Oak

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For as long as I can remember I have been draw to the Oak tree. I have, over the years, collected leaves, twigs, windfall wood and two years ago was gifted three tiny oak saplings. When I say tiny I really do mean tiny as none measured more than six inches.

The saplings were planted in pots and nurtured over the last two winters. Sadly one didn’t make it and so I now have two. They haven’t grown much but are producing new leaves which I hope is a good sign.

Last year I was told they grow best with company and as they are in individual pots I may now move them to a larger pot, all together and with a holly sapling for company. In the wild they grow alongside holly so I figure this is worth a go. I have space in the garden but they are too tiny to plant out and as we have rabbits I wouldn’t rate their chances very highly if I did.

There is a lot of tree lore related to trees and much can be found online but I want to share this with you: OBOD Tree Lore Oak

Brigid and Brigid’s Cross

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One of the first things that I learnt to do when I moved to Ireland was to make a St Brigid’s cross. I hadn’t heard of them at all before I moved and had to be taught not only how to make it but also what to do with it when it was made.

Describing how to make one is complicated without diagrams so having found this online today I thought I would share it in case anyone else is drawn to make one. This link includes a nice video if a child making one, it’s not difficult ūüôā I like that the instructions say to use straws or reeds for there are a special type of reed that grow in wetlands, used to make them here, a reed I recognise whenever I come across it, but the site of which I always forget¬†come February.

I was told that it was the tradition where I live, to make a new Brigid’s cross every year and to place it in the loft on a rafter to protect the house from fire, which used to be a common problem in old houses in Ireland. In old houses chimneys were left¬†unlined and any chimney fire¬†could easily escape and leap through the loft space taking the roof and very often the whole house. I have since discovered that they are also used to ward off evil but maybe I looked too innocent to be told that I might need to do this ūüôā It was a long time ago!

So who was Brigid?

Brigid was a Pre-Christian, Celtic goddess who was associated with smithcraft, poetry, healing, childbirth. She is sometimes spoken of as a Triple Goddess and is always closely associated with fire. In fact the fire associations are so strong that a perpetual fire was set at Kildare in her honour, a fire which still burns today. Brigid is also known of as  Brid, Bride, Brighid, Brigit, Brigantia, Briginda, and Brigdu.

In Irish mythology Brigid appears as a member of the Tuatha Dé Danann and was the daughter of the Dagda, wife of Bres and had a son named Ruadán. To the Catholic Church though she is known as Saint Brigid and spoken of only as sharing her name with the Celtic goddess. It is said that St Brigid was the child of  Brocca, a Christian woman baptized by Saint Patrick, and that her father was Dubthach, a Leinster chieftain. As Brocca was a slave, Brigid was born into slavery. Some stories say that Brigid was baptised by St Patrick, others that she grew up as his friend.

If you would like to read more about Brigid, the Celtic goddess though the OBOD have an article that can be accessed here and which contains a lot of additional information.

What is known is that the¬†the¬†pagan festival of Imbolc or Imbolg, is associated with the goddess Brigid. The festival marks the beginning of spring has been celebrated since ancient times. It is a Cross Quarter Day, midway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. ¬†It can actually fall anywhere between 2nd & 7th of February as it is calculated as the mid point between the astronomical Winter Solstice and the astronomical Spring Equinox, however it is often celebrated on 1st February, which is the same date as the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church and the Anglican Communion celebrate St Brigid’s Day.

And what about Brigid’s crosses?

There are many stories her as to how the tradition of these crosses originated and this is just one of them:

There was an old pagan Chieftain who was on his¬†deathbed in Kildare when his servants summoned Brigid to his beside in the hope that the she might be able to¬†calm his restless spirit. Brigid is said to have sat by his bed, consoling and calming him . Whilst she was here she picked up some rushes from the floor and began weaving them into the distinctive cross pattern. As¬†she weaved, she explained the meaning of the cross to the sick Chieftain and it is thought her calming words brought peace to his soul and requested that he be baptised as a Christian ¬†before his passing. Ever since that day it has been customary on the eve of Brigid’s Feast Day on 1st February, to fashion a St Brigid’s Cross of straw or rushes and place it in the roof of the house over the door as a means of protecting the house.

Brigid has always been¬†held in high regard in Ireland, many wells in all parts of the country are named after her, the symbol of her¬†cross is to be found in many Irish designs and there is even a pilgrimage route that can be walked, known as an the Brigid’s Way an¬†Ancient Path between Sky and Earth

 

Monday Musings – Becoming a Bard

According to the dictionaries, in medieval times a Bard was a tribal singer, poet or one who recites epic or heroic poems, but having just spent around 18 months studying the Bardic level of the Order of the Bards, Ovates and Druids I can safely say that I am still none of those.

I can’t sing, my poetry is naive to say the least and I have a memory like a sieve so reciting anything yet alone an epic or heroic poem is completely out of the question.

So what did becoming a Bard do for me?

Without giving any secrets away, for the OBOD is a basically a mystery school where everything is unfolded as you reach it, rather than like a lot of courses and training, presented upfront, I can safely say that for me the Bardic training gave me a different outlook on many aspects of my life, it helped to shift and heal more than a few things for me, connected me on a much deeper level with the elements as well as with myself, but above all it taught me patience.

In the modern world we are used to having everything at our fingertips, to being able to make things happen, get information instantly and so on and so forth and it did me good to work in a way where this doesn’t happen. There is something really exciting about having to wait and see what comes next, anticipating the arrival of the next set of materials, not knowing what is coming, what is ahead. There is also something incredibly freeing about knowing that there are no right or wrong answers to anything, no right or wrong way of doing anything, there is just the way it happens for you. There is also freedom in being given the space to allow everything to unfold at the right pace and in its own time.

I talk often about how our lives turn in cycles, about how we have to go through life, death and rebirth continuously in all we do but for 18 months I lived this over and over. Many times I had no choice but to be still and wait, to focus only on what was happening, on the journey and not the outcome, waiting to see how and when I would come out the other side. This then spilt over into other areas of my life.

When we are working on ourselves not everything comes instantly in fact far from it. I know this from working as a healer and trainer and I have infinite patience with clients and students but not so with myself yet through training as a Bard I learnt to treat myself more gently, I learnt to allow myself the time to complete something and enjoy the completion of it rather than looking at where it might lead me.

During the training I was working on a piece of art work, a piece where I was finding the process frustratingly slow, then something clicked and I found the work became like a meditation, it was calming and restful. I found myself enjoying the process of making the art, each tiny piece at a time became enough in itself. Instead of looking at how much I still had to do I found I was enjoying and getting satisfaction from working for hours on a very small area of the picture. This is not like me or at least not like the who I was before I began training as a Bard.

And maybe that is partly what a Bard is, not specifically a singer, a poet or a reciter of epic tales, but someone who gives their full attention to whatever they are doing, who lives in the moment, who lets the creative process unfold rather than worrying about the outcome, who allows it all to happen without getting in the way, who knows when to stop and wait and when to move on, someone who enjoys the journey rather than the destination.