Monday, 2 February 2015

Accidentally walked up a mountain (and other fun stuff)

Our celebrations for Là Fhèill Brìghde are kind of ongoing here, but we've got the major stuff done. The evening itself was pretty low-key, mainly because my back wasn't up to much and Rosie had got back from a sleepover she'd had at a friend's house and was extremely tired (they were up until 1am and then got up in the morning at around 6am, and for a Rosie who likes her sleep that was just too much), but nonetheless I think it was a success.

Luckily we'd already made our dealbh Brìde last weekend, and I'd bought a beeswax candle-making kit so we could make our own candles to light up the house, too. The instructions came with a few suggestions for different styles of candle, and considering the spring theme, we decided on making some flower-shaped ones. Tom made a water-lily, while Rosie made the rest. ALL OF THEM. She was extremely enthused by the project (Tom was still feeling pretty ill at that point so tired out quickly) and I was too busy helping out to make my own, though I might still have a go with what's left over.

For the icons, Rosie and I made one each -- Tom had wandered off by that point -- with a kit I'd bought, and she spent the next few days making more. She gave some to her friends after taking them in to school so we ended up with two to choose from for the evening itself. In the end Tom decided not to bother having a go at making some this time round.

On the evening, with the house all set in order and a takeaway enjoyed for our feast, we lit the candles with a little ceremony, and then I suggested the kids could go and get ready for bed. Rosie was too tired to be doing much, so I made offerings and got things ready while they were changing. The candles were burning quickly and seeing as I had some time (they take forever to get changed...), I decided to take some photos before all of the candles were gone:

The white one at the back replaced another candle Rosie had made, which burned out too quickly to get a picture of.

Once they came back down I asked the kids to pick which icon we were going to use; Rosie immediately decided on the one she'd made, because the bright orange was more apt for the occasion, so I invited her to take it to the door so we could invite Brìde in. I made the call, inviting the kids to repeat after me if they wanted to, and I repeated each line in English so they knew what I was saying. The weren't too sure about joining in, so I suggested that perhaps they wanted to say something in your own words instead. Rosie couldn't think of anything to say, she was just too tired, really. Tom was a little unsure of himself so he checked to make sure that he had the right idea of what all of this was about, and then he stepped up to the threshold and told the night sky that Brìde is lovely. That is all. I agreed, and added my own words, too.

Then we put the icon to bed on our shrine, and I placed the slatag (wand) beside her. Tom got excited and ran around the kitchen zapping stuff to make the green shoots appear while Rosie leaned in for a cuddle. It was well and truly time for bed, so we didn't do too much more together. Usually I'd do a little story telling and stuff like that, but it just wasn't going to end well this time if I tried too much.

The rest of the evening was pretty quiet. I took some time to make my own devotions before I went to bed, and left some food and drink out for refreshment. Just before I went to bed I put some items out for blessing -- one for each of us, and a towel I use for the animals.

The next morning I got up to find some of the food I'd left out overnight -- well out of the way of sticky fingers or snuffling noses -- had gone, so I'm taking that as a positive sign that we were visited. It was a beautifully bright and sunny day (winter will be with us a while longer, it seems) so I decided the dogs could do with a good long walk. I was going to go to our new favourite spot by the waterfall, but after I got some offerings ready to take with me and I set off I decided to maybe make an adventure of it, so I headed towards the woods where the waterfall is, but kept going up alongside it. We passed some sheep, who I'm guessing are quite heavily pregnant by now:

No lambs yet, though.

I spotted a signpost to a forest (which is news to me), so decided to head that way. Up and up the hill we went, until eventually we got onto a path that took us into a field. There were more sheep there so I kept the dogs on the lead and we kept walking up the hill some more. We've had some snow that's only melted a little -- it's mostly frosted over, really -- so as we got higher up we encountered more and more snow. The forest didn't seem exactly... foresty. So we explored a bit before turning back to take the path to the forest itself, through another gate. There wasn't going to be any livestock here so I let the dogs off and we went along the wide path that cuts through the forest. There are dense bits:

And then heavily deforested bits that give a good view of the area.

And on we went, higher and higher. I'll just see what's around this corner here, I kept thinking, as we went up and up, until soon enough we were right at the top. I couldn't really say if it's an actual mountain, but if it isn't then it must be close. Not quite intended though it might have been, it seemed apt in a way, considering Brìde's name may mean something like "High (Exalted) One." We went pretty high up indeed...

In spite of the frost and snow, there are signs of spring around. Before it snowed the dandelions were starting to wake up around the village, and up on the trail we took there was a lone daisy smiling out at us:

Eventually I decided it was time to turn back seeing as I had no idea where we were going. I left offerings in a few spots on our way back down, and we'd been out so long that it was turning to dusk now so I didn't linger. As we got back to the field the moon had just started peeking out over the hills:

I'd intended to make some crosses with the kids when I got home -- we hadn't managed it the day before because Rosie had been so tired -- but it was a much longer walk than I'd anticipated and I needed a good sit down once I got home. By the time dinner and everything else was done after that, it was too late to be doing much, so for now I've made some myself, and I'll see if the kids want to make some later.

At Midsummer I realised that I had rushes growing out the front of the house, which I used as part of our paying the rents then. They're also perfect for making a cros Bríde, though I don't usually make them like this (lollipop sticks and wool are my go-to materials of choice). But seeing as we have them handy I decided to have a go at making one of the more iconic crosses, like the one I brought back from our trip to Ireland last July. I'd tried making ones like this before out of other kinds of material and I'd found it difficult, so I was anticipating that it might not go so well. As it turned out, it was way less fiddly than I thought it would be:

Although still a bit fiddly, for the tying off, especially (I used the slideshow I linked to in my last post as a guide but didn't have elastic bands as suggested there). But still, it came out OK so I decided to try a three-armed 'triskele' version as well:

I haven't seen any instructions for how to make them but I figured it would be about the same method as the four-armed version, except you'd bend the first rush in half instead of keeping it straight. Things started off a little messily but it came together a little better as I added more rushes and the cross became a bit sturdier.

There are I some things I wanted to do as part of our celebrations but wasn't able to -- there was no double cream at the shops so we couldn't make our own butter, for one -- but I might make a week of it and stretch things out a little so we could do that later.

I'd like to get back into the garden again this year but we'll see how it goes. As the spring wears on I'm going to try and plant some veg, at least, but for now there's going to be a bit of a respite until the ground defrosts... Either way, Brìde is here. And Brìde is most definitely welcome.