As I said Imbolc is connected to Brigid…the Goddess & Saint. Brigid started her life with the Irish people as a Goddess & was later transformed into a Saint when Christianity came into Ireland & the people would not set her aside. The lines that separate the two are so fine it is hard to determine where one ends and the other begins. According to medieval historians, Christian monks took the ancient Mother Goddess and wove her tales into that of Saint Brigid. I saw this first hand when I visited her home in Kildare, Ireland last spring. It was pleasing to see that the Goddess Brigid had not been set aside, in fact her story as goddess as well as saint was present in the church as well as the home of the Brigidine Nuns. Brigid is connected to flame-that of the hearth as well as the smith, she is ever the blessed of the crafter, poet & magician. Brigids blessings are called upon at birth, she is benefactor of the poor, caretaker of the earth & connected to holy wells. The flame of Brigid was considered sacred and cared for in pre-christian times by 19 priestess’s. The flame burnt continually for hundreds of years, each of the 19 priestess’s took turns guarding the flame and on the 20th day Brigid herself kept her flame going. When Brigid was tranformed into Saint the stories of her kindness and miracles continued and so did the tending of her flame. Brigidine sisters/nuns took turns tending the flame of Brigid…each in turn for 19 days and on the 20th the flame was left for Brigid herself to tend. It is believed that the tradition was carried out until the 16th century when it was extinguished for Christian fear of its connection to a fire cult. In 1993 it’s flame was relit by Brigidine Nuns in Kildare. Since then it has been cared for in the fashion it was intended, with the 20th day being that of Brigids to watch over herself.
I have been a practicing pagan Celt for most of my adult life & have honored Brigid with fire and fed her my dreams at Imbolc for many years. My personal connection to Brigid however is much newer and carries an interesting tale. In the first year of my Druid training (2008) I was gifted with the flame of Brigid. My teacher Ivan McBeth had received the flame in a ceremony years prior when it had been brought from Ireland to England by Brigidine sisters. They carried the flame alight from their home in Kildare by ship to England. Upon sharing it with others they explained that once a candle has been lit with Brigid’s flame it can always be used to call upon her, you simply relight it and ask her to join you. This made it a lot easier for Ivan to bring it into the United States as you can imagine. Receiving this gift & its history was an honor. In the ceremony as we all awaited our time to light our candles and connect with Divine inspiration (the heart beat of the bard) in song. We sat around a fire chanting a simple song, holding space for the others as they approached the flame of Brigid and looked deep inside themselves for Awen (the spirit of creativity) & the blessings of Brigid.
CHANT TO BRIGID… Rise up oh Flame, by thy light glowing, show to me Beauty, Wisdom & Joy
Brigid entered my life in many ways during my bardic year of Druid training and has stayed on as a guide. I often use the time of Imbolc to journey with Brigid in search of what my life needs. This searching through journey work is what brought yoga into my life. In fact she pretty much told me plain and simple that I needed to do yoga. I seldom get glossy, poetic answers from the divine…short, simple and to the point seems to be the approach for me. *Now I know I have mentioned it before, and I will mention it again. God is god is goddess to me, it matters little how you get there or what you call it. * In my journey I was told I needed yoga in my life. Long story short, a few days later I was driving through town and saw that a yoga studio had opened. That was 4 years ago and I am still practicing Ashtanga Yoga, so I would have to say she was right…I did need yoga in my life. Along with her inspiration Brigid has also amazed me with the synchronicity of her nature. Last year when I went to Ireland I traveled to Kildare, it was among 3 of the planned ventures I had on the itinerary. I went to Ireland with an open plan of areas to explore but 3 things I knew I needed to do & visiting Brigid’s home in Kildare was one of them. We were staying on the west coast of Ireland in County Clare (where my mum’s people come from) & Kildare was across the country almost to the East coast so about 2.5 -3 hours by car. It was one of our planned day trips and well worth it. When we got to Kildare we did the touristy thing and headed to Saint Brigid’s Cathedral: walked the grounds, visited the ancient fire temple & went inside the cathedral. I was pleasantly surprised to see all of the information on Brigid the Goddess inside of the Cathedral as well as her history as a Saint. I was however disappointed to not find her flame. My husband and I walked around the town and were told at the historical center that the Brigidine Nuns tended the flame at their home Solas Bhride. The woman running the shop helped us to connect with the sisters of Solas Bhride and we were soon on our way for a visit. Before leaving she did tell us that Brigidine Nuns were not like traditional nuns and did not dress in the same fashion as the other nuns we had seen around the town.
Brigid’s Old Well
We visited Brigid’s well, both of them. The new one was beautiful with statuary and prayer stations. It had been built to make a more gentile place for visitors. The old well had little marking it, in fact if you didn’t know where you were going you would miss it. It was on the outside of a Japanese Garden, an enclosed center people can visit, like a fancy park that you pay admission to. I am sure the garden was lovely, but we didn’t come for that…we had come to be blessed with Brigid’s water. Wells throughout the Celtic lands are sacred things. They are springs that come to the surface, their water is sacred as it is said to connect both the world above with the world below. Many holy wells are known for their healing qualities and the blessings they bestow. To me they are indeed sacred. I see them as the life blood of the planet, the mana that carries the deep, powerful blessings of Gaia. Sitting at a sacred well is like sitting in church, or meditating deeply, it effects you, you just plain feel good near them. And they make me emotional in a good way. I found Brigid’s well especially so, for Brigid had shared so deeply of herself with me.
The Divine is alive and wheres so many faces so that we all might find comfort in connecting with God/Goddess. I invite you to take time over the next couple of nights and reach out for inspiration. May the year to come be filled with Awe…