Greetings friends! Merry new moon to you and merry meet once again within The Craneskin Bag! A whirly burly and a topsy turvy of a time do we find ourselves traversing between our monthly visits, yet despite the dilemma of external combustible stimuli, I believe the spirit of humanity will not only survive, but thrive in these, the most unexpected of places and times.
Now as questions go, the one often thought to be masked under the moniker of "age old" would have to be, "What happens after we die? Well I was asked this question during our recent time apart and I approached the task of answering it with earnest sincerity. So, after a thoughtful period of deliberation and contemplation I gave this honest reply~
Where do we go from here?
Into the grinding wheel of the God's we go
Into the marrow of tree sap
Into the nursery of nebulas
Into the birth canal of a Goddess
Into the mutable faces of clouds
Into the songs of bird speech
Into the crystalized underworld cavernous void
Into the newborn cradle of dreaming divinity
Into the uproarious ripples of spacelessness
Into the eternal echo of histories future
Into the slender spark of fiery sunlight
Into the soft kiss of May morning dew
Know you what follows winter?
Know you what follows death?
Brigid and Imbolc ~
This last month we did in fact witness verifiable proof of life after death. The Irish feast day of Imbolc, celebrated on February 1st marks the very first day of Spring where winter is now pregnant with its summer child. The tendrils of new life are sprouting hither and thither in their subtle slow evolution towards the strengthening sun and these small signs of new life are akin to a pianissimo chorus of barefoot children who sing~
"Spring has come
Bud and root
Spring has sprung
Along with Spring returns another, an ancient maternal presence of fire and inspiration. She is known by many names in many places of the world. I tell of the Irish Goddess Brigid, Brigantia, Brigindu, Brigh, Bri, Bride, she who raises herself on high and is exalted, the fiery arrow, Daughter of the Dagda the good God and Boann, the white cow.
Brigid by~ Caitlin McCarthy
As a patroness of poets and the creative arts I have always felt a strong spiritual connection towards Brigid and all that she represents in this world and beyond. Throughout pre-Christian Ireland her cult was so fiercely established that by the time Christianity emerged around the 5th century the church saw no other means to deal with this powerful Goddess but to grant her the status of a saint, second only to Patrick himself and often given the epithet, Mary of the Gael. Yet throughout both manifestations of her supreme reign, Goddess/Saint, she is always represented by the element of fire. Priestesses tended her perpetual flame in Kildare for countless centuries until it was extinguished sometime around the 16th century. Ireland suffered the loss of this divine light for almost 500 years until the flame was re-lit by the Brigidine Sisters in 1993.
One translation of Brigid's name is fiery arrow and the ageless primordial triple Goddess of the three fires, the forge, the hearth and the head was indeed hailed with all of her rites and traditional symbolism by my family this year~
One tradition which we honored is the Brat Bride, or, Brigid's mantle. My son, partner and I each placed a piece of ritual cloth in the bough of an oak tree at sunset on the eve of Imbolc. We laid a bowl of fresh creamy milk as an offering to Brigid and recited the following incantation~
Brigid, daughter of the Dagda
Daughter of Boann
Exalted, enflamed by three fires
Your touch upon this brat we ask this night
Heal and protect, heal and protect
Heal and protect
by your three natures
Cas orainn aniar anocht
Agus bliann o anocht.
This piece of cloth is transformed by Brigid's touch during the night, for it is imbued with her healing and protective powers. It is to be collected before sunrise and after 7 years the brat retains its full curative powers.
Brigid by Hrana Janto
Another Imbolc tradition is the crios Bride or Brigid's belt. This was our Imbolc climax celebrated on the 1st of February rather than the night before. I made a crude large hoop out of two willow branches and we tied our Brigid's crosses on them along with the brat Brides. Then three times through this birth canal of renewal we pass, stepping out each time with the right foot first. While this is being observed my son and I played drums and bells and as a family we chanted the words of another time-tested spell~
Crios, crios, Brigid's crios, my crios,
Crios of Brigantia
Inspirer of Bards
It twas Brigid who went into it
And Brigid who came out
If you be well off today
May you be seven times better of a year from today
The idea behind the crios Bride is to receive the blessings of physical health, protection and guarding from baleful influence. Now you can read about these arcane rites of passage which honor the return of a Goddess from the otherworld and herald in the reawakening of the fertility within the land, but when they are put into practice, these ceremonies manifest themselves within a deeper context.
Brigid by~ Orryelle Defenestrate-Bascule
Take for example when my partner Angie walked outside around our home three times carrying a bundle of freshly picked rushes in her arms. My son and I stayed inside with the door shut waiting for her to arrive at the threshold. When her first circumambulation was complete, we did not see her, we heard her as the rushes in her arms scraped slowly against the door with a tickle of ethereal foreknowledge. In a flash I was transported back in time to ancient Ireland, in a family country cottage full of vigorous folkloric magic. She called out~
"Is Brigid welcome in this home?"
My son and I reply from the other side of the closed door~
"Yes she is welcome!"
Upon the third time of this circular ritualistic question and answer we open the door, cleanse the head, hands and feet with prescribed waters and lay the rushes beneath the kitchen table, eat supper and then make the Brigid's crosses. I decided to craft the three-armed version this year instead of the more familiar 4 armed cross, for I intuit Brigid as a threefold Goddess would be better represented in this guise.
Whether or not you celebrate Imbolc, I give a blessing upon you during these, the first days of spring.
The Lost Words~
"Once upon a time words began to vanish from the language of children. They disappeared so quietly that at first almost no one noticed..."
~The Lost Words
By now all of you dedicated Craneskin Bag readers know I have a certain verbal appetite whose hankering is only satiated by oddball words, neglected through the eons of time. So when I recently came across an extraordinary book titled, The Lost Words, I was stimulated to find out immediately what words had been lost. Turns out there were around forty words which were omitted from the Oxford Junior Dictionary in 2007. All of these lost words pertained to nature and were replaced by techie words that exist only in the virtual world.
In an effort to reclaim these lost words, the author Robert Macfarlane and illustrator Jackie Morris set out to publish a book with a noble purpose, to re-wild childhood. The fires of my inspiration were lit up at these words of stark natural beauty, words which I too felt a need to pay homage in my own way with this poetic lament. The bold words are the lost words~
The Gramarye Graveyard
~I found the lost words hiding inside the ruins of the gramarye graveyard.
The torn spiral of a Fern,
The croak of Raven hunger
Blind juju in the wet eye of newt
Ring a ding Bluebell,
Who can tell without a smell?
Hark the glossy Starling starved
Winged Lark without a heart
Swallowed an Acorn
To see bellies sprouting oak wood
Found the dark Dandelion greens but no yellow butter on the flowery dish!
One legged Heron, hero halo dim
The Weasel ate the Wren,
The Wren won't eat again!
Windy numbered nights
Bickering spouse of Heather ale
Drunk in Bramble bush
Gorged on thorn blood
Plonking the Conker without a child's knowledge
Sad to say added up the Adder
Open wisdom, zigzag man
The holly without its Ivy
Cling to berry, sing too quiet
Climbing wave miner
Bardic Otter skin,
I shall weep instead of a Willow
Until these words return again~
Hailing from the Columbian capital of Bogota comes a sound which I can best describe as madcap psychedelic tropical experimental fuzz, a loopy mind melt of sonic surgeries gone awry. I am pleased to Introduce to you~ The Meridian Brothers.
Founded by multi-instrumentalist Eblis Alvarez in 1998, The Meridian Brothers abstract Latin hymns of non traditional Caribbean, Argentinian and Mexican rhythms sound as if they belong to a future dimension rather than our present one. I got hooked on this band after my good friend, DJ Larry Flower Vato played me a song from their 2012 album Desesperanza, Guaracha U.F.O. (No Estamos Solos).
It is rare I hear something that sounds so new and fresh to my ears and I do hope you are smiling and dancing at home along with me~
From the liner notes~ Desesperanza (hopelessness) is dedicated exclusively to salsa and tropical music, enigmatically framed in a sometimes dark yet simultaneously friendly and theatrical mood.
Word to the wise~
Gramarye~ Necromancy, Magic, Enchantment
The connection between words and magic is here illustrated for all to see. We spell words, we cast spells. Grammar being the body of principles governing the correct use of language would of course be completely incomprehensible to the unlettered. Therefore, grammar written in a grimoire will reveal a certain magical aura of glamour to the gomerel who has no knowledge of the written word. Definition two in the O.E.D. for the word Grammar is also~ Occult learning, Magic, Necromancy. In Scotland the word Grammar lost all sense relating to the rules of syntax and was greatly acknowledged as meaning~ the occult power of casting a spell. Sir Walter Scott popularized the word Gramarye in the 19th century where it then morphed its meanings into the romantic and attractive qualities of today's word glamorous.
Farewell for now~
As always, I love to hear any feedback from you! Please share a wink and a nod, a lost word and a spell, or whatever it is stirring around in your brain pan that gets your tea water boiling. I will be here as ever within The Craneskin Bag awaiting your arrival with a smile of mirthful glee.
Tall and thin,
Through thick and thin once again,
New Moon, February 11th, 2021