' for my croning. When I had my confirmation at age 12 I had a sponsor's hand on my shoulder. Now I wanted that virtual, spiritual hand on my shoulder as I crossed this threshold place. I needed some Wise Women at my shoulder. So I went researching, meditating and seeking my sponsers in the weeks before my Samhain croning ceremony.
The Cailleach Beara is an obvious starting point and certainly fulfilled the sponsorship role for my fellow crone. But I had this intuitive niggle that it wasn't quite right. On some level I needed not just a mythic witch or goddess. And then I went to Yorkshire on a visit and visited Mother Shipton's Well in Knaresborough.
The 2nd of February is of course, the Celtic festival of Imbolc, which means 'in the belly' referring to the pregnant ewes giving birth at this time. One of its other names, Oimelc meaning 'ewes milk', also referring to the birth of the lambs, and the return of milk to the household. Sacred to the goddess Brighid, who became St Brigit with the coming of Christianity this time is known as Gŵyl Fair y Canhwyllau in Wales, and more generally the Christian festival of Candlemass.
Brighid may well have given her name to Britannia the sovereign goddess of Britain, but she is best known as a goddess of the hearth and home, as well as milking, midwifery, healing, smithcraft and poetry. Brighid is a fiery goddess, connected to the rising Kundalini in the earth at this time, bringing the spring. She is said in Scottish folklore to have to defeat the Cailleach or goddess of winter each year to bring life back to the land.
This time of year as Mother Nature's larder is at her fullest I'm always being asked about making home remedies, foraging and using wild ingredients. To me, working with nature and living close to the earth is a practical as well as a spiritual path, and gives me an opportunity to keep in close relationship with the land around me, as well as its indwelling spirits. Gathering wild herbs nuts and berries for remedies and cottage preserves, as well as fruits and vegetables from the garden I'm always reminded of the kinship I feel with the plant and tree spirits, and this dictates how I go about my gathering as well my preparations. I consider them to be among my magical and shamanic allies- they help me understand and grow into greater communion with this sacred earth, as well as adding extra energy, taste and effectiveness to the potions and preserves we make together.