Brigid is such a complex Goddess -- patroness of both poetry and smithcraft, of both fire and wells, of both healing of the body and the creative spark -- that it's not surprising that she is so beloved by such a wide variety of Pagans. One tradition in some covens is to make a vow to Brigid at Imbolc.
If that's part of your practice, allow me, please, to suggest that you consider a vow to become more connected to, to enter into a deeper relationship with, your own specific bit of Earth. Not "Nature," in the abstract, but your own landbase, watershed, yard, bit of Earth. Especially today, when most Pagans live in cities, this can present a serious challenge. Concrete does not lend itself to relationship nearly as easily (which is not to say "not at all") as do trees, rivers, meadows, mountains, beaches. But you can start, and it's a good place to start, with a pot or two of flowers or herbs on your balcony. You can start with the quality of light and how it differs in the morning when you are walking North from home to work from the evening when you are walking South from work to home. You can find some weeds that grow along the side of the interstate ramp where you slow to a crawl every morning in traffic. Those weeds have a lot to say and would love for someone to notice them every day. You can start with the same aggressive pigeon who shows up every day when you eat lunch in the park and wants a bit of your lunch. You can start with the homeless man at the stoplight or the young woman who still doesn't have much English who sells you a latte every morning.
As E. M. Forster said, "Only connect." Forster also said, Our life on earth is, and ought to be, material and carnal. But we have not yet learned to manage our materialism and carnality properly; they are still entangled with the desire for ownership. How can you work with that this year?
This is the now annual Silent Poetry Reading in honor of Brigid (Saint or Goddess, as you prefer). And while the first invitation was for a single day’s blogging event, watching the misty full moon tonight got me thinking of a favorite line from a poem that I want to offer, so I will simply declare that this year’s event has begun!
Life is hard enough; why shouldn’t we take all the full moon weekend leading up to February 2nd to celebrate this patroness of the arts and healing, and read her a poem or two?
So post a poem, a couple of poems, as many as you like, and then post a link to your poetry post(s) in the comments section at Anne's blog.
Many people enjoy Kipling's poems who would be confused by Keats; others delight in Burns who would be utterly without sympathy for Blake. The people who like Tennyson do not, as a rule, care much about Walt Whitman, and the admirers of Poe and Coleridge may find Wordsworth unattractive, and again his disciples might feel antagonized by Rossetti and Swinburne. It does not matter, so long as one finds one's own sustenance. Only, the happy men who can enjoy them all are the richest. The true test of poetry is sincerity and vitality. It is not rhyme, or metre, or subject. It is nothing in the world but the soul of man as it really is. Carlyle's 'French Revolution' is a great epic poem; so are Trevelyan's three volumes on 'Garibaldi and the Italian War of Independence.' That they are written in prose has nothing to do with the matter. That most poems are written rhythmically, and that rhythm has come to be the great technical fact of poetry, was, primarily, because men under stress of emotion tend to talk in a rhythmed speech. Read Lincoln's 'Address at Gettysburg' and 'Second Inaugural,' and you will see.
Nothing is more foolish than to say that only such and such forms are proper to poetry. Every form is proper to poetry, so long as it is the sincere expression of a man's thought. That insincere men try bizarre forms of verse to gain a personal notoriety is true, but it seems not very difficult to distinguish them from the real artists. And so long as men feel, and think, and have the need of expressing themselves, so long will their modes of expression change. For expression tends to become hackneyed and devitalized, and new methods must be found for keeping the sense of palpitant vigour.
PS: If you are one of those people who think that you "hate poetry," think: "song lyrics." I bet you have a set of song lyrics that speak to you. I won't upset you by suggesting that they are poetry. No, no. Just post your favorite song lyrics. ;)
For me, Imbolc is the Pagan Season of Hope – as we anticipate the Spring Woman who rises in the green veins of trees and tulips, come to lift us out of our dark night. (Hey…there’s a whole soteriology waiting to happen…Kore as Pagan Messiah…hmmm…of course, Feraferians have been saying as much for years.) Some may find, in this story, a metaphor. But for me it’s deadly literal. Without the knowing in my body that the ground will melt, that flowers will bloom, and that the wind can be again my friend…well, I simply don’t think I’d make it (I grew up in Texas and Colorado. And while I thought that my experiences in Denver and Boulder had prepared me for what it meant to live in a winter country, Mother Lake and Brother North Wind learned me right out of that notion). I imagine my ancestors may have had similar thoughts. And this movement is, deliciously so, outside of my realm of control. The earth spins and the seasons turn, and these things are greater than I, and I am a firm believer in the Mystery of Maybe Not Tomorrow – so I do not Make Spring, but I hope, and this Hope is born of my body – both Faith and Fact.
J.D. Salinger, who, in the quote below, explained existence better than anyone else, ever, has gone to the Summerlands.
"I was six when I saw that everything was God, and my hair stood up, and all," Teddy said. "It was on a Sunday, I remember. My sister was a tiny child then, and she was drinking her milk, and all of a sudden I saw that she was God and the milk was God. I mean, all she was doing was pouring God into God, if you know what I mean. ~J.D. Salinger, "Teddy," 1954
I spend all day working -- as hard as I know how -- to write legal pleadings in good, strong, understandable, Anglo Saxon, English. So I can be forgiven, I think, for coming home and enjoying "Budgens in Mountsorrel" and "Thirsty Farmer Cider." (Also, Geminii ascendent. Just saying.)
The apple trees were wassailed by the group led by Leicester Border Morris Dance troupe Bakanalia and a traditional incantation was then made to the trees before the wassail queen, 16-year-old Eve Mason, of Mountsorrel, led a procession through the orchard to music.
May the Goddess grant much happiness and long years to Eve Mason of Mountsorrel, who may as well have been named Rosie Cotton. And here's wishing Farmer Fear (I love this language!) an abundant apple harvest.
He does not lead. Americans, especially in times of crisis, want their daddy-president to pick a point on the horizon and lead them to it. Often - especially in the short term - they don't even care that much which point it is. They will happily follow a president whose policies they oppose if he will but lead.
* And if he will demonstrate some conviction. I have never seen a president so utterly lacking in passion. This man literally doesn't even seem to care about himself, let alone this or that policy issue. He doesn't seem to have any strong opinions on anything, a sure prescription for presidential failure.
* He has therefore let Congress ‘lead' on nearly every issue, another surefire mistake. Instead of demanding that they pass real stimulus legislation - which would have really stimulated the economy, big-time, and right now - he let those dickheads on the Hill just load up a big pork party blivet of a bill with all the pet projects they could find, designed purely to benefit their personal standing with the voters at home, rather than to actually produce jobs for Americans. And on health care, his signature issue, he did the same thing. "You guys write it, and I'll sign the check." Could there possibly be a greater prescription for failure than allowing a bunch of the most venal people on the planet to cobble together a 2,000 page monstrosity that entirely serves their interests and those of the people whose campaign bribes put them in office?
* Well, yes, now that you mention it. If you really want to bring your government crashing to the ground, why not spend endless months negotiating with vicious thugs, who will never vote for your legislation anyhow, because they are so entirely devoted to your destruction that they're willing to call you a granny murderer? What a great and winning strategy!
* Another possible strategic move even stupider than deferring to Congress to write major legislation is to cozy up with the least popular people on the planet - including, in fact, the real-life granny killers. Got an economy that is so raw it's leaving thousands in literal peril of losing their lives? Why not draft some legislation to bail-out the people who created that mess and guarantee that they retain their multimillion dollar bonuses?!?! You know, the same folks who are always talking about how great capitalism is and how important it is to take risks! The same ones who are always telling us how awful the government is - the same government that saved them from extinction. Those folks. That's right, bail out with outrageous bonuses the very people who need it least and who caused billions of people around the planet to suffer, while leaving everyone else to fend for themselves! That'll raise your presidential job approval ratings every time! And while you're at it, bring in the much beloved health insurance and pharmaceutical corporate lobbyists, and negotiate a deal with them to craft your high profile health care legislation! What voter can't get behind that?
* Another brilliant presidential tactic is to be such a Mr. Happy Nice Face that you acknowledge no enemies for the country, or even yourself. Not the health care corporate vampires who suck the blood out of Americans from San Diego to Bangor, providing absolutely no value-added health service whatsoever, while denying treatment to deathly ill human beings at every opportunity, all to rake in billions more in profits. Not the reckless pirates on Wall Street who bet all our money on insane gambles that wrecked the global economy, took government bail-out money to survive, and yet are still drowning in bonuses as rewards. Not the Republican Party who spent three decades downsizing the middle class, plunging the country into wars based on lies, deregulating every protection in sight, fattening up corporate cronies, wrecking the environment, trashing the Constitution and polarizing the country politically. And not even a catastrophic climate disaster speeding toward the planet with relentless determination. No! We must all be happy and talk nice! No bad guys. Not even the bad guys can be bad guys.
* While you're at it, if you're trying to run the most failed presidency ever, a really good idea is to campaign in the grandest terms possible, and then deliver squat. You know, talk about bending the arc of history. Invoke Martin Luther King's dream and his struggles and even those of the slaves. Ring the big bells of generational calling. Remind voters every thirty seconds that the country badly needs "Change!". Then get elected and turn around and continue the policies of your hated predecessor in every meaningful policy area. Only with less conviction. People will love that.
* A related brilliant move is to mobilize a giant army of passionate volunteers dedicated to putting you in the White House, and then do nothing with them once you get there, other than taking them completely for granted and never calling upon them to do anything in support of your agenda. Be sure to deflate their enthusiasm in every way possible.
* Even more importantly, if you're trying to run your presidency into the ground you'll definitely want to avoid mobilizing the general public behind your agenda. To make sure that you don't repeat the great legislative victories of FDR or LBJ or (unfortunately) Reagan or (really unfortunately) Little Bush, never use their method of appealing directly to the people. Never express your legislative program as a moral imperative, a great calling to the nation. Never attempt to rally the public behind your cause. Never express any urgency. And never call upon them to demand that Congress pass your bills. Then, you can rest assured they won't!
* And let's take it up a whole ‘nuther level, while we're on the subject. A successful president is one who articulates a strong and compelling narrative for the nation. So, in your quest to avoid rising even to mediocrity, be sure to leave a great big gaping canyon where that whole narrative thing is supposed to go. No New Deal, no Great Society, no New Frontier or War on Terror for you. Nope! Just a thousand little projects with little non-solutions to big problems. Hey, why not inject yourself into Cambridge, Massachusetts community police politics while you're at it! Or the New York State Democratic Party gubernatorial primary! Or you could deliberate for weeks about which breed of dog to get for your kids! That's a great use of the president's political capital!
* As long as you're walking away from the grand narrative, why not let the opposition define you as well? Let them say anything imaginable about you, and never respond. You're a socialist! No, you're a fascist! No, you're both! At the same time, no less! You're a granny killer! You're not really even an American! You're taking over the US for the Muslims! You're a massive taxer and spender! You're running around the world, apologizing for America everywhere you go! No worries. Just remember the golden rule, and your presidency is sure to sink: Never engage, never respond, never preempt, never attack, never fight back.
* In general, you'll also want to take the most important power the president has - the bully pulpit - and totally piss it away. Appear everywhere at once, all the time, saying lots of nice words, about a thousand different issues. But never with passion, never with compelling simplicity, never with repetition, and never with urgency. Pretty soon you'll turn being everywhere into being nowhere. Everyone one will tune out your ubiquitous self. Give up the high moral ground which is the most important asset of the office you hold, and you'll make sure that no one ever listens to you anymore. You will persuade the public of nothing. Except that you are irrelevant.
* But you can do better still. Help your enemies, so that they can crush you more effectively! Start by not even realizing they are your enemies. Then, treat them with greater respect than your friends, even though they've run the country over a cliff. Defer to them at every opportunity. Consult with them even as they insult you to your face. Allow them to run Congress, even though they have small minorities in both houses. Never force them to vote against simple, popular legislation. Never call their bluffs. Never associate them with the destruction they've caused. Never label them the treasonous hypocritical liars that they are. Help them to resuscitate the comatose near-corpse of their political party, just before it's about to die, so it can rise up and savage you.
* Another great trick for crashing a presidency is to pick all the wrong priorities to ‘fight' for. Imagine, for example, if FDR had substituted for his ‘Day of Infamy' speech right after Pearl Harbor a ringing call for an American revolution in cobbler technology! Yes, that's right, in response to the devastating surprise attack by the armed forces of the Empire of Japan, what if the president urgently called upon us all to start making really amazing shoes?! Before it's too late, and we all get blisters on our feet! Similarly, Mr. Obama, your spending the last year on (jive) health care and jetting around the world dipping your toes into foreign policy problems while Americans are losing their jobs and their houses is a fine way to kill your presidency. Guaranteed to work every time.
* And, finally, perhaps the most important thing one can do - and the thing that helps explain many of the other items above - is to adopt really, really pathetic policies. If you're doing a stimulus bill, for example, make sure that it's too little money, not targeted at real stimulative levers in the economy, costs a lot, doesn't kick in for a year or two, gives away about a third of the money to ineffective pet projects for Republican while none of them vote for it anyhow, and leaves the unemployment rate stuck at a miserable ten percent. Or, if you're doing a bail-out of the banks for the purpose of producing the liquidity essential to restarting the economy, let them take bonuses as big as they want, and don't actually require that they loan out to anyone the money you've given them. Or, how about spending nearly all your political capital on ‘health care' legislation, which is really an insurance company boondoggle bill instead? That's really what the people want, eh? No wonder Obama's not out there writing the narrative, fighting the good fight or crushing his enemies. Even he can't get excited about his own priorities, so extraordinarily abysmal are they.
All of this represents the best prescription I can imagine for wrecking a presidency, and Obama has followed it with exacting precision. Indeed, doing so would appear to be his only real passion. It's almost as if he were a Republican sleeper politician in some party politics version of the Manchurian Candidate, planted to arise on cue and destroy the Democratic Party from within.
And the response from the WH is to try and make the Republicans like him by promising to cut spending on social programs (which is what "freeze" really means), while giving the military-industrial complex a blank check. Cuz THEN they'll stop calling him Hitler, a socialist, a Nazi, a Kenyan. Sure. Heckuva job, Barack.
"Springtime's comin'," he said. "Cannot tha' smell it?"
Mary sniffed and thought she could.
"I smell something nice and fresh and damp," she said.
"That's th' good rich earth," he answered, digging away. "It's in a good humor makin' ready to grow things. It's glad when plantin' time comes. It's dull in th' winter when its got nowt to do. In th' flower gardens out there things will be sirrin' down below in th' dark. Th' sun's warmin' 'em. You'll see bits o' green spikes stickin' out o' th' black earth after a bit."
"What will they be?" asked Mary.
"Crocuses an' snowdrops an' daffydowndillys. Has tha' never seen them?"
"No. Everything is hot, and wet, and green after the rains in India," said Mary. "And I think things grow up in night."
"These won't grow up in a night," said Wetaherstaff. "Tha'll have to wait for 'em. They'll poke up a bit higher here, an' push out a spike more there, an' uncurl a leaf this day an' another that. You watch 'em."
"I am going to," answered Mary.
~from The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Here's hoping that, for the fifth straight year, Anne Hill will be sponsoring the on-line Imbolc poetry slam in honor of the Goddess Brigid, patroness of smithcraft and poetry.
Here's an early start:
BY MARGARET ATWOOD
Winter. Time to eat fat and watch hockey. In the pewter mornings, the cat, a black fur sausage with yellow Houdini eyes, jumps up on the bed and tries to get onto my head. It’s his way of telling whether or not I’m dead. If I’m not, he wants to be scratched; if I am He’ll think of something. He settles on my chest, breathing his breath of burped-up meat and musty sofas, purring like a washboard. Some other tomcat, not yet a capon, has been spraying our front door, declaring war. It’s all about sex and territory, which are what will finish us off in the long run. Some cat owners around here should snip a few testicles. If we wise hominids were sensible, we’d do that too, or eat our young, like sharks. But it’s love that does us in. Over and over again, He shoots, he scores! and famine crouches in the bedsheets, ambushing the pulsing eiderdown, and the windchill factor hits thirty below, and pollution pours out of our chimneys to keep us warm. February, month of despair, with a skewered heart in the centre. I think dire thoughts, and lust for French fries with a splash of vinegar. Cat, enough of your greedy whining and your small pink bumhole. Off my face! You’re the life principle, more or less, so get going on a little optimism around here. Get rid of death. Celebrate increase. Make it be spring.
I'm a woman, a Witch, a mother, a grandmother, an eco-feminist, a gardener, a reader, a writer, and a priestess of the Great Mother Earth. Hecate appears in the
Homeric Ode to Demeter, which tells of Hades who caught Persophone
"up reluctant on his golden car and bare her away lamenting. . . . But no one, either of the deathless gods or of mortal men, heard her voice, nor yet the olive-trees bearing rich fruit: only tenderhearted Hecate, bright-coiffed, the daughter of Persaeus, heard the girl from her cave . . . ."