It’s that time of year again! Time to for The Annual Clann Bhride Imbolc Exchange!
Here’s how it works: Anyone who wishes to participate, will e-mail their “real name” and snail mail address to Mac de Bride (specific details below). Mac will then carry out a mostly random draw (adjusting for shipping preferences, again details below) and will e-mail participants with details of their gift recipient.
Participants then make a cross or brat. If you can ship it in time for your participant to receive it for Imbolc Eve (January 31st) then please feel free to do so. If your gift would not arrive in time, please keep it and put it outside for Brighid’s blessing as she passes on Imbolc Eve. All gifts should be shipped no later than February 15th.
We assume most members are familiar with Brighid’s cross. If not, here are a couple of links showing the variety of shapes and designs they are made in, a traditional method for making them, and another method. Traditionally, Brighid’s crosses are made of rushes, but people have used all sorts of materials, including corn husks, pipe cleaners, wire, paper, and fabric.
Brats might be a little less well known, so here’s some information about them:
A brat symbolizes Brighid’s mantle and is basically any piece of clothing or fabric that is left outside overnight on Imbolc Eve (the night of January 31-February1) for Brighid to bless as She visits each family.
There are many different ways to carry out the tradition of leaving a brat out for blessing. There are numerous regional variations on the theme. For example, people who lived on the coast would often leave out the coats worn by the men involved in seafaring. In other places, the brat was simply a handkerchief or just a piece of cloth, pieces of which would be cut or torn off and used throughout the year to foster healing (especially for headaches), ease the pain of childbirth, protect the cattle, etc. In some areas, the brat had to be a specific color or had to be put in a particular place (a bush or just outside the door, f’ex) or had to be brought inside before sunrise, etc. (Sean ODuinn’s book, The Rites of Brigid: Goddess and Saint, is the best source we’ve found for Irish Imbolc traditions.)
Many people knit or crochet squares to represent Brighid’s mantle, but really a brat can be any type of fabric: a coat, a ribbon, some clothing, strips of spare fabric, etc.
Just to be clear: the idea is that participants make a cross OR brat OR both. No one should feel as though they have to spend lots of money on this project. We strongly encourage people to use found items or things they have lying around the house. If you do buy materials for this, they would ideally be inexpensive. This is about sharing community to celebrate Brighid’s feast day – NOT spending money.
Now, to the specific instructions.
If you want to participate, please e-mail Mac (firstname.lastname@example.org) BY END-OF-DAY on JANUARY 1 and give your “real” name and your snail-mail address. Also, NOTE WHETHER YOU ARE OK WITH SENDING A PACKAGE TO SOMEONE IN A DIFFERENT COUNTRY. (That can be important, since the postage on international packages can be significantly higher than on domestic packages.)
Mac will acknowledge your e-mail within 48 hours. If you do not hear from him within this time, assume something has gone wrong and send your e-mail again.
By the end of January 5, Mac will email you with your recipient’s name and address.
Please EITHER plan to send your package in time for your recipient to receive it on or before January 31 so the recipient can put it out for blessing on Imbolc Eve OR plan to put the materials for your gift out for blessing yourself, and then send it after Imbolc. Either way, the item will receive Brighid’s blessing.
If you plan to ship your gift BEFORE Imbolc, ideally, you should aim to get your package in the mail at least one week before January 31. So, people could go ahead and start planning and making their crosses and/or brats, so they’re ready to go when you get your recipient’s contact info. Please note that international mail/shipping may take longer than a week and plan accordingly.
If you plan to ship your gift AFTER Imbolc, please try to send it by February 15th, so it doesn’t get put off indefinitely and then forgotten.
If you have any questions, please feel free to e-mail Mac, or ask me here in comments.