Imbolg, sometimes written as Imbolc, is probably derived from the Irish word bolg, for ‘belly’, so meaning ‘in the belly’; it has also been speculated that it might come from the word oimelc, meaning ‘ewe’s milk’. (And please note: contrary to what many helpful sites on the web try to tell you, you don’t pronounce the ‘b’: the word is pronounced ‘i-molg’.) Imbolg is one of the festivals known as ‘cross-quarter days’; it comes midpoint between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. Although it’s sometimes called St Brigid’s Day, or Lá Fhéile Bríde, this festival is ancient, and predates the arrival of Christianity in Ireland. It’s likely to have been associated with the old goddess Brigid, who was later appropriated into the new religion. Read More
Quiet friend who has come so far,
feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,
what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.
* Away to the west, back to Connemara
It is strange to be going south to the place of my belonging. I have always believed that belonging, for me, is a north-westerly phenomenon; now I find that actually, my internal compass points largely west. North may be a secondary component, but it is strange, nevertheless, to be heading homewards to the south.
I am on the road before 5am, with the sky crisp and the moon almost full. I love to travel in the dark, when the world is largely still asleep; it always feels as if I am travelling through a landscape peopled with the dreams of others. The car rattles, crammed with bedding and crockery, and all the contraptions I imagine I’ll need for the coming year of to-ing and fro-ing, of living here and living there: a year of navigating transience.
A few years ago now, The Place of Belonging was the title of a book I was going to write. I never did; instead, I wrote If Women Rose Rooted, and some of what I’d intended to say about place and belonging went into that book, and some will go into The Enchanted Life, the book I’m working on now. Sometimes I think I’ll always be writing about it, because although the psychology of place and the myths and stories of place have been at the heart of my work for so long now, it seems that there is always something more to learn.
Have you noticed how the initiatory event in myths and fairytales about women is so often an act of dismemberment? Let’s look at a few. Sedna, whose father throws her in the sea because she does not match up to his requirements of her, and then chops off her fingers when she clings to the side of his boat. The Handless Maiden, who loses her hands because of a bargain her father made with the devil. Or in other versions of the tale, she cuts off her own hands in order to avoid the sexual advances of her father and brothers. Read More