May Day

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Upon the hill a fire burns,

And people feast

The summer in.

 

Upon the hill the old year turns,

The winter beast

Flees from the din.

 

Upon the hill is where we learn

The olden ways, and not the least,

The path that’s followed by our kin.

 

Upon the hill is where I yearn,

To watch the sun rise in the east,

And feel its magic on my skin.

 

So burn, bright fire, magic blood,

Spill and sow for summer’s good,

And raise the grain, the bloom, the bud.

The flames leap bright and high

A quatern for Bealtaine

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The flames leap bright and high,

Into the deepening night,

Keeping the old ones nigh,

Bringing them into the light.

 

The new ones mutter low,

The flames leap bright and high,

Black hearts make shadows grow,

Their chants, the shadows fly.

 

Wise ravens’ croaks defy,

Their paltry magic chasing,

The flames leap bright and high,

Down sacred hillside racing.

 

The black ones falter, failing,

We watch their magic die,

The old ones’ fire swords flailing,

The flames leap bright and high.

Brigid’s Day

Tradition honours this time of year, the mid point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, with a feast. The crone months are behind us and we look forward to the spring. The ewes are giving milk and we will not starve. Okay, the local supermarket is always well-stocked whatever the ewes are about, and the poor beasts in factory farms give meat and milk whatever the season. But it is still salutory to remember that there was a time when the changes in the seasons mattered, and when we looked to the snowfall for other reasons than to decide which ski resort to choose.

This is my thought for this day of Imolc, a short piece dedicated to Brigid.

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Brigid looked down from the hill at the snow thick in the vales, and the dark woods where wolves stalked. Her cloak, full of the fire of the sun, melted the snow at her feet, and it ran away in rills of bright water. She bathed her face in the water, and a spring rose from the place, sweet and clear.
These traces she left behind when she passed, slipping with the speed of a sunbeam and as brilliant, across the winter lands, drawing the cold and the hunger behind her, banishing it little by little. This was her role. Whose child she was she herself could not say, but the sun and the earth were in her blood, and that was enough for her to know.
The Crone months were passed, and she looked ahead to a future she could see but the world could not, when life would spring again in the dead branches of the trees and push through the damp earth. She raised a hand to stroke the bark of the rowan tree and felt the tree shudder, as the buds drew in the heat of the sun through her fingers.
She listened and heard the sound of the young animals bleating and lowing in the barns. She gathered up the winter illnesses in her burning arms, turning them to ash that she scattered in the fresh breeze. Sunlight blazed through the winter shadows and she smiled at the pleasure in the animal voices. There would be milk now, holy water white as the snow, life giving, long after the cold had gone and the snow slipped back into the earth.
On swift feet that blazed green across the hills, Brigid turned into the breeze from the mountains. At her passing, the vixen in her earth raised her nose to the sweet, soft promise of spring. In their hard sheaths, the tender buds stirred, and the outline of flower and leaf filled and fattened. Her flame burned high as she strode over the sleeping mountains to bring the hope of spring to the plains beyond.