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I have been working on some new articles for this blog, and researching the animals in Brigidine lore but have been unable to do a great deal of typing lately due to an injury. Today I just want to share something emotional, rather than academic.

In our culture we often expect instant gratification. We expect to see immediate results, and I think one of the hardest things to adjust to when approaching a new faith or a new spirit is that it takes time for you to really develop a connection with them, just as a friendship or relationship with another human takes time, or at least it should.

When I first found myself called to Bride, it was through a story. I am a writer, so stories are my bread and butter. Once I made this discovery and found myself fascinated with Her, I immediately set out to learn as much as I could, and to set up the most beautiful shrine I could make. I gave offerings and made Her central to my daily rituals. I currently say four to six prayers a day to Bride. Some mornings I wake up and the silly little part of me wants to turn on my computer and check my emails first, rather than taking the time to light Her candle and say my morning prayers, but I still do it, before anything else, even opening the curtains.

Gradually, over the past year and a quarter, I have been able to sense Her presence more and more. Certain things become clear to me, that no book could have told me, like the way she seems to prefer me to sing her praise than speak it. That I should invite her to bless my food whenever I light the stove, and thank her when I turn it off. That when I don’t bring her fresh flowers, or go a long time between offerings – it is noticed.

Around the beginning of February I joined a flame keeping order. It took me a year to get to that point, partially because I needed to find an order with a CR/Gaelic Polytheist focus, and partially because I take such a commitment very seriously. I did not intend to promise to do this, dedicate one day in twenty to Her, if didn’t feel I could keep it up. I’m glad I did because it has been amazingly rewarding and I’ve met some lovely dedicated people, but I’m also glad I waited because if I’d jumped right in and then failed, I would have felt the consequences.

Now, when I stand in front of my little hearth shrine, light the candle, say the words I’ve memorised from repetition, I do feel something. I feel a light and a warmth that can bring tears to my eyes if I am particularly sensitive that day. I stand in darkness, in the little circle of brightness cast by her flame and feel as if a mantle of pure light is wrapped around me. I’m not meditating or visualising this, It is a presence that I feel because I am there, and I have invited Bride in to my home with the best hospitality I can offer, and it is real. It has taken me a year to get to this point, and I know I still have so much to learn.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is; don’t jump in and expect to suddenly have miracles occur. Don’t lose heart when you try to connect with a Deity or your Ancestors and feel nothing. Don’t give up flame keeping because you had a dull shift or didn’t get what you’d hoped for from it. The most precious things in our spiritual life are those we work for, not those which are handed to us with an instruction booklet. You do not need to make big gestures or dedication rituals or buy expensive shrines to prove yourself to the Gods. What you need to do is turn up, again and again. Offer what you can, over and over. Say your prayers when you’re tired. Do your rituals when you can’t be bothered. Make your offerings when it feels pointless. Pay attention, and in time you will begin to really understand and experience their presence in your life. It takes time, but it’s worth it.

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Georges de La Tour 049 Many who honour Bride choose do so by burning a flame in her name; whether it is the fire on the hearth, the cooking stove or a candle on the shrine or altar. There are many Brigidines who are part of flame keeping orders, and this means burning a flame continually on a day set aside for reverence and prayer.

We often choose candles for our devotions, as they create less mess and smoke than a wood fire or brazier, and are easy to light and incorporate in to simple daily practices. However I think it is important to consider the type of candle you’re using, and whether it is really the best one for honouring Bride and for your own health.

Most of the candles we buy in shops are made from paraffin wax, a toxic bi-product of the petroleum industry that is then bleached with further chemicals and gives off harmful fumes when burnt.

A recent alternative to this are the popular Soy or Palm oil candles, which are cheap and burn for longer than paraffin. Unfortunately, they are not so good for the environment, as land all over south east Asia is currently being cleared to grow the plants that produce these oils.

From a Re-constructionist perspective, neither Paraffin nor Soy candles are historically accurate. The oil most commonly burned in European history would have been tallow, or animal fat, with Beeswax reserved for those who could afford it. Now, Beeswax candles, while still the most expensive on the market, are much more affordable to most of us and I believe they are the best choice in any spiritual practise, and as an offering to Bride are ideal.

Why?

  • Beeswax candles actually help purify the air in the rooms they are burnt through ionisation
  • Beeswax burns with a slight honey scent, surely a better offering than burnt petrol?
  • Beeswax burns longer than any other wax and is ideal for flamekeeping and vigils
  • Beeswax burns with a more golden flame than other waxes
  • Beeswax candles were traditionally brought to church to be blessed on Candlemas day
  • The higher cost of Beeswax makes it a more valuable offering than cheap paraffin
  • By buying locally made Beeswax you are incorporating something of the land in to your offering
  • You can safely make Beeswax candles yourself and show your devotion through crafting them especially for this purpose
  • While Bride herself may or may not be associated with Bees, she is associated with the flowers they make the wax from, the process of purification, the golden colour and traditions of Candlemas day, which falls the day after her own feast

I invite you to try burning a pure beeswax candle for your next vigil, or to honour Bride on a festival day. You will be surprised at the difference and may find it hard to go back!

Kilmeny

Bonnie Kilmeny gaed up the glen;
But it wasna to meet Duneira's men,
Nor the rosy monk of the isle to see,
For Kilmeny was pure as pure could be.
It was only to hear the yorlin sing,
And pu' the cress-flower round the spring;
The scarlet hypp and the hindberrye,
And the nut that hung frae the hazel tree;

Kilmeny, James Hogg