Tuesday was spent at The White Spring; setting the space, moving rocks, cleaning candlesticks and removing wax. G, the Founder of the Temple would be having the evening for a private booking so I wanted to place to be clear and ready well in advance before I went home to prepare myself to hold the ceremony.
At home, I went over my words, and devised a way to keep time in my head so I did not have to look at a watch. There would be a period of darkness and I had no other way to keep time. I sang a song over three times. I knew that would be approximately nine minutes altogether.
One of our helpers had their car break down on the evening prior to Imbolc and had to stay at our house so he got to witness the crazy, getting the family up and children ready for the day, morning madness that ensues. After the children left for school we quickly organised our things and left for the White Spring.
When we arrived I found that the seasonal altar had been changed a little, the altar cloth had been pushed back, crushing the swan feathers I had left there. I cleared the altar immediately and reset it, this time without the cloth. Some new snowdrops had turned up, so I assumed that G had left them there and either didn’t like the altar cloth, or did not notice that I had already begun to set the altar. I struggle for a moment with slight annoyance, then let it go. Nevertheless, the altar was reset along with more beautiful fresh snowdrops.
We checked that there were no light sources coming in to the building. All the skylights had been covered, and even the keyhole and cracks under the doors. I set the helpers to lighting candles and went outside to greet some of the early visitors. There were not as many people as in previous years. Though the first person to arrive had come all the way from Australia!
I went inside again to light some incense and found myself visiting each shrine with a song. I went last to the central chamber at the back of The White Spring, turned to face the wall and sang to the spirit of the Spring. When I turned around again, I found that the building had filled up and there was quite a crowd watching me. I suddenly felt a little shy, but managed to not show it whilst I went outside for a moment. I could sense that the visitors were waiting for things to start, so we started right on time.
I was so happy to have Merlin with us to lead the chanting and singing. I knew I could count on him to come in at the right time and get everyone singing along. After welcoming everyone, I talked a little about the White Spring, and said a few words about Imbolc. Then we went into the darkness and silence.
What potency awaits in the quiet dark of the cave. This was my first time leading this ceremony, and although I was aware of the feeling of complete darkness inside the spring, I had not been prepared for the feelings whilst holding that space and being responsible for it.
Blackness, and just the sound of the water rushing through the building, my head was swimming as I sang the songs in my head that lasted 3 minutes each – just to help me keep time. It was silent, though I was sure my heart would beat right out of my chest. My mind wandered. The air seems to stir with pregnant possibility. You know that if you reach out you will touch the person stood next to you, yet you feel totally alone in the darkness. There were around 100 people all stood in the blackness for just long enough. And then I gave the signal by tapping on the door gently. Then three loud knocks from outside.
Opening the door, the light streams in as Young Bridie walks through carrying her lantern. The door closes and the single flame is carried to the centre of the building. ‘The light shines in the darkness .. and the darkness shall not overcome it!’ The light is passed from person to person and all of the candles are lit. Then we sing.
Bridie, Brigida, Sula, Sheena, Anun, Anna, Danu, Dana
This year marked the 7 year anniversary of the lighting of the Brigid flame here in Glastonbury. One of the people who lit the flame in 2005 told us all of its significance. Then we all gathered outside to share inspiration and song.
I introduced G as the founder of the Temple and she talked about Brigid and her inspiration. The red and white waters were mixed and those gathered were splashed with the waters with purifying intent before offering to the land with our wish that the waters flow together forever.
It was cold. The winter had been so mild up until this week, and now it had just turned icy cold. Young Bridie was wrapped up warm and we drummed and danced to keep our feet warm. Max told his seasonal story, a journey if you like, taking us to the otherworld. I offered a guided meditation, to create powerful intent and send it out into the universe along with Brigid’s guiding light.
The Monk’s gate into Chalice Well was opened for us to go into the garden. Yound Bridie led us up to the wellhead of Chalice Well and we left the flame there before going to the fire that had been lit on the lower lawn. R and her mum got a hot chocolate, and after chatting to a few folk, Max and I went back to the Spring. We had a keeper ready to open for the day, so after the procession to Brides Mound had left, we went to have some lunch.
At sunset I went to Bride’s Mound myself, to honour the flame that I keep at the temple and in my home. K, another keeper of the flame had arranged to have a fire puja; a prayer and offering of ourselves in support of that prayer. It was a beautiful gathering. Someone had created a beautiful icon of Brigid which stood in the footprint of the chapel that had been built there so many years ago. We lit candles from the Brigid flame, all around the chapel and honoured the place where the Mary Magdalene altar had been. Then we surrounded the fire to share songs.
At the end I had so many well wishers thanking me for the ceremony at The White Spring and telling me how much it meant to them to come to Glastonbury and feel so welcome at the sacred ceremonies here. I took their praise gracefully and gave it back to the earth.
Later, I left the mound in the darkness filled with the glow of the flame, the warmth of the community that I am a part of, and the knowledge that so many people had found something special on that day. The season of Imbolc, the power of the land, and the Celtic Goddess Brigid was honoured here.