This is the first in a series of interviews to get to know our fellow Church of the Earth members. Today we will hear from Laurel, our very own High Priestess. Laurel led our Imbolc ritual on January 31, so I asked her about this sabbat, as well as about her personal path. Read on for her insightful and inspiring answers.
Jennifer: What does Imbolc mean to you?
Laurel: Being between Yule and Ostara, Imbolc feels like a turning point for me – days are growing longer, the sun rises a few minutes earlier and sets a few minutes later each day – Spring will be here before we know it, with blooming bulbs, budding trees, singing birds, plenty of light and warmth. We still have a ways to go, but I can definitely feel the shift when Imbolc arrives. Imbolc is Brigid’s day and when I researched and read and prepared to lead my first Sabbat at Church of the Earth – Imbolc 2012 – I found my relationship to Brigid becoming deeper and more serious, and I realized that I was Hers and She was mine. Then, at Imbolc 2014, the Church Council ordained me to be High Priestess for Church of the Earth. So, it’s important to me for more than one reason.
Jennifer: Do you have personal traditions this time of year?
Laurel: One of my favorite traditions is the Bhratach Brid – the night of Imbolc Eve it’s traditional to place a piece of cloth or ribbon outside (usually draped on a holly bush in my yard) for Brigid to bless as she passes by during the night. The Bratach is said to hold protection and healing from Brigid and can be used throughout the year.
Jennifer: How did you create this year’s group ritual?
Laurel: Each year I review the Imbolc ritual and make small changes – insert a prayer here, change the wording a bit, but each year I use essentially the same ritual. This is the 9th year I will lead Imbolc for Church of the Earth.
Jennifer: What do you hope we will carry into this season?
Laurel: Is it strange to say that I hope for us all to carry Hope? Maybe a little redundant. This winter has been especially dark for most of us. We enter Imbolc with the hope and yes, the scientific knowledge, that the light returns, the earth warms, and growth continues. This year we also have the hope of a return, perhaps not to “normal” – if there is any such thing – but a return of gathering together with our families and friends as we move through the year.
Jennifer: It’s not strange or redundant! I feel the same way.
What is one of your favorite personal practices?
Laurel: I am a flametender for Brigid. Flametending is an ancient tradition practiced at the shrine to Brighid at Cille Dara, now Kildare, Ireland, where 19 Priestesses cared for Her sacred flame, each tending it a full day from sundown to sundown. On the 20th day, it was said that the Goddess Herself tended the flame. This tradition is still practiced across the world, including at Kildare. I am a member of a flametending Cille or “cell” and I tend the flame on the 10th day.
Jennifer: Do you have advice for newer Pagans exploring their paths?
Laurel: Ask lots of questions, read and ask even more questions. Talk to people who follow different types of paths, attend different events and activities. And if something doesn’t feel “right”, listen to your intuition and then ask more questions. There are many paths, many traditions, and your path may be one of those or none of them. Pagans don’t have one book that is followed by everyone – this can be absolutely liberating or a little intimidating and that’s okay. As one of Church of the Earth’s tenets states, “Every person’s religious belief is correct, for them.” And it’s absolutely perfect to spend some time finding the beliefs and path that are right for you.
Jennifer: Thank you for that advice — I find it helpful myself!
Why do you love Church of the Earth?
Laurel: One of the things I love the most is the Community and the willingness to share. We share similar but certainly not identical beliefs, and we gather together to acknowledge the turning of the Seasons and to celebrate life events in many different ways. I’m thankful we can continue to build our community online until we can gather again in person.
Thank you, Laurel, for sharing these thoughts with us, and for leading our wonderful Imbolc ritual!
Stay tuned for more interviews, and Happy Imbolc to all.