Happy St. Brigid’s Day and Happy Imbolc.
Brigid’s day and Imbolc are celebrations of the ever-growing light and warmth that announces the coming Spring. The Celtic fire festival of Imbolc is traditionally held when the first signs of the earth waking can be seen, depending on your location, that could be later in the season than February first or second when it is universally celebrated. In Scotland and Ireland, snowdrops, a lovely white wildflower that heartily braves the snow to bloom, announce that Spring is generally coming by this date. (Twitter is filled today with photos of snowdrops blooming in Scotland.) Light is growing. Fertility in humans and animals and the plant kingdom is progressing—what a welcome change in what has been Wisconsin’s long winter.
Brigid, a pre-Christian Celtic goddess, is associated with light, knowledge, artisans and metalsmiths, bards, poets and music, healing, water and wells and rivers, motherhood and midwives, as well as fire. There’s little one can imagine as beautiful and good that Brigid isn’t associated with. She even watches over all children—animal and human—even the rascals. Perhaps that’s why she is so endearing and enduring. She’s a living spiritual force as tangible and accessible now as she was in early Irish pantheons or as the woman who lived as a contemporary and friend of St. Patrick, becoming a Catholic Saint after her death in 525 in Kildare, Ireland.
I like to picture her with flowing, flaming red-gold hair, lit with light from the sun; a protective Mother Earth figure for the light half of the Celtic year. I like that image. I’m ready to celebrate the creativity that Brigid inspires for women everywhere—a gentle beckoning for healing, light, and creativity in our everyday endeavors, whether that’s our work, our art, or merely the way we choose to live. I like the fact that in Scottish folklore, Brigid rules the light half of the year from the first buds peeping out of the snow until the Winter Queen chases her to Tir Na Nog (land of eternal youth) as the nights grow cold and long and the dark half of the year begins.
There isn’t a lot written on how pre-Christian people in Scotland and Ireland would ask for Blessings from Brigid or how they honored her. Sometimes food or small gifts would be brought to wells or rivers or other water sources and left as offerings. To this day, I still say a short prayer, often in the form of a wish, and toss a penny in a fountain. I’ve done this since I was a child—I’m guessing you have too. Was this taught as a hold-over from my Celtic ancestors? Coincidence? Who knows. Thinking that perhaps Brigid is watching over my children and me when I do it is enough. Cloth, sometimes a scrap or a scarf or a garment, is often left out as a blessing on the eve of St. Brigid’s day. She’s also credited with turning her bathwater into beer!
A perpetual flame burns at St. Brigid’s shrine in Kildare, Ireland.
St. Brigid’s Well, just outside Kildare, is also a sacred place.
Fire and water. Sun and earth. Human, animal, and plants (agriculture) healing and health. Brigid protects it all. What a woman! May we channel her and share all the beautiful gifts the light half of the year has to offer!
Here’s a Blessing called: Hearth Keeper Prayer posted by the Saint Brigid of Kildare Community (saintbrigids.org). Perfect for the day.
“Brigid of the Mantle encompass us, Lady of the Lambs, protect us, Keeper of the Hearth, kindle us. Beneath your mantle, gather us, And restore us to memory. Mothers of our mother, Foremothers strong. Guide our hands in yours, Remind us how to kindle the hearth. To keep it bright, to preserve the flame. Your hands upon ours, Our hands within yours, To kindle the light, Both day and night.
The Mantle of Brigid about us, The Memory of Brigid within us, The Protection of Brigid keeping us From harm, from ignorance, from heartlessness. This day and night, From dawn till dark, From dark till dawn.”
May Brigid Bless us All!