Well, Forge, Flame: an Imbolc Essay


Well Forge Flame coverImbolc is coming.

My altars are all packed away, along with art and books, photos of ancestors, and most of my clothing. I have a computer, some client files, two paper books, and two suitcases.
But poetry moves through my blood. Stories tap out from my fingertips. I march in the streets, strong and true.
And after pounding rain, there comes the sun.
I have no altar to Brigid, except the altar in my heart and of my life.

Sometimes we know we need to be stronger.

We need to have the right tools for our lives and work…or we need to become the tools themselves. Sword. Plow. Rake. Hammer. Chisel. Wedge.
Sometimes we desperately need healing, all the way down to our bones.

We need rest and comfort. We need for our cells to stop multiplying, or to increase.
Sometimes we need to feel inspired again.

To let the words or sounds or actions pour through us, and out into the world.

Sometimes we don’t know what we need. Or what we want.

So, lighting a single candle, we return to the image of the flame.
Sometimes we don’t even have a single candle, so, pouring clear water, we drink.

The Goddess Brigid is said to tend the flame and the well.

She presides over healers, poets, and those who work the forge.
There is no mistaking the power of any of her facets. And while I have sometimes prayed to her for ease, that is not the main teaching she has brought into my life.

For many years, when friends asked how I was, I would reply: “I’m between the hammer and the anvil.” There was a visceral sense of being banged out and shaped into something more fitting, more useful.
In my years of chronic pain and illness, I struggled with healing. That in itself felt like a different forging process.
Still other years, the flame of inspiration has burned brightly within me, and my own fire has burned true.
I don’t mistake her faces for each other, yet I know I need them all. I also see the ways in which her powers overlap. The elements of life are not contained.

Sometimes the forge is what we need for healing.
Sometimes our healing process feels like being in the forge.
Creativity is no different:

Sometimes creativity is a steady, flickering flame guiding us forth, but other times we are between the hammer and the anvil, both being pounded and striking our own blows. And other times, in order to create, we must dig into our bodies, hearts, and souls, and bring forth the power of our woundedness. We create in order to heal.

There is power in both the submission to the process, and the strength that comes from the teaching of each face.
The forge.
The well of healing.
The fires of inspiration.
We apprentice to them all.

If we are fortunate, we learn.

Hail, Brigid. Blessed be your name.



T. Thorn Coyle, 2016

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