In the Northern Hemisphere we’re about halfway between the Winter Solstice (December 20) and the Spring Equinox (March 20). Brigid, the keeper of the sacred flame and guardian of hearth and home, offers us not only a chance to tidy away and purify our dwelling places in preparation for the longer days and increased activities of Spring; she offers us an opportunity to do some spiritual house-cleaning and renewal as well.
This is a serious undertaking, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun with your Imbolc celebration. To get yourself in the mood for a little personal transformation, you might try your hand at making some Brigid Butter. You’ll need a few simple materials: clean glass jar with a lid, heavy (or whipping) cream, salt, warm water, cheese cloth (optional), and marble (optional).
Set out your work space, then say a small blessing honoring Brigid. Ask Her blessing upon your physical home and upon the hearth of your heart. Decide on the size jar you need. If you’re celebrating alone you may want to use a larger jar; for a group celebration you may want to opt for baby food jars.
Pour the cream into the jar, filling it about two thirds to three quarters full. (OPTIONAL: add a clean marble to your cream to serve as an agitator and lessen the churning time.) Screw the lid on tightly and plug in some up-tempo Pagan tunes to add to your energy as you start to vigorously shake your jar. Make it an ecstatic dance of joy! Shake your groove thang and booty as you transform the cream into butter!
When the butter has formed (anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes; if you’re using a marble you won’t be able to hear it making noise as the cream thickens) remove it from the jar and rinse it under some warm water to remove the whey. Alternatively, you can put the butter in some cheesecloth and dip it into a bowl of warm water.
At this point you might choose to add some salt to your butter. If you’re working in a group, encourage people to bring different kinds of salt to the celebration (or, if you’re working solo, make enough butter so that you can divide it into portions for salting). Serve your butter on bannock cakes as part of your Imbolc celebration, or seal your Brigid butter in an airtight container for use at your next Ritual.
Alexander Carmichael (1832-1912), Scottish folklorist and collector of oral poems and prayers in his multi-volume Carmina Gadelica, collected the following incantation during his travels through the Highlands:
Thou Brigid of the mantles
Shield me from the ban(e)
Of the faeries of the knolls
The faeries of the knolls.
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. 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!”
But it did. Eventually. With enough perseverance and attention, you turned cream into butter. You did that with your energy. And you will be able to create the same transformation for yourself. Eventually. With enough perseverance and attention. With your energy.
Brigid, as the Goddess of fertility, is associated with midwives and babies. Think about celebrating this year’s Imbolc by becoming your own midwife to the new beginnings stirring deep within you. Nurture that new growth, care for it mindfully and tenderly as it stretches into fruition. 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.