The swelling of the year

Because today is Imbolc and because the Earthweal prompt mentions it, here’s another poem for Brigid.

Painting by Evelyn de Morgan.

The swelling of the year

The rising of the first milk is come again
to the full bellies of the ewes,
and the rising of spring water into rushing rills.

Will we light the fire to burst the buds and melt the snow?
Will we pick the first snowdrops in the hollows
where Brigid’s feet have trod?

Listen to the church bell ring,
bronze and thin, it calls in the wind,
but some hear an older song.

The gull swallows its lament, easy as a silver mackerel,
while in the hollows of Brigid’s fiery tread,
white bells rise and nod, unstilled.


Days of water

An Imbolc poem for earthweal.

caillou Brigid's flood

Days of water
nights of rushing wind
and only thoughts of fire.

Winter runs in these cold streams,
dull browns and mud-grey,
sodden with cloud-spill.

No light, bright and sharp
as whetted steel,
no gold glints among the weeds

or the mud-stirred ditches;
winter runs still
in these cold veins,

only the birds,
colour of sunglitter and holly berries,

dance to the music of Brigid’s footsteps,
settle on the budding twig-snap
of her fiery fingers.

Where Brigid walked


Day breaks and the rushing rain

is running rivulets through the grass.

Where her feet tread, water springs,

and speedwell, blue as her eyes peeps.

She walked this way in the dawn,

when the thrush was singing

and the sun a promise behind the hills.

She trod lightly where the iris spears

throng about the overflowing well.

She brought the sun in her fiery tresses

bedecked the fallen willow trees,

and from her swirling skirts

bright water ran and rushed,

shining streams of the eternal sky.

After the deluge

the flood waters recede. After three days of solid rain, it seems to have stopped. For the first of February, Imbolc, Brigid’s day, the sun has come back. I have seen butterflies, violet bees and the first speedwell and bugle flowers.

The ditch that runs from the field above down past our woodpile is a cascade.


The first morning sun in months. Feels like that anyway.


brief sun

Between the ditch and the stream, the ground is under water.



This ditch was too deep to wade through in rubber boots yesterday.



It runs parallel with the stream, then bends left through the hedge to join the stream.

through the hedge

This is where all the rain water ends up—in the Caillou and the culvert that carries it beneath the farm track.

caillou culvert

Fires will blaze

Today and tomorrow, we celebrate Imbolc, Brigid’s fire festival, midway between the winter and spring solstices, when the ewes start to give milk, the first spring flowers appear, and the end of the winter is in sight. This small poem is inspired by Paul Militaru’s splendid photographs that you can see here. There may well be more.


Fires will blaze,

feet tread in the darkness,

soft and silent,

while faces of the wild,

peer, watching,

waiting for the spring.

Flames lick the dead wood,

burn up the old,

light the new,

and in the ashes,

grass shoots.

Before green leaves

A poem for this day of Imbolc which is mild and bright, the sun is warm, and the birds are singing spring songs. I’m using this painting of Diana again because it’s such a joyful one.



Before green leaves, sweet birdsong

clothes the trees in beauty,

and through the rain, the air, pearl-bright,

is blue as mists upon the ocean.

Tread with fiery feet

to warm the cockles of the earth,

and hatch the seeded fruits of autumn.

Keep your keening for the year that’s dead,

the crone laid down beneath the winter snows,

and we will sing the green and sun-dyed hopes

in the young year to come.


Today is Brigid’s Day, the feast of Imbolc. The crone months of winter are behind us and the maiden spring is beginning. Yesterday I saw the first of the returning geese and the first butterfly. Time to look ahead and look about us at the world and what it is becoming.


She came from the first people, those who made the hills and carved the beds of rivers and the great pools that filled with the oceans, who made light and fire. She used fire to shape the iron bones of the earth into things of beauty and usefulness, and from her father, the first poet, she inherited the gift of turning the coarse utterings of the tongue into poetry and song. From the mother of all things she learned how to heal what was sick and mend what was broken. At her side were the kings of the beasts, and around her feet spring flowers sprung. She was the soul of all that reached towards the sky, the birds, the growing things, the leaping flames. She was life and the turning seasons, adding with each revolution to the richness of the earth.

Such was the world, ordered and peaceful, ruled by wisdom and humanity, caring and beauty, until the invaders came and the great battle that divided it. To heal the wound, she took the invader king for her husband and their children were the vines that knit the broken pieces together again. But the oldest of their sons shattered the pattern again. He took his mother’s gift of shaping iron and he used it against the smith of his father’s folk, killing their wonder-worker, and taking a mortal wound himself.

The song she made for her dead son was the first lamentation for the first sin, the sin against the mother, the defiance of her authority and her wisdom. This was the first sin, and it could never be undone. Death was death, loss was loss, and the mother’s son could never return nor the pain he caused be healed. Never had such a song been sung before, and its echo was to ring out for ever and ever, in the keening for the dead.

In the dark days that followed the coming of the black monks and their worship of death, the women kept her flame alive, never letting it die. But the keening grew too loud to hear the whispered wisdom, the black robes smothered the bright flames and ignorance took the place of wisdom, rules took the place of poetry, and heavy boots shod with iron replaced the bare feet that coaxed flowers from the spring earth. The world was changed, changed utterly. And so we hear, forever and ever, the keening of women for dead sons who lost the path of wisdom and turned to folly.

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.


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.