Nollaig na m’Ban

Where I live in Co.Cork, Ireland, Nollaig na m’Ban or Women’s Little Christmas is celebrated today, 6th January. I know this is Twelfth Night, or Epiphany within the Christian festivals and not linked to any Pagan festival, but having discovered the ancient Pagan festival of Modrinacht, this year, when I thought about Nollaig na m’Ban it felt a little like squaring the circle.

Women’s Little Christmas as a Co. Cork tradition is a time for women to have a day away from their families, a day of rest and time to get together with other women to enjoy their own Christmas. It has its roots in the time when families where large and men rarely lifted a finger around the house, when a day off for women to socialise was a rare event. Although things have hopefully changed everywhere, Cork women still take full advantage of this tradition and most places offer special menus or events for this night out with the girls.

If though we take Modrinacht as the start of the Solstice period, the death and rebirth that follows, and a time to celebrate the feminine how fitting that we should also find within these weeks, Nollaig na m’Ban which could be seen as a celebration of the feminine too, after all there is a reason why there are so many women’s groups in the world.

As Modrinacht was a new discovery for me I decided to take a shamanic journey to gain insight in how to celebrate the feminine. This was my journey:

At first there was nothing and then I realised I was in a space which was full of women and that I was in a circle with them. I couldn’t see the whole circle it was so huge. I then felt tendrils from the earth wrap around my limbs and pull me down deep into the earth, into the Earth Mother. I was pulled deeper and deeper and realise that I could neither hear nor feel my heart.

I then became aware of my womb and only my womb. The stronger my womb got the more I became aware of my own fertility, my own creativity and as my connection to this grew there was a rush up my body and I could once more feel and hear my heart beat.

After returning from my journey I realised that connecting with my womb so powerfully is connecting with my own creativity, that the essence of the feminine lives on in me no matter what stage of my life I am in. I also became aware of how it is only the feminine that has the power to give birth and that it should be honoured in each and every one of us.

I also knew that honouring and celebrating the feminine had to start with myself and this meant a long shower, one where I was observing my body, taking time with every part, recognising as I do that my body is still perfect despite signs of wear and tear. I dried carefully, taking time with me and then massaged myself with body lotion. In this way I celebrated and honoured my body, my outer feminine if you like.

Sitting still afterwards looking at the blue sky, the sunshine, the plants and trees in the garden I found myself full of wonder at Mother Earth and her ability to give life and take it away in a never ending cycle, all the while being perfect in every moment.

I have no goddesses that I worship for in my shamanism there are none but I do have a deep connection to the land and to Mother Earth, so simply sitting and lighting a candle I did so for all females everywhere whatever form they are in, for Mother Earth, for my mother, grandmothers and all my female ancestors and of course for myself. I sat quietly and gave thanks for the feminine in jall that exists.

So today, on the day of Nollaig na m’Ban I shall finish this time of the year by once again lighting a candle and giving thanks for the feminine. I shall take some time out for myself and if any of my female friends are around later I am not adverse to a little celebrating with them too.


Modranicht – Celebrating the feminine

I have just come across Modranicht which in Old English is said to mean ‘Night of the Mothers’. This was an event held on either the eve of Winter Solstice, or Christmas Eve, although as it is thought to have been an Anglo Saxon Pagan event it does seem to me, more likely that it was held on the eve of Solstice rather than Christmas.

What caught my attention about it at first was that the person mentioning it spoke of it their seeing it as a night for celebrating Mother Earth and giving thanks to the Earth Mother which seemed a lovely thing to do at any time of year. How nice to have a day in this festive season to take time out, to reflect on, celebrate and make offerings to the Earth.

Then having looked at it a little more closely today I have also seen that it can be a time for celebrating Brigid as the representation of the triple goddess, one of the great mothers of the Celts. As a healing goddess and goddess of fertility Brigid oversees childbirth. Although Brigid has her own day on 1st February it is clear why some choose to celebrate her at Mondranicht as well.

The translation as ‘Night of the Mothers’ seems to suggest that this would have been a time when the feminine as depicted by motherhood in all its creative forms was celebrated which seems to me a very worthwhile celebration. How lovely if we could bring back a celebration of Mother Earth and the feminine at Modranicht in some way. This year on the eve of Winter Solstice I for one will be doing just that.