February 2, 2012

Imbolc in the Forge: A Threefold Meditation.

Happy Imbolc, everybody! Sunlight is spreading like butter at the edges of the day.

For now is the beautiful, melting, promising drive through the first week of February. Imbolc is the proto-Spring, the tide that destabilizes the frozen lockdown and stillness of winter. Now is the time when things, quickening from their deep rest, begin to move. Sap rises, snow melts. The Sun invades your once utterly-dark morning meditation, and lights your drive home from work.

Imbolc is a gorgeous holiday with many attributes: it is the midpoint of Winter, marking the middle distance between Samhain and Beltane; it is a feast of cream and fire, sacred to women as Lammas is to men.

Among the pagan holidays on the Wheel of the Year, Imbolc is unusual. Lammas, centered around the grain god Lugh, is the only other such holiday to have a principal deity. Brigid, the great Celtic goddess, is the deity of Imbolc.

You do not have to ‘believe’ in Brigid to apprehend the energy of Brigid. It is that energy which binds and weds all of her threefold faces: as Goddess of Smithcraft; as Goddess of Poetry; as Goddess of Healing. She could seem like someone who has so many interests that you can only concentrate on one at a time! But to go deep into meditation on her, if you travel down, you can find the underlying energy of all attributes.

Holy Water, Sacred Flame. Photo by Jeff Frazier.

Goddess of the Forge

There is an old, old belief that blacksmiths have magical powers. They have power over iron, and since the fairy world is repelled by iron, smiths are resistant to fairy gamesmanship. Smiths know secret charms like the Horseman’s Word, which whispers horses to calm to be shod. Smiths have expertise to work with what is inorganic, the same way a witch works with organic plants and parts. They are powerful: the groundedness of material nature itself but they also know that nature is not static. Metal is strong, but capable of being cajoled into forms both beautiful and useful.

Smiths are elemental transformers. They go down into something that looks solid, fluidify it, and change it. It is a return to a primal state, a source state, a working-back in time. In the forge, a tiny cousin of the core of the earth, what is solid becomes fluid through flame.

Goddess of Poetry

 If you have had your British Literature in school, you know the word scop from right around your Beowulf unit: ‘scop’ means poet, but poet means ‘maker,’ from the Old English verb scapan, which means ‘to create, to form.’ Poets are makers, the arrangers of sound and also the appearance of word.

I have a poetry teacher who for an exercise sometimes makes you sound big round vowel sonics, resonating your heart and mouth and throat. AEIOU resounding through your whole body… and then you start writing. And all the complicated intricate gorgeous words you combine are evolutions and specifications of that rich, melted-out thrum. You melt down all your sound and all your preconceptions, going away from your old words into raw form, and then you make poetry out of it, like a smith bends iron.

Goddess of Healing

Brigid is the Goddess of Healing, which is also a power of remaking. My dear friend Winifred went down in her back last summer, from repetitive stress at her physical job that one morning caused her body to revolt against her as an excruciating injury that reduced her from being a heroic rock climber to someone who could barely walk. She has been many months in chiropractic and physical therapy, getting better all the time but with game-board-style ‘go back two spaces’ setbacks. She has frustrated days but she makes progress. Sometimes a person will ask her if she is going to get surgery. She won’t, because she knows for this particular injury, the surgery is only the illusion of a quick fix, but would require its own long recovery time and be much more of a gamble. In a world of impatience and instantaneous everything, her healing requires the brave stamina of a midwife who resists accelerating a perfectly normal birth.

But she is slowly being remade, remaking herself by stages, scop of her own transformed and slowly reconfiguring life. Winifred is working in the hot forge.

There are secrets at every layer.

What happens in the divine realms might seem theoretical and you might not believe in it. But you don’t have to be pagan to buy it. What happens in the material realm is apparent: what looked like it was still and locked forever in the hard ice pond of winter is actually fluid and capable of movement. The year begins and has begun to exhilarate toward the spring.

So for this beautiful arc of time, Imbolc and St Bridget’s Day and Candlemas, celebrate your creativity. Even if you are not professionally or recreationally ‘creative,’ you are. If not a maker of art, you are art, your body healing all the time. You are being recreated right now, your whole body renewing, everything in you putting itself back together, now and true, and shining.

Even though we might look hard as iron, words finished with crisp edges, the whole dictionary already written, we are all capable of change. And how we change ourselves changes the world, which is Goddess power. Now is when we plan how to do that: to begin to transform and work the raw stuff into something beautiful and useful.

As the ice breaks, we too are molten. We are melted. All states can change. The Goddess midwifes the world.

Blessed be, Happy Imbolc, and Love,



Photography by Jeff Frazier: jefffrazier.com, all rights reserved.


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