In contrast to the weather of previous Imbolcs, Northern Rivers Protogrove was blessed with an incredibly mild winter day. There was a warmth in the air which lifted everyone’s spirits. Imbolc, traditionally seen as a herald of spring, truly lived up to the reputation. Perhaps it was the weather, or perhaps some other mysterious force was at play. Whatever the case, Northern Rivers had its largest Imbolc celebration yet!
Usually, Imbolc is our smallest, most intimate feast. There were only six of us last year – including my tiny daughter. This year, we numbered twenty! I know that there are larger groves and protogroves in ADF, but that’s a huge number for one of our winter rites, which are generally held indoors at the Kripalu Yoga and Wellness Center. We were nearly bursting at the seams! If this sort of growth continues, we will have to use more creativity when setting up our ritual and feasting space.
We maintained our annual tradition of crafting Brighid crosses and mini Brat Bhrides (Brighid blankets). One of our regular guests shared some of her hey so that we could make crosses with natural material. Pipe cleaners were on hand for little ones and adults alike. We used fabric markers to decorate our blankets with symbols of Brighid, Druidism, healing, fire, etc. We placed them around the ritual space to soak up her blessings. The mini blankets, in particular, went into a basket to form a bed for our Brideog, our Brighid doll. This became one of our customs last year. Based on actual Irish tradition, we send our youngest members (with an adult guide) to the door outside our ritual space. Thankfully, it’s just a hallway and the little ones don’t have to worry about dressing and undressing for the winter weather! After another adult finishes inviting Brighid to our ritual, one of the children knocks on the door. Everyone in the ritual space makes a big deal about Brighid coming in, and we open the door. The children parade in with the Brideog and her birch wand, circling our ritual space before placing them in the bed. As the group grows, finding new and fun ways to involve the children is important to us.
The group certainly has more children now! Along with my daughter, there were four other wee ones between the ages of one month and six or seven years old! Involving children will always bring a bit of youthful chaos, but I’m proud to say that these kids were very well behaved! Many try to meditate with us, and I try to give them cues such as “now we’re going to use our mind’s eye – our imagination.” I invited everyone to dance, clap, or play percussive instruments when we chant, but also ask for everyone to be good listeners when others are talking. I’m sure we have room for improvement, but we’ve come a long way!
Our magical working involved writing our creative intentions for the year on seed cards made with recycled paper. We are to tend these throughout the year and mindfully bring them into fruition. Once more, an activity that young and old could engage in.
The group’s omen for the next several weeks was interesting but overall positive. The Nature Spirits gave us the wren, which is symbolic for sacrifice. The Ancestors gave us the otter, symbolic of joy and fun. The Gods and Goddesses gave us, once more, the adder, which symbolizes transformation and shedding that which we no longer need to grow. I drew a fourth card as an omen from Brighid. We received the hind – the doe – a symbol of grace and feminine magic. To me, this symbolized her blessings and love for us. Overall, the Kindreds continue to urge us to make a collective change. The Gods are telling us, still, that something is holding the group back from growing, and the Nature spirits hint that we need to sacrifice something to make this growth. The Ancestors remind us that this is a joyful thing, and we should not fear this. Overall, Brighid is blessing us with the grace to do this, and she is there with her love and magical support.
Prayers were said, offerings given, and songs sung. A feast followed, and what a feast it was! Colcannon, shepherd’s pie, nachos and vegan cheese dip, a meat and cheese tray, chili, bean salad, homemade rolls, brownies, apple tart, and even apple eggrolls (totally amazing by the way)! Old friends and new came together to celebrate Imbolc, and though it was cozy, that’s exactly the sort of thing that builds community and brings joy to North Country winters.