Celtic – Imbolc 3 Rituals

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Morrigan and Brighid Imbolc Ritual

Although I work with Morrigan the most in my practices, Brighid is a close second.  Imbolc is usually a time to honor Brighid for me, but the following ritual was inspired by an experience during a meditation several years ago just prior to Imbolc.  Before most of my seasonal celebration I will sit by my altar and meditate.  I open myself to the universe and ask to be guided towards the work I should do or the energy I should center on during my ritual.  So as I breathed in and centered what came to me was music.  This is not a norm for me, usually my pathworking and meditations are very visual.  I felt as if I stood in the void, dark, but comforting like standing in the womb of the universe.  I could both hear the music and feel it moving and vibrating through me.  Then I saw two women standing in the darkness with me.  They stood facing one another with their arms raised up.  On one side Morrigan stood garbed in a cloak of black feathers, her hair black and simmering like raven feathers.  Opposite her Brighid stood regal with flowing red hair with golden threads braided through it.  They sang and as they did the sounds became visible.  It appeared as radiant light, twining, and weaving together into knots akin to the beautiful art work decorating Celtic tombs.  It was more than a song, it was as if it was the threads that wove the universe together, only those threads were sounds.  I could feel I was part of this song, existing both within and without it.  It moved through me and through all things, binding the world together.

While we know Brighid as a goddess of poetry, we often forget that Morrigan is called a poetess several times.  In one version of her first encounter with Cuchulain she first tells him she is a poetess, and recites an epic poem that she claims she was awarded a cow for.  Her famous prophesy spoken at the end of the Second Battle of Mag Tuired is poetic in nature, and often in Celtic mythology poets act as prophets and vs versa.  It’s a side of the Great Queen we don’t often consider, but it’s there.

So this is the image I keep in mind when I do this ritual.  That image of Morrigan and Brighid singing the world into existence, giving it form and shape.  While both Goddesses appear both old and young and fill many roles in their mythology during Imbolc I honor Brighid as the lady of spring.  She ignites the fire within, and as the radiant sun she warms the earth and brings us into the bright half of the year. Morrigan on the other hand is the strength that leads us through the dark.  While Brighid is the bright flash of light and fire, Morrigan is the steady hand that keep the dying embers alive during our darkest hours.  So this time of year I honor Morrigan in that capacity.  For leading us through the dark, for strengthening us and tempering us for Brighid’s bright presence.

Morrigan and Brighid Imbolc Ritual

You Will Need:

Bowl or cauldron

Spear head (or athame/sword)

Six tea light (four for the elements and one for each Goddess)

Harp music (optional)

Place a candle at each quarter to represent the elements.  On one side of the altar place a bowl or cauldron with a little water in it to represent Brighid.  You can place a floating candle in the water or use just a little bit of water so a tea light can still burn inside the cauldron. On the other side place a candle to represent the Morrigan.  I also like to place a sword or spear head in front of the candle to represent the Great Queen.

Part of this ritual is a descent into the underworld, where an item of cloths or jewelry is shed at each quarter.  There are many ways to approach this.  Shedding all cloths is fine, as standing naked in the underworld is very symbolic.  Often this is not pratical, whether this is because of the nature of a group setting, or if you practice outside and may be interrupted by neighbors who will be quite startled at your appearance, or if you are outside and well the weather is just too damn cold for such things.  In these cases I wear extra clothing and jewelry, a shawl or cape, jewelry that holds significance to me, and intentionally shed particular items at each quarter.

Cast the circle in whatever manner you like, or not at all, as it is not absolutely necessary.

Stand in the east, say:

Poetess, prophetess

Sing to me your song,

Of battles yet won,

Of victories to come

Stand in the south:

Smith, harp bearer, song weaver

Lady of fire, eternal undying flame,

Strike the hammer,

Inspiration tame

Stand in the west:

Washer woman, lean hag,

Mother keening for a son,

lost to the shadowed lands

Ladies of ford and well,

Guide the spirit, sing your spell

Stand in the north:

Hollowed hills and faery fens,

Standing stones and the blood of fallen men,

Earthen mounds, the Morrigu’s den

In the oak grove Bride’s fire the priestesses tend

Return to the altar.  Light the candle representing Brighid, saying:

Lady of song, sword smith, eternal flame

Brighid I call you name!

The hammer that strikes the soul,

The flame above the head

Light the candle representing the Morrigan:

Poetess, enchantress

Keeper of the dead,

Flame in the dark,

To whose shadowed lands we all must tread,

You whisper to the heart of victory, strength, a summer without end

Take a few minutes to feel the Goddesses presence and listen for any wisdom or inspiration they might impart on you.  When you are ready begin walking around the circle counter clockwise.  Begin in the east.  As you travel from quarter to quarter take a piece of clothing or jewelry off.  See yourself descending into the dark.  You can see it as the underworld, or a cave.  As the Morrigan often travels between worlds through sacred mounds, and they were considered entrances to the Faery realm and the realm of the dead, I like to see myself descending into a sacred mound, and being lead deep into the earth through a stone hewed passage.  If a different image comes to mind, don’t worry, go with what feels right.  If in a group setting, or if shedding cloths is not practical, you can simply walk from quarter to quarter keeping the visualization in mind.  When you have visited each quarter return to the altar.  Bring to mind all the lessons you have learned during the dark half of the year, or things you wish to shed or transform in your life.  Remember the underworld is the womb of existence, it is the place to break down the barriers that bind us and build them anew.

When you feel ready say:

Morrigan, light in the darkness

Brighid sudden flame

Poetess singing and weaving all into existence,

All that is and will be,

Morrigan loosing the threads,

Binding and unbinding the dead

Poetess, enchantress

Druidess and Queen

Lady of mist and shadows

The Tuatha De Danann’s shining Queen

Bind and unbind,

Unravel and untwine

Bind and unbind,

Unravel and untwine

Ask Brighid and Morrigan to help you transform your life, to temper and shape you in the coming months.  Feel yourself filled with the light and strength of both goddesses, until you glow with strength and power.  When you feel ready walk clockwise around the circle.  If you took cloths/jewelry off put it back on, as you visualize yourself ascending from the underworld or sacred mound.  Return to the center of the circle and say:

The seasons shift from dark to light

The crone’s reign ends, the maiden’s begins

I have tread through the dark, the Raven Queen at my side,

I have haunted the hollows of the underworld

As light returns to the world I transform

Shaped, tempered and reformed in Brighid’s forge

I rise towards the light of Brighid’s flame, like a flower leaning towards the sun

I rise anew, tempered in shadows, reborn of flame

Thank the goddesses and make any offerings you wish.  When you are ready go to the east, south, west, and north saying:

Queen of Shadow, Lady of Flame

I honor you in deed and name!

Brighid’s mantle enfolds me,

Morrigan’s shield upholds me!

Extinguish the candle and close the circle.

Hold an Imbolc Candle Ritual for Solitaries

Hundreds of years ago, when our ancestors relied upon the sun as their only source of light, the end of winter was met with much celebration. Although it is still cold in February, often the sun shines brightly above us, and the skies are often crisp and clear. As a festival of light, Imbolc came to be called Candlemas. On this evening, when the sun has set once more, call it back by lighting the seven candles of this ritual.

** Note: although this ceremony is written for one, it can easily be adapted for a small group.

First, set up your altar in a way that makes you happy, and brings to mind the themes of Imbolc. You’ll also want to have on hand the following:

Prior to beginning your ritual, take a warm, cleansing bath. While soaking, meditate on the concept of purification. Once you’re done, dress in your ritual attire, and begin the rite. You’ll need:

  • Seven candles, in red and white (tealights are perfect for this)
  • Something to light your candles with
  • Sand or salt to fill the bottom of the bowl/cauldron

If your tradition requires you to cast a circle, do so now.

Pour the sand or salt into the bowl or cauldron. Place the seven candles into the sand so they won’t slide around. Light the first candle. As you do so, say:

Although it is now dark, I come seeking light.
In the chill of winter, I come seeking life.

Light the second candle, saying:

I call upon fire, that melts the snow and warms the hearth.
I call upon fire, that brings the light and makes new life.
I call upon fire to purify me with your flames.

Light the third candle. Say:

This light is a boundary, between positive and negative.
That which is outside, shall stay without.
That which is inside, shall stay within.

Light the fourth candle. Say:

I call upon fire, that melts the snow and warms the hearth.
I call upon fire, that brings the light and makes new life.
I call upon fire to purify me with your flames.

Light the fifth candle, saying:

Like fire, light and love will always grow.
Like fire, wisdom and inspiration will always grow.

Light the sixth candle, and say:

I call upon fire, that melts the snow and warms the hearth.
I call upon fire, that brings the light and makes new life.
I call upon fire to purify me with your flames.

Finally, light the last candle. As you do so, visualize the seven flames coming together as one. As the light builds, see the energy growing in a purifying glow.

Fire of the hearth, blaze of the sun,
cover me in your shining light.
I am awash in your glow, and tonight I am
made pure.

Take a few moments and meditate on the light of your candles. Think about this Sabbat, a time of healing and inspiration and purification. Do you have something damaged that needs to be healed? Are you feeling stagnant, for lack of inspiration? Is there some part of your life that feels toxic or tainted? Visualize the light as a warm, enveloping energy that wraps itself around you, healing your ailments, igniting the spark of creativity, and purifying that which is damaged.

When you are ready, end the ritual. You may choose to follow up with healing magic, or with a Cakes and Ale ceremony.

How To Hold a Farewell to Winter Ritual

Imbolc is typically around the time when we’re all getting cabin fever — it’s cold, we’re snowed in, and frankly, we’re all a bit tired of winter. We know it’s ending soon, but it’s never quite soon enough. This simple ritual is a fun one to do with your family on a snowy day, but can also be performed by a single person. The best time to do it is when you have a fresh layer of snow on the ground, but if that’s not possible, never fear. Find a big pile of snow to work in.

Try to time the rite so you begin it just before dinner — you can actually start it while your meal is cooking.

Prepare a collection of things to make noise with — bells, clappers,drums, etc. Make sure each person has one form of noisemaker. You’ll also need a candle in the color of your choice (tall enough to stick in the snow), something to light it with (like a lighter or matches), and a bowl.

Go outside, and create a symbol of spring in the snow. You could draw a picture of the sun or some flowers, rabbits, anything that means spring to your family.

If you have a lot of space, feel free to make it as big as you like. Another option is to have each person make their own symbol in the snow.

One family member calls out:

Old man winter, it’s time to go!
Take with you these piles of snow!

The other family members stomp around the symbol in a circle through the snow, banging their drums, ringing their bells, and chanting:

Melt, snow, melt!
Spring will soon return!

Light the candle, and place it in the center of the circle. Say:

A flame, a fire, all the warmth it brings,
melt the snow, cold be gone, welcome back the spring!

The rest of the family stomps through the snow once more, in a circle, making lots of noise and chanting:

Melt, snow, melt!
Spring will soon return!

Leave the candle to burn out on its own. Fill your bowl with snow and take it back inside with you. Place it in the center of your table and eat your meal. By the time you’re done, the snow should be close to melted (if you have to, put it near the stove to hurry things along).

Hold up the bowl, and say:

The snow has melted! Spring will return!

Make lots of noise with your bells and drums, clapping and whooping it up. Use the melted snow water to water a plant, or save it for ritual use later on.

Tips: If you have too much snow for the candle to stand in, place it on a stump or rock instead.

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