This year’s Brigid’s altar glows in the still-dark year, casting strands of hope and connection to those who circle around it. I like to use different symbols for the elements and Spirit, and this year’s choices are especially poignant for me. For the center I use my first Brigid’s cross, one I bought years ago from a Celtic import shop and probably therefore from Ireland. The reeds are fat and the sunwise cross lays in the nest of shiny green material symbolizing Brigid’s mantle of protection. Air in the east is invoked by the quill and inkwell of my craft, and a small accordion book I made over ten years ago, of 13 “girl gods”, as some young boys said who recently saw it. Fire in the south is weighted with my grandmother’s anvil, symbolizing the forge at which we are sometimes hammered into a new form by life’s trials, our joys tempered by sorrows. My grandmother used this anvil to hold her braided rugs as she pulled on the strips of wool to make the braid and enlarge the coil. Water in the west is in a silver chalice with a snake pattern circling up the stem, and another small silver cup engraved with knotwork holds milk. Earth in the north is a twist of sheep’s wool, handspun and coiled into a spiral. The golden candle holds the center and is also marked with a spiraling pattern.
These symbols all seem to refer to coiling, turning, twisting, knotting. I turn and turn through twisty dreams and doubts, and remember that this is the time of the year for purification and dedication. As I look inside, I breathe softly on the embers of inspiration and “keep vigil to the fire in my heart,” to borrow some poetry from a writer whose crowdsourced poetry is breathing new life into the old bardic forms.
I invite new pages into being at my worktable; I will tend the forge of making; I drink deeply from the well of healing and intuition; I minister to the twists and turns inside my animal body; I seek the aid of Spirit in the form of Brigid to light my way. The days lengthen and we mark another turn of the Wheel.