An “Ill-met” Imbolc

Saturday’s Imbolc was great; seven attended in total, the largest turnout since the official start of the Protogrove. I, however, was a bit miserable. Not because of Imbolc itself, though.

At 4:30am on Friday, I was sick. I found myself so weakened that I took Friday off of work. As I rested, I wondered about the Imbolc rite the next day. I knew, at this stage in the Protogrove’s development, that it could not go on without me. Should I cancel it, even though I knew there was interest? Could I cancel it, given that the notice went out to many people who I had no idea if they planned to attend or not?

I decided that the rite must go on. The illness was the sort likely to largely pass within a day. If I was well and truly unable to go the next day, I would contact those who I knew would attend and encourage an improvised solution. Besides, Brighid is a goddess of healing, and I could certainly use some.

I made two concessions to my illness. The first was to give up looking for the bag of tealights I had intended to have blessed during the Workings section and give out; being very weak on Friday meant that my usual advance preparation time was reduced. The second was to bring along cups for the Waters of Life. In times past we’ve simply passed a horn or cup around, but I wanted to do my best to avoid spreading my germs to anyone else. I’d been meaning to try individual cups, but hadn’t done so before — now it was necessary.

Preparations were definitely a bit rushed by my need for extra rest and inability to prepare the night before; still, I arrived at the UU fellowship second, and let everyone in. (The first person to arrive had done so surprisingly early.) In addition to the two UU regulars, two more occasional attendees and two new people showed up. The newcomers brought along “Persephone’s Milk”, a buttermilk-and-juice-based beverage that we decided to use as the Waters of Life.

We set up in the reserved room, which fit us well after some rearranging of the furniture. The setup seemed to take extra long; I don’t know if it was my own reduced energy or just my perception of time with new attendees present. After an extra long pre-ritual briefing due to discussion and extra time spent practicing the “chants” we would use, we began. Almost everyone chose to take at least one part, so the rite flowed swiftly by while I made certain everyone had any supplies or tools they needed at hand. Persephone’s Milk, though a little a-cultural in name, tasted a lot like Kefir, and with its active cultures was probably an ideal Waters of Life for my digestive system in its state. Only a very small amount wound up consumed by the tapestry I had thrown over the table. Some of those attending had brought offerings for Brighid; in fact, all offerings made during the General Praise Offerings were to Her, which isn’t always the case in this group. (Now there hangs a subject for a long entry.)

The biggest performance hink during the rite was my not properly cueing up a grain offering, which was notable mostly in that I’d been very on top of the requisite offerings. There were a few other, more minor things. I forgot the fire-plate for the fire. Also, I didn’t explicitly go over the idea of “Person 1: X, accept this offering. All: X, accept this offering.” so it wound up slightly off at first as everyone tried to say it simultaneously. Finally, there were the usual issues some have reading off a script.

As for the omen, the first acceptance omen was Nauthiz (Need). I saw this as a no, but did not see it as a personal push to do anything — closer to a more please. Since I had not known exactly what resources people would bring, I had brought with me a surfeit of libations, so I offered Brighid “the closest thing to Guinness I have with me”. Others made additional offerings from supplies they had with them, some surprising given the discussion during the pre-ritual briefing about offerings passing out of human use. I drew another rune and received Algiz (Elk) which I perceived as a yes, given the mentions of the protective aspects of Brighid in the ritual text.

For the blessings from the Ancestors, I drew Othala (Ancestral Lands), Gebo (Gift), and Dagaz (Day); I interpreted this as getting in touch with our ancestral gifts and power, but I wasn’t entirely happy with this interpretation, though nothing further has sprung to mind.

For the Nature Spirits, I drew Fehu (Cattle), Laguz (Lake), and Wunjo (Joy); I saw this as great productivity for the coming year, though flexibility would be required.

Finally, for the Gods and Goddesses I drew Mannaz (Man), Jera (Year), Ansuz (Gods; the God Odin), and Tiewaz (the God Tyr) also came out. I took this as a rebalancing in communication with others in the coming year; an attendee made a comment about “Three Gods of the Year” which I’m not entirely certain I understand, even after later discussion. (It might have been that I wasn’t 100% yet, health-wise.)

Afterward, everyone helped clean up and we all chatted a bit before heading our separate ways. The Persephone’s Milk sat calmly in my belly, and though I was still a little tired and a little out of it, I felt good as I headed home.