Conference review for Brighid: Her Flame Burns Brightly 27 Jan 2018

“Brighid: Her Flame Burns Brightly” was an online conference organized and hosted by Land Sea Sky Travel as the first in a series of conferences. The series is called “A Year With The Gods” and they have plans for online conferences spaced through the year close to the more commonly recognized Pagan festivals.

As I have had a devotional relationship with Brigantia for many years I decided that trying to attend this online conference should be a good experience for me with the added benefit of devoting time to Her that day.  I was however a bit nervous as I had not experienced this type of online conference before.  I needn’t have worried.

The software used was Zoom which has a freely available client for a participant.  The software has some good support information and I didn’t have any problems with downloading the client or testing my set up.  The organisers of the conference were also available via email and Facebook with advice in the days before the conference.

As the conference organizers are based in the United Stated of America the timings of the conference were very understandable picked with the Sates in mind.  Saying that the welcome pack emailed out before the event had a detailed schedule for the day including timings in three different time zones.  I was both impressed and very pleased with this level of information and it made things much easier for me to organize.  There were a number of nice extras sent out with the welcome pack too including a couple of short stories, a couple of chants and a couple of links to suppliers of relevant goods and services.

On to the day itself.

For me the conference started at 3.30 in the afternoon.  Getting into the correct location was straightforward and everything seemed to be working very well.  Our main host for the day, Vyviane Armstrong, provided clear information and repeated basic housekeeping type information throughout the day for those that joined at different times.  Tech support was on hand through out the day too and while I was aware of some minor glitches happening problems were dealt with swiftly and efficiently with a good sense of humor kept throughout.  I was very impressed with the entire organizational operation and I would expect that things will only improve as the series of conferences continues.

The opening devotions were carried out by Andrea Maxwell who sang a beautiful chant for us. The day was underway.

The first presenter was Lora O’Brien not someone I was familiar with although that’s true for a lot of people so please don’t take any particular meaning from that.  Lora spoke about her experiences with Brighid and took up all on a guided journey to meet Brighid.  Her voice was clear and very enjoyable to listen to, the journey was a delight.  I particularly enjoyed the use of a boat as guide for part of the journey, this reminded me of many tales from both Scotland and Ireland.  It also reminded me of the little boat in the Wizard of EarthSea quartet by Ursula Le Guin.  Interestingly I had a name from my little boat, Wayfinder, and I hope I see it again in other journeys. I also found it interesting that where Lora described working areas in Brighid’s place that were slightly messy with works in progress I saw areas that had been tidied up, work finished for the day and things in their place for when they were next needed.  I’m sure that says more about me than anything.

The next presenter was Gemma McGowan who spoke eloquently about her experiences serving Brighid as a priestess.  Unfortunately I had to sort out my daughter’s tea during that talk so could only dip in and out.  One of the advantage of this style of conference though is that the sessions are recorded and will be sent out to all the participants so although I missed some of Gemma’s talk at the time I will be able to listen to it again and pick a time when I am not going to be interrupted.  I know she shared something of her experiences in seership and trance possession which is something I have a little experience of myself with a different Goddess so I am particularly looking forward to being able to properly listen to what Gemma shared during her talk.

The conference then had a short break and a giveaway draw.  The break was also an interesting experience as participants had the option to turn on mics and videos for a little bit.  It got a bit chaotic.

Following the break we had our Keynote speaker, Morgan Daimler. Morgan is a well known author and presenter and I was delighted that this conference would give me the opportunity to hear her speak.  She confessed to being a bit nervous at the start of her talk as it was the first time she had presented at an online conference.  I could see the nerves but I could also see her swiftly relax as she began to speak. Morgan spoke about her work with the original old Irish texts translating and digging for references of Brighid.  While I was familiar with much of what she spoke about some information was either completely new to me or had simply not stuck when I read Morgan’s book on Brigid. In particular that the earliest mentions in the texts are of a single Goddess, the triple Brighid comes later in time.  Also that the earliest form in the Irish texts was very likely to have been thought of as Brighid the Poet.  That’s poet in the old Irish sense of an incredibly highly trained and skilled individual with a huge collection of lore, poems and stories stored within their memory.  It was a very interesting talk.

Straight after that talk was a panel discussion.  A range of questions were put to the presenters who shared their experiences and opinions.  Participants were also encouraged to share responses in the chat room which remained pen throughout the conference.

After another break we heard from Mael Brigde who founded the flame tending group Daughters of the Flame in 1993.  She shared with us the history of that group which I found fascinating and what a lovely piece of synchronicity that the Daughters of Flame lit their first flame tending candle on the very same day that the Brigidine sisters relit the sacred flame at Kildare. Neither group being aware of the other doing so at that time.  Meal Brigde spoke beautifully about her experiences and both the history and practicalities of flame tending within the Daughters of the Flame.  She also sang two chants for us, both simply lovely.

By the time Mael Brigde’s talk ended it was 11.30 in the evening for me and I was very tired so it was at that point that I quietly left the conference, shot down my laptop and went to bed.  The conference itself went on with another presenter and I look forward to listening to her talk in the future when it is sent out to participants.

I really enjoyed my day taking part in this online conference.  I was a little disappointed not to be able to hear more of how the speakers felt Brigantia fits into the assorted Brigidine lore as I connect best with Brigantia.  I was also a little disappointed not to hear from any male presenters during the day.  There were male participants but a male perspective in the conference did seem a little lacking to me.  These however are minor points.  No conference pleases everyone all the time.

Over all I felt this conference was exceptionally well run with some wonderfully chosen speakers.  I am very pleased I made the decision to attend this first conference in the series.  I am not sure how many of the others I might attend but I can see at least two that interest me from just the titles.

I know from experience of running face to face conferences in the past what a great deal of work goes into conference organization. My heartfelt thanks and congratulations go to all those involved in the planning and organizing of this very well run and presented conference.

Further details of the plans for the future conferences will be available on the Land Sea Sky Facebook page

 

 

 

 

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Reflections on 2017

A new friend on Facebook recently asked what people were proud about from the past year and that got me thinking about the past year a bit more resulting in this post.

The first half of 2017 was quiet on this blog because I had signed up for a an online course in counselling skills.  I completed and passed that course and at the time I investigated the possibility of gaining further qualifications in counselling skills.  After much thought and investigation into options and costs I decided it is not the right time for me to commit to trying to gain further qualifications. I am however prud of having completed the course successfully and gaining new knowledge and confidence.

In the last year my devotional practices have continued to develop and deepen.  I’m now beginning to settle into a devotional practice where I am spending some time in prayer and contemplation on six days of the week.  In the last year as well as relaxing into my relationship with Loki I’ve also started developing a devotional relationship with Gofannon.  It’s almost two years since Loki started making his presence felt in my life so both of these deities are still relatively new to me. I also continue to be a flame tender with Clann Bhride, a practice I began on Imbolc 2015.

I’ve now been involved in volunteering with the Riding for the Disabled Glasgow group for just over a year. I’ve learnt so much since I started there and I’m still learning more including finally having riding lessons myself.  I’ve wanted to learn how to ride horses for as log as I can remember and this year I have been able to begin that journey and it’s just wonderful!  I literally cried tears of joy after my first couple of lessons, that’s how much it means to me.

This time last year I had completed counselling sessions to help me with managing my social anxiety and had also just come off medication for anxiety and depression.  I have remained off medication this year and have not had a relapse.  I still get the occasional anxiety attack with social situations and have had a couple of more severe panic attacks too this year but I am still improving.  I have managed social situations this year that I could not have done last year.  I am proud of my progress.

My daughter had been attending dance lessons with Indepen-dance for a full year now.  She’s absolutely loved these lessons so I know this will be continuing for the coming year.  My daughter has also joined her school choir this year and has experienced her first performance with the choir outside the school as part of a carol service.  She also had a solo to sing during that carol service.  I am extremely proud of how well she did, not only with her singing but also with her behaviour during the service.  Sitting quiet and still is not an easy thing for my sensory seeking, bouncy Aspigirl. So proud of my girl!

This year my son completed his Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award. To complete this award he had to do some voluntary work, develop a new skill, do some physical activity and complete an overnight camping expedition with the group from his school taking part in the Duke of Edinburgh award activities.  His physical activity was hillwalking, his new skill was pyrography and the voluntary work was organised by the school and took place at an allotment.  I am incredibly proud of his achievement!

Last year (2016) I went through the assessment process for adult autism diagnosis.  I didn’t meet diagnostic criteria.  Perhaps part of the reason for this was that at the time I went through the process I was also suffering badly from stress and anxiety.  Needless to say I didn’t agree with their conclusions at the time and I still don’t agree.  It’s still something that irritates.  I have been peer recognised as autistic by a number of autistic adults as well as by my wonderful kids and that recognition means a great deal to me.  I am immensely proud of being neurodivergent and probably autistic. I still hesitate over calling myself autistic because I didn’t meet the diagnostic criteria during my assessment.  I know many within the autistic community are perfectly fine with self diagnosis and if I had never attended and failed the assessment I’d be happy with self diagnosis too. Failing the assessment makes me doubt myself and means I often don’t feel comfortable in saying I’m autistic without adding the story of not meeting diagnostic criteria.  Anyway, this year I have becoming more aware and more confident of myself as neurodivergent. If you are unfamiliar with neurodiversity as a concept here’s a good staring piece on the neurodiversity paradigm

My other area of achievement this year is still very much a work in progress.  I have begun writing a book about being a polytheist.  It will have a great deal in it about my own practices.  My tentative working title at the moment is “Life as a British Polytheist”.

To all my readers on this last day of 2017 I hope you take pride in your achievements whatever they may be and I wish you a very happy 2018!

 

 

Patterns of Devotion

I have written in the past about my deepening devotional practices. Today I wish to share with you how my devotions have changed.

I used to honour my ancestors at the dark moon, Maponos on Sundays and, Brigantia, Epona Rigantona and An Cailleach around the full moon.

Then I joined a flame tending cill with Clann Bhride and began flame tending in honour of Brigantia every twenty days.

I can’t even remember exactly when after that point that other things began to change but at some stage I began to honour Epona Rigantona each week on a Friday. I chose a Friday because Epona is my beloved and Fridays in the past have been linked to deities of love (see Wikipedia Names of the days of the week if you are interested).

It felt good to be honouring Epona each Friday so I decided to start honoring An Cailleach on a Saturday. I was now honouring different deities on Friday, Saturday and Sunday plus every twenty days flame tending in honour of Brigantia.

Then Loki came into my life.

I used to consider myself to be solely a Brythonic Polytheist.

Then Loki came into my life!

That bit bears repeating.  Loki brought change with Him.  I wasn’t looking for Sleipnir’s Dam and I didn’t expect or invite Her (at least not to start with) but for some reason best known to the Bound One, He decided to bring Her changes to me.

One of those changes was that I started to include Loki in my weekly devotions.  At first I tried slotting Him in on Thursdays but that didn’t feel right. So I switched to Saturdays, prompted in part by something I had read that suggested Saturdays had been linked to Loki in the past.  I can’t remember exactly what that was now but I switched days and it felt much better.

But it didn’t feel right honouring An Cailleach on the same day so after a bit of thought I decided to move honouring Her to Mondays.  There are aspects in some of the lore which I believe indicate ties to the moon for An Cailleach so this seemed to fit well.

For a couple of moons I tried to keep the lunar links I had made as well but that became a bit confusing as I ended up trying to honour two different deities on one day.  For me that became confusing and I felt I wasn’t doing justice to my devotions to either deity when the days linked into full moon cycles.  I decided drop the full moon devotions in favour of the weekly ones for a moon or two to see how it felt and I’ve kept that change.

So now I honour different deities on four days of the week and another every twenty days. I’m also no longer solely honouring Brythonic deities.  At first I thought maybe Loki would be in my life for a set purpose and then maybe wander off but at the moment it feel much more like the Sky-treader is here to stay.  The current pattern feels good with one exception and that’s the ancestors.

In dropping the full moon devotions I found I began to lose touch with the lunar cycle and the pattern of honouring my ancestors at the dark moon began to slip as well.  I still have my ancestral shrine area and still think of varying ancestors at different times but the more ritualised devotions have fallen away.  I’m still not sure if I need to start on a weekly basis for honouring my ancestors or try and restore the dark moon practice.  I think maybe moving to a weekly based practice would work out best, if so I have my choice of Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday currently free of other devotions. Maybe Wednesday as that day has links to deities of communication.

My journey with devotional practices has not been a swift one but one that has gradually altered to a more frequent family of devotional practices.  And I know that I am still changing and that my practices will also continue to change.

Musings about Brigantia and Loki

I’ve written elsewhere about being a flame tender with Clann Bhride which means every twenty days I light a flame and look after it for twenty four hours as a devotional act.  During my last flame tending I found myself thinking about both Brigantia and Loki both of whom have fire symbology.

Brigantia and Her sister-self Brighid have many links to fire but it seems to me that the link is to a tamed and channeled fire.  The fires of the smith, of crafting tools and artworks; the fires of inspiration burning in our minds transforming imagery and emotion into words and pictures others can see; the fires of justice wielded with fierce discipline to forge a fairer community; the fires of the healer used to brew, to warm, to comfort; the long ago fires of a home hearth bringing warmth and security to our human homes.  She is not the fire itself but the one that wields, channels and tames the fire and in turn teaches us ways to use fire.

Loki is not one that uses fire, instead he is a fire.  He does not teach how to channel the heat, how to use the energy to craft and create.  He transforms. He changes. That doesn’t mean that he can’t direct and wield fire, he can because he knows what he is and so he can choose what to burn, what to transform, whether to be a single glowing ember that waits or a burst of flame that burns.

They are beings of different cultures, Loki and Brigantia, and yet I feel that there can be harmony between them, probably not always, but enough.

Neither being can be constrained into just one aspect of their identities and I’m in no way intending to give the impression that I wish to do that. This is just what musings have come to mind at this time where fire and flame symbologies are concerned.

Where I am concerned I feel they have in some way joined forces.  I need to change but I have a fear of loosing control, I fear the untamed burning and yet I know I need to be pushed forward.

 

Bridey’s Gift

Your beauty drew me close.
I reached out, gently touched you,
Gazed on you, mesmerised.

Silently I asked to draw closer.
Deep inside I felt your welcome.

I crept down beneath your sheltering skirts.
Sat, curled, at your feet,
Felt your life surround me.

Deep breath of wild garlic.
River laughter and spring bird song.

I closed my eyes to better feel your embrace.
My spirit slowly rose within me,
My soul let drop my burdens.

Triple tree woven into one.
Your gift to help me be.

me and tree
Embraced
looking up
Feeling
Being
Being

 Photos by Neil Pitchford, Awen Photos

Celebrating a year of Flame tending with Clann Bhride

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In January 2015 a couple of weeks before Imbolc last year I received an email from the Clann Bhride blog announcing the formation of a Clann Bhride flame keeping cill.  I had two other happenings the same day as I received that email which led me to send an email requesting to join the  Clann Bhride cill.  My first flame keeping shift, along with the others of that group, was Imbolc 2015.

A few minutes ago at sunset here in Glasgow I began my first anniversary flame tending shift in the knowledge that in various places in the world others in the Clann Bhride cill would also be tending flames to mark Imbolc, a festival that more than any other is devoted to Brigantia in all Her many names and faces.

Flame tending was the first step on a journey of deepening my devotional practice to the deities I love best.  This year I intend to further deepen my devotional practices by adding practices intending to strengthen my relationship with the local spirits of my home and environment in addition to continuing the other practices that have developed over this year.

Here in Glasgow I’m also a member of Tuatha de Bridget an open group that holds rituals for each of the main eight festivals that are open to the public.  This afternoon we held our Imbolc ritual which I had the privilege of writing and leading.  I have chosen to share the text of this rite below.

Imbolc 2016

Guide: We come together to honour Brighid on this Imbolc day. Let us start with peace.

North: May there be peace in the North

East: May there be peace in the East

South: May there be peace in the South

West: May there be peace in the West

All: May there be peace throughout the world.

Guide: Let the Spirits of this place be honoured.

Libation offered to the Spirits of Place.

Guide: Let the circle be cast to focus our energies and hold our purpose together.

Circle is cast.

Guide: Today we celebrate Imbolc. Seasonally this brings our attention to the first small signs of the coming spring in the land around us. More importantly it is a day to honour Brighid in Her many names and faces. We are Tuatha de Bridget, the tribe of Bridgid, it is right that we honour and praise her as we call ourselves her children.

Is Bridey the same as Bridget? Are they the same as Brigantia or St Brighid? Are the tales that remain fragments from different individuals sharing that name or remaining threads of a once whole mythos?

Does each aspect reflect a facet of a whole being like the faces of a gem? Or is each aspect more like a unique stained glass window lit by the same source of light?

These questions are part of Her Mystery and any answers may be different to each of us.

She is unique as a being whose stories and devotion spans both Pagan and Christian worlds. Today we honour Her.

North 2: I call to Brigantia of Justice, She who was known to the Lands of Northern England and Southern Scotland as tribal deity of the Brigantes tribe. Lady, we honour you.

All: Lady we honour you

East 2: I call to Bridget, Lady of Poetry, She who inspires artist, poet and storyteller, She who brings Awen. Lady, we honour you.

All: Lady we honour you

South 2: I call to Bridey of the Forge, Lady of Fire, She who will forge our souls to Her purpose if we let Her. Lady, we honour you.

All: Lady we honour you

West 2: I call to Saint Bridget, Generous Lady of Healing, She who is known as a Patron saint of Ireland and whose flame burns once more at Kildare. Lady, we honour you.

All: Lady we honour you

Above: I call to Bridget the creator who sings out with the stars of the universe. Lady, we honour you.

All: Lady we honour you

Beneath: I call to Brigantia of secrets and mysteries whose voice awakens the land. Lady, we honour you.

All: Lady we honour you

Centre: I call to Bridey of Hearth and Home, mother and protector. Lady, we honour you.

All: Lady we honour you

Guide: Many are Her faces, Many are Her names. Many names of one being or one being reflected in many incarnations. Today we honour Her mystery.

(Pause for silent contemplation)

Guide: I ask that the youngest and oldest among us join together to offer this libation of milk to Her on behalf of all of us.

(Eldest to speak on behalf of us all, youngest to pour out the libation)

Guide: I now call on three children of Bridgid to come forward and together bless the food and wine for sharing among us.

(One to hold the wine, one to hold the food, one to speak words of blessing for food and wine)

(Food and drink to be shared in the usual fashion for our group)

Guide: We have now shared food, drink and toasts, would anyone like to share music, song, story or poetry?

(sharing of music, song, story or poetry)

Guide: It is time to draw this rite to a close so let us thank Brighid for Her blessings.

Centre: I call to Bridey of Hearth and Home, mother and protector. Lady, we thank you for your presence in our lives.

All: Lady we thank you.

Beneath: I call to Brigantia of secrets and mysteries whose voice awakens the land. Lady, we thank you for your presence in our lives.

All: Lady we thank you.

Above: I call to Bridget the creator who sings out with the stars of the universe. Lady, we thank you for your presence in our lives.

All: Lady we thank you.

West 2: I call to Saint Bridget, Generous Lady of the Healing, She who is known as a Patron saint of Ireland and whose flame burns once more at Kildare. Lady, we thank you for your presence in our lives.

All: Lady we thank you.

South 2: I call to Bridey of the Forge, Lady of Fire, She who will forge our souls to Her purpose if we let Her. Lady, we thank you for your presence in our lives.

All: Lady we thank you.

East 2: I call to Bridget, Lady of Poetry, She who inspires artist, poet and storyteller, She who brings Awen. Lady, we thank you for your presence in our lives.

All: Lady we thank you.

North 2: I call to Brigantia of Justice, She who was known to the Lands of Northern England and Southern Scotland as tribal deity of the Brigantes tribe. Lady, we thank you for your presence in our lives.

All: Lady we thank you.

Guide: Let the circle holding our purpose and focus together be opened.

(circle is opened)

Guide: Once more we thank the Spirits of this Place for holding us for our rites.

Let us end as we began with peace.

North: May there be peace in the North

East: May there be peace in the East

South: May there be peace in the South

West: May there be peace in the West

All: May there be peace throughout the world.

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Deepening devotions

Today (Thursday 30 July) is the day before a full moon and as is my custom I have set out my offerings to Brigantia for this moon.  I am blessed in that my daughter has taken an interest in joining me for these devotions and the ones I do for Maponos in particular and this evening as I finished off some washing up she began to get things ready for us.

Since I began flame tending earlier this year my lunar rites for Brigantia have also developed. In addition to lighting three tea lights and offering a bowl of oatmeal and a bowl of warmed honeyed milk I now include a small bowl of water which I dedicate to Brigantia and use during flame tending to anoint myself with.  I’ve also started to put slips of paper with names of those I know that are in need of healing into a small bronze cauldron I have and requesting healing for them both as part of my flame tending devotions and now part of my lunar devotions as well.

I light the tea lights and my daughter and I offer our praises to Brigantia together.  We make the offerings together and then I sing while my daughter dances round me.  I am enjoying the increased depth of connection I feel with these devotions.

Tomorrow evening (Friday 31st) I will make my devotions to my lady Epona Rigantona. These devotions have also changed slightly since I began flame tending as I felt strongly that in addition to the flame tending I needed to do more for Epona.  I began knitting some roses dedicated to Her.  Some have been kept here on the shire I have for Her while others have been sent out to individuals I felt should get one.  Now when I light my single candle for Epona at the full moon I place a beautiful stone carved with a Pictish style horse in front of it with the wooden quaich I had made for libations sat with an offering in it behind the candle and arrange the roses I have kept for Her around them all.  I now have an additional prayer I use with my prayer beads during these devotions which I usually do alone.

I have recently made contact with others who are devoted to Epona and I hope that my communications with them will inspire me further.  Already I feel I have been led to them.

On Saturday 1st August and the day after the full moon I will make my usual offerings to the one I know as Cailleach.  These alone out of the devotions I do have not really changed.  Perhaps they will at another time but for now I don’t feel I need to do more than I currently do for Her the main aspect of which is a libation offered in a particular goblet.

All the food and drink offerings I make are left out overnight and ritually poured out into the back garden the next morning.

On Sunday 2nd August I will be making my usual weekly devotions to Maponos.  This is another area of devotion that my daughter usually joins me in.  For Maponos we prepare a special oil burner, adding drops of one of three oils I brought for this purpose alone. Again for this one I sing and my daughter dances.  I also have a prayer we have begun saying together which includes praying for healing for those names in His sister Brigantia’s cauldron. (Their relationship is more my UPG than anything bu some tales do have Angus Og and Brighid as siblings so I don’t think it’s an unreasonable link).

This weekend I am also aware that many will be celebrating Lughnasadh.  Of all the festivals this is the one I feel least connected to and as it happens I will be unable to join with others to celebrate this time.  I think this year that instead I will be thinking of all those celebrating but for myself focusing more on my devotions to those deities I have been gradually developing deeper connections with.

Hail the Gods!

(and by using that wording I mean to give honour to deities of any and all gender types)