Imbolc: Become the Flame
The time of Imbolc approaches – sacred to the beloved and powerful Brigid, Celtic goddess of fire and Triple Goddess of healing, poetry and alchemy or transformation. We usually celebrate Imbolc on February 1 or 2. In the old times, the date varied from household to household and year to year; Imbolc was observed on the first day the first ewe of the herd lambed and started lactating, a sign that the power of Winter was on the wane and Spring was coming. Imbolc is an auspicious time to make new beginnings and strengthen your commitment to your path. Traditionally, it’s also a great opportunity to clean house! I encourage you to open your hearts to the healing, inspiring and transforming power of Brigid. Here are some links to information about how to observe Imbolc:
In Her honor, I share with you a process of writing poetry from a dream, inspired by Valerie Wolf’s teachings on “Dreaming, Writing and the Land” and by Jill Mellick’s book The Art of Dreaming: Tools for Creative Dream Work.
I am part of a circle of women carrying on the ancient tradition of Brigid’s priestesses, who kept Her flame burning continuously in Kildare, Ireland for hundreds of years. Even after Catholicism spread in Ireland, the nuns tended the flame until it was extinguished by Henry VIII as part of the “Dissolution of the Monasteries” he undertook to solidify his power as head of the Church of England. In 1993, the Brigidine nuns of Solas Bhride relit the flame in their Centre, and the practice has spread to circles around the world. In a 20-day cycle, each of 19 women in turn keeps the flame lit from sunset of one day to sunset of the next. On the 20th day, Brigid tends the flame.
In mid-November of 2010, I sought dream guidance for what I was to teach the next year. On the day I was to light Brigid’s flame, I had this dream:
A woman has a piece of paper in her hand. It bursts into flame. At first I can’t see the flame, which is below her hand. It’s as if her hand is blocking it. We’re in a contained space; the bright flame (which I can now see) makes me nervous. I look for a plate to put under it to keep the burning paper from falling on the floor. I also have some concerns about her hand getting burned.
Awake early in the morning, I journeyed into the dream:
Brigid is the one holding the paper. She asks me to go into the flame. This is hard for me, and I resist. I need to become the flame. We tend to focus on what we put on paper; for me, this is especially relevant to writing poetry and teaching. The flame is the vital energy, the spark, the light. Allow it to consume the paper, to consume and become me. Be the light. The paper doesn’t matter.
I was inspired to write this poem:
In a dark room, she holds a sheet of paper
in her hand. It bursts into flame.
Frightened, I try to contain the spread.
She requires me
to become the flame instead.