Imbolc fire festival dragons lairColumns 

Barefoot on the Crooked Path: Dragon’s Fire

By Melinda McNutt, Seanchaidh

Time and weather had worn spaces in the old barn planks allowing light to pierce the abyss; half illuminating the mysteries held inside. Stones stacked upon each other, mortared together with ancient mud. Tools made from iron and wood hung about becoming shadow appendages. Leathery remains of wings suspended from the roof. Noses pressed into crevices brought the scent of fires long out, damp earth abandoned by time and DRAGONS! We’d abided by Gran’s warnings to steer clear of the place when we were younger. Older now and obviously “much wiser” we found our feet more often veering from the well-worn path to chores and responsibilities off to the less trodden trail to the old barn, The Dragon’s Lair! We pressed our faces against the boards cautiously lest we come away with scratch or sliver that would give away our secret violation.  

We cannot pinpoint how or when the myth was born, it was alive several generations before us. As it’s told, an ancestor committed an act of great kindness and won the favor of a Dragon! Dragon decided to stay and lend it’s fire to the forge. Somewhere in those dark depths there slumbered a massive snake – like beast that flew and breathed fire and we honored and protected it. It was Imbolc of my thirteenth year that I first journeyed into the Dragon’s Lair, became an Initiate of Danu and took my oath to Dragon.

Dressed in plain white, cotton gowns tied simply at the waist with a crimson cord knotted 3 then 6 then 9 times, single file to the Dragon’s Lair, candle in hand, bare feet crunching frozen dirt.  Many had joined us in the hours we spent bathing, purifying and braiding hair. Older sisters, aunts, mothers and grandmothers, lined our path, singing, swaying and laughing as we passed. Tables heavy with cakes, yogurts, cheeses, and braided breads were set.  Lavender floated on the top of a pitcher of fresh cream while custards glowed like the sun.

Turning towards the hill, the barn doors were wide open. The veil lifted and in an instant my eyes took in what my senses had only been able to guess at for so many years. The pile of stones once the Dragons belly became a forge hearth where Dragon Fire tempered metal. Tattered dragon wings became a disintegrating bellow. An anvil appeared in place of Dragon’s horned cowl resting in slumber. The shadow figures became Blacksmith tools.

The forge held remnants of Yule, wreaths, wrappings, greenery. We spoke diligently memorized words as the doors closed behind us.  Darkness blanketed us like Winter covering the seeds of Spring. We lit the forge from the flames of our candles. Imbolc Fire is purification and protection so we carried our candles into the darkness, where the mountain had absorbed the structure long ago creating a womb of earthy darkness. Strewn with offerings from those who came before us, we left our candles at the mouth of the chamber to return the length of the barn in near blackness, the seeds of hope reaching for the light.  

It took many years for that barn to decay and disappear. Even after the structure was gone, the entrance to “the Lair” remained for those who knew how to look. I still journey to that overgrown divot in the land as often as possible, especially at Imbolc, to honor the Dragon, the fire, and my oath. 

After the recent events in our area, many are struggling to accept or understand their current relationship with the element of Fire. As a fire festival dedicated to the goddess of the forge, fire, inspiration, and healing, Imbolc asks us to honor the fire of life that brings forth hope and new beginnings. Now is the time to savor the last of the quiet wild dark, you cannot remain buried there if you hope to thrive in the light. Now is a powerful time to honor the fire within us, the fire of passion and rebirth. Now is the time to honor your Dragon Fire.

Slán agus beannachtaí (goodbye and blessings).

Melinda McNutt (McNaughton) is an artist and owner of Wicked Goods, peculiar oddities for the hearth and self located within Air and Fire, A Mystical Bazaar in Boulder Creek.

Featured photo by Sam Harwood

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