At Brigid’s Forge on Candlemas 2020
The heat of the forge
turns her cheeks pink.
She is imbued with
Commitment must be
turned from greed.
Her icy tongs take
fracking, drilling into
Mother Earth by their
stock options mired
She pounds hot iron
with the intensity of
all the 17-year-old Gretas,
their voices sere the ears
of Wall Street financiers
and politicians who ignore
the cracking ice, the melting
shore, the dying plankton,
the gasping seals. Our time
is up. It is time to stand
at her side, to
commit to the bugling crane,
the gallivanting moose,
the prairie dog, ourselves.
Her flame still burns
at Kildare, bright
of hope fighting for life even as
carrion rules the day. Listen!
Killer whales’ whistles
haunt the seas as she shapes strength
in human hearts.
Listen! The elk trumpets,
the human baby suckles,
a school of fish darts
under her wing. She raised
the alarm long ago. Those
who love her, listen!
The cross-quarter day that lies midway between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox, Earth stirs as new lambs are born and here and there a green, furled head peeks through snow. It is Brigid’s time—the Celtic goddess of poetry, healing and smithcraft. In the women’s spirituality tradition, it is a time to “clean house,” preparing your life for the renewed vigor of the coming spring.
Candlemas is a fiery sabbat when we burn candles to welcome the sun, bringing longer days. It’s a time of purification—even as we sprinkle lavender and sage in every corner of our homes, we turn inward to reflect on what inside ourselves we need to cleanse.
Purification as part of the Candlemas ritual seems to be more important this year than ever, a year of drought and all-consuming wildfires in Australia and braggadocio from some U.S. politicians about economic superiority while the present administration further degrades our air, land and water.
So, I am going to spend extra time this Candlemas to cleanse my home. And I must cleanse my heart and mind of anger, despair and hopelessness as the wealthiest nations fritter away their Paris accord promises to combat greenhouse gases that are warming the planet and talk, talk, talk about future intentions.
At an event during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January, Greta Thunberg, 17-year-old Swedish activist, spoke to the world’s powerful economic leaders, demanding:
- an immediate halt to investments in fossil fuel exploration and extraction;
- an immediate end to all fossil fuel subsidies;
- an immediate divestment from fossil fuels.
Thunberg’s comment, “We are telling you to act as if you loved your children above all else,” brings to mind the newborn lambs of Candlemas, also known as Imbolc, meaning in the belly—not only the ewe about to give birth, but Mother Earth who until now has sustained us and whose very womb is threatened by our careless actions.
After purification this Candlemas, I will lay my sacred tools on my altar: bluebird for air in East; a candle for fire in South, a seashell for water in West; a ceramic brown bear for Earth in North; and a speckled stone in Center for Spirit.
I will call East, for blessings of clarity.
I will call South, for the fire of Brigid’s forge that my passion for taking care of Mother Earth shall burn brightly all year.
I will call West, for recommitment to compassion for all those who suffer environmental injustice.
I will call North, for the good sense to listen to the wisdom of indigenous people everywhere who own an intimate knowledge of how to live lightly on this blue planet.
I will call Center, that I stay grounded in peace.
I will cast my circle with a round stone, symbolic of Earth and steadfastness. May I not fail her.
As in the photo I chose for this day, the path ahead covered with snow disappears into a darkness I cannot ken. The path will challenge with unexpected changes. It could end in a bog. It could become an uphill slog, and a muddy, ugly slog, at best. I expect the handholds will be few and at times the path itself will confuse.
Even as I grieve the thousands of species disappearing into extinction each year, I depend upon Earth-based rituals to set intention, to sustain my spirit, to keep me grounded. At Candlemas, I pray for Brigid’s blessing on the lambs of this Earth. May we hold them in our hearts.
To the forge!
Nan Lundeen is the author of 3 books of poetry and Moo of Writing. Visit her at nanlundeen.com.