- Le Chaudron de Morrigann /
Along with Brighid's Cross, Brighid's Mantle is one of the main symbols used at Imbolc and just like the Cross, it is part of the rituals and celebrations. While the Cross refers to the Irish goddess, Brighid's Mantle alludes to Saint Brighid (of Kildare), who is no other than a Christian form of the ancient goddess.
It is said that Brighid went to the King of Leinster to ask him for some land where she could build an abbey. As one can imagine, as the King did not want to see such a thing done, he replied that he would give her the surface that could be covered by the mantle she was wearing. Of course, when Brighid spread her cloak on the ground, it expanded and covered all the surface that was necessary for the construction of the foundations of the building.
According to other sources, Brighid was with the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem when she gave birth to Christ. She acted as a midwife and wrapped the newborn child in her mantle, thus protecting him and keeping him in good health.
In other tales, she hangs her mantle on a sunbeam to get it to dry after being caught in a storm.
All these legends contribute in making Brighid's Mantle a sacred item. Various beliefs are still attached to this cloth today. The most common idea is that Saint Brighid gives some of her healing powers to the pieces of cloth that are hung at Imbolc. According to the custom, a cloth has to be hung inside or outside the house at Imbolc so Brighid can bless it when she comes. This cloth is then called Brighid's Mantle and is hung again each year at Imbolc so Brighid can bless it every time. That is how it keeps its healing powers, which grow year after year.
The spread presented here takes the shape of Brighid's cloak and refers to the protection and healing energies she blesses the querent with at Imbolc. Of course, the different parts of the spread are inspired by the abilities and attributions attached to this very peculiar figure who, while being Christian, represents a link between the old ways and the new ways.
This spread shows what Saint Brighid wraps the querent in at Imbolc in order to give them the protection they need and to help them heal from what they need to leave behind.
After shuffling and cutting the deck, draw eighteen cards and lay them as follows:
The cards are read in the same order they were drawn. It can be noticed that the first and last cards of the bottom line are tilted in order to give more fluidity to the mantle shape. Of course, this special position gives these cards special meanings, which are revealed during the reading.
Card 1 shows the querent's desires and wishes. It reveals what they want to accomplish the most.
Cards 2, 3, 4 and 5 refer to the querent's present situation. They show what is happening around them in general and express their main concerns.
Card 6 puts into light the querent's fears and what they worry about, especially regarding the present situation.
Just above the first line, cards 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 show what the querent needs to heal from, what they need to let go before they can move forward peacefully. These cards represent what Saint Brighid will help them to overcome.
Cards 12, 13, 14 and 15 describe what kind of protection Brighid blesses the querent with regarding their general situation and their healing process.
Cards 16, 17 and 18 reveal the strengths and qualities Brighid gifted the querent when she leant over their cradle as they were a newborn child. These cards insist on what will help them the most in dealing with their present situation.
This spread is rather easy to work with. The different parts contain a small number of cards to read together each time, which makes it easier for those who are not used to reading spreads with so many cards.
Each part can be read in two different ways: either by establishing links between the cards as if they were telling a story (thus showing a situation as it unfolds, or successive events), or one card at a time (each card thus depicting one or several aspects of one or several situations). The reader chooses the best way to read the cards according to what they think is relevent depending on the cards that appear in the spread.
Which decks for this spread?
Tarot and oracle decks can be used for this spread. Of course, Neo-Pagan themed decks will be preferred, as well as decks that display Imbolc related symbols and customs. Decks with an Irish setting are also particularly appropriate.
Imbolc honors Irish goddess Brighid (also Brigid, Brigit, Brigantia, etc.), the goddess of poetry, smithcraft and crafts, and of healing. She is also the goddess of fire: the flame she carries and protects is the fire of creativity. She is known as the goddess of fertility, and is said to lean over every cradle, thus bringing protection and good health to newborn children. Last but not least, she also embodies wisdom, especially when it is gained through inspiration.
To celebrate Imbolc, this special spread calls on the energies brought by Brighid in order to reveal what they bring to the querent. To do so, it is shaped as Brighid's Cross, which is one of the main symbols used at this time of the year. Usually made of straw, Brighid's Cross is traditionally crafted at the time of the sabbat and included in the rituals and celebrations, thus inviting the goddess to bring her blessings, protection and healing energies to those who display this item. In this spread, each part of the Cross alludes to one of her several aspects. This allows a large overview of what she blesses the querent with at Imbolc.
This spread aims at giving the querent an overview of what Brighid brings to them at Imbolc, thus putting into light in what way she will help them in their personal evolution and in meeting success in their projects and aspirations.
After shuffling and cutting the deck, draw twenty-one cards and lay them as follows:
This spread can be divided into two main parts: the central knot and the four branches of the Cross. The reader starts with the nine cards in the center and continues with the branches, each one of them alluding to one of the main aspects of Brighid.
First part: the central knot
On three lines, cards 1 to 9 describe what is offered to the querent by the goddess at Imbolc and the kind of protection they get. Cards 1, 2 and 3 thus define the kind of energy Brighid gives them. Cards 4, 5 and 6 show the stability she will help them build. Cards 7, 8 and 9 underline the protection offered to them by the goddess and that will be with them throughout the phases put into light in the branches of the Cross.
Second part: the branches of the Cross
The four branches of the Cross show what is in movement within the querent or around them, what is awakening deep inside of them and stimulates them. The several aspects displayed here are related to four of the main characteristics of the goddess.
First branch — Brighid's Fire: cards 10, 11 and 12. These cards describe the creative energy that stimulates the querent. They reveal their potentials and show their chances to succeed in their projects.
Second branch — poetry and inspiration: cards 13, 14 and 15. These cards allude to poetry and inspiration. Consequently, this branch reveals the nature of the inspiration that stimulates the querent, as well as their capacity to use the language in a subtle way, their sense of eloquence and their ability to put their intentions into words. These cards not only show the nature of the inspiration, they also reveal how the querent can bring this inspiration to the tangible world by using their ability to shape ideas into words.
Third branch — wisdom: cards 16, 17 and 18. These cards show the wisdom the querent will need, and the wisdom Brighid will help them to gain. They can also show what they will learn throughout their personal evolution and the development of their projects.
Fourth branch — the forge: cards 19, 20 and 21. The cards in this branch reveal the decisions the querent will have to make and the actions they will have to take to get their projects to succeed. The forge is the area of crafts, where the querent will find the tools that will help them to build their projects and to bring them into being.
Though it is made of twenty-one cards, this spread is not difficult to read, for it is composed of several groups of three cards each. The most difficult part consists in finding connections between each part of the spread, but they usually appear naturally.
The cards are read by groups of three and no specific position is attributed to any of them. Thus, they can either be read together as if they were telling a story or were showing the evolution of a situation, or individually. If they are read individually, they are to be taken as a succession of pieces of advice or warnings. They will thus describe what the querent need to pay attention to if they want to be successful in their enterprises.
This spread can be done either with a tarot or with an oracle deck. However, given the references it develops, Celtic-themed decks will be perfect, especially if they depict gods and heroes. Decks with a Neo-Pagan approach are also appropriate, for they will probably contain Imbolc related illustrations and symbols. In the same way, decks presenting mythical creatures such as dragons and phoenix (or any other creature associated with this sabbat) will be great tools too! For instance, I recommend the wonderful « Celtic Dragon Tarot » by Lisa Hunt and D.J. Conway, for it displays dragons in the Celtic world, which is perfect for Imbolc!
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For Samhain/Halloween, one of the traditions consists in making a lantern in a pumpkin – or any other cucurbit – in which a scary face and smile are carved. This tradition comes from the Irish legend of Stingy Jack, which tells how this character was denied the access to both Heaven and Hell after cheating the Devil several times. As a matter of fact, God did not want to welcome such a crook in Heaven while the Devil was still upset with Jack, who had been a better liar than him. The Devil thus condemned Jack to endlessly roam the Earth at night with a piece of burning charcoal as hi only guide. So he would not burn his hands, Jack placed the charcoal in a big turnip, which he had first hollowed out.
Since then, scary faces and grins are carved on hollowed out pumpkins or gourds at Samhain and a candle is placed within those to make lanterns in order to frighten away evil spirits like Stingy Jack and other in case one comes across them.
This spread was inspired by this tradition and presents the Querent with the "evil spirits" they might come across at this time of the year. They can be their own fears, but also painful memories and the "monsters", the "demons" that are buried deep inside of them. Just like in the legend, the lantern protects the Querent from all these. It then gives an overview of what awaits the Querent once the "monsters" are vanquished.
After shuffling and cutting the deck, draw six cards and lay them as follows:
Card 1 shows the Querent as they are when the spread is done, that is to say during the night of Samhain. It represents how they are dealing with this very special time of the year.
Card 2 is the lantern. This object stands between the Querent and the roaming around monsters who could assail them during this special night. Just like the carved pumpkin does, this lantern protects the Querent from what is in front on them, that is to say his fears, old demons and painful memories which could crawl back to the surface and everything else that could bother them.
Cards 3, 4 and 5 depict what the Querent is protected from by the lantern. They are the monsters lurking in the dark, the Querent's fears, and what could assail them out of the blue. These cards are to be read separately (one after the other) when they describe several kinds of events or together if they show the evolution of the same situation. This is, of course, to be determined by the reader according to the cards that appear in the spread.
Card 6 is a sort of conclusion, an opening. It gives an overview of which path the Querent can take to keep on walking within the protection of the lantern's glow.
I designed this spread for the "Salon Fantastique 2014" (the Fantastic Fair), where visitors could try it out and enjoy it for the first time.
This spread is highly recommended at Samhain, but it can also be very useful beyond this very special season. For example, it can be used in order to get an idea of one's own fears and of the way one can find a protection from them and even overcome them.
This spread can be done either with a tarot or an oracle deck. The season – and the main theme – obviously invites the reader to use decks related to the very special Samhain/Halloween atmosphere. The "Halloween Tarot" by Karin Lee and Kipling West will just be perfect, as well as the gorgeous decks by Jasmine Becket-Griffith and Lucy Cavendish, like "Oracle of Shadows & Light", "Oracle of the Shapeshifters" and "Les Vampires"! Monica Knighton's "Tarot of the Dead" will also be a perfect choice, just like Joseph Vargo's "Gothic Tarot" or the "Halloween Oracle" (Blue Angel, 2014).
Any other deck will also do fine, as long as one likes the artwork and the way it presents the World. Considering the period, focusing on decks with an imagery related to fairy worlds and mythologies, especially if they develop a Celtic approach, is also very interesting.
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It's only recently that the sabbat corresponding to the autumn equinox was given the name of Mabon, son of Modron, who is a god belonging to Welsh mythology. Presented as the oldest man in the world, he is among other things the god of eternal youth and is associated with the sun gods known in other Celtic traditions.
According to the legend told in the Mabinogion, he is kidnapped from his mother Modron (who is an incarnation of the Mother Goddess) when he is only three nights old. Taken to a place nobody knows about, no one knows anything about his abduction, not even whether he is dead or alive. In the tale telling the story of Culhwch's quest to win his beloved Olwen, Culhwch engages in a series of trials. Each one of them enables him to succeed in the next one. One of these trials consists in finding Mabon. Culhwch has to release him from his prison but before he can do that, he first has to find information that will reveal to him where Mabon is held captive. In this quest, King Arthur offers his help to Culhwch and takes his knights with him. Culhwch and his companions investigate by questioning several animals, but none of them knows where Mabon is nor whether he is dead or alive. Each creature directs them to an animal that is older than them and who might have heard something that could help them. As a matter of fact, Mabon is the oldest man on earth for he was there before anybody else. As the story goes on, the only animal who may know what happened to him is the Salmon of Llyn Llyw, who happens to be the oldest animal on earth. The companions find him and he leads them to the prison where Mabon is held, which is identified as Gloucester. At the foot of the prison, Culhwch and his fellows hear lamentations. When they ask who is crying so hard, Mabon names himself. The companions engage a fight and release him.
Symbolically, Mabon was born twice: the first time from his mother Modron, and the second time with his release by Culhwch. Though he is a god, he helps the humans with whom he has peaceful relationships. He thus belongs to both worlds (divine and human), which reflects what happens at the autumn equinox for which he recently became a symbol. Representing light, Mabon is indeed kidnapped and held captive in a prison underground, that is to say in the darkness. Here as well as at the equinox, darkness is victorious over light.
During his long detention, Mabon is held in a prison underground and thus in the dark, in which he is forced to live and which he has to accept. This introspective spread was designed especially for the autumn equinox and invites the Querent to explore his own part of darkness so as to release himself from the prison built by his fear of it.
After shuffling and cutting the deck, draw eleven cards and lay them out as follows:
Reading and interpretation
Card 1 represents the Querent in his prison and the way he deals with his own darkness. This card alludes to Mabon as he is imprisoned in Gloucester and to the obscurity that surrounds him during his long captivity.
Cards 2, 3 and 4 are the top of the tower that holds Mabon prisoner. They show what prevents the Querent from finding a balance between light and darkness and the reasons why he is afraid of his dark side.
Cards 5 and 6 are the first wall of the tower. They enlighten the difficulties that will be encountered by the Querent during his introspection.
Cards 7 and 8 build the second wall. They picture what will help the Querent in his introspection and the personal resources in which he will find what it takes to accept his dark side and be at peace with it.
Cards 9, 10 and 11 are the prison's floor. They show how the Querent can be at peace with his own darkness and balance shadow and light within himself. They describe what he will gain from his introspection. Card 9 gives some advice about how the Querent can achieve this. Card 10 is what grounds him in both his bright and dark sides. The card shows what he can hold on to in order to preserve this fragile balance. Card 11 takes card 10 further by picturing what he will gain in this and insists on the strengths which will develop inside of him as a consequence. It is a kind of opening and can be a synthesis.
This spread is shaped as a crenelated tower to refer to the prison in which Mabon is held in captivity. In terms of structure, it is important to note that the Querent has a central position, between the walls of the tower in order to show what makes him feel prisoner of his dark side, which he has not "tamed" yet. The roof is what prevents him from seeing the daylight, but also what triggers his introspection since being deprived of light, he has no other choice that to face it. The two walls are on the one hand what holds him back and on the other hand what releases him. The ground depicts quite logically what makes it possible for the Querent to find a balance by finding a sort of milestone that will help him grounding.
The main elements of the legend and the symbolism behind it are used in order to insist on the perfect balance between light and darkness which the Querent can achieve within himself in the same way as day and night are the same length at the autumn equinox. By searching for peace with his dark side at this time of the year, the Querent is reenacting a myth on a personal level, in accordance with the cycles of Nature.
Which decks for this spread?
This spread can be done with any tarot or oracle deck. However, considering the nature of the inspiration here, the most interesting decks to use are those with a Celtic orientation. Those who want to remain very close to Welsh mythology in general and to the Mabinogion in particular will be delighted with Anna-Marie Ferguson's, Llewellyn Tarot, for this gorgeous deck explores those legends in a very interesting way. The Arthurian legend, which includes the Mabinogion, is also remarkably illustrated in another amazing tarot deck by Anna-Marie Ferguson called Legend: the Arthurian Tarot.
Those recommendations are, of course, no barriers. They are here only to help you take all the benefits you can from this spread as well as of the sabbat by using Tools that fit the moment in a very accurate way. This spread can be done with any deck as long as the Querent likes it. However, try as much as possible to use decks which favor introspection and self-exploration.
Lire cet article en français.
Despite its many treasures, Mabon remains for many a not very well known festival. With this spread, my wish is to draw attention on one very often left aside aspect of this sabbat though it is one of the most interesting of this festival. Mabon is the autumn equinox and marks the beginning of the dark half of the year, which endures until Ostara. At the equinox, day and night are equal and nature is getting ready to face the domination of darkness over light since from this day on nights get longer than days. This time of the year is thus favorable to meditation and introspection: as we explore our hidden aspects, we honor the darkness. We thus choose to go deep within and become fully aware of the part pf darkness we all have inside. This can be frightening for some, because the idea of being face to face with our darkest part is never easy. However, this is a very enlightening exercise which leads to a better understanding of who we are.
This tradition is used in different kinds of mythologies. The probably most famous legend about this belongs to Greek mythology and tells the tale of Persephone, daughter of earth goddess Demeter is abducted by Hades and taken to his realm underground to become his queen. Being a very beautiful Young maid, Persephone is coveted by Hades, king of hell. While she is picking up daffodils, he takes the opportunity and abducts her, taking her by force to his realm underground, planning to make her his wife. Devastated by sorrow, Demeter refuses to make the earth fertile again, which leads to a lack of fruit. Worried about the harvests to come, Zeus decides to send Hermes to Hades to propose a bargain aiming at freeing Persephone. However, since the Young maid has eaten pomegranate seeds during her stay, she now belongs in the underworld. Hades nonetheless accepts the bargain but allows his wife to go back to the surface (and thus to the light) only for six months. At the end of this period, she has to go down to him again. The bargain agreed, Persephone accepts her role as queen of Hades. Each year at the autumn equinox she goes underground to be with her husband and comes back to the surface again at each spring equinox. That is how the main two seasons of the year are created: from the spring equinox to the autumn equinox, days are longer than nights (summer), while from the autumn equinox to the spring equinox the nights are longer than the days (winter).
This special spread is inspired from Persephone's journey underground and aims at helping the Querent to deal with his own darkness and to accept it as a full part of himself. The main events of the legend are represented and their symbolic meaning corresponds to the positions of the cards in the layout.
How to proceed
After shuffling and cutting your deck, take thirteen cards which and spread them as follows:
Reading and interpretation
Cards 1, 2 and 3 represent Persephone and the narcissuses she is innocently picking up, unaware of the fact that she is on the verge of being abducted by Hades. They show what the Querent refuses to see and what makes him carefree. Card 1 shows the Querent as he is when he decides to use this spread, with everything he is, including every part of himself he does not want to be confronted with, consciously or not. On the left, card 2 indicates why he is afraid to look at this aspect of his own personality. On the right, card 3 reveals the kind of difficulties he is confronted with when trying to deal with the obscurity he holds inside.
Cards 4 and 5 refer to Persephone's descending in Hades' subterranean realm. They reflect what triggers the Querent's introspection and what draws him to his own darkness. Card 4 is the reason why he decides to go deep in his deeper dark self and card 5 is what he expects to find during this journey. This card can express what he worries about in this process, what motivates him or what he would like to find.
Cards 6 and 7 depict Persephone's stay in the underworld. They are the heart of the Querent's introspection and show what he will find deep within himself. These two cards are to be read together for they show the most prominent aspect of his dark side and the energies in presence at the time of the reading. Card 6 thus reveals what the Querent finds at the heart of his own darkness and card 7 opens his eyes on the consequences of not learning to deal with it and refusing to accept it as a full part of himself.
Cards 8 and 9 show Persephone's ascension as she is on her way to the surface. They depict the solutions that can be found by the Querent and the possibilities offered to him to help him deal with his darkness and restore peace and confidence in his relationship with this aspect of himself. Each card presents the Querent with precious advice and shows him the way.
Cards 10, 11 and 12 represent Persephone, who is now queen of darkness, reaching the surface of the earth. They put into light what the Querent has "gained" thanks to his introspection as well as how he will assimilate his dark side by following the advice provided throughout the spread. These three cards show how the light comes back again at the end of the winter, that is to say at the spring equinox also known as Ostara. While cards 1, 2 and 3 depicted the Querent at Mabon, these present him the way he will be at Ostara when winter ends. They are a summary of what the dark season will bring for the Querent. Card 10 is thus the Querent as he will be at the end of his journey within himself. On the left, card 11 reveals what the Querent will have gained, the way he will have managed to "tame" the dark aspects of himself put into light during the analysis of the spread. On the right, card 12 is an opening on something the Querent will still have to be working on in order to find the right balance between his bright and dark sides. It can also be a warning which he will have to keep in mind if he wants to achieve his goal.
Card 13 symbolizes the pomegranate seeds eaten by Persephone during her stay in Hades' realm. It thus shows what the Querent takes and keeps with him from his inner journey. It shows in what way the Querent's dark side is necessarily connected with his identity and is a full part of it that cannot be ignored. This card reflects how he is continually connected with his own darkness. It shows the way to follow and is a conclusion to the spread.
This spread has been designed especially for Mabon and is to be done at this time. However, those who want to remain faithful to the legend of Persephone can do it at the full moon that is the closest to the autumn equinox, for it is at this time that Demeter's daughter is said to have been abducted by Hades.
The way the cards are spread pictures Persephone's descent and her stay in the underworld. Cards 1, 2 and 3, as well as cards 10, 11 and 12 stand on the surface and show the Querent respectively before and after his journey within himself. Cards 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 are the evolution of the Querent in his own darkness. They reflect his introspection. Card 13 stands in between. Being at the same time part of the world of light and part of the world of darkness, it belongs to both worlds and connects them. It is thus a synthesis showing how the Querent finally finds his own balance by managing to handle both his bright and his dark sides.
Considering the duration of Persephone's stay in Hades' realm, this layout spreads over a period of six months, from one equinox to the other. It enables the Querent to see his own journey throughout the dark half of the year and to get a hint of how the domination of night over day will help him accept his own darkness.
Which decks for this spread?
Any tarot or oracle deck can be used with this spread. While the "classics" will of course do a great job here, one may want to use a deck especially designed for self-exploration and introspection for it will bring a very interesting point of view, which will be particularly accurate for Mabon. For instance, "Madame Endora's Fortune Cards", "Chrysalis Tarot", "Oracle of the Shapeshifters", "Oracle of Shadows and Light", "The Fairy Tale Tarot" (Lisa Hunt), "Psycards" and many more will be perfect!
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