Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Imbolc is a holiday many celebrate in early February but what is it all about? 

For those that are not apart of the ancestral culture or aware of its customs this is a very brief overview of what this festival is all about. Lets begin with the etymology of name Imbolc. In modern Irish the name of the feast i-mbolg, meaning 'in the belly' is aptly named for a time when Winter is pregnant with Summer. Thought to be derived from the root m(b)lig meaning 'milk' which actually means something more akin to 'lactation'. Alternatively there is also another common name this festival is known by which is Oímelc (modern Oímealg) which stems from the Old Celtic word Ouimelko, 'ewes milk'. 

  This feast was said to be celebrated when the milk first began to flow in the ewes. This is about a month or so before the lambing season begins. This would place the date somewhere near the 1st of February with a window of two weeks before to two weeks after depending on the season and geographical location.

   In Old Irish it's Brigit, modern Irish Bríd, modern Scotts Gaelic: Brìghde or Brìd, anglicized as Bridget. Lets then leave behind Saint Brighid here as it is conjecture to weather or not her existence actually happened since so much of her life is based on the Goddess that predates her by thousands of years. Our focus is who Brigit the Goddess is since we are talking about Imbolc and not Lá Fhéile Bríde (The feast day of Brighid) 

So what's in a name?
  It has been suggested that the name Brigit goes back to Brigantia or Briganti from the insular Celtic tradition. Possibly from Brigindu mentioned in Gallic lore. Her names stems from Brig meaning height, like in brigâ which is applied to in hills and mountains. From Brigantia it could translate to something closely to, "she who raises herself on high, who is exalted." Though the roots of Brigâ are much more complex than just height. In Irish Brí, Scots Gaelic Brigh, Manx Bree all have wide range of meanings such as; 'power, force, meaning, invigorating essence', along with 'hill'. In the Brythonic languages like Welsh we see that Bre means hill but Bri could also mean, 'fame, value, respect'. No doubt the upwelling force that is both raised up and that which imparts strength. It's the Brigantia/Brigindu from Gallic lore that develops linguistically into Brigit of the Medieval Irish Period. 

In Irish Mythology Brigit is the daughter of the Dagda champion of the Tuatha Dé Danann. Some say she was the link between the Dannan and the Fomorian before the Lugh lore happens. Besides many of her characteristics being tied to the land, her bigger role is mostly seen as tied to the welfare of the Tribe. It is hard not to see her in triple form as banfhile (female poet) the one who brings inspiration to the poets and bards, she is a patroness of the forge and consort to the smiths, she is said to be associated with the weapons of the forge that the warriors carry. Brigit is also the healer, the herbalist and associated with cleansing the home and hearth. This element of fire related to her character is seen throughout in all of the previous mentioned functions. From the forge, to hearth, to the sun; Brigit and fire can not be separated. Her fire is the inspirational life giving force. With the fire of fertility within the earth and that of its quickening of solar light it is no wonder why so many still use candles to honor her. 

In nature
Brigit is associated with the White Cow, from her mother Bó fhionn goddess of the river Boyne. Although many consider the dandelion-caisearbhán in Irish, bearnan bride Scots Gaelic to be her flower it is was most likely coltsfoot (adhann) with its similar appearance, medical properties, and its blooming date much closer to the actual Imbolc festival itself. Brigit is said to have a messenger bird, the oystercatcher called bridean, brid-eun - Bríd-bird in Scotland &  giolla Bríde (Bríd's servant) in Connacht. Some also see her associated with the Adder. Given her Formorian connection (more on this adder lore later).

Traditional Surviving Customs
     There are common themes which Imbolc addresses. There is the re-awakening of the land and its fertility with the new agricultural cycle beginning. The creative force of the tribe and land merged into one. It is when forces of creativity of Tribe and Land merge that we take part in such customs. Many invite the spirit of this Goddess into their homes, & at their hearths welcoming her to bless them with protection. Often times a corn dolly or even a woman of the family would play the role of Brigit. Blessing the Clan with fire and water is very common as well as making the Cros-Bríde (Bridget's cross) though sometimes it is called crosóg (little cross) or Bogha Bríde (Bridget's bow) Most of the ones we see today are made from either plaited rushes or straw, but it isn't uncommon to see them made from sedge, cord, or vines. The well known four armed cross in its swastika shape was 1st found to be used in Ulster but today it's the most well known of the crosses. There are trefoil type designs that symbolize Birigt's threefold nature, as well as very intricate woven crosses like a sun wheel that are also used. The symbol shows movement, cyclical change, that light returns again and offers hope like that of the symbolism of the Snowdrop flower. Lets not forget it is both the symbolism os fire and water used in this festival, as in the medieval Irish we have the word imb-fholc which means "to wash oneself". 
     The less known cloak or mantle of Brigit (Brat Bríde) was traditionally just this, a cloak or mantle usually like a large blanket made of wool. It was hung at or out the window during the evening and over night of the feast and was said to absorb the powers of Brigit herself to benefit the family in their future times of illness or protection. Many today use a cloth, a ribbon or even a special reserved lap/couch blanket in place as their Brat Bríde. This was something you did every Imbolc and some suggest that it took seven years to gain its full powers of healing and protection. 
    One Imbolc tradition in Ireland is that when a young girl of the family goes out to cut and gathers the rushes and returns to the home and stands at the threshold of the house saying, "Be on your knees and open your eyes and let the blessed Bríd in." Téigi ar bhur nglúine, agus osclaigi bhur súile, agus ligigi Bríd bheannaithe isteach. The family would respond with sayings like, "Three times welcome, noble lady. - (Sé do bheatha , 'sé do bheatha, 'sé do bheatha, a  bhean uasail.) Or " O Brigit Come in, you are a hundred times welcome." - (O Bríde, tar isteach, ta céad fáilte romhat.) Afterwards the young girl would enter the house with the rushes and either bring them to the feasting table and lay them upon or under it or to the hearth of the home. It would not be uncommon for her to bless he food or drink that might be out at the feasting table. After the feasting the family would make the crosses and the Draoi would bless them so that they could be hung from doors for protection. There are places in Ireland where the family would come together and make a special loaf of bread shaped like a Brigits cross and lay it upon a a bed of rushes. After the bread was consumed at the feast the rushes were used to make the family crosses. Sometimes each loaf of bread had a small cross under it, or even bread crumbs were sprinkled over it. 

The well known corn dolly or straw doll called Brídeóg was often dressed in children's clothes and carried around the village by the children who went from house to house singing songs, reciting special prayers and giving families Brigits blessing at this time of year. Sometimes they would also hand over a Brigits cross to the house hold in thanks for their generosity of payment of either coin or food. In some communities a young girl was to take on the position of Brigit and wear a crown of rushes and a veil carrying a shield and wearing a Brigits cross as she lead a procession through the streets. In certain places the Brídeóg was put to bed with a wand by her side and over night would rise and leave a mark on the ashes of the fireplace. If a mark was seen it was an omen of good luck for the family. Some places in Scotland used no doll but prepared a bed for Brigit and invoked her at the threshold of the house saying, "Brighd, Brighd, come in: your bed is ready - (A Bhrighd, a Bhrighd, thig a steach: tha do leabaidh air a charadh)

There is also the custom of Brigit's belt/girdle (Crios Bríde) in which a larger hoop of braided straw was constructed. Four Brigit's crosses hung from it to mark the quarters. In Connacht, mainly in Connemara and the Aran Island where this tradition seems to have survived best the women were said to carry the Brídeóg (straw doll) where the men carried the Crios Bríde (Brigit's belt) Visiting house to house people were welcome to step through the hoop for encouraged blessings of health. Something like this was commonly sung:

Crios Bríde mo chrios,
Crios na gceithre gcros.
Eirigh suas, a bhean an tighe
Agus gaibh trí h-uaire amach.
An té rachas tré mo chrios,
Go mba seacht bhfearr
a bheidh sé bliain ó inniu.

My girdle is Bríd's girdle,
The girdle with the four crosses.
Rise up, women of the house
And go out three times.
May whoever goes through my 
girdle be seven times better a year
from today.

It was standard that men would pass through the belt/girdle sideways beginning with their right foot. Women on the other hand passed trough by brining it down upon them over their heads before they stepped out of it with their right foot. This went on and on sometimes with the individual going through the hoop usually three times. We can see how this is like birth, how it reenacts the passageway and how we are invoking birth and spring during Imbolc. 

In Scotland we find the connection to Brigit and the Adder. Just as we may be familiar with the watered down Groundhog custom where it sees its shadow or not prognosticating winter, so to a much earlier custom survives at this time of year. If the adder was seen and left is hole than you knew spring was soon upon you but if it came out and went back in you were indeed due for another month of unfavorable weather conditions. 

Moch maduinn Bhride
Thig an nimhir as an toll.
Cha bhean mise ris an nimhir
Cha bhean an nimhir rium.

On Brede's morn the serpent
will come out of the hole
I will not harm the serpent,
nor will the serpent harm me.

~ Carmina Gadelica

Interesting to note in other versions of this the Adder or serpent is called Rioghan (Queen) Ireland lack of snakes gave way to using the hedgehog (gráinneog) for this divinatory rite. There is so much more that could be said about Birigit, the forge and the blessings of the Smiths tools but for the sake of length I will leave this out. Just know that the Tribes Smith is payed special attention and blessings during this time for it is they who provide our tool through a magical process of creation with in their forge through Brigits help and inspiration. I hope you have gained an insight into some of the traditions of Imbolc and understand it in a way that you might have before. I can only hope you have the means of actually celebrating it with a group having read this. There is no better way to understand something than to go through it, be apart of it and allow it to shape you. 

How to make a Brigit's Cross

Friday, November 15, 2013

How to wear a cloak

Conas a chaitheamh bhrat

This could easily be titled how to wear a wool blanket, or how to wrap up in a blanket. With some of my interests being Celtic Iron Age reenactment, and Bushcraft I put some consideration into the thought that not everyone might have the knowledge on how to wear the various styles and why they were/are worn. Below you will find picture by picture as a step by sep how-to explaining the process. There is no right or wrong way, only personal preference. You may wear yours differently and that is fine. Though in wearing a brooch or a fibulae which shoulder you wear it on does denote ones culture. Also too, you never want the pin to be pointing towards you for safety reasons. Always have the point pointing away from you. 

   The blanket I used for this example was a 80%wool- 20% synthetic Harbor Freight wool blanket. They are very smelly out of the package almost like some type of fuel. I washed it with a nice soap as the online description says they are machine washable. I did a second rinse, and air dried it on the line for two days. It was rather linty with some tufts that came off when I shook it out. I smudged it real well with sagebrush and let it sit out for a few more hours after that. There was no smell, it was soft and for the price of $10.00 it cant be beat for a house/car blanket or something for reenactment. The size is 60"x80"  Lets get to the pictures.

 We see a very simple style of the cloak. With the left being folder over and the right flap coming across on top to be fastened at the left shoulder. This was a very common way the Celts wore their cloaks.

This is the same as above only that the front material is thrown over the shoulder to allow more freedom of movement.

Hoods were not common to the Celtic culture as they were simply not needed as this style shows one would just pull the fabric up around their head allowing the heat to stay in, and the bad weather to stay out.

Here we see that the blanket or fabric is folded over into a third. 

 By folding the blanket over into a third and then fastening the brooch one created a double layer of fabric around the body, and a quadrupled layer over the chest. This allows for extra warmth keeping the bodies core temperature controlled in very cold and windy climates. Note the arms are still free to move. 

This shows the same style from the side. 

Again, this image shows the same style. I am lifting up a double layer to show that the two create a quadruple layer over the neck, heart, lungs and core of the body. 

I have readjusted the fabric as you can see near o my neck to all this double layer to be worn down as shown, or up in a hood in the following picture.

Double layer acting as extra protection over the head as a hood.

As you can see I have sewn two loops of 550 7-strand paracord to my blanket

 I pull the blanket over my head meeting my nose. Notice the position of the paracord loops. 

I wrapped the blanket around me with my right hand brining the fabric to my left side and the left side of the fabric covering that. I belted it with a wool tablet woven belt on my upper hips which allows for my fabric to be around my chest. One could the same over the pant line if they so wished. 

I tied the paracord and am wearing it in the down fashion. 

Notice that this style allows for pockets. Very handy!

This is the same style just with the fabric pulled up. You don't even need to untie anything.

You can take the top down to cool off and regulate your bodies temperature. 

If you are wearing it down, you can take the side corners and tuck them up and in to create pockets. People who wear the Great Kilt know how this is done already. 

With the hood up just like in image #15 notice how "robe style" this looks. A possible insight into weather or not the Druids actually wore robes? 

Here you can see that I have the blanket folded completely in half  showing the paracord loops.

With the fabric folded completely in half, the paracord loops are on the inside flap closest to my rear end. This is important for the next step.

I have tied the inner flap like a belt creating a powder skirt. If you have a winter Gore-tex parka you will likely have one on the inside of your coat made from elastic with a snap. By tying this inner flap down, it prevents up drafts of cold air and keeps you warmer. 

With the blanket still folded in half (not tied) pull up both layers on top of your head as shown. Notice the paracord in my hands which is the bottom layer, now on top of my head.

Take the paracord loops and slowly pull back the top layer from your head bringing it all the way down.

Now that you have dropped that top layer, you have one for a hood and a layer on the bottom (which has the paracord loops) you can if you wish tie them to create the powder skirt.

This is a better picture showing the bottom layer tied off and the hood up. 

This is what it looks like with the hood up, bottom layer tied off and your hands free to move about. 

Here are some images of me in Celtic reenactment garb. Notice my Brat (cloak) and how it is worn. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Wilderness Vids

  These are some of my favorite vids. I will make you a PROMISE. Something I never do for various reasons. If you watch these, study them well and start getting out there in nature and having some dirt-time to practice these things, you will learn something. Something about yourself, nature, and about what life is all about. I hope you enjoy them and learn a few things in the process. I have chosen to leave out a giant section of vids on Trapping, Blacksmithing, Processing Game, Tanning, Archery, Muzzle loaders due to length. If these topics are of great interest to you I would encourage you to subscribe to this channel and look into them on your own. I hope you enjoy these but more so I hope you find the joy in actively taking part in doing them. This would be the greatest gift I could give anyone. Nature is our only home, why not learn about it?! 

Survival Basics

The 10 Piece Emergency Kit

Final 5's of a 10 piece kit

Clothing: Dressing for the woods
Survivability vs Sustainability
Jam Knots 3 that do it all
Light weight scout pack set up

Wool Blankets 
Making a wool blanket shirt Part 1
Making a wool banket shirt Part 2
(Also see 'Wrapping in the wool blanket' in the Sleeping Category below) 

Bushcraft on a Budget:
Wool Blanket Pack / Bed Roll

Water Purification Techniques

Ninja Shelter: Quick and easy tarp shelter. (One I use most often)


Fire Tricks Ferro Rod and Quartz
Fire Lay The Proper Construction and Ignition after a Night of Rain 


Basic Knife Handling and Bush Craft Notches Part 1
Basic Knife Handling and Bush Craft Notches Part 2

Stone Knapping
Making Simple stone tools from Flint

Natural Cordage

Over Nights
Series 1)

Series 2)

Traditional Woven Trumpline

Pocket Hunting system 

Using a compass to take a visual bearing
Pace counting and dead reckoning
Pace count Part 2 and Resection
Estimating distance and pace counting lecture
5 Navigation techniques every woodsman should know
Taking a bearing from your Map made easy
Blazing the woodsmans code
Map reading Declination and Scale
Navigation by Terrain Part 1
Navigation by Terrain Part 2

Eastern woodlands Trees and their uses
Top 5 medicinal plants of the Eastern woodlands
Herbal Medicine for the woodsman

Common mans small Trap- Trapping 
Fishing Equipment explained
Frog Gigs and spear fishing
Making Primitive Fish hooks part 1
Making Primitive Fish hooks part 2

On the Waters Edge
Part 1 Compact Fishing Rods and Systems
Part 2 Quick Catch for Breakfast
Part 3 Make a quick pole for fishing
Part 7 Shallow weed beds and gutting.
Part 9 Float lines and limb lines
Part 11 Making a cane pole for fishing

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Fried Brain Meats

Dear Peepholes,
   In my time away I had one persistent thought about Facebook. For those that don't know this, this is my 3rd time using FB. I have deleted it before and gone away for over a year at a time, sometimes longer. I came back for two people: Steve and Ryan. They said to me one evening while drinking I should rejoin so we could stay connected since we live far away now. It was days later I found myself back to my normal FB rituals. 
   In my recent week away I had a reoccurring realization that most of us use FB as a distraction from our real lives. We go to it when we are bored, or in-between moments when we are doing something. It has been said we use FB the same way we keep re-opening the fridge when we know nothing is in there. We somehow expect that a magical item will appear and our craving to be fulfilled. We temporarily disconnect from reality hoping and believing that our observations were incorrect the first time and that upon returning again to the Fridge/FB our desire of finding "it" will lessen our appetite and the fulfillment from consuming/using Fb will keep us away until further hunger pangs. Yet we log in, we check our FB live feed,  and we re-check it throughout the day as if some ground breaking news will change our lives or even better entertain us enough so that we don't have to talk to our fellow man. If you are on FB at the dinner table, in line at the store, while driving, I would like to personally thank you for ruining our culture. It becomes a habit for many and an obsession for some. On this distraction; we enjoy it, we love it, we always come back for more of it. We are plugged in. It is all too easy to get sucked into this behavior, after all we are taught to embrace distraction from birth. It is how our parents coped and how we as parents get by. Our baby or child is throwing a fit, quick distract them. Walk them, bounce them, swap toys, make them laugh. They have a boo-boo, we do our best to make this uncomfortable feeling for them pass quickly. Our new mother (FB) provides these distractions for us, we nurse from her comfortable glow across the nation feeling somehow closer to one another. We share our joys, we rant and bitch. We want so much to be liked and accepted, to be known! We love the attention, we've become a nation of wanna be famous people, and why not. It feels good right. People that use heroine say that it feels good too, but I will never know. 

    When you delete FB they ask you again and again if you are sure you want to, and why you are leaving, it's a very interesting process. I am not sure what is more concerning, our desire to rebel and this deeply rooted independence we all believe in or our matching behavior of blind acceptance of our personal created prisons. Why should we question our reality, it's been with us since birth, how could it be anything but real? What is real, the happy birthdays on our walls, the private messages we share, the feeling of dopamine running rampant within us? Or is it the human contact from accepting our change with a small dialogue at the market; Who is to say? I have my issues with FB, who doesn't. It is a love hate relationship. I can honestly say I have only ONE friend on my friends list that treats FB in the way that makes it a real pleasure everyday. I think she knows who she is if she is reading this. What would you do if the internet went down with no hopes of returning? No cell phones for txting, no way to hide behind the masks we all wear by our online profile pics. We 'image wear' what we want others to think of us, No? Find a real profile picture of someone... Someone in bed sick, on the toilet, without make up, crying. Lets look our best for strangers when we are actually in plaid pjs, or eating cookies naked having our morning coffee. I want to see that shit! I want flakey skinned faces, break outs, pimples, bags under your eyes, disheveled hair, unkempt appearances, runny noses and bits of breakfast on your shirt. I want people not trying to hide behind a forced happiness that is only partially real. No mindless imaginary agreed societal norms to conform to. Facebook asks us what is on our mind. This is a joke! The real answers are sex, food, hedonism, escapism, after all that is why we are here, for that chemical release like a small orgasm of being connected. Why else do we keep coming back for the likes, the sharing, are we that selfish? Do we only do for others in our charity because helping others makes us feel good? If so is that not selfish? If we didn't gain something from it would we still take part in this behavior, and that would be called what? 

   There was a time not so long ago I was apart of a bowling league. It was horrible, I hate bowling. Why was I there? It wasn't for the benefit of gaining more tattoos that's for sure. I went every week not because my friends were there, or for the socialization. I went because observing people for me is by far more entertaining than sitting at home in the middle of winter hearing babies cry.  The relationships that developed between certain people, the new hair cuts, the after bowling coffee meet ups, the sex in the parking lots, the break ups, black eyes, the human drama of life. It was Shakespeare in our time. Yet no one was paying attention except me. It was a horror show of beauty. It was REAL. I left Plato's cave and saw images to only return and describe what was outside to be shunned. I wasn't paying attention to my score, or the proper etiquette of the rules of bowling. 

So what is FB? (Prepare yourself for my serious yet humors rant) 
   For me it seems it is our nature to enjoy being distracted from what is otherwise the uncomfortable moments in our daily routine. It's an in place habitual ritual where we agree to waste time instead of doing something else more productive or creative. We are distracted by the media everyday. Serious stories of what is really happening in the news seem to switch to events of a Hollywood nature all too often. Have you given any thought to the idea that our government might like distracting us on purpose? It is a possibility, a good one that you might consider thinking deeply about. Their best weapon to keep you from actually doing anything to cause change would be those light waves you cling to for your entertainment and news. We don't want to think of what horrible things are happening elsewhere for more than a few moments even in our our country unless we are personally being affected by it. We have cultural ADD crisis! Oh what a horrible tragedy, those poor people. Hey did you see that last episode of Breaking Bad? Lets just txt the Red Cross from our cozy beds as we watch Jimmy Fallon and donate some money,  that way we can feel better about it before we dream of what we covet and conceal from our waking lives before we forget those symbolic dreams as we silence that iphone alarm repeating each day exactly the same. For what goal?  
    After all we can't have empty space in our daily routine where we just sit around and I dunno, stare and the wall and think for 10 silent minutes before we go into the Drs office so they can just push prescriptions upon us that we are now trained to ask for because of some late night commercial; "ask your Dr if this drug is right for you." Yes Dr. I want my penis to be huge and my erection to last for hours because the side effects of me bleeding from my eyes, having a seizure, and going into a coma seem somehow worth the risk of the possible heart attack I might have as my fat body crushes my wife as I lay dead on top of her.  Not happy with your life, take this pill. Not happy with that pill try this one. Take a vacation from your problems, return refreshed, Bullshit. Wake up and enjoy the life you have chosen for yourself, you don't like it? Change it. Why on earth do you think waiting rooms have magazines that people pretend to read. Thinking- no we observe the other people waiting with us as we flip through pages of adds selling us things we don't need. Drive by any bus stop and you will see people on their phones on FB or txting, not talking to one another. We are slaves to technology. Try going an entire weekend from Friday night to until Monday morning without using technology. Don't use your computer, tv, radio, microwave, lights, don't drive, hell don't even use the stove. It is painfully eye opening. We trade our rights and freedom for complacency and convenience. Buy that item, it will fill the void in your home and in your life, damn the consequences. I want tacos at 4am damn it because I am an American, and I have that right. Privacy, meh let them read my emails and listen to my phone calls, I am not doing anything illegal so it doesn't matter. We are a nation of people that desire and wish for change yet we are so very lazy. How did you loose all that weight, what diet, what supplements did you take? Erm, I ate local in season produce, and walked a lot. Oh, walking? Aint nobody got time fer dat! We would rather complain than be the change we wish for. We watch the boob tube and drink beer remanning apeased. We are in Plato's cave studying shadows upon the wall.  I am apart of this online social media, I suffer more than most with it. I am learning caution, personal censorship & temperance because I've been told thats the right way to behave. Though it is hard for me to not post all day long as sharing what is my mind is my nature at its core. I am prone to babbling about topics that go nowhere. 
    What you don't know about me is that the last time I used FB before deleting it I was checking it at 2-3am and compulsively through out the day, not to mention posting every few hours of everyday. Having friends all over the world made me feel like I had to be in their time zones. I would lay in bed with the lap top or my phone and wake up from a dream or go to the bathroom and check my FB. That behavior was stopped! 
     Currently taking the weekends off has been a great way for me to regain focus on important virtues in life. Taking this past week off has been a real eye opener on many personal topics in both life online and away from the screen. Balance, moderation, and temperance are things I have always struggled with. I am not suggesting that everyone that uses FB suffers from all these things, but ask yourself just one question. Why do YOU use this service? Be honest with yourself and look within. You might be interested to learn more about yourself by trying small experiments of self examination and taking vacations from your online life now and then. It is rather enjoyable to embrace small moments of stillness like seeing the sun reflected and sparkle on the morning dew drops. Maybe we will all wake up someday from this Vanilla Sky nightmare. :-) Until then, Thanks for reading my rubbish and tolerating me. You may now resume your normal posting of pets, kids, and awesome dinners you make. I will be enjoying them all throughly. 

Here is a link to my youtube channel. I am not sure when the 1st vid will be posted, but I assure you it will be me and devil holding hands and making out. Stay tuned.