Pagan Studies


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Studies Blogs

Advanced and/or academic Pagan subjects such as history, ethics, sociology, etc.

white candles on black surface

 

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Some Brighid and Imbolc Facts
With Imbolc fast approaching there is a lot of information going around about both the holiday and the goddess. I thought it might be helpful here to offer some basic information about both, sourced from the original texts.
 
The name Brighid comes from the older name Brig or Bric, which means power, vigour, strength, authority according to the electronic Dictionary of the Irish Language. It is in this form that we find older references to the goddess, such as in the Cath Maige Tuired. In later use, such as the Sanas Cormaic we see it spelled Brigit and there are now several variants. Its suggested the earlier root in proto-Indo-European would mean high or height giving us 'exalted one'. The popular idea that Brighid comes from Breo-saighead or Breo-aighead meaning "fiery arrow" is a fanciful folk etymology from Cormac's Glossary. This is the full entry: "Brigit .i. banfile ingen in Dagdai. is eiside Brigit baneceas (ł be neicsi) .i. Brigit bandee noadradís filid. arba romor ⁊ baroán afri thgnam. is airesin ideo eam (deam) uocant poetarum hoc nomine cuius sorores erant Brigit be legis Brigit bé goibnechta .i. bandé .i. tri hingena in Dagdai insin. de quarum nominibus pene omnes Hibernenses dea Brigit uocabatur. Brigit din .i. breoaigit ł breoṡaigit." (Brigit - a poet, daughter of the Dagda. This Brigit is a woman of poetry (female poet) and is Brigit the goddess worshipped by poets because her protection was very great and well known. This is why she is called a goddess by poets. Her sisters were Brigit the woman of healing and Brigit the woman of smithcraft, goddesses; they are three daughters of the Dagda. Almost all Irish goddesses are called a Brigit. Brigit then from breoaigit or breoshaigit, 'fiery arrow').
 
Its unknown what Imbolg means but the leading suggestion is i-mbolg "in the belly" although alternatives have also been suggested over the years. The name is referenced in the Táin Bó Cuiliagne and Dindshenchas, usually as a time marker, ie "luan samain sáinriuth cossin cetáin iar n-imbulc" (monday of Samhain particularly until the Wednesday of Imbolg). We also find this reference to Imbolc in the Dindshenchas: "iar n-imbulc, ba garb a ngeilt" (after Imbolc, rough was their herding). There is no information as far as I am ware of older celebration practices for this holiday.
 
An alternative name for the holiday is Oimelc or Oimelg, possibly meaning "ewe's milk", oi meilg, although this name appears to be later and less common. We see a reference to Oimelc in The Wooing of Emer: "55 To Oimolc, i.e., the beginning of spring, viz., different (ime) is its wet (folc), viz the wet of spring, and the wet of winter. Or, oi-melc, viz., oi, in the language of poetry, is a name for sheep, whence oibá (sheep's death) is named, ut dicitur coinbá (dog's death), echbá (horse's death), duineba (men's death), as bath is a name for 'death'. Oi-melc, then, is the time in which the sheep come out and are milked, whence oisc (a ewe), i.e., oisc viz., barren sheep."
We also have this about Oimelc in the Sanas Cormaic: "oimelc .i. oimelg .i. isí aimser andsín tic ass caerach." (Oimelc that is oimelg that is the season when the sheep are in milk.)
 
I know this is a lot of references and facts to throw out there but beyond the huge array of personal practices and folk customs these are the main factual items that I see coming up either skewed or inaccurately relayed. I hoped it would help to provide some basics for people to work outwards from.
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When we look for sources of information about fairies we often, logically, turn to folklore and anecdotal accounts. And so we should as these are good, solid sources of information. But we do have another sources about the Irish Good Folk, and arguably an equally important source: mythology. In Irish culture these beings aren't limited to later folklore but appear throughout written mythology as well, going back to the 5th* century Echtra Condla.

In the earliest account, the aforementioned Echtra Condla, we find a story of a woman of the Otherworld who appears to Connla, son of the king. No one else can see or hear her but they can see Connla's interaction with her. She tells him that she is of the people of the fairy hills and describes the place as "an immortal land where there is no death or the sin of transgressions. We have our harvest feast without labor; peace cloaks us without strife". She then invites Connla to go with her, his father's druid intervenes, blocking her for a time, but eventually Connla does indeed go with the fairy woman, never to be seen on earth again. 

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assorted-color figurine collection bokeh photography

 

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At my house, we've put away the harvest decor that has been up since late September and set up the house for Yule. Earlier in the fall, my mom gave me a straw cornucopia that she's had for years, and as I put it away with the autumn-hued table runner and wreath, I thought of how far back the cornucopia reaches into the past, and what it means.

Nourishment and Wildness

These days, cornucopias often take the form of vaguely horn-shaped baskets of faux fruit and flowers, like the one my mom gave me. But it was originally a real goat horn holding fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers, and grains. Literally meaning "horn of plenty" in Latin, the cornucopia originated in ancient Greece. In one origin myth, the infant Zeus was nourished with milk from the goat Amalthea on the island of Crete. Because He was extremely strong even as an infant, He broke off one of her horns, and the hollow horn gave forth unending nourishment.

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We all have biases, its part of human nature, but many people don't acknowledge their biases, and may not even be aware of them. Its important in both spirituality and life to try to root out where our biases are and see how they are effecting, for good or bad, our interaction with things around us. This is something that I have been thinking a lot about today as I see the effects of bias within various fairy-interest communities. 

We relate to the world through a series of mental schema which act as shortcuts for our minds to assess situations and organize information. These schema are essential to the way the human mind works because they provide frameworks for us to relate to the world around us quickly and efficiently. However this mental process lends itself to the formation of biases, or ingrained beliefs and ideas about people and things. Biases are slightly different from schema but are part of the same wider mental process that looks for shortcuts to processing and understanding information. Biases are usually learned or taught and can be positive or negative, for example a person may have a positive bias towards teachers or a negative bias towards people who are unemployed. 

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As I sit down to write this, it's the eleventh of November, 2020 – so far the worst time in the worldwide Corona virus pandemic. If that weren't enough to worry about, for the past month and a half my 75 year-old wife has been in two rehab centers where they're trying to strengthen her legs and get her back onto her feet, interspersed with transports to two different hospitals, due to a bowel blockage and vomiting blood. Somehow in spite of all these transfers and multiple contacts, we have both managed to remain Covid-free so far. The doctors and nurses and other medical personnel here in Arizona have been really wonderful in their adherence to all the PPE (personal protection equipment) rules.

 

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Mr. Czukor, No worries, brother. Thank you! Stay safe.
  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Mr. Czukor, I'm sorry about your wife's medical issues. Prayers and offerings to Apollo and Asklepios, for comfort and healing to
  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    You are very kind, Jamie. Sorry I took so long to acknowledge your post.

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