Healing Pool

I walked along a rough path. On my right a small stream burbled along in a ditch with shrubs and trees beyond, on my left were fields. The day was pleasant, neither too hot or cold and just a gentle breeze. I relaxed to the sound of the stream and the song of birds going about their business.

As I walked I could see that the stream curved away into a pool. The path led me to the edge of an area with rough flat stones laid in the ground that curved part way round the side of the pool. There were a couple of rough wooden seats made from tree trunks beside the paved area, clearly placed so people could sit beside this pool and rest. The far side of the pool looked marshy and it looked like a range of wild plants grew in the marshy area. The land on the near side of the pool beyond the paved area curved into the edge of another field. Another stream ran out from the pool between the two areas of land making the pool a liminal place between wild and tamed land.

I sat on one of the benches, watched the dance of light across the water and listened to the insects and birds around me.

After a while I realised the light wasn’t reflected sunlight as the sun was behind a cloud. A quiet voice said “It’s healing energies.” I turned my head to see a woman sat on the other bench. She smiled and told me that healing energies gathered in this pool and that they could be added to and taken from but it was important not to disturb the balance. Healing energies added would gradually seep into the land at the edges of the pool and from the stream that flowed away from it. Adding energies to that flow was usually fine, taking it had to be done with care not to dry the pool out. I asked her if the pool had a name. “Many,” she said smiling, “but I know it as Eir’s Pool.” I thanked her and looked back at the pool for a moment. When I turned back to ask another question she was gone.

My painting of Eir’s Pool.

For my Friends

I wish I could tell you
I'll fix this
For I hate to see you in pain.

I wish I could tell you 
I'll sort it
And make it better again.

I don't have the power
To mend this
But please don't suffer alone.

I can't wave a wand
And dispel it
Nor weave my spells as a crone.

But I'll listen to all
You share with me
As you fight to change your life.

And I'll cheer you on
From my corner
As you overcome each strife.

A Dreaming to share

I often wake more than once in a night. Sometime I wake, like last night, having had an unusual dream. Last night’s dream was vivid in imagery but not in colour. In terms of colours the whole thing was in different shades of grey.

I was led or brought to what seemed to be a life sized relief carving of a water fall with a cave. The one who led me there seemed male but it wasn’t clear if they were or not. Once we were at the place they seemed to step or fade back from view, still there but in the background.

A sound started. Drumming, deep and from a single drum then voices wordlessly chanting, female voices, a kind of otherworldly choir.

A single louder voice spoke out:

“Without air we cannot breathe.”

The drumming and chanting sounds continued. The relief of the waterfall began to slowly change as I watched. The cave deepened. The water began to very slowly flow into the cave, across the roof of the cave and down the back of it into the darkness. A pale drinking horn, a fairly small one, faded into view floating in the air just inside the mouth of the cave. Drops of water slowly fell into it.

I reached in and took the horn, it was full although I’d only seen a couple of drops of water fall into it. I drank. The water was cold and incredibly refreshing. I put the horn back to float in the air.

The same single voice as before spoke again:

“Without water there is no life.”

As I continued to watch roots began to grow on the floor of the cave, pale white threads weaving into a loose mat like mycelium.

Again the voice spoke out:

“Without roots we cannot grow”.

Then I woke up. The background drumming and chanting had continued throughout the dream.

Sometimes dreams are meant only for the one dreaming, this one I felt was to be shared. For me it feels like a healing dream.

My Cauldron

What should I mix in my cauldron?
Should I nourish body or soul?
How long should I let the mixture brew?

Some cauldrons are used to nourish the body
Contents blended for health.

Some cauldrons are used to feed the heart
A mix of compassion and courage.

Some cauldrons are intended to support the mind
with whimsy and enchantment.

What should I blend in my cauldron?
How should I share its contents?
Who needs to taste this brew?

Inspired by “The Cauldron of Calm” a developing project led by Cat Treadwell 

DSC_1006
My Cauldron

Imbolc

Another post using material from my incomplete draft book.

Something changes. Maybe it is the first tips of green coming through the earth from bulbs dormant over the winter. Maybe it is the quality of sunlight and the fact it lasts that bit longer. Maybe it is the first snowdrop you see. Or perhaps, like me, it is that hard to describe smell or the earth warming, a fleeting sign that something is changing.

Imbolc, Imbolg or Bride’s Day is often referred to as the first of the spring festivals although spring may still be far away. For me this time of year is more about the promise of spring than spring itself. My garden still looks pretty bare but bulbs are beginning to send up their leaves and my rhubarb is beginning to come through again. And yes, the snowdrops are beginning to come out too.

Imbolc is usually dated as the 1st February although some do celebrate on 2nd February. The meanings given to the word itself seem to be unclear. One of the more popular meanings is “ewe’s milk” but my understanding is that among scholars this is generally thought to be drawn from folk lore and not accurate. Certainly if you have sheep in your area and they are due to lamb quite early in the spring the ewes might be coming into milk but milk doesn’t really come in fully for mammals until the young are born. Udders or breasts do begin to swell before young are born but you don’t get much out of them until after the birth takes place.

One more accurate meaning of the word Imbolc or Imbolg (which is the modern Irish spelling I believe) is “in the belly” referring to the pregnancy of ewes. If you have been around pregnant ewes at this time of year the pregnancy is now becoming more obvious to the eye as the lamb grows within the ewe. Another possible meaning dates to Old Irish and is linked to cleansing or ritual purification.

Regardless of the exact meaning of the word it is a time linked to the first signs of spring and also more importantly to Brigid, Goddess and Saint. Whether you are a polytheist or not this is one festival where you are given a very clear pointer to a particular being. Brigid, Bridget, Brighid, Bhride, Bride, Brid and Brig are just some of the names given to this incredibly popular being, a being that is as loved as a Saint as She is as a Goddess. There have been several books written about this being and there is no way I can do justice to Her here. As a very light overview I will say that She is sometimes thought of as a single being, sometimes as three, sometimes as a Goddess, sometimes as a Saint. The three connected beings are Brigid the Poet, Brigid the Smith and Brigid the Healer. Fire and water are sacred to Her. Many wells across Ireland and the UK are dedicated to Her as Saint Brighid. These few words merely touch the surface of who She is and can be.

Purification and cleansing is one of the themes at this time so anything that links with that can be a good choice of activity. It’s a good time to begin some spring cleaning and some home cleansing and blessing.

I have been asked in the past how to go about removing negative influences from something. I make sure whoever asks knows that there are several methods that can be used before offering my own preference. I start with physical cleaning, whether it is an object, a place or even yourself the first step is physical. While you physically clean whatever it is you keep in your mind that this is the first step of a complete cleansing, this adds a focused intent to your physical activity. After that step I recommend a ritual cleanse and blessing. The ritual aspect of cleansing is to sprinkle the item, area or person with water blessed for use in cleansing. When I prepare blessed water I ask Brigantia, Maponos and Clutha (my local major river goddess) to work through me to bless the water that it may cleanse the spirit. After cleansing with blessed water I then recommend use of some form of sacred smoke, that could be incense sticks, loose incense or some form of bundle of herbs similar to Native American smudge bundles. A couple of years ago a friend introduced me to using meadowsweet bundles and I find these to be very effective. The idea is that the smoke is carried or wafted around whatever it is being cleansed and purified. If using smoke is a problem then I recommend using a special candle, perhaps a scented one but natural beeswax is a lovely option for this and you carry the lit candle around instead of wafting smoke. Water and fire are both strongly linked to Brigid in different ways which makes this time of year a particularly good one for doing this type of cleansing and purification work in my opinion. As you go through this process you can chant or pray or simply silently focus on the process of cleansing.

Once you have done whatever cleansing you wish to do you can then move onto other activities. One of the more popular activities is the making of Brigid’s crosses. There are many ways of doing this now although the most traditional materials are rushes or straw. You can also use strips of paper, pipe cleaners or even wire. Traditionally these are hung up in the home ideally over doors or windows. They were and still are symbols of welcoming Brigid and of blessing. Traditionally these are kept up for the year replacing them the following Bride’s Day when the old one, if made of rushes or straw, was burnt on the hearth fire. Now they are often kept much longer. I have one hanging in a back window made with pipe cleaners that is at least four years old now. This is a fun activity to try with children too.

Another possibility is to make a Brideog (Little Brigid) doll. Again traditionally these would be made of straw or rushes and often woven like autumn corn dollies. The doll is then decorated and dressed. A bed is prepared for the doll and the doll is then taken to the front door. One person, traditionally a woman, announces that Bride’s bed is ready, another calls out “Let Bride come in. Bride’s bed is ready.” The doll is then placed in her bed and left overnight. In times gone by where most homes had a hearth fire Bride’s bed would be beside the hearth and the ashes smoothed over before everyone retired to bed. In the morning the ashes would be examined for marks, ideally footprints, that were considered to be a blessing from Bride.

As with any festival sharing food and drink is always popular. For Imbolc dairy foods are usually considered particularly appropriate. Milk or water to drink are also good choices. Water because so many of Brigid’s links are to holy wells.

One of the traditions that I am very fond of is the Brat Bride or cloth. The cloth in question is sometimes a piece of fabric, sometimes a knitted cloth sometimes even a ribbon. The cloth is hung outside or placed on a windowsill overnight for Bride to bless as She passes. The cloth is then used during the year to aid in healing work. I am fortunate enough to have a piece of cloth that was originally part of a much larger cloth first blessed one Imbolc at Kildare, one of the most holy sites associated with Brigid as Saint. It was a gift to me many years ago and one I treasure. Each year I hang it outside again at Imbolc to renew the blessings on it and it has been used several times as an aid to healing.

Throughout this section I have deliberately used different spellings and variations of the many names associated with Brighid. Whether She is honoured as Bride, Brigid, Brig or any one of Her names this festival is very much dedicated to Her. Some of those who follow a Brythonic path now call this festival Brigantica and honour Brigantia at this time. It is Brigantia and my relationship with Her that I will turn to in my next post.

References

Hutton, R. (1996) The Stations of the Sun Oxford University Press

F. Marian McNeill (1959) The Silver Bough Vol Two: A Calendar of Scottish National Festivals Candlemas to Harvest Home Stuart Titles Ltd

Daimler M (2016) Brigid: Meeting the Celtic Goddess of Poetry, Forge and Healing Well Moon Books

https://clannbhride.wordpress.com/ritual/fire-festivals/imbolc/ 

Pagan Healing Circle changes

In June last year I wrote about being called to try and do more of a healing nature in a post titled Healing Needs.  I set up a Pagan Healing Circle at that time but keeping it going has become something I no longer wish to keep up with.  While there has always been healing sent to a small number of personally known individuals, other requests to the group have been rare. It has become increasingly difficult for me to keep going with any enthusiasm for this venture so I have decided to stop.  I have closed the Facebook page I had set up and removed the page about the healing circle that I had on this blog site.

One of the members of the group of healers, Geoff Boswell, has offered to take the group forward with the support of the others in the group and he has set up a new Facebook group for it.  The Pagan Healing Circle has been renewed under the guidance of a Druid I have known and respected for many years.  Healing requests should be directed to this new contact for the group.

A bit of this and a bit of that

It’s been a busy month for me with lots of different things going on which means my mind has often been jumping about from one topic to another.  It also means that I’m feeling a bit drained.  Much of these happenings have been good things.

The first two weeks of April are school holidays here so there were visits from school friends to co-ordinate, trips out to arrange and space for relaxing and unwinding to be managed. This year my son also needed to fit in some study time for exams that take place in May.  Juggling the desires of a highly selectively social teen with a bouncy sensory seeking ten year old while remaining sane myself can be challenging and by the end of the school holidays I am very happy to get back into term time routines!

My husband, Neil, is a keen amateur landscape photographer and on Saturday 7 April he was up at Fort William for the launch of an exhibition with the Society of Scottish Landscape Photographers which including one of his images. I wasn’t able to go with him and I still haven’t seen the exhibition but it’s moving to an exhibition space in Leith, Edinburgh on Saturday 5 May so I’ll get to see it when it’s there.  If you’ve not yet seen Neil’s photos please do take a look at his site Awen Photos, you can also find him on Facebook. Needless to say I am rather proud of his photographic skills!

Saturday 14 May saw Neil and I at the Druid Network AGM at the Bilberry Hill Centre near Birmingham. It’s a location that the Druid Network have used for several years and we are all rather fond of it.  The Druid Network (TDN) AGM has a formal side to it but it is also a time of community connection, discussion, shared food and fun.  It is a full day event and many of us stay overnight before dispersing across the UK the following day.  Last year I stepped into a new role at the AGM, that of minute taker.  I found that having a task to do helped me manage my social anxiety and this year I continued in that role.  I’m not a fan of taking minutes for meetings usually but when both I and the group can benefit I am much more keen. Thanks to years of University committee experience it’s not a role I find difficult and TDN AGMs are more fun to minute than anything I have done in the past.

Just last week I had another AGM to attend.  This one was for the RDA Glasgow Group and I was anticipating a much more boring and formal meeting. I was pleasantly surprised.  It was anything but boring!  This AGM took place on Wednesday 25 April in the evening in the RDA Glasgow Group conference room. The discussions that followed the formal reports were lively and I found the whole meeting much more interesting than I had anticipated.  I was very tired afterwards though as there was a lot to concentrate on.

I’m becoming more involved with the RDA.  While I was recovering from my unscheduled dismount and not fit enough to help out in classes I helped out in the office instead and took on the RDA Glasgow Newsletter preparation.  I will be doing the next issue too although I’m not sure what’s happening after that as yet.  I’ve also been doing a bit of work on updates for the RDA Glasgow website (feedback always welcome by the way).  I’m now building up my fitness for helping in classes again and it’s great to be back doing that but I still plan to help out in other areas.

Which reminds me, today being the last day of April is also the last day of Autism Awareness month for several countries. World Autism Awareness Day is 2 April each year.  Some areas of the world use the whole of April as Autism Awareness month.  In the UK the National Autistic Society held a week long focus of events from 26 March  – 2 April.  Anyway, RDA National has been working on a new addition to its online learning courses aimed primarily at RDA volunteers and staff.  This one is on Autism Awareness and it’s going to be officially launched very soon.  I took part in the testing of the course and I am delighted to say that in my opinion they have done a really good job on this course with a good balance of information and practical suggestions.

These are a few of the highlights from my busy month.  I’ve also been continuing in my book writing efforts and trying not to let self doubt stop me.  I’ve been healing from my own injury and continuing to coordinate requests to the Pagan Healing Circle. And, as always, I’ve been continuing to devote time to my family and my devotional practices.

 

 

Rebirth

We went out the other weekend exploring Glen Lochay near Killin in Pethshire. We chose that area because of something Neil had read about Creag Na Callich which overlooks Glen Lochay and because I had been feeling the need to seek out the Ancient One in the land.

Several years ago the wooden hammer that had been given into my care and used since in ritual had been destroyed by my ex-husband. That hammer was dedicated to An Cailleach and I still feel it’s loss. I had been thinking about this a fair bit recently and felt that something wasn’t resolved between An Cailleach and I over this loss. I felt I had to know if I needed to make some form of reparation to Her for the hammer’s loss and my failure to anticipate my ex-husband’s behaviour.

The first snows were on the mountain tops and much of the colour lower down was of late autumn. I had offerings with me of whisky and oatmeal. We drove along the Glen stopping from time to time to explore something or for Neil to take some photos. I was seeking for something, somewhere I could feel An Cailleach and commune with Her. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was looking for, just that I’d know if I found it. If I didn’t find that something then I would need to do more, If I found that something then I hoped things would become clearer for me.

At one point we spotted something unusual. We stopped and went for a closer look. We had found something, something quite special. Closer to the river on the other side of the field I found a place that called to me, a tiny island forming just by the river bank. A place of magic that sang to me and my heart filled with wonder. I poured out part of my offerings there. Then I returned to the centre of the field and the tree that was growing there.

I have seen trees growing out of cracks in rocks and cliffs. I’ve seen trees of one species growing out of another older living tree of a different species but I’d never seen something like this before. A stump of what must have been a pretty old tree was still connected to the large rocks it had grown on top of and between. Growing on the top of that stump were several types of mosses and lichens and in the midst of them a silver birch tree. As I walked round this gazing in wonder at this a single word resounded like a bell in my head. “Rebirth!”

I gave more of my offerings there in that place beside that tree.

Glen Lochay - renewal

Later in the day we walked part way up the route out of the other end of Glen Lochay in a route that leads towards Glen Lyon, we didn’t have time to do more that go part way up. Before we turned back I made my final offerings in a place that looked back along the Glen towards Creag Na Callich among other peaks.

I sought An Cailleach and She had answered me.

We took a slightly different route out of the Glen towards Killin and in the dusk as we came towards a couple of fields we saw a herd of red deer. There were a couple of stags, one clearly more dominant as he chased off others bellowing at them, and about forty does. A wonderful end to our visit to Glen Lochay.

 

All photos thanks to Neil Pitchford, Awen photos

Reflections on a state of mind

I wrote the core of this in a Facebook post earlier this week.  I’ve decided to add to what I wrote there for a post here.

Tuesdays are now my busiest days, I plan for the tiredness that follows by usually having fairly quiet days on Mondays and Wednesdays. Tuesdays are busy because of things I choose to do so I am not complaining just noting for background to this post that they are busy.

Last Tuesday though I also got hit by nebulous anxiety and wobbly emotions. Part of my difficulties could have been caused by one of the cats staying out until 1am Monday morning. It was very unlike her so I worried and had trouble settling to sleep.  Eventually I chose to check at the back door just one more time at 1am and there she was at the door!  I settled to sleep fairly quickly after that knowing she was safe and sound. Part of the difficulties could also be worrying about my lad going out on an overnight camping trip with a group from school. Camping for the inexperienced is challenging and this trip included a fair amount of walking too as it was a practice for a Duke of Edinburgh Award overnight expedition (I think that’s the Bronze level). I worried about how this was going all that day and the next until I saw him again and heard that it had gone reasonably well.

Part of my problems on Tuesday could have been hormonal, although I don’t usually get the emotional surges at that stage in my cycle, anything is possible though.

All I really know is that I struggled emotionally on and off all day.  I carried on with my usual Tuesday activities which include some hours of voluntary work at a Riding for the Disabled Association stables in Glasgow. Usually after a bit of time at the stables whatever emotional state I might have been in when I arrived is soothed with the presence of horses and in the feelings of being useful.  Not on this occasion.  I cried; at the stables; in front of people! Fortunately I held it together during the lessons where I was leading horses but between one lesson and another I cracked. Those that saw me were lovely about it by the way, tea was applied and soothing company.  I was asked if I wanted to be alone but I wasn’t really sure so someone stayed with me for a while. After a bit I calmed down enough to feel able to help out in another lesson side walking this time before leaving to collect my daughter from school.

I remained a bit mentally and emotionally wobbly throughout the rest of the day but didn’t break down again in the same way.  I struggled through.

This is me as well in terms of my mental health as I’ve been for a very long time. I still get odd times like this.  Fortunately at the last appointment I had with psychologist she said that there might still be times when I struggled.  This wouldn’t necessarily mean it was a relapse as the journey to improved mental health is not usually a smooth one, it may just mean a wobble, a temporary dip that I would be able to move beyond myself without seeking further assistance.  In this case I feel that is exactly what this was, a temporary dip in the journey rather than the beginnings of a relapse.

Many of my friends struggle with mental health on a daily basis. The type of experience I have shared here is the tip of the unseen iceburg of mental health.  It’s hard to talk about situations like these, hard to experience.  It is even harder trying to explain this type of thing to someone who has never experienced levels of anxiety, stress or depression that have affected their health to the stage of needing medication, counselling or both either long or short term.

And so I’m writing this for those who can’t find the words to explain. I get it. I have struggled with finding the words, I still do.
I’m writing this for me, something I can look back on and say this is where I was then.  A year after a period of my life where I was on medication, having nasty anxiety attacks and beginning counselling.  This is a major improvement and this is a part of who I am and I am proud of who I am!

I’m also writing this for those that haven’t had these experiences. Here’s a window to peek through.

Healing Needs

Over the years I’ve felt the need to do something of a healing nature.  There have also been times I’ve needed some healing support myself.  Most of the time what I have done has been as an individual. I’ve prayed; dedicated and lit candles; developed and carried out healing spells; chanted and sung; sent out distance healing using Reiki; visited people in hospital and given healing in the form of Reiki and similar types of spiritual healing; and I’ve asked for some of these for myself from people I know that also do forms of spiritual healing.

I have a whiteboard hung on the wall by my shrine to those deities I have special relationships with and on it are the names of people I know of that have asked for healing either directly or via a trusted loved one.

I’m not medically trained.  I’m not trained in one of the many and varied healing  and associated professions  and I’ve never been called to do that sort of vital work.  What I can offer, what I do, can not replace good medical care and expertise.  What I offer is something that can support the heart and soul, something that helps with feeling loved, feeling cared for and supported all of which aids physical healing.

Recently though, I have felt the need to do more.

One aspect of doing more is to take on the role of healthcare chaplaincy coordinator with the Scottish Pagan Federation.  The basics of this role is to ensure NHS trusts in Scotland know where to come to if they wish for Pagan information and support.  Another is to provide a visiting service to any Pagan who is in hospital and would like a Pagan visitor.  I can’t do all of this myself by any means but there are volunteers across the country who will do what they can to support Pagans who find themselves in hospital.

The reality of our current society is that much of the longer term healthcare takes place in the home and community.  Now many Pagans will have some form of Pagan community they can turn to for support at these times, that might be an online community or a moot they attend when well enough but there are many that for all sorts of reasons will not have that support.  Part of the role I have with the Scottish Pagan Federation is to try and provide some support for Pagans in Scotland that find themselves isolated and in need due to their health, physical or mental.  Being able to support people though does rely on someone letting the Scottish Pagan Federation (via their contact form) or myself know that there is someone in need support and that’s not always easy in itself as often we don’t like to ask for support for ourselves even when we need it.

But I felt I needed to do something more.  I felt pushed, prodded, urged to set up some form of virtual healing group.  I bounced my ideas of a few others, some of whom are, or have been, involved in other healing groups.  I wanted something which was open to those of any type of Pagan and Heathen path to join.  I wanted something that didn’t restrict how healing was done or sent, other than it would be virtual.  I wanted something that had a central hub that requests to join and requests for healing went through.  And I wanted something that had the potential to grow.

I think in the Pagan Healing Circle that I have set up, I have planted the seeds.  It’s young yet but already I have close to a dozen individuals who have joined me in this circle.  Healing is being sent out for a couple of individuals already and I hope that as word spreads others will ask for healing too.

Healing requests come to me on a dedicated email address.  I then send them out to the rest of the circle and make a note of what date they are sent round.  The plan is that requests stay active for a month unless we get follow-up requests or feedback of some kind asking us to keep sending.  A minimum of a first name and what the healing is for is asked for, I don’t circulate the whole email I receive, just the request itself.  This is to preserve as much privacy as possible while still providing support and healing.

If you want to know more about this healing circle, would like to join or wish to make a healing request please do email me on paganhealingcircle@gmail.com.

Oh and we’ll happily accept healing requests for beloved animal companions too.

Image thanks to Awen Photos