by Serena Rykert
Something very powerful overtakes me when I step into my garden. I cant think of any other experience that quite resembles it. Instantaneously I feel compelled to dig, design, mulch and plant. Its a feeling of being overtaken by an entity greater than myself; a benevolent force that I gladly connect with. Similar to riding a wave, it takes over in early spring before the snow has melted and doesnt leave until the first heavy snowfall covers the ground. Actually it never really does go away, but keeps me in suspended animation until spring, dreaming of my outdoor gardens and perusing seed catalogues while I fantasize.
I can spend entire days consumed with this passion and mourn the daily setting of the sun. I smile at cloudy days because it means more time among the blooms and less worry about sunburn. I go to bed early so I can be up working in the cool of the early morning. I become a wild amazon chariot driver of rototillers and riding lawn mowers. I even have fantasies about tractors with frontend loaders. I seem to take on super human strength when it comes to rolling rocks and small boulders into landscape settings. Its a compulsion to connect with the world outdoors that drives my every waking moment and leaves me happily exhausted at the end of the day.
Perhaps I am experiencing a legacy of mythic proportions; a myth all rolled up with the Goddess, with spring, with renewal, birthing and nurturance. The fecund spell of the new born season wraps its irresistible promises around my hopes and fears and I become her willing subject, hopelessly devoted. What other choice is there? How things work out, one could say is another matter altogether. However, waking up this very last spring of the millennium may well cause other questions to surface as we struggle to juxtapose our ancestral, instinctual knowing with the realities of patriarchy and its effects on our Mother Earth. Personally I am inspired toward further explorations of my feminine connections with the Earth. If anything, my need to know and explore have become more insistent.
After eons of repression, the feminine is enjoying a resurgence of her voice on some parts of the planet. Desire for uninhibited expression of her creative spirit will not be silenced. You could say we are indeed experiencing a renaissance of the feminine, the rebirth and celebration of the Goddess' existence. While I may be stating the obvious, I thought it would be appropriate in this season of renewal to make reference to that which brings me great hope. A little Goddess micro-macro analogy to stir the creative cauldron. For what we see within we express without. And Mother Earth needs us to see a way for her to regain her wholeness.
While as an individual I may feel inadequate at making very significant contributions to the healing of our planet; in the same breath, I think it is helpful to look at the healing of ones own spirit as a valid contribution. When we are able to walk more gently on our Great Mother and do what we are able in lightening our load upon her tired back, we can go further by looking at our thoughts and feelings. It is said that the presence of human thought is an aspect of the universe becoming conscious of itself. For while we inhabit bodies we can labour under the illusion of our separateness, but in truth we are Gaia, Daughter of the Universe and hence one and the same. Meditations on our personal well-being, on those we love, as well as upon the Goddess as she presides over this supremely triumphant time of year can be a positive influence.
Speaking of spring time and the feminine, I cant help but think of Brigit, the Triple Goddess of the Celts. (Pre-Christian cultures had the concept of a Trinity down pat eons before Christ appeared). According to The Womens Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets by Barbara Walker, the three aspects of Brigit were referred to as the "Three Blessed Ladies of Britain". Brigit was said to rule while her two sisters oversaw the arts of smithcraft and healing. Brigits feast day is the first of February and this, according to the pagan calendar, was the first day of Spring. It was and is still referred to as Imbulc, Oimelc or Imolg; a day of union between the Goddess and God.
Brigit had a female priesthood consisting of 19 priestesses, one for each year in the Celtic Great Year. As in ancient Rome, Brigit also had her equivalent of the Vestal Virgins known as her Kelles or Sacred Harlots. And it is from them that the name OKelly comes to us. It also brings to mind the sacred Irish book known as the Book of Kelles.
Brigit did not originate in the British Iles, but came from Galatia with the Gaelic Celts when they migrated. Galatia was located in the ancient territory of central Asia Minor where present day Turkey is situated.(1) While we think of the ancient Gauls as having lived in pre-Christian France, they originated in Galatia. With the onset of Christianity, the church took the step of canonizing Brigit as a saint. She was referred to as St. Briget or Bride, hence the origin of our word "bride". It is said she was made a saint because her popularity with the people was impossible to quell. A "brigand" known in common usage now as an outlaw, was then a warrior who remained dedicated to Brigit once the church had begun trying to usurp her original following.
The church asserted Brigit to be a nun who started a convent in Kildare. Kildare was the site of her holy temple where her sacred flame had been kept burning down through the centuries. This until the barring of men so infuriated the church in 1220 that the flame was ordered extinguished by a local bishop. It was a site known for "miracles and fertility magic. Cows never went dry; flowers and shamrocks sprang up in Brigits footsteps and Spring reigned eternal in her bower". (2) Sounds like a place I would definitely like to visit. Incidently, in 1993 the Brigidine Sisters of Ireland rekindled the sacred flame of Brigit at Kildare. Oh Happy Day! I wonder what their gardens must be like?
When I contemplate Brigit and what she means to me, I think of her as the Goddess of Creativity. Long ago as the Goddess of Smithcraft, she looked over the creativity of the peoples handiwork in coming up with the tools and implements of daily life. She also became known as the patroness of poets and their inspiration. She was invoked and revered by healers, mid-wives and women giving birth. What could be more elementally creative than to give birth? As an artist I often lament the sudden disappearance of my creative inspiration for indeterminate periods of time. I also frequently hear people, especially women say they have no creativity at all, despite the fact that they exhibit their creatvity in subtle ways everyday of their lives.
But what exactly is creativity as it pertains to individuals? I think ultimately, it is an inner knowing given a chance to reveal its destiny. It is a function of our spirits, like breathing is a function of our lungs. A mystery whose unraveling is as varied as the people seeking its expression and often very difficult to see living in a culture so incredibly mired in materialism and status.
Creativity can get mixed up with words like accomplishment, proficiency and ability. While creative expression may include these things, its not necessarily what it is all about. Too often I think I dont possess any of of those tangible characteristics. I lose sight of the creative satisfaction of small jobs well done, let alone important projects. Deep down, I dont think creativity is about the end outcome. I think its more about finding an inner venue where our spirits and their dreams can let loose, kick up a little dust and fall back in happy appreciation of our efforts when were through. Its about being in the moment. It is a highly personal and at times intensely private pursuit. Sometimes I can make it happen and a lot of times I simply can't. Brigit for me is about celebrating the successes and having compassion for the losses.
Getting back into the garden helps me reconnect with a sense of self appreciation and Brigit inspires me to carry on. She illuminates a bigger creative picture, something I need to remember in my darker moments. Brigit compels me to nourish my creative spirit in ways both great and small. As I contemplate the plants I want to see in my garden next summer, I am thinking of healing herbs and perennials, beautiful annuals and how I want to arrange them. Its all a bit hazy now as I sit looking out over the white landscape, but Ill know exactly what to do on that first spring day. Heading out spade in hand, the sound of birds on the fresh spring wind, Brigit will be with me the moment I reconnect with the Earth in my backyard.
1. The Columbia Encyclopedia, Fifth Edition.
2. The Women's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, Barbara Walker. Harper & Row. 1983.
Serena Rykert is an artist and poet living on the Canadian Shield just North of Maynooth, Ontario, East of Algonquin Park. Her first book of poetry, One Leaf, One Place, One time, was published by Danu Press in 1995. She draws her inspiration from the natural world and has a special fondness for gardening!
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