Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Wee update

Just a quick update to say I've added another article to Tairis (hey, it's cold out - I've got nothing better to do at the moment...).

This time it's just some thoughts on the new year - specifically the dating of it. I'll be doing a separate one on Hogmanay traditions at some point, hopefully in the not too distant future, and I'm trying to hunt up some good sources on Latha na Caillich that go beyond simply mentioning it. I'm not turning much up, to be honest - any ideas?

Friday, 5 February 2010

Là Fhèill Brìghde

For the past few years or so I've waited to celebrate Là Fhèill Brìghde when I've spotted the first dandelion of the year. Given the weather we've been having, I figured I'd be waiting quite a while for that, so I decided to just go for it. In spite of the snow that was on the ground yesterday, spring is definitely in the air. It's trying. The trees are starting to bud leaves and there are even some in blossom, the birds are chirping away, and every now and then there's that spring warmth in the air - the sun's feeling stronger now.

So with Mr Seren away yesterday, I decided it would be a good day to celebrate. I had lots of things planned with the kids to keep us all occupied, so it was good timing in that sense. After nursery we had to go into town to get food (and of course I bought far more than I could comfortably carry), then it was back home and time to finish our seasonal mural. I'd been lacking inspiration for something to do so in desperation we'd already made some flowers like we did last year, but I wanted something a bit different, and something that the kids could do without much help from me. So we got lots of patterned paper and ripped it up and glued it on, Rosie put some stickers on and helped position the flowers and the feathers (Tom got bored and wandered off for a bit after the properly messy part was done). I was attempting to go for a dreamlike sort of theme - it seems apt seeing as spring getting into full swing seems to be a long way off. Tom asked why we were making another picture, so we talked about the changing of the seasons and so on, and I told them why it's a special day for me. They listened intently, getting excited by the prospect of the trees coming into leaf, and then, as kids do, they decided there was a disappointing lack of glitter on their picture, so we remedied that with some sunny gold:

Of course, as we were making the picture and I was explaining about the season and so on, I thought about what we could've done - I had feathers, so we could've done a bird's nest with eggs in it or something. Oh well - maybe next year.

Then we had a go at making some butter. I debated on whether or not to just use a whisk to make the butter, but aside from the fact I'm not sure the whisk could take it, I figured that some hard work would make the butter well-earned. I poured some double (heavy) cream into an empty milk bottle and took the first turn in giving it a good shake, and after I dedicated it to Bride, I got the kids to encourage the lumps to come. At first we shouted for them to come like in the Carmina Gadelica, "come, lumps, come!" but it soon devolved into Bob the Builder style, "Can we shake it?" "Yes we can!" once our arms began to tire. Tom had a go, then Rosie, and they took turns in encouraging the lumps - "Come on lumps!" Tom in particular found it very exciting. Rosie, on the other hand, was more keen on wrapping herself up in a blanket and giving moral support for the most part.

It was hard work but didn't take as long as I was expecting. We got more butter than I was expecting as well, but I hadn't quite anticipated how I was going to get the solid lumps out of the bottle...Some nifty work with scissors sorted that out, and I plonked the lumps into a sieve to drain them:

I tried a bit of the buttermilk - I've never had it before. It was gooood - rich and creamy. And probably very naughty. I used it as part of the offerings, along with some of the butter. There's still a lot of butter left, though, so I might use it to make some shortbread or something.

Dinner was up next, and we had a good feast with buttery mash (using the butter we'd just made). It was late, so the kids weren't long for bed after that, leaving me to get on with some personal devotions once they were settled. As usual, I performed the deiseal, made offerings and libations, sained the house and everyone in it (using the water from Bealltainn that I've silvered and saved), and made a rowan charm to hang up. I'd already made a dealbh Bride a few days before, so she'd been up on my shelf since then, next to my cow and wand from a good friend. I put the offerings on my shelf but couldn't leave them for long before I had to put them outside:

The flowers are ones I was hoping to make with the kids for our picture, but they found them too fiddly to make and lost interest quickly, so I gave up on that idea. I did them instead, and decided to put them up as a seasonal offering. I put out the plaque of a snake I did as part of my celebrations last year as well, although you can't really see it in the photo.

I made my devotions to Bride (mainly making praises to her, from the Carmina Gadelica again, with a few of my own) and then a bit of silence and contemplation afterwards. I made a few finishing touches to the picture (I had some fabric letters, so I put "earrach" - Gàidhlig for Spring - on it) so I could put it up, and then got the dealbh Bride out:

And made a bed for her. I was going to try weaving one, but my attempts were made of fail and I gave up on that idea - it's something I'm going to have to work on and do properly, I think. Instead, I cheated again, and used a small box filled with feathers. It worked nicely, in the end, but I'd like to have a go at weaving something next year at the least.

I went to the door and invited Bride in - I decided to be brave and try a bit of Gàidhlig for this bit, so I took a bit of inspiration from the Carmina again, and said Bhride! Bhride! Thig a steach, Tha do bheatha deanta - "Bride! Bride! Come in, Thy welcome is truly made." It seems to echo what Martin Martin recorded of the practice, so I decided it was apt.

After that, it was time for a rest before bed. I put the offerings out, with a libation of whisky to Badb (to the caw of a crow, so hopefully that's a good sign), along with a meal for Bride (from our feast). In my Gàidhlig lessons we occasionally learn the odd song, and while I dislike singing (for the fact that I can't), the songs are beautiful. One of them is traditionally sung at the closing of cèilidhs and so on, so I'm told, and seeing as I was finishing up for the night, I decided to sing it:

Soraidh leibh is oidhche mhàth leibh
Oidhche mhàth leibh, ’s beannachd leibh
Guidheam slàinte ghnath bhith mar ribh
Oidhche mhàth leibh, ’s beannachd leibh

Farewell and goodnight to you
Goodnight and blessings be with you
I pray health will always be with you
Goodnight and blessings be with you

That's just the chorus - I don't know the rest, but it seemed an appropriate way to finish for the night nonetheless (and I can just about carry the tune...), and it helped me feel like I'm fleshing things out a bit more now. I slept well - very relaxing sleep, although when the kids woke me up this morning they woke from a dream - and while the details are hazy, I had the song that Terence and Phil sing in the South Park film (Shut Your Fucking Face Uncle-Fucker, if you really want to know, but be warned there's naughty language and toilet-humour if you happen to find either offensive...) going through my head as I surfaced into consciousness. I've no idea why...In the dream I was singing it at someone, jokingly, but I can't remember who or why. If that's supposed to be significant, then I can honestly say the gods truly do work in mysterious ways.

I didn't do any frìth this morning - the kids woke me up right as the day was dawning, so after my last experience it seemed pointless to try again with them running around wanting attention. I would've liked to have done it, seeing as I dedicate it to Bride anyway, but I wasn't really expecting to be able to so never mind. I'll probably get a better chance to do it at Bealltainn, when the dawn is likely to be earlier than when the kids usually get up. I did go to the window and look for a sign to see a woman walking past (apparently that's a neutral sign, but she had dark hair which is a good sign...), so I suppose I did it in a less formal sense. I've yet to make the bannocks - we were going to go to the beach today and I was going to make more offerings there, but it's raining and the kids would be miserable (and I need to soften the butter...). Instead I'll probably make them to go with dinner and just make some more offerings in the garden.