February 2, 2010

The ‘Bri’ of Brigid: An Imbolc Icebreaker

To-day is Imbolc, the ancient feast of the Celtic goddess Brigid!

In Nashville, the ice-carapaced snow of this week-end’s blizzard is now running wet in clear bright currents of shining water. Now begins the proto-Spring, the pre-Spring, on this day that marks the beginning of the stirring of the earth under layers of frost, and the quickening and rising of the sap of trees.

Even under the ice and rime, life gets restless, and it takes the form of milk, of sap, of blood pulsing more quickly, of all hibernating mammals squirming and stretching in their burrows.

An old Scottish folk saying holds that when the feast of Brigid is past, ‘the fox won’t trust his tail to the ice’ because the ice is no longer reliable to bear his weight.

The apparent surface of things, hard and icey, becomes unstable. The dimensions of a tree are right now are illusive, because the branches thrum with potential energy to change rapidly and right now they are waiting to expand, extend, to send into bud, blossom, and leaf.

Energy begins to stream outward.

You may know that Imbolc means ‘in the milk’ or ‘in the belly,’ and early February was the time on the old European agricultural calendar at which the teats of pregnant ewes began to swell in expectancy of the birth of their lambs. The seed that was incepted has quickened, turned in the darkness into a calf or lamb or kid or baby about to be born, and the mother’s body makes preparation.

What makes Imbolc different from Ostara, the Spring Equinox which is the next pagan high day to come, is that right now life is still hidden. It is still underground, in the belly stem or trunk or egg.

It is still within, in literal expectancy. But in this lies the greatest period of creativity, because you can still shape what is forming—it hasn’t been seen yet. In some ways, it could be anything: it is a multiplex potential, many possible creations, many lives, a garden of infinitely forking paths, many realities.

This attribute of life is wild, and that wildness may make you apprehensive about it. You can sense a loss of control, of vulnerability, being out of your habit, beyond your comfort, unaccustomed. Because of this discomfort, there is a quality of surrender necessary to Imbolc, in addition to its flame-buoyant restlessness.

Brigid’s day is a holiday of water as well as of rising fire. The fire that is the energy of life rises, but what is required to bring that life to bear is the fluidic quality of water, melting in order to be liquid enough to rise, and melting the outer hull to accept the change that is coming, the way a mother makes room in her life for a new baby because she knows that once the baby arrives, she will be irrevocably different forever.

There can be no armor at Imbolc. Your old ways are no longer sufficient to bear you. You can choose to give in to the new cycle with willingness, curiosity, and love, knowing that it is going to take you anyway.

The trees we see now are bigger, draw different shapes in the air with their limbs, than they did last year at this time. They do because they grew when they were supposed to grow, carried and borne by the energy of the Mother Universe.

What surges to-day is life, beyond all else, and you know it; you feel it.

Do not worry that this holiday, claimed and named by pagans, is doctrinaire or dogmatic.

Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull once replied to a question in an interview, ‘I am not a Christian; I’m a farmer.’ No matter what you ‘are,’ what creed or rede you profess, you live on the earth and under the starwheels of the constellations.

The changes that are happening all around are your birthright. So surrender to allow the change in yourself: that your branches may expand; that you might find love where you have armored your heart from pain; that you might dare to take a risk that stretches you. Align with what is happening around you and surf on its bigger movement.

The universe will support you because you are doing what you are supposed to be doing, because that is what all critters and trees are doing.

Move with the world. Melt as the ice melts. Let the new, unafraid, unashamed, unabashed, brave and trembling, raw and daring self inside you come into being, everything that you are bringing, everything that you want to be born.

The ancient root of Brigid’s name is ‘bri.’ ‘It means the female force, you see,’ writes Charles de Lint in Jack of Kinrowan, ‘the earth, the moon, growth and growing things….

They found Brigit’s name in that word, and many another word besides, but the old bri was more than just the Bride—it was every face she ever wore.’ ‘Bri’ is like luck and light.

It is water and fire. It is the dynamic shaktic mobility that keeps you alive.

Briall Ort!

Rise from your sorrow!  Be happy!

For your life is always expanding and transforming. You are always capable of so much more, you are so much more powerful, than you know.

Blessed be and love,


Laura Marjorie Miller is a Yoga teacher living and teaching in Nashville, TN.

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