Well, the wife and I performed my Imbolc ceremony on Saturday. I just about lost my eyebrows, but otherwise it went well!
With that intro, it’ll be no surprise that the “What could have gone better?” part of this report is likely to be much longer than the “What went right?” part. But first as a reminder here is the script for the ritual: part 1 and part 2.
So as I was saying, what could have gone better was preparation. To begin with, when I first started planning for the rite I decided that it would be outdoors. There was only a few centimetres of snow on the ground and I figured that I nice big bonfire would be just the thing for Brigid’s Day. I knew I was going to be out of town for the week prior to the rite so I gathered up the wood for the bonfire ahead of time and made a big pile of dry pine that should have burned easily even in the cold. Unfortunately, once out of town it started to snow… and snow… and snow… by the time I got back there was at least a foot and a half on the ground. Still, I stubbornly decided to push ahead. I envisioned a nice quite meditative day on Saturday and then the ritual in the late afternoon. But then at noon Saturday it began to snow… and snow.. and snow…
Still, I stubbornly decided to push ahead but at an accelerated pace — the result of which was that the gathering of all of the offerings and putting together of the hallows was rather rushed. I replaced the drum with a bell since I did not want to get my drum wet. We zipped out and quickly got the portal altar set up, which was instantly covered in an ever increasing layer of snow but still we soldiered on.
Things seemed to be going smoothly until it was time to open the gate, and that’s when I realized that the fire was going to go out. On any normal day, even in winter, a few sheets of newspaper would have been sufficient to kindle the pile of well-aged pine. But with the snow continuing to come down, it was really struggling. I decided that there was only one thing for it; kerosene.
The resulting fireball was what almost lost me my eyebrows… but it served its purpose! And I suspect that the plume of flame managed to wake both the Gatekeeper and Kindred and got their attention!
The rest of the ritual went smoothly. We made our offerings to Brigid. My wife, who is much better at divination than I, took the omen and pronounced it good so we took the blessings, I did my Work with the acorns, we thanked the beings, and wrapped up, eyebrows still intact.
So my main takeaway was:
Preparation is a key ingredient, but preparation shouldn’t make one inflexible when conditions require deviation from the plan.
So what worked? The flow of the ritual. The core order makes some logical sense and I found that when writing the ritual that the core order gave me a framework in which to work so that I could concentrate on inspiring liturgy without having to worry about creating structure from scratch. I wish I had spent more time memorising some of it though; I found that reading the words off the page and trying to keep the rite flowing distanced me from what was actually happening, and as a result I found that the ritual wasn’t as spiritually fulfilling as attending someone else’s rite. Of course, this was the first time I’ve tried to run a non-solitary rite so I am sure it will get better with practice.
There are a few other notes I’d like to share. First, this was the first time my wife and I performed ritual as a couple, and her first experience with a Druidic ritual. She seemed to really enjoy it, so it was very gratifying in that way. I’ll make a Druid of her yet!
The second note is about the involvement of hounds. As you probably know by now we live with five Irish Wolfhounds. We could have kept them out of the ritual, of course, but decided to let them be and see how it went. They weren’t too much trouble, eagerly sampled the water of life (previously Strongbow cider), and I frankly think that the Celtic deities involved appreciated their presence.