I’m on the other side of Imbolc now, and I’m feeling . . . unsettled. Why am I surprised?
My schedule in the weeks before Imbolc was packed; I figured it would be best to use the time I had available in early January to write out the activities and script for the Celebration I would lead for our Kindred. I’d “set it and forget it”, knowing I would be able to pick up the binder and lead the evening with confidence.
As I prepared for our Celebration I decided I would offer the making of “Brigid Butter” as a gathering activity. I found some simple instructions (Kindergarten-level; I figured if five-year-olds could do it our group ought to be able to manage it as well), and collected the necessary materials. Boom. Check off that box.
After some time spent weaving new written material into the Ritual boilerplate–Alchemy! I was particularly pleased to have discovered an article on the OBOD website, written by Susa Morgan Black. This wonderfully written and thoroughly researched piece includes a Prayer of Protection, collected by Alexander Carmichael and published in 1900:
Thou Brigid of the kine
Thou Brigid of the mantles
Shield me from the ban
Of the faeries of the knolls
The faeries of the knolls.
All the elements of the evening were fitting together. I had my Opening Craft, which supported my overall theme (transformation), my Guided Meditation further amplified the theme, and in a flash of inspiration I decided I would have the participants use their freshly “churned” butter on the pieces of bread that would be offered as part of Cakes and Ale. There was a pleasing internal consistency and overall symmetry to what I had prepared for our Celebration. I printed my script, three-hole punched it, snapped it into my binder, and moved on to the myriad other things that required my attention and participation.
THREE WEEKS LATER
I laid out the butter-making materials and before long we were all shaking little baby food jars halfway filled with heavy cream. One of our Kindred played spritely jigs on her wooden flute to keep our energies up (an unexpected and delightful surprise!). Soon enough—but longer than many of us expected—we were rinsing the whey from our little lumps of butter and choosing from an array of salts which particular one (Sea salt? Fleur de sal? Smoked salt?) we each would add to our Brigid Butter.
It was time for the Ritual. I won’t share the complete Ritual, only the part of the Guided Meditation that is pertinent to today’s post:
“How we each long for transformation. Would that the process of transformation, of becoming, of evolving into our highest selves were as simple as flipping a switch, with no time or effort on our parts. But it’s not.
“Change is hard. It takes work and patience, and then more work and patience. And we are so easily distracted from the long, hard work of self-transformation. Those distractions—those ‘faeries of the knolls’—can pull us far from the Path we have decided to walk, be it a path toward self-improvement or a path leading us toward a new way of being in the world. Those faeries (negative habits, dead-end relationships, old fears) can be so beautiful, so alluring that we forget that more often than not they’re not very good for us. It’s for a good reason we’re warned to Beware the Faery Folk.
“Think of the transformation of the rich, heavy cream into butter during our Gathering earlier. It didn’t just change at the flip of a switch; there was work involved. Agitation. The cream was ‘all shook up’ and kept getting all shook up; you had to commit to the process. Every once in a while you had to check and see how much progress you had made. You probably thought to yourself, ‘By the old Gods and the new! This stuff is NEVER going to turn into butter!’
“Even now, inside you, seeds of change are beginning to unfurl and push their way upward until you notice them, just as the seeds of snowdrops and daffodils are beginning to push their shoots up through the resistance of the earth around them. And soon, sooner than seems possible now, soon you will be transformed.”
As is often the case when I lead Ritual, I glowed with the deep satisfaction of having stewarded a meaningful experience for our Kindred. We tidied away, I packed my altar objects, leftovers, and craft materials back into my cart for the “sacred schlep” back home, and drove away filled with warm fuzzies . . . and also filled with seeds of which I was, as yet, unaware.
AND NOW . . .
For almost 25 years I had gone back and forth trying to categorize my belief system. Wiccan? Witch? 50-50? Neither? I was raised Episcopalian (Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the latter of which, while certainly not male-oriented, was neither implicitly female [or at least certainly wasn’t in Texas]), and as a young adult I started attending a Unitarian Universalist church, which in those days was much more Unitarian than Universalist.
I came of pagan age reading Scott Cunningham, whose accessibility and practicality I love still. Brooke Medicine Eagle’s Buffalo Woman Comes Singing and Z. Budapest’s Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries expanded my understanding of myself and my experience of the Holy. Margot Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon fascinated me while simultaneously leaving me a little shook up. At some point I decided to resist the very human desire to sort and shelve things—including myself—into tidy boxes and to simply live into whatever it is I am.
And yet, for the past several months there’s been a still, small voice whispering across my heart, whispering so quietly that I can’t quite catch what it’s saying. The further I moved away from my beloved “book-learning”, the more persistent this voice became. I found myself irresistibly drawn to the Spruce Plot at the local Arboretum and began to spend time creating altars and praying there. In fact, I started creating altars on almost every walk I took through the area Forest Preserves. I began reading about the Green Man and Cernunnos. I hesitantly outed myself as “kind of a bruja” to my sister-in-law, who later gifted me with a Green Man wall hanging that now is the focal point of my back porch altar. The Horned God began appearing in my dreams, which was a little disconcerting as He is rather a randy fellow. I decided to ask permission to honor Him, and have been baby-stepping my way onto a new Path of worship.
And now, on the other side of Imbolc, these seeds of change that have been slowly started in me are beginning to push their shoots up through the resistance of my consciousness. I, who have never been apprenticed to another; I, who have been my own teacher; I, who have been fiercely Solitary . . . I have joined the Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids and will soon embark on a course of study, complete with a personal mentor. It’s significantly out of character for me, or for the me I’ve been for the past three decades or so. I’m cautious, but determined to follow the voice that has been whispering across my heart.
Many years ago, I asked a priest-friend, “How do you know which way is the right way to go?” “You step off the cliff,” he replied, “and trust that Something will be there to hold you up.”
And so, I’m stepping off the cliff of my old way of being in trust.
Wish me luck.