In preparation for Imbolc I wanted to construct something similar to what I had seen at other sacred sites related to the goddess Brigid – a wooden cross.
I decided to make two crosses – one for me and one for my friend Julia, who would be accompanying me for my Imbolc outing. My concept was to create a symbolic union of two opposing forces – Holly and Oak. These woods symbolize Winter and Summer respectively (see the tales of the battle of the Holly and Oak King).
The obvious place to go for me was Delamere Forest – a huge expanse of mostly pine forest, yet it retained some of its deciduous tree species too. I couldn’t remember ever seeing any holly, but I was sure there was plenty of oak in the forest.
Once there I began the year’s work for real – it was time to shake off the slough of The Quiet Time and step out into the year. There was work to be done! I asked the forest for permission to enter, informing it of the reasons for my visit. I felt the spirit of Kal around me, watching, perhaps guiding my footsteps? I set off without a specific path to tread, hoping to be guided to the right place.
Almost the moment that I had gone beyond the main paths and taken my second turning my attention was directed towards a dark shape to one side. My head was almost swiveled for me (because I had my head down not really looking at anything around).
There it was. A holly tree. Standing alone – no other evergreen in sight nearby. It stood in a beautiful scene – in a slight clearing by some standing pools of water. It was perfect. I approached carefully, making sure that I introduced myself to the tree from the right direction, and at the edge of its aura.
The tree let me in and when I explained my requirement – a few straight branches – it agreed, but wanted me to find the right place. I pulled out my dowsing rods so that I could locate the right place, and the rods took me around to the back of the tree, close to the water. There were a few bare but straight branches, as though being offered for the job! I gave thanks and took the twigs carefully and respectfully.
Now for the oak. I wandered off along the path, again taking about two other turns along different pathways without a though to direction. The trees thinned and the air got brighter. I was at the edge of the forest now, and there was a line of oaks stretching out in front of me! How fortunate, I laughed to myself!
I approached a likely candidate – an elder oak with branches to spare some of whose twigs reached down invitingly to the path. I went to stand by the tree and introduced myself and my purpose. Hmm… I wasn’t getting the welcome I expected. I asked whether I could take some small twigs for my Brigid Cross. A crow cawed. Ah, Kal’s totem bird. Yet I felt it was a “No”, so I set the options out clearly. If I could have a twig or two then a songbird will tweet, and if I can’t then a crow will caw again. I waited a few seconds in silence. …. A crow cawed. I wanted to be sure (I wasn’t used to being “denied”!). “Was that a ‘No'”, I asked? A songbird tweeted. Then it was a negative. I left to continue up the path.
A minute later I saw the perfect small tree with just the right twigs. On it was a branch that was straight, but which had already been split from the main trunk. It was hanging off and could be taken without further damage to the tree. I once again asked if I could take the twig, and a songbird tweeted loudly from a nearby perch. Then this was the one.
I had my materials. The final construction of the crude Brigid Crosses happens on Imbolc morning:
There was something very meaningful about the living wood being rent and bound, twinned with its opposite in a ritualistic union, and offered over the flame, releasing its life force, but becoming more than the individual parts through the infusion of light, intent and meaningful sacrifice.