Imbolc Protection Ritual

Snowdrops ButleyThis rite uses what is commonly known as “The Descent of Brighid” from the Carmina Gadelica. This rite specifically calls upon the powers of the goddess Brighid, and cannot be used interchangeably with another goddess. If you honour or work with other deities, you might consider using the poem as an example to write your own spell or charm of protection. Alternatively, you might just leave out all the references to deity. At the end of the poem, we find the term luatha-luis, whose meaning is not wholly clear, and which is open to interpretation. It may mean a fast-acting, possibly poisonous plant. Luis is the rowan or mountain ash, a powerful and magical tree, whose berries are poisonous when raw, but delicious and nutritious when cooked.
You can perform this ritual every Imbolc, especially if you are a follower or would like to honour Brighid. Or you can simply use it as a rite of protection. You can perform this rite after undergoing a purification such as smudging or saining yourself with smoke from mugwort or vervain.
For this ritual, I would strongly encourage the entire formality of designating sacred space. This will lend focus to your intention, as well as inviting the powers of the ancestors, the three realms, the spirits of place and more to your rite. Choose something that symbolises protection for you, a talisman if you will: something strong and durable, something that will “shield” you physically, spiritually and psychically. You can make a shield yourself, using whatever materials you prefer. This doesn’t have to be a full-body protecting hunk of steel, but again can be symbolic; you can make one out of papier maché to keep near your altar, should you so wish. You might wish to use something natural that you can carry with you, such as a stone or crystal, or even say the poem over a pendant bearing the triskele or triquetra symbol, reflecting the triple nature of Brighid. There are many ways you can use this; be creative!

Rite of Protection Using the Shield of Brighid

Set up and designate your sacred space. Once you have done so, sit or stand for a moment and breathe, focusing your intention on what is to come. Visualise a glowing light beginning to emanate from within, centred on your chest. This light reflects the light of the moon, or the light upon water, or the light of a flame. The energy from this light is not hot, but cool, flowing through you and filling you with strength and confidence, as well as compassion and love. Raise your arms to the sky, drawing down the power of the sky and the full moon. Then hold your hands out in front of you, and draw in the power of the sea, and the highest tide. Finally, hold your hands to the ground, and draw the power of the land into yourself, the serpent energy that courses and connects everything to each other. Stand fully upright once more, noting how the light emanating from within you is even brighter now. Take that light within your mind, and form it into a circle or sphere of light around you. Visualise that light encompassing you, shielding you. If you have a talisman to represent the shield, hold this aloft and still visualise the circle around you. Then say the following words, from “The Descent of Brighid” from the Carmina Gadelica, feeling free to adapt or leave out the Christian influence:

Brigit daughter of Dugall the Brown
Son of Aodh son of Art son of Conn
Son of Criara son of Cairbre son of Cas
Son of Cormac son of Cartach son of Conn.

Brigit of the mantles,
Brigit of the peat-heap,
Brigit of the twining hair,
Brigit of the augury.

Brigit of the white feet,

Brigit of calmness,
Brigit of the white palms,
Brigit of the kine.

Brigit, woman-comrade,
Brigit of the peat-heap,
Brigit, woman-helper,
Brigit, woman mild.

Brigit, own tress of Mary,
Brigit, Nurse of Christ, —
Each day and each night
That I say the Descent of Brigit,
I shall not be slain,
I shall not be wounded,
I shall not be put in cell,
I shall not be gashed,
I shall not be torn in sunder,
I shall not be despoiled,
I shall not be down-trodden,
I shall not be made naked,
I shall not be rent,
Nor will Christ
Leave me forgotten.

Nor sun shall burn me,
Nor fire shall burn me.
Nor beam shall burn me.
Nor moon shall burn me.

Nor river shall drown me.
Nor brine shall drown me.
Nor flood shall drown me.
Nor water shall drown me.

Nightmare shall not lie on me,
Black-sleep shall not lie on me.
Spell-sleep shall not lie on me,
‘ Luatha-luis ‘ shall not lie on me.

I am under the keeping
Of my Saint Mary;
My companion beloved
Is Brigit.

Let the words sink into the air around you. Let them suffuse the light that encircles you with their power. When you are ready, draw the circle of light that surrounds you back into yourself, centred on your chest. If you have a special talisman that you’d like to infuse with this energy instead, draw the circle of light that surrounds you into your talisman. When all the light has gone where it should, stand for a moment and see how this makes you feel. You can test the circle of light, by holding up your dominant hand (right if you are right-handed, left if you are left-handed) and immediately bring the circle of light back around your being. See it spring back up with ease, to surround you and protect you. If you are using a talisman, see it coming forth from the talisman. You can call and release this power as you wish, as you need. It is not something to be played with, but something real, an energy being focused around you. You are connecting with the power of Brighid.
When you are satisfied that you have the protection you need, it is time to reciprocate and leave an offering for what you have been given. As the lady of poetry, smithcraft and of healing, an offering related of one or all of these would be suitable.
Close down your ritual, and renew this rite of protection whenever you feel it necessary.

This ritual is an excerpt from my latest work, The Book of Hedge Druidry: A Complete Guide for the Solitary Seeker, published by Llewellyn Worldwide.

(c) Joanna van der Hoeven 2019

Sneak peek at some of my new book… Beltane Ritual!

hedge-druid-cover   This ritual is not for the faint-hearted. For at Beltane, the portals between this world and the Otherworld are wide open, and the Fair Folk are out in abundance. Here we will go out into a wild place and seek out a companion or guide of the Fair Folk: one that can offer advice, wisdom and intelligence on the locality of place, what is needed and what can be offered in return. Meeting one of the Fair Folk can be thrilling, but can also be a little scary. They are like and yet not like us, as described in the previous chapter on the Fair Folk in Part One of this book. They have different agendas, and may or may not appear in human form. Yet Beltane is the traditional time for encountering the Fair Folk, as is Samhain. So here, with caution, we will attempt to meet one of them, to gain some insight into the work that we can offer to the Fair Folk as well as the spirits of place, and what they may ask of us (and what we may receive in return).

This ritual is ideally performed outside, but can be accommodated for those who are unable to do so. You can perform this indoors, at your indoor altar if you wish, and take a similar journey in your mind to a destination of your choosing. Instead of a fire, you can have a candle upon your altar as the focal point.

You may prefer to fast during the day of this ritual, if you are able (if in doubt, consult your medical health practitioner). Drinking vervain tea before the ritual or taking a few drops of the Moon Elixir (see end of this ritual on making your own Moon Elixir) might also aid in your working. It is important to ensure that you do not have any iron on your person, or in the ritual area, as this is reputed to drive away the Fair Folk. If you feel the need for some protection against the Fair Folk you can carry a pouch of St John’s wort upon your person, though this may affect some of the fey who wish to communicate with you. This protective herb has its good qualities, in keeping the harmful away but may also deter those whose intentions are entirely neutral or as yet unclear.

Good places to hold this ritual are in wild places, or liminal places such as a forest edge, or the seashore, or on a hilltop. Other places could be at ancient sites such as tumuli, barrows or stone circles where it is often said the Fair Folk gather. You could also hold this ritual near a hawthorn or an elder tree, as these are trees associated with the Fair Folk. You may also choose to perform this ritual by a hedge.  In any case, wherever you hold this ritual, ensure that the fire you create is safe and contained. Otherwise the Fair Folk might become angry with you, and this is certainly not what you want! I’ve even performed this ritual in my own backyard, with great success after a Beltane rite with friends and consequently meeting one of the Fair Folk for the very first time: he came through the hedge and stood under an apple tree, clad in shades of brown.

For this ritual, you will need:

  • An offering, such as butter or honey
  • Somewhere where you can sit outside for part or all of the night and have an outdoor fire
  • A mugwort smudge stick, or cut and dried herb to be burned in a censer
  • A handful of vervain
  • Some food and drink for yourself

Designate the sacred space as you normally would. When doing so, focus on inviting those of the Fair Folk who are in tune with your intention alongside the spirits of place, and who wish you no harm. That way, you may filter out unwanted attention from those who may not be so beneficial to you or your work. You might like to say something similar to what is offered below as you set up the space and after calling to the spirits of place:

I honour the time and tide and the beginning of Summer. I also call to the Fair Folk, those who hold the knowledge and wisdom of this land and of the ages. Those who come from between the worlds, I seek your blessing on this rite, and also your friendship. Those who are in tune with my intention, be welcome here in my rite.

Take as long as you need to settle and attune yourself to the place. Let yourself become a part of the landscape. Then light a small fire, and gaze into the flames. Take your time with this ritual; it might take all night, or at least a couple of hours. Allow yourself to really open up to the time and place, and do not rush anything.

When you feel ready, take the mugwort smudge stick, or burn some mugwort in a censer, and sain yourself with the smoke. (Saining is like purifying – allow the smoke to rise and flow over all your body, cleansing your body and soul.) Once you feel cleansed and purified, sit down for a few moments and just breathe.

Now call to the Fair Folk, first throwing a handful of vervain upon the fire (or the censer, if performing this indoors). Say these or similar words:

I now call out to one of the Fair Folk, you who would be my guide, who would share with me the wisdom of the Otherworld. In return, may the work that I do benefit this world and the Otherworld, and may there always be friendship between us.

Wait as long as is necessary. Someone will come to your call, whether in a human form or in animal form, or as a light breeze or a wind that caresses you, but touches nothing else. You might hear music, or laughter, without actually seeing anything. All these indicate the presence of the Fair Folk. Open your mind to any messages they might have to offer, or simply become aware of their presence in your life, in this place and time. At this initial meeting, a simple greeting might be enough, and a lengthy communion unnecessary. You can work and converse with the Fair Folk at length in later rites and rituals, but for now you are simply opening up your awareness of them, and of one in particular who wishes to work with you.

You may ask them for their name, but they may not give one to you, so don’t be offended by this. Simply acknowledge them as they appear, as your guide from the Otherworld. When your encounter is over (and it may be brief for this first time) slightly bow your head to them as the meeting comes to a close. Show gratitude towards them for making themselves known to you: give your offering in a suitable place for the Fair Folk and the spirits of place, acknowledging the beauty and gifts that have already been shared. Remember, don’t say “thank you”, for that may put you in their debt! Simply give the offering with a feeling of gratitude.

When you are ready, eat some food and have something to drink, and then put out the fire and ensure all safety precautions have been met. Close down your ritual space, and give a final thanks to all those who have been a part of your ritual. Know that you can return to this place to commune further with your Otherworldly guide. In future meetings they may set tasks for you to perform, in return for their wisdom. These might range from cleaning up litter in the area, to coming at certain times such as the full moon or at special holidays. They might ask you for protection of their space in your world, and you may need to seek out local authorities to communicate with and ensure that the place is protected and kept safe for generations to come. They might simply ask for further offerings of honey, whisky or mead, or poetry, song and music. Work with them to the best of your abilities, ensuring that no harm comes to yourself or others, the Fair Folk included. Ensure that you keep up your relationship with them; do not take them for granted, nor ignore them or allow the friendship to cease due to laziness or apathy.

If you need to sever the relationship for any reason, return to the place where you initially held this ritual. You may be moving to another part of the country, or have found another path. It is important to say farewell to your fey companion, and being polite to the Fair Folk is of utmost importance.

Simple Imbolc Celebration and Magic

Cover high resHere is an extract from my upcoming book, “The Hedge Druid’s Craft“, which is another introductory Pagan Portals book and is now available for pre-order.

Imbolc

Imbolc is a gentle festival, where we honour the first signs of Spring after a long winter. It has long been dedicated to the goddess Brighid who has associations with fire and water. Allow this time of year to fill your soul, the air still cold but the warmth of the light from the strengthening sun inspiring you to go out into the worlds and do the work that you have to do. You can light a candle to dedicate yourself at this time to your work, having spent the winter months thinking long and deeply about it. Now is the time to state your intention clearly. You can carve words or symbols into the candle that represent your work, and strew herbs around it to lend their energies (see A Basic Candle Spell below). As you light the candle, state your intention clearly, calling upon the ancestors and the Fair Folk, the gods and goddesses to bear witness. This is not an oath to be made lightly.

Meditate upon the candle’s flame for as long as you wish. Then take a bowl of spring water and anoint yourself with it. I like to collect water from Chalice Well and the White Spring in Glastonbury every time I visit, and I use this special, holy water for use in rituals and in spellcraft. You can draw the shape of a crescent moon upon your brow with the water, or place any other symbols which have meaning to you upon your body. It is also a good time for healing work, and anointing yourself with sacred water on areas of your body that need healing can kick-start the process (as well as following good medical and spiritual advice).

A Basic Candle Spell

Take a candle of an appropriate colour to use in your work. As a very basic guide, red is for love and passion, pink for emotions, blue for healing, green for the environment, brown for animals, yellow for inspiration, purple for magical strength, black for release of negativity. White candles are used for purification, as well as can be used to replace any other colour that you may not be able to obtain.

Sit with your candle and meditate upon the work that you wish to achieve. Then, stating your intention clearly, pour your energy into the candle. Allow energy to flow from your hands into the candle. When you have poured enough into the candle, you can then add more strength to it by carving words or symbols into it, still holding your intention. Then, place the candle it a holder and light it with a match. As you strike the match, keep your intention in your mind, and as you bring the match to the candle’s wick, visualise the power of fire igniting your work. Sit before the candle and meditate upon the flame, still holding your visualisation of the end result of your spellwork coming to fruition. You can add herbs around the base of the candle, if you so wish, to allow them to add their magical energy to your work. You can infuse the herbs with your intention and energy in exactly the same way as you did the candle. See with your mind’s eye a cone of power rising from the herbs around the candle, blending with the candle’s flame and sending the power out into the world.

Respect and Conduct at Public Sacred Sites

When visiting a sacred site, we can get carried away. We can often forget that at public sacred sites there are others there who are on their own quest, pilgrimage, whatever. We want to rush in, to do the work, to perform ritual, to connect, to sing, chant and celebrate. But we have to think more carefully about shared space.

I recently went to the White Spring with my Druid College Year 3 apprentices. I adore the White Spring; it’s such a lovely site. However, after about 15 minutes various people and groups piled in to temple, and the words “Pagan Circus” comes to mind…

At one point, we had some Druids chanting the awen softly one corner. Lovely. But then another woman began singing in another corner. In a third corner, a man was standing and singing at the top of his lungs (which in that space is really, really loud). Trying to get away from all this noise, I made my way the quietest part of the Mirror Pool in the middle of the temple. I gazed into the water, slowly collecting my thoughts and meditating upon the sacred water, when suddenly three women, two naked and one clothed, clambered into the Mirror Pool, stood in the middle of it and held hands, performing some sort of ritual between themselves. Needless to say, my meditation was, by then, a hopeless cause.

We have so little opportunity to be who we are, especially at such sacred sites as the White Spring. But we also have to bear in mind that this is a public space. There are other Pagans there who are attempting to commune with the energies, the gods and goddesses, the spirits of place, and who don’t need others crashing in on their precious few minutes in that area. These sites are not a Pagan free-for-all. We must respect others and the place. You would never see a group of monks from an abbey in the south of France rock up to Ely Cathedral and suddenly perform Mass, or chant their evensong while the resident monks and visitors alike are doing their thing. We have to bear this in mind, that other people’s experiences are just as important and valid as our own.

And it’s not just Pagans visiting these spaces. The White Spring is open to everyone, from groups of nuns visiting from Spain to families from Yorkshire on a weekend getaway. There are very practical things we need to bear in mind at such places. For one, it’s still illegal to be naked in a public space. For another, not everyone wants to see naked people, for various reasons. Imagine the Catholic nun trying to connect with St Brigid, and then having a group of naked priestesses splashing her habit as they clamber in and out of the sacred pool (there is, indeed, a separate plunge pool for people to dip in, should they wish!). Imagine a primary school teacher asking the young girl what she did on the weekend, and her reply was “Daddy and I went to visit a spring, and watched naked ladies.”

Many of these sacred sites have special out of hours timings for those who wish to hold private ritual. Both Chalice Well and the White Spring offer this, and it should be borne in mind by those who wish to hold ritual at these sites. That way, you won’t be intruding on anyone’s time spent at these sites, or offend anyone who’s beliefs are not your own. It requires advance planning and commitment, but it’s not that hard. I’ve done it myself, and had private time at the White Spring to plunge my naked self in the icy waters with a couple of friends, or visited the Red Spring after closing hours.

Let’s bear in mind other people’s experiences, which are just as valid as our own. Let’s not turn our sacred sites into spaces of competing rituals and rites all happening at the same time. Let’s honour the sacredness of the site, and remember that it’s not just there for us. The energy of these spaces is not only for our own spiritual nourishment. We take, take, take all the time. Receive healing, inspiration and more at these sites, by all means. But remember to give back, by respecting the site, and other people visiting it.

Make it an enjoyable and memorable experience for all.

The birds have gone…

It is a melancholy time of year. Most of the fields are now lying still, shorn and with the stubbly remains jutting defiantly into the last of the summer sunshine. The house martins departed over the weekend; I had spent much of last week watching the elders teach the young ones how to glide and ride the air currents in preparation for their long trek to their winter homes. The sky is so silent and still without them, and there is a small space in my heart that is sad to have said goodbye to them. Good luck on your journey, little ones. May you be as safe as can be, and I hope to see you again next summer, when you herald in the start of the season of warmth and sunlight once again, alongside the calls of the cuckoo.

The full moon makes sleep difficult; dreams are seemingly random and exhausting, and will only have meaning when the actual events happen. My skills in divination and the sight are through dreams more than anything, but right now I’m so tired that I’ll be lucky to remember anything upon waking. It’s only in the actual doing or being somewhere that I’ll remember that I dreamt it, like on Saturday when I signed a new contract, and remembered writing an email with a query regarding it. In the dream, I had no idea who I was writing to or why; now it all makes perfect sense.

It is a time when we are seeing the fruits of our labour. But it is also a time when we cannot yet rest or lay down our tools, for there is still much to be done. There are many other harvests that await. I have had a good crop of raspberries this summer, and another one on the way. The first apple harvest was abundant, and the second looks to be even better from my three little trees. I have just released my seventh book, with another written and in production, and a whole new one to work on. Druid College’s next Year 1 session begins in October, but we have our first session of our Year 3 apprentices beforehand to journey with on pilgrimage to Glastonbury in September. There is still much to be done.

The leaves are beginning to change, and a soft sadness tinged with relief lies within my breast. It feels like I’ve cried a long time, and am releasing that juddery sigh that often follows a good sob. New things await, but the old ones are being put to bed first. Everything in its own time. Nature does not hurry, and yet everything gets done.

So this evening I will be honouring the full moon and the Lammastide, with ritual in the company of a couple of lovely ladies. As the combine harvesters grumble relentlessly in the background, we shall sing to the moon, and share in the bounty that we have received with the spirits of place, the ancestors and the gods. Bread that I will bake this afternoon will be our offering, as well as words and vows of the work to come.

The times of sadness and stillness are required, just as the times of light and laughter. For we cannot have one without the other. They are not opposites, but simply on different places in the spectrum of human emotion. We ride the currents in keeping with the tides and seasons, and work towards integration and harmony.

May we be the awen.

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