Daily Egyptian

Pagans honor Gaelic goddess Brigid at Imbolc ritual, welcome returning of the light

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A participant in the Imbolc ritual holds a candle Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018, at The Gaia House in Carbondale. (Athena Chrysanthou | @Chrysant1Athena)

A participant in the Imbolc ritual holds a candle Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018, at The Gaia House in Carbondale. (Athena Chrysanthou | @Chrysant1Athena)

A participant in the Imbolc ritual holds a candle Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018, at The Gaia House in Carbondale. (Athena Chrysanthou | @Chrysant1Athena)

By Athena Chrysanthou, Editor-in-chief

Dania Laubach sweeps the floor of Gaia house early Saturday evening, brushing away bad energies in preparation for the Southern Illinois Pagan Alliance first ritual of the new year.  

Imbolc is the first of eight SIPA rituals a year and celebrates the Celtic goddess Brigid who represents healing, art, creativity and bringing back life into the world after winter months.  

“The broom is helpful during Imbolc because it is a good time to think about clearing out your spaces and preparing for the new year to come in,” Laubach said. 

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After the space was cleared of negative energy, ritual leader Laubach proceeded to set up an altar in the center of the ritual circle.  

The altar contained a vase of dried flowers Laubach had collected throughout the year to honor the earth, a stone from Ireland to represent Brigid’s Celtic origin, a cardinal feather to honor the return of the birds and the red Brigid candle.  

The red candle has a special significance for SIPA as it had been lit by an elder in the international pagan community directly off the sacred Brigid candle in Ireland. 

Participants in the ritual then lined up outside before entering Gaia house through smoke created by a sage stick, which helps clear negative energy and mentally prepare people for ritual, Laubach said.  

“The smoke itself has an effect,” Laubach said. “But the smell of sage just helps people concentrate.” 

After entering Gaia house, participants called quarters to repel any negative entities and energy. 

“That’s just a way of allowing the word around us to participate with this and also set some boundaries and energetic beams as guardians to help protect the space and people,” Laubach said.  

The goddess Brigid was acknowledged through chanting as a way of lifting energy within the circle and directing it towards something, Laubach said.  

Participants then lit their red candles from the Brigid candle on the altar as a way to pay attention to the inner self.  

“A big part of Imbolc is paying attention,” Laubach said. “Drawing ourselves back in and doing our proper duty as humans to bring ourselves back in.” 

Lighting the candles represents not only Brigid, but the rising sun returning to the earth and appreciating the winter winding down. 

Laubach, a health teacher at John. A Logan and part time wellness manager at the Coop, said Imbolc is a way of welcoming the Pagan community together after winter break and building connections. 

“You get to know some great people who just accept you for who you are,” Laubach said. “That can be a big issue for people in the pagan community is feeling ostracized.” 

Some within the Pagan community enjoy solitary practice, which Laubach said it a great way to get to know your own spirituality but practicing within the community helps force you out of your comfort zone.  

SIPA was founded by Tara Nelson in 1998 so celebrates its twentieth anniversary this year. Over the years the group has welcomed a wide range of people who practice Paganism, as well as becoming a more normalized part of society and encouraging those who wish to join.  

“One of the big things is that it shows you are not alone,” Nelson said. “Paganism is not the big scary thing that is used to be.” 

Nelson said over the years she has seen many public groups try to form but have imploded and destroyed themselves with drama. 

“Right here is proof that I am doing something right,” Nelson said. “Something good has happened with this group to still be doing this and to have this many people.” 

The group emphasizes a safe and open space for Pagans as well as members of the community who wish to participate and explore their spirituality.  

“When you have a community that you can connect to and have them support you and you support them, ill take all the misinformation out there just for the fact that this exists, it still exists and it has been really helpful for a lot of people,” Nelson said. 

Emmalie Hall-Skank, a senior studying Interior Design from Chicago has been a part of SIPA since her freshman year and said it has given her an opportunity to meet and connect with likeminded people.  

“The community aspect is a really big thing,” Hall-Skank said. “It has been a lot of fun seeing how other people do ritual and learning different ways that people celebrate the things that I do.” 

Hall-Skank said she attends as many SIPA rituals as she can use the experiences to help take her spirituality into her own hands. 

“A lot of being a pagan is self-driven practice,” Hall-Skank said. “‘There’s a lot of personal study that occurs so its all about taking your power into your own hands and finding spiritual meaning as it is for you, instead of taking it as someone telling you what it is supposed to be.” 

Editor-in-chief Athena Chrysanthou can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @Chrysant1Athena.

To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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