Monday, January 31, 2022

Bridget: Power and Industry

 Or:  Stop Making Bridget into Inspiration Barbie!!!!



Candlemas is here, with the celebration of St. Bridget's day.  We are at a cross quarter, half way between winter solstice and spring equinox.  Where I live, and in most of northern Europe, it's still deep winter, but in warmer areas it is lambing time.  In New England, it's soon sugaring time.   The first spring industries for food production and winter survival are returning.  In southern Appalachia, it's time to start those broccoli seeds for March planting.  Here in the Alleghenies, I have a month before I will start my own cabbage.  St. Bridget's day is almost here.

But. Oy.  I've been seeing a massive number of online Instagram/Facebook/Tik Tok posts portraying Bridget as a young, often red-haired Barbie, with authors talkin about Bridget as bringing "inspiration," "healing," "love and light."  Bridget becomes this powerless, gentle, de-fanged goddess of Live, Laugh, Love.


It's been three decades since Starhawk asked the pagan community to stop this crap:  making all Goddesses slim, sexy depictions of young women with societally sanctioned prettiness and popular acceptability.  With my own blog and puja to Bridget, I find these simplifications annoying and the power-stripping of one of the Great Goddesses of Europe incredibly sexist.  Why would anyone become pagan to make Bridget into the Goddess of "love and light."  Whenever anyone reduces women to a sign found in every Walmart, we should pause.

Bridget the Great Goddess.  She ruled Blacksmithing.  Smithcraft was the industrial powerhouse of the iron age, bringing stronger metal to European communities.  Think of Bridget as the Great Goddess of what was the computer science of her age.  Smithing made nails possible, people.  Smithcraft made nails, hooks, andirons, hobs, a damper.  Think about iron age homes without dampers, people.  Without fireplace grates.  Bridget the Hearth Goddess is a powerhouse because she as the Goddess of smithcraft brings us the modern hearth, able to do more and cook more and heat more thanks to smithcraft.  And smithing without tools is hard work itself, and Bridget as Goddess of smithcraft brought anvils and hammers and tongs.  Bridget is the superpower, multinational Goddess of Industry.  

Bridget the Bishop, with her Staff.  source:


And she ruled Poetry.  But poetry in a time before literacy wasn't a pretty occupation or even a written occupation, because written history didn't yet exist.  Bridget ruled poetry, the industry of stories, of history keeping, of story telling.  Irish poetry historically has a strong rulebook of rhyming forms, necessary for bards and family historians and teachers to use for making a remembered oral tradition.  Bridget ruled poetry which means she represents history, teaching, and story telling in an age when sharing knowledge required a poetry of remembrance.  She is a powerhouse of words and passing traditions.  Bridget is the Google of Goddesses.

And Bridget rules the land.  Celtic society was a patriarchal society, so looking at even Celtic Goddesses requires a feminist lens.  Celtic nations fought and bickered and some of the oral histories we get from them are deeply sexist and warlike.  However, accepting these stories as literal history or as literal worship is as much a mistake as accepting a Bible written and repeatedly edited by men.  Or accepting hollywood movies as representing US history (with Rambo being more important than Stacey Abrams or Winona LaDuke - which I'm sure many rightwing men believe).  When stories of a pagan Bridget challenging war lords morph into the St. Bridget who stole land for her monastery (coed and of which she was Bishop), these stories speak of a Goddess that outranks tribal nations and kings.  And good for that.  Why would I follow a Goddess who doesn't challenge and uproot patriarchy?

And that brings us to the historical Bridget, who used her cloak to steal land from Kings, to help criminals escape punishment, who ran that monastery as bishop and ruler, and who became the stuff of both Goddess and Christian legend.  She ruled the sun, where she hung her cloak.  She is a helper to cows and ewes, the midwife to Mary birthing Jesus, the healer through magical use of ribbons representing her cloak, through rushes representing her connection to light and fire, through hearth prayers and traditions that have all sorts of Christian language but harken back to the Goddess of might who challenged kings and ruled industry.  There are gazillions of blogposts out there on making Bridget dolls, an Irish tradition, of cooking fish, aWelsh tradition, of Bridget as the Cailleach and special scones (Scottish tradition), and finally there is St. Bridget's Ale.  Remember Bridget is the Goddess of Industry, so what is more important an industry that brewing?  So of course there is Bridget of the Ale.  In some Welsh traditions, she is also associated with wine.


So I absolutely support Candlemas and St. Bridget's Day celebrations of making scones, putting out ribbons for Bridget to bless as symbols of her cloak, and making the St. Bridget's crosses as many tutorials explain.  Sure, light some candles.  Feel inspired.  But for St. Bridget's day this year, disgusted as I am with the Barbie Bridget being espoused around the pagan net, I am going to refinance my mortgage for land sovereignty, drink some ale for Cwrw Sant Ffraid ("Beer St. Bride" in Welsh), and I'm gonna work on my computer back ups and programming, because Bridget of Industry would rule computers today if we were to take Her seriously.

Which I do.

Most of all, feminists need Goddess to overthrow patriarchy.  Whether Saint or Goddess, Bridget was out there in Iron Age and medieval times, grabbing land, making beer, creating history, running industry.  Follow her and we should do no less.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

The Dark Inside of Me, I'm Gonna Let It Grow

Or Stop Saying "Shadow Work," ffs



Somewhere I have a mimeographed copy of Starhawk's first ever sermon to the Pagan communities of America to stop using "white light" as a spell for healing and empowerment.  Basically, stop using "white" to mean good, and "dark" to mean bad, she insisted.  This was back when Reclaiming was a real, paper, Xeroxed newsletter, and I had complained about using "masculine" and "feminine" energy as synonymous for sex role stereotypes in one issue around 1985.  

Of course, white people didn't listen then, and in general, as racism permeates forms of European descent paganism, white people are busy fighting Nazi appropriation and forgetting small language changes.  This is what rightwing and fascist organizing is always about, btw: forcing progressives and socialists from important work in our communities to endlessly battling the brown shirts of various conservative and rightwing groups.  Yes, do keep fighting against white supremacists appropriating European paganism.  

But we still need to think about and remember language.  20 years ago I sang a version of "This Little Light of Mine" at a Unitarian Universalist church in a sermon about multiracial families challenging racist norms.  I proposed this version I used in my years of teaching daycare and preschool:

"The Dark inside of me, I'm gonna let it grow,

The Dark inside of me, I'm gonna let it grow.

The Dark inside of me, I'm gonna let it grow,

Let it grow, let it grow, let it grow."

The reason Starhawk, me, and many anti-racism activists,including Aradhna Krishna and Cord Whitaker,  have called for this language change - for about 50 years -  is because the endless equation of darkness, shadows, blackness, brownness, and night with evil, badness, difficulty, challenges, hardship and ugliness is a deep-rooted form of European racism.  It came into Europe with the Indo-Europeans: ya know, those conquering patriarchs who wiped out the thousands year old Goddess and dark worhsipping civilizations that preceded and which archaeologist Marija Gimbutas worked her entire life to uncover and teach.  Gimbutas' work has been confirmed recently by genetic sequencing; when the Indo-Europeans invaded continental Europe, sweeping away matriarchies that had lasted millennia, they also wiped out the Y DNA of the indigenous peoples, possibly by genocide.  And they brought their sky God and their hate for darkness, women, children, earth, and life itself.  We are still dismantling their legacies that European descent peoples like my family have spread worldwide.

Part of paganism for modern pagans concerned with reclaiming any European indigenous religion, part of addressing social justice and racism for anyone concerned with equality and equity, and part of being an ally or traitor for people of color demands we dismantle racism.  So 40 years ago Starhawk admonished us to quit saying "white light," and also to quit with portrayals of "the" Goddess or any Goddess as blonde, buxom women from Victorian imagery.  

 And that means we stop using Shadow Work as a metaphor for addressing our experiences of trauma, abuse, poor parenting, triggers, or anything else from the psychological work of the (very racist) Carl Jung.   I am seeing too many Instagram posts about "shadow work," and calling for witches to do their "shadow work."  The idea is often to encourage healing for people, which is kinda nice.  But naming trauma, triggers, difficulties and challenges as "shadowy" is just simply racist.

We as pagans and committed allies and justice seekers ourselves, must dismantle racism in our pagan practice.  We have to stop with the buxom Goddesses, the blonde worshiping, and the racist language.  Paganism is rooted in the country in it's very meaning.  Country is soil and woodlands; country is seeds and fertility and fallow times and death; country is dark nights and dreamtime.  We need to reclaim the dark from those distant genocidal Indo-Europeans, and we need to reclaim the dark to see the totality of the beauty of life and living and dying on our threatened planet.  

The dark, the shadows, the night, are all beautiful.  We come from the darkness of our mother's wombs, and we live off the bounty of the darkness of soil and seeds and roots deep in the earth.  Night is for rest, for hunting, for growth, for seeing differently.  Shadows are nourishing havens in summer and protection for plants and species needing a different light.  My shadow garden is as beautiful as my sun garden.  Shadows whisper to me when I search for my ancestors, and shadows call for coolness and succor.  The shadows aren't places we address difficulty or hardship.  The shadows are places of growth and beauty and haven.

So if you want to do to emotional work with intergenerational trauma, with experiences of oppression and trauma, with patterns of behavior we hope to change and address, we need to use language that is inclusive of all people and our whole earth.  Naming is essential in feminist witchcraft, it is essential in feminist and anti-racist activism, and it is essential in healing.  

So name your work with truth.  With power.  "I'm working on intergenerational trauma."  "I'm working on addressing behaviors I learned due to violence in my life." "I'm trying to dismantle the oppressive language I learned growing up."  "I'm trying to learn new ways of being present to the people in my life."  "I'm working on new ways to set boundaries."  This is consciousness work.  It is old fashioned consciousness raising.  It is community and political work.   Name it. Name it. Name it.  

Because in naming we reclaim the dark in ourselves, the stuff several millennia of violence has tried to erase:  females of all color, men of color, children, communities and nations of color, the earth, the land, animals, our homes.  Letting those parts of the world grow is essential to the planet.  We need women of all colors; we need men of color; we need forests and soil and land and children and community.  

Fuck yes, let them grow.  Let darkness grow.

Some resources:

How did white become the metaphor for all good things?

Is saying "dark" to mean "bad" an offensive, racist metaphor? 

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Epiphanies and Coups

 I woke today, the last day of Christmas, epiphany, the day of recognition.  The news from the Georgia election was the greatest; I posted on my personal Facebook that today was the best epiphany ever.  


What a day.

Epiphany has many meanings.  Someone can have a personal epiphany, realizing an important fact or feeling or event.  A friend had an epiphany that she wanted to study nursing.  This recognition/realization changes her life as she looks to enroll in college.  

Epiphanies can be religious.  We recognize the divinity of a baby (or all babies).  Three wise men recognize the future leadership of a baby (or all babies).  Epiphany is January 6th, the last day of Christmas, the day the Magi arrive at the manger where Mary cares for Jesus.  In many cultures, today is the gifting day.  Last night Befana flew in Italy, distributing gifts to the good keepers of Christmas.  In Ireland, Epiphany was the Nollaig na mBan, Women's little Christmas.  Women got together and children buy gifts for their moms and grannies.  Pubs are all female on Epiphany to this day in Western Ireland.  (A great tradition...)

Epiphanies are also political.  Taking back the Senate seemed this morning to be the most fitting Epiphany gift.

And now.  A bunch of Trump rioters took over the US Capital while Capital Hill police took selfies with them in the Rotunda, and DC riot police (not to mention MD and VA riot police) somehow took three hours to arrive and expel them.  Having marched in DC - twice with a million other marchers - I can tell you that when the LGBT community or moms against guns show up in DC we are met with far more force.  But still, the failed and ridiculous coup was an epiphany for many Americans, especially white Americans who have wobbled on Trump these past four years, wanting his followers' votes and not wanting to protest his support of fascists and KKK.  A West Virginia state senator wrote that this lame coup was a disgrace on the day of Epiphany, Christ's revelation.  I responded that the real epiphany is that Republicans are traitors.  Yay me.

Yet walking tonight and enjoying the last evening of Christmas lights, I return to my own political epiphany.  Two wonderful Democrats are now the elected Senators for Georgia, until recently one of the most segregated states in America, and one of the most historically activist states in suppressing minority voters. Today's election goes to Stacey Abrams and the organization Mijente, who spent years slowly building up a coalition to overcome Republican gerrymandering and voter suppression (remember those 10 hour lines back in November?  those were no mistake, and are the real voter fraud of 2020).

You have to go back to 1980, though,  to appreciate today.  I and my first husband were active trying to push the DNC to address the active Republican suppression of Black voters throughout the US south.  The National Democrats refused to do so, which helped oust Jimmy Carter and ushered in Ronald Reagan.  Remember the 1980's pandemic?  I watched my neighbors die of AIDS thanks to all the failures from that time.  

Stacey Abrams, however, recognized the voter suppression in her home state, and her epiphany led her to overcoming election defeats and to build a network that fought the suppression that defeated her.  Remember, Epiphanies can be personal, political, and religious.  Abrams build Fair Fight Action in 2018, and two years later she delivered Georgia to the Democratic Party that abandoned her and all people of color forty years before.  Watching tonight's Christmas lights, the senate elections feel pretty deeply faithful.  It will be up to US activists to demand that Democrats live up to the gift they were given:  we need an agenda that addresses all communities, especially communities of color, oppressed communities, and fighting communities.  A bunch of camouflage dressed, middle aged idiots marching through the Capital can't stop us.  

So.  Epiphany.  Revelation.  What will tomorrow uncover and show us about our own lives, about our own powers, about faith and believing even when tomorrow seems unfathomable?  Believing that epiphanies will come requires a lot of faith.  I voted socialist in 1980; Abrams lost the governorship in 2018.  Yet we must grab epiphany, grab revelation, grab recognition of our power to build again and again.  

We are the real coup.

Merry Last Day of Christmas.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Birds, Women, and Science/Augury this snowy December


Preston county, WV.  Picture by author.

It is a snowy December here in the Alleghenies. The skies are sighing in relief:  2020 has been a year, no?  So snowy days and the woods filled with comfort and light are a welcome respite from elections and pandemics.  My year has included a parent with terminal cancer, leaving a beloved kid at a new college in what was at that point the worst COVID transmission rate in the WORLD, and finally using quarantine to build my raised bed garden.  Despite not supporting current President-elect Biden, I worked on his campaign for a lot of the fall, making calls to Georgia, and writing letters to the editor in five states. So....   December. Snow.  

The earth calls us to rest.

Driving down the mountains yesterday I saw geese flying.  I still follow ornithomancy, bird augury, the prediction of future by observing birds - though in general my relationship with birds is to watch and enjoy my neighborhood birds as I walk dogs every day.   These geese flying south speak to me of motivation, fire, emotions, family relationships, and the spark of new beginnings.  Tomorrow's Solstice brings the great Jupiter/Saturn conjunction, with Saturn already passing into Aquarius last week.  New beginnings, emotions, fire, and motivation all connect with the geese.

My youngest daughter and I are looking to take some online kid computer coding lessons together - just for fun.  For the past years working as an official home-based teacher I have loved teaching my high school kids fun science - mentos in Diet Coke, exploding film canisters, food colors exploding in milk.  I work with kids on the spectrum who have experienced abuse, and often live with grief and depression.  Exploding stuff is great for those kids.  My supervisors in schools, however, dislike my focus on fun.  US public schools still delight in boring children to death.  However, I remain disgusted by our societal maiming of children - especially girls of all colors and abilities, boys of color, and boys with disabilities of all colors.  It is amazing that schools still think kids on the autism spectrum shouldn't learn science.

Science, however, comes from augury, from magic.  We are built on the work of women gathering seeds and berries and feeding their children, on the observations of women who followed game and hunted across the herd paths of all continents, on the children who helped their mothers move from hunter/gathering societies to agricultural by planting and tending and harvesting.  Recent research in anthropology shows that hunter gathering groups and agricultural groups lived side by side for centuries, as well.  The scientist/mothers/children of both groups surely shared to the benefit of all.  Watching birds, watching clouds, watching herds, watching seeds.  Science comes from women and children.

Yet our schools see science as the prerogative of white, straight men.  

I actually searched for a class in fun engineering for my daughter and me.  I read awesome articles about women engineering students inventing solar tents for the homeless, concrete fabric for refugees, high school girls in Kenya inventing batteries that run on urine.  My facebook page Solarpunk Revolution exists to honor these women and girls.  No such online fun class or cool engineering kit exists, however, that teaches science as solving the fun stuff of women's lives.  My daughter and I looked online at over 100 different car kits for teenage engineers.  Not one solar tent for the homeless kit.  There were build your own light sensor kits, but no urine-based batteries.  

I am left with the thought that US schools and racist heteropatriarchy have so constrained science into a tool of capitalism, that even the mentos in Diet Coke explosions I share with students is not enough to open our eyes to what we could be exploring and inventing.  I am sad and angry to try and even imagine all we are missing, and all we have lost.  I try to think what science kits I would create, but I am boggled and baffled by barriers of patriarchy.  I hate this maiming.

So about augury.  Most pagan texts online or published focus on classic augury:  Greeks reading chicken entrails; Celts watching battle crows; Anglo Saxons burning magpie feathers.  Augury, according to all these patriarchal cultures, is about battles, and kingdoms, and men.  It is meant to create nation-states, barriers, stratified societies, and war.  In my work I still struggle to teach West Virginia parents not to put Mountain Dew in infant's bottles, trying to explain that evidence shows soda harms infants.  But the words research and evidence have no meaning to people in dire poverty, with little healthcare, and an education system that still allows physical violence.  I go back to baking soda and vinegar reactions, something the majority of my parents have never seen.  I am showing trick magpie feathers, the very beginning requirements of science.  

Then I go home and watch my neighborhood murder.

These crows love our ridge top, with tall oak trees, and plenty of room to cavort and caw.  Three crows mischievously spent the summer swooping onto my neighbors balcony to steal dog food.  I set a large birdbath in my garden to keep them hydrated through the hot summer, andspent humid evenings watching sparrows, starlings, and cardinals flit to the bath when the crows flew away.  The three crows often watched me in the garden, waiting until I carried tomatoes inside, before swooping down to the birdbath.  I watched them, trying to tell them apart, but never succeeded.  They are the dogfood thieves of the neighborhood, a Morrigan of mischief instead of battlefields.  I see their bigger murder  when I walk, swooping from parks to trees on our ridge top.  

When I think of entrails, I think of the wrens calling year round in the trees.  Wrens, the loudest birds, abandoned my back porch this summer when we finally got an old grill working.  Before that, the wrens had hunted insects in its shady interior.  The entrails we fixed to get some summer kebabs, sadly meant less food for my birth bird.  I watched the wrens in our chestnut, in the neighbor's bushes, but they only rarely returned to our porch railing. Now the wrens only come if I put out mealy bugs.  But the loudest bird is never missing from hearing.  The loud wren "cheer, cheer" starts around 4:30 a.m. in summer, 5:45 now at Solstice.  In the midst of pandemics and coups, wrens tell us to cheer up all day long.

So my own augury has more to do with the mother scientists of old, following herds, observing seedlings, listening to birds.  I am and have always been part of the science of relationship:  observing those I love, from children to crows, while altering my. behavior to adjust outcomes for my loved ones.  This is true for my work in behaviorism, which I maintain is deeply feminist:  behaviorism in general, and Applied Behavior Analysis more specifically, are observational sciences of watching and caring deeply.  My clients endured violence in schools, typically from teachers, and my job is to observe them and alter the environment so that they can start learning again, safely, and with love.  Indeed, more and more I define love as actions that result in positive outcomes, outcomes chosen by the loved one, outcomes based in objective measurements supplied by the one being given care.  

Incredible art by Be En Foret

The ancient pathways in Wales, when I lived there, were trodden across hilltops and valleys by our foremothers, all scientists.  Here in the Alleghenies, old paths follow wild game and deer tracks, this land tended and nurtured by Shoshone, Haudenosaunee, and Delaware nations before being stolen and mined and logged.  I believe our returning to science and recognizing our work as science, is deeply important.  It will be a huge part of this new era starting this solstice and the great Saturn/Jupiter conjunction.

Women as scientist mothers, ornithomancy witches, feminist engineers, we must return all lands and build new tents of inclusiveness in land where we have landed.  The beauty and majesty of these mountains that stretch from Georgia to Scotland are mountains tended by foremothers.  We are the daughters of these great inventors and keen observers.  Our foremothers hunted the hillsides and planted the valleys.  Before the wheel, they invented string.  Their knots were the written language of the Incas.  Every food we eat started in their hands.

Their science has been kept from us, but this snowy December, I want it back.  I want it back for my daughters, my son, my clients, my students, for humanity.  The cardinals who peck on the patio door when the feeders are empty are an augury of sharing and caring and anti-racist feminism and  empowerment.  

It's not Birds, Women, Science/Augury.  Its:  Bird Woman Science/Augury.  It is our heritage.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Bridget the Abbey Maker and Warrior Policy: Lughnasadh 2020

Well.  These are the times, no?

photo courtesy
It is Lughnasadh, 2020, and I am making beer bread and celebrating Lugh, the great warrior and sun god/deva/patron saint.  It is a day for grains and harvest, sunflowers, and the middle of summer.  In the great Celtic wheel of the year, we are half way through the summer months as we turn towards the equinox and the end of the growing season.

This midsummer harvest is one of pandemics and failed public health, a rising up of white people - finally - to join Blacks in questioning police and military policies in our neighborhoods and budget priorities, and a questioning time of whether or not children can safely return to school - center of the school to prison pipeline.  Which is where I work.  What does warrior Lugh and Bridget the Abbess have to do with the crises surrounding our lives?

Here in Appalachia, my deeply Republican state has seen its first ever Black Lives Matter Protests, the sale of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline  - which was destroying WV mountains and streams along with the water supply of the Eastern Seaboard, and a GOP governor breaking with the president to issue mask mandates and school closing long before his other conservative brethren.  West Virginia has had surprisingly peaceful BLM protests.  Just north of here in Pennsylvania, a BLM protest was attended by an armed militia.  West Virginia protests benefited from lack of internet in rural and armed parts of the state, keeping militia types away.

All these events were determined by policy.

"So who cares?" you say.

Well.  Saint Bridget, the historical Christian saint who founded a monastery in Kildare, Ireland, around 480 common era, was a policy maker.  She broke with some Christian sects and set up her monastery as coed, a hall for women and a hall for men.  She hired the first male religious leader, Conleth, to lead the men's monastic life, and she led the women.  She determined canonical jurisdiction, setting up Kildare (Cill Dara, church of the oak) as the center of central Irish church life.  Kildare and the abbot and abbesses there were the heads of the early Irish church, because Bridget declared them so.  Bridget in all Christian depictions carries a Bishops's staff, and all of her female successors were Bishops in their own right until the Roman church arrival in the 12th century.  That is 600 years of Irish women Bishops.

Bridget with her Bishop's staff:  Stained Glass of Saint Bridget from Saint Bridget Catholic Church, Seattle, Washington

Saint Bridget set up schools in Kildare.  Like the Goddess/deva before her, Great Goddess Bridget of Celtic contract and myth, Bridget the Abbess decreed Kildare a center for creativity, arts, metalwork, monastic illumination, blacksmithing.  Beyond the mythical stories about Saint Bridget defeating her pagan father with her magical cloak and miraculous healings, the historical Bridget was renowned for her oratory, her teaching and preaching, her work as a dairy woman and brewer. It was said that she could turn water into the best beer in Ireland.  Pilgrims to Kildare began during Saint Bridget's time, drawn to her teachings (and maybe the beer).  The pilgrims continued until Elizabeth I, a full millennium later.

You can't run a double monastery without policies:  policies as to who feeds the visiting pilgrims, who cares for the sick coming for miracle cures, who feeds the men and women in their work and ministry, who takes out the trash.  As the Abbess for all of Ireland, Bridget was the ultimate voice and ultimate decision maker.  She established the customs of an open door to all, of welcoming women and men to monastic life, of creating wards for healing and places for pilgrims to rest.  Without Bridget's decrees, there would have been no Kildare, no pilgrims, no illuminations, no school of art, no millennium of fire, no centuries of women in Christian church leadership.

Policies are central to every crisis we face as a nation, as a world.  Tax policies benefit oil companies and harm poor families.  Policing policies disproportionately target men and women of color and men and women with disabilities.  School policies mimic policing policies exactly.  We as individuals can protest all we want, demanding change, but until policies change, nothing has been accomplished.  Ibram X. Kendi, one of my favorite radical writers, pushes this view in all of his writings and workshops:  it's not enough to "be anti-racist."  Anti-racism requires changing racist policies.

And while many of my friends are now reading books on white fragility and anti-racist theory, I am instead calling on us to be anti-racist policy makers.  Which indeed sounds so boring.  Friends call me to write signs for protests.  Meh.  I am busy trying to change school policies, which is anti-racism work, but not in front of crowds, not with adrenaline and great friends and great speakers.

So how about on this Lughnasadh we name anti-racism (and anti-sexism, anti-homophobia, anti-ableism, anti-ageism, anti-militarism, anti-imperialism) policy making as warrior work?  Changing policy means leaving my Facebook political bubble, working with Republicans, working with people who routinely tell me that children with autism deserve to go to jail at the age of 5, or 7, or 11.  Nothing I can do for any student matters more than getting policies like routine suspensions stopped, and implementing policies of student choice and parent/school communication.  Walking into an Individualized Education Plan meeting for special education, I am absolutely a warrior.

And policy isn't all dry and boring.  Challenge oppressive policies, and watch people who think in their hearts they aren't racist or ableist lose their tempers.  Changing policies means facing intense anger.  The fury BLM protesters are encountering around the country seems overwhelming, but it is the anger of every teacher I encounter who wants to arrest a child more than learn how to actually teach them.  It is the anger from probation officers, police, school cops, principals, special ed. directors - all people who claim to care about children.  It is hard to see every day.  I continue as a "foster mother" to my clients, who like the pilgrims in early Ireland, need miracles.  Stopping school cops from handcuffing a child is the miracle I can offer.

I think it is so easy to view religion as a beautiful Abbey, as religious music, as spiritual connection to, well, Bridget, or Lugh, or Jesus, or Muhammad, or Buddha, or the deva in a creek or a mountain. I love those connections as well.  I write about them.

Celto-Roman Bridget, 1st Century, Common Era.
By Moreau.henri - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

But some of our religious sensibility has to go to the warrior side of religion.  Bridget defied her pagan father and tricked him into land for her monastery; Bridget defying Celtic chiefs who demanded she marry, and hiring her own monks to run her abbey; Bridget rescuing the sick and poor, especially women fleeing violence and poverty.  That warrior spirit is best served, though, by establishing the capacity to actually help others.  Without an abbey, without her schools, without her kitchen hearth she left open to all, there would have been no flaming shrine, no metalworking schools, no illuminated manuscripts, no beer to share.

I work in schools, so I know the policies I need to change:  suspension policies. special education policies, individualized instructional policies, child choice policies.  Wherever you are in your journey, there are other policies that need to change.  It is deeply important to go out and start changing those policies

Pull on your cloak, grab a beer, and get to work.  You are following sacred footsteps.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Happy Imbolc!

Gabhaim Molta Bríghde - Haunting Gaelic song by Aoife Ní Fhearraigh

A gift for St. Bridget's Day!  

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Returning to Imbolc

Gorgeous pic by Luisclas at

I told my family that I was dedicating more time to Imbolc and St. Bridget's day this year, after many years of working hard to keep kids in college and build a new business and raise two new puppies...  all good things.  Yet Bridget puja has been sitting in the back of my life, and I am re-invoking my Bridget contract as I start this new year turn.

When my kids were little we celebrated St. Bridget traditionally - for the folk of Northern Europe and America, winter meant the loss of milk from cows, sheep or goats, the loss of butter making and fresh cream; chickens would quit laying eggs and dishes requiring dairy and eggs had to put up before the solstice, to store for the long months ahead.  During my years in Wales, I can attest that February 1 is lambing, despite cold and snow, and I was blessed to head out to pasture and watch my Welsh cousins search for ewes lambing in the snow (oh it was cold!).
Paul Selling at
Yet lambing meant milk and a return to things like cakes and sauces that we now take for granted.  So to celebrate, my kids and I gave up milk and eggs during the weeks of January, to celebrate the return of mothering and milk on St. Bridget's day.  (How long my kids could survive without dairy depended greatly on their age and interest!)

Taking away dairy during the cold month of January is a hard thing to do, even in modern times (and my vegan friends can delete their vegan butter and milk for the same idea...). We live in a culture here in the US that is so removed from farm life and cycles of nature.  I am in a rural state, 87% forested, and most of the families I see have no garden, no chickens, no livestock.  The coal industry and now the gas industry have ripped families from the land where they have lived for generations.  Milk here is mostly imported from China, sold at Walmart.  The sense of our land as a magic place of forests, birthplace of rivers, home to elk and cougars and hellbender salamanders, is lost to most families.

Most families I see also live removed from the cycles of light and dark.  Driving home through forests, I can see the light returning as the year moves into February.  It is still light at 5:30, when at winter solstice the sun went down long before then.  In the morning, the dogs are crawling out of bed earlier and earlier - in this crazy winter of melting arctic and cold then hot weather - cardinals were calling on the holly outside all week long.  I heard wrens the other morning.  I sip tea alone in the morning while my college neighborhood sleeps unaware of returning signs of spring.

There are so many ways to celebrate Imbolc, St. Bridget's day, Candlemas.  The festival of milk, of light, of Bridget, Celtic goddess of smiths, poetry and foster care, the return of spring, all come at the beginning of February.  The list of ways to celebrate are endless:  drink milk, bake cakes, light candles, make candles, clean your hearth, clean your kitchen, make St. Bridget's crosses, rise and pray to the sun, welcome Bridget to your home with Bridy dolls in her honor.  An excellent article for celebrating Imbolc is at Gather Victoria.  Or invent your own method to honor Bridget:  I continue in my ongoing care of so many children and teens, honoring the foster mother guise of Bridget, and I celebrate her feast day working to bring justice to children.  Here in the US, work to end the separation of immigrant children from their parents, of stopping trafficking of children, or help a child in need would all be ways to honor Bride.

For my father, February is the month of seed planting.  In Tennessee, he will be setting out broccoli and kale by the end of the month.  The seed catalogs coming to my door announce that our connection to this planet - to growing things, to pollinators, to clean air and water - all still matter.  Bridget's Fire is a happily eclectic bog about women, religion, faith, action, spirituality, reclaiming women's religious traditions, finding spiritual paths, creating and saving the world.  In that light, Bridget's day, a feast to a Celtic saint and deity, a woman Bishop in the historical church, a representative of welcoming, hospitality, blacksmithing, poetry, women's religious community, women's power, foster mothers, milk, and light, can all be celebrated in any way that connects women to power, the earth, growing things, building a better world.

pic by MarcusSpkiske at

I am returning to a dedicated Imbolc this year.  Light is returning.  Ewes in the northern hemisphere are birthing lambs.  Soon, hawks will next.  Seeds will sprout.  Take St. Bridget's day, and commit to whatever you want to grow this year, and commit to nourishing yourself and your handiwork.