Friday, 13 October 2017

Novena for the Fallen Through ~ our ninth prayer for the people of Grenfell

Here is the ninth, and so the last, of our Novenas for the Fallen Through, which for this month are devoted to Brigid and to seeking justice and healing for the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire. If you would like to read more about this work please pop and have a look here.

Today we weave a prayer of return and of coming home.

I have written before about Brigid’s triple fires; of poetry (inspiration), smithcraft (the forge of transformation), and of the fire which we will light in our prayer today; that of hearth and home.

The hearth is at the centre of all human activity, or once was, and I have written before about our loss of connection to Fire. Scottish writer and poet, William Sharp (1855 - 1905) wrote of Brigid that she is the one, “whom the druids hold in honour as a torchbearer of the eternal light, a Daughter of the Morning, who held sunrise in one hand as a little yellow flame, and in the other held the red flower of fire without which man would be as the beasts who live in caves and holes..” It is fire which in so many ways makes us human and Brigid is at the centre of that fire.

On her feast day of Imbolc/Candlemas, which falls on February 1st, several traditional crafts dedicated to Brigid are undertaken. On Imbolc eve families would have a special supper, setting some food aside to be offered to Brigid. She would then be symbolically invited into the house and a bed would be made for her. This was a small basket, often woven from gathered rushes, which would be made comfortable and the previous year’s ‘Bridie doll’ or corn dolly placed in it, often dressed in white and decorated with ribbons. It would then be placed by the fire. Brigid’s crosses might also be made, again from rushes, and then hung in the home, over doors, windows, and stables, to protect it from fire and lightning. Before going to bed, people would leave items of clothing or pieces of cloth for Brigid to bless as she went by. The ashes of the fire would then be raked smooth and, in the morning, were carefully examined for signs that Bride had come in. The cloth would then be brought inside and used for protection and healing throughout the coming year.

I will sain and smoor the hearth
As Brigid would sain and smoor.
The encompassment of Brigid
on the fire and on the floor,
and on the household all.

Who is on the land around us?
Brigid and her daughters.
The fire in the poet’s head.
The tongue of truth aflame.
Grandmother spirits watching the hearth,
till white day comes to the fire. (1)

To attend the hearthfire throughout the year was a sacred task, most often performed by the ‘bean a tighe’ (the ‘woman of the house’), who would kindle the fire each day, and then smoor the fire, banking it down each night to be rekindled in the morning, and all with prayers and blessings. Both family and community were considered extensions of the hearth; the centre of everything was the home, and in the centre of the home, the fire, and in the centre of the fire, Brigid. This is true relationship with fire. I have often wondered in the months since the Grenfell fire how our loss of that relationship might have contributed to it becoming such a force of destruction, rather than a friend to warm the heart of our lives and families. Even so, even in the case of Grenfell, the fire, like Brigid’s, has most certainly brought transformation and revealed much that was hidden.

(Brigid by Jo Jayson ~

And ‘home’ is such a rich and deep word.

It is a noun:
  • a house, or other shelter, which is the usual residence of a person, family, or household.
  • the place in which one’s domestic affections are centred.
  • the dwelling place or retreat of an animal.
  • a person’s native place or home country.

An adjective:
  • of, or relating to, one’s home or country; domestic, ie: domestic GDP.
  • reaching the mark aimed at; a home thrust.

An adverb:
  • to, toward, or at, home.
  • deep, to the heart, ie: “she drove the point home.”

And a verb:
  • homed, homing: to go or return home.
  • to have a home. (2)

Such worlds held within these meanings, such longing, so many fierce battles for land and ownership, so much pain, and so much comfort and belonging. And in the sound of the words on the lips, and their meaning in the heart, Brigid.

Many victims of the Grenfell fire had chosen, or been forced by circumstances to leave their ‘native place’ and make a home on our soil, which can never be easy. Still others were born here, knew this place as their only home, learned what it means to welcome, or struggled with welcome as humans sometimes do. I am sure that some had lived in the tower since it was built in 1974. It was the place where many people’s ‘domestic affections’ were centred. Nevertheless, concerns had been raised by residents for many years about the risk of fire within the building. I know from personal experience how it feels to lie every night in a place that feels vulnerable to fire, and not to dare speak for fear of being made homeless. That is not an environment in which it’s easy to feel at home and yet, for the people of Grenfell, it feels that the sense of community made it so.

On the night of the fire Steve Power, who lived on the 14th floor, refused to leave his two bull terriers, 21 year old, Yasin El Wahabi, is said to have run inside hoping to help his family. Neither survived. Many are reported to have stayed and died with the people they loved, rather than get to safety alone, and many were making phone calls to their families, telling them that they loved them, saying goodbye, as smoke came under their doors. Because ‘home’ is about more than walls and windows and doors; it is held deep, in the heart.

On the night of the fire many of the survivors lost everything that they owned and have been forced to start again. Most still remain in emergency accommodation. In September, Communities Secretary, Savid Javid, said that 196 families from Grenfell Tower and Grenfell Walk are still waiting for a new home. Some have accepted offers of temporary accommodation and others, not wishing to face the upheaval of moving twice, are waiting for a permanent home to become available. There are fears that many will be rehoused miles from their community and support system.

Novena for the Fallen Through ~

Justice, healing, and wholeness for the people of Grenfell, and for us all.

This prayer begins with Fire.

Blessed Brigid,
Holy Woman,
Saint and Goddess,
Mother of Fire.

Brigid of the mantles,
Brigid of the peat heap,
Brigid of the twining hair,
Mary of the Gaels.

Brigid, Sacred Centre of Hearth and Heart,
we ask for a blessing on all our homes,
whatever ‘home’ might mean to each one of us.
We ask for those without a home,
or who have no sense of what a home is,
to find one and to settle with gentle ease,
for those who have found their dwelling place
to be held safely and securely,
to know home as a sanctuary and a place of peace.

We think of all those who are seeking home in lands not their own,
all who have been cast upon the sea, or make journeys across land,
hoping to find a safe resting place.
May they be protected, filled with hope,
and may that hope act as a beacon to draw them ever closer to refuge.

And may all who have settled on our shores find that this too
can be a home for them and for their families.

Blessed Brigid,
Holy Woman,
Saint and Goddess,
Mother of Fire.

Brigid of the mantles,
Brigid of the peat heap,
Brigid of the twining hair,
Mary of the Gaels.

We ask that all homes should be places of shelter,
warmed by your flame, by the memory of ancient peat fires,
of pots stirred and meals eaten, of love made, and laughter shared,
places were loneliness is softened, and prayers are woven,
and where we have the serenity and time to learn
that home means more than walls and a door.

We honour the memory of all the homes that were lost
to the Grenfell fire,
and we honour the people, the pets, the community,
and the place, that made them so.

In our prayer we remember the non-human people;
the cats and dogs, the birds and fish, the mice and hamsters,
rats, gerbils, and rabbits, who made Grenfell Tower a home
and who were lost to the fire.
And we remember the other beings; spiders, and rodents, green beings,
nesting birds, and others, who had made the Tower their home.
We ask for blessings for their journeys.

Blessed Brigid,
Holy Woman,
Saint and Goddess,
Mother of Fire.

Brigid of the mantles,
Brigid of the peat heap,
Brigid of the twining hair,
Mary of the Gaels.

We ask that all those made homeless by the Grenfell fire
are soon rehoused in places that can become a home again,
that they are offered choice and given power in the process,
and that they are given all the support they need to settle
where they can rest, and grieve, and heal, and rebuild all that was lost.

And may the remains of the Grenfell Tower, which was once a home to many,
be given the honour that their community would wish,
allowing the people a say in what unfolds in that place,
so that what was burned to ashes, blackened against blue sky,
becomes a prayer to what was mended, not to what was lost.

We ask this in memory of Mohammed Neda, Ali Yawar Jafari,
Karen Bernard, Lucas James, Rania Ibrahim and her daughters,
Fathia and Hania, Stefan Anthony Mills, Ligaya Moore.

We ask this in memory of Zainab Dean and her son, Jeremiah,
Khadija Saye and her mother, Mary Mendy, Gary Maunders,
Mohammad Alhajali, Hesham Rahman, Tony Disson, Sheila Smith.

We ask this in memory of Mariem Elgwahry and her mother, Suhar,
Jessica Urbano Ramirez, Deborah Lamprell, Steve Power,
Dennis Murphy, Amal Ahmedin and Amaya Tuccu, Isaac Paulos.

We ask this in memory of Marco Gottardi, and Gloria Trevisan,
Mohammed Nurdu, Fouzia el-Wahabi, her husband, Abdul Aziz,
Nur Huda and Mehdi, Yasin.

We ask this in memory of Nadia Loureda, Maria Del Pilar Burton,
Berkti Haftom and her son, Biruk, Nura Jamal, her husband, Hashim,
their children, Yahya, Firdaws, Yaqub, Kamru Miah.

We ask this in memory of Fatima Afrasehabi, her sister, Sakina,
Nadia Choucair, her husband, Baseem Choukair,
their children, Mierna, Fatima, Zainab,
their grandmother, Sirria, Raymond Bernard.

We ask this in memory of Majorie Vital and her son, Ernie,
Joseph Daniels, Logan Gomes, Khadija Khalloufi, Abdeslam Sebbar,
Fathia Ahmed and her son, Abufars Ibrahim. Of Omar Belkadi,
Farah Hamdan, Malak, Leena, and Tamzin who lived.
Of Mohamednur Tuccu, Husna and Rebaya Begum,
Mohammed Hanif, Mohammed Hamid, Vincent Chiejina, Hamid Kani,
a ‘woman’ unnamed, all the unnamed, the disappeared.

Goddess and Saint,
keening woman,
hearth tender,
sacred flame.

May all beings effected by the Grenfell fire,
whether living or dead, find peace,
and may none be held where they would not wish to be
by their names and faces being shared in the media,
online, by the demand for justice, or even by our prayers.
We ask that they be led home
and wish them open pathways.

Brigid, weaving woman, warp and weft,
we have offered prayers to the fires of
hope, respect, gratitude, inspiration,
welcome, truth, justice, and home,
and to the waters of healing.

We ask, with deep gratitude, that these prayers of fire burn brightly,
that these prayers of water flow sweetly,
as we let the threads go,
returning home to ourselves,
knowing that you have picked them up to be woven
into a beauty blanket for the people of Grenfell
and for us all.

Brigid, gold-red woman,
Brigid, flame and honeycomb,
Brigid, sun of womanhood,
Brigid, lead me home.

You are a branch in blossom,
You are a sheltering dome,
You are my bright, precious freedom,
Brigid, lead me home. (3)

This prayer ends with Fire. Let it be the Fire of Home.

For this we pray.

Aho mitake oyasin, amen, blessed be. Inshallah.

(Bride's Bed by The Mad Plaquer on Etsy ~


On Imbolc ~

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