A Feast for Girls
The face of Brighid is hard from Samhain until the Winter Solstice. Then does She wear the face of the Hag, the Cailleach. When She shows this face the winds are bitter and the plants die. But on the eve of Imbolc, when the sheep begin to have milk again, She transforms Herself and shows the face of a young maiden.
At Imbolc Brighid walks the land, spreading Her green mantle and breathing life into the hills. It is the time of ice melting and of the Sun, warming the fields.
(note* – even here in New England we have a week long period known as the “January Thaw” that begins at the end of January and usually coincides with the Imbolc festival. I like to time my rituals to coincide with the “Thaw” or with the lactation of the ewes rather than the Roman calendar)
The young girls of the tuath shall gather to make a Bride Doll of straw, ideally from grains (or reeds) saved from the last years harvest. They shall dress the doll in finery and place it in a basket along with a white rod or “slachdan” of birch, willow, bramble, or broom, a “magic wand” symbolic of Her ability to control the weather.
The adults of the tuath shall bake sweet cakes and prepare dairy foods in honor of the festival. They shall also plait equal armed solar crosses on this day, of reed and of straw, to hasten the Sun’s strengthening.
The girls of the tuath shall form a procession and troop about the outside of a house Sunwise three times, bearing the Bride Doll and lit white candles.
Then shall the girls of the tuath process around the village, bearing the Bride Doll and white candles and stopping at every door. In this way shall they bring the blessings of Brighid to each home saying;
“We ask that Brighid bless this household, all herein and their kindred and their substance”.
And at each house they shall be given sweet cakes and other small gifts in thanks.
Finally the girls shall stop at a house where a party has been prepared. They shall bring snowdrops, sacred to the Goddess, or other flowers, to the hosts of that house and bless the home by their presence. The hosts shall welcome them with these words;
“In this house you girls are the personification of the Goddess and of the Land. You do us honor by your presence here. Welcome in and accept our hospitality”.
Then shall the girls be seated at the table and a feast shall be set before them. Afterwards the girls shall remain as honored guests, dancing and playing as long as they desire. The Bride Doll shall be left by the hearth until dawn. Any left over wheat or reeds from the making of Solar crosses may be placed under and around the doll, covered with a white cloth. If by morning a footprint appear in the ashes of the hearth it shall be an omen that Brighid Herself has been by to bless the home. The reeds and wheat may be used for healing work throughout the year (by tying them onto a sick person or animal).
Copyright 1999, Ellen Evert Hopman