Thursday, February 2, 2012

Happy Imbolc!

Brigit of the Fire

Gather round the hearth, my friends, for 'tis bitter cold outside. I will regale you with a story that has been passed down in my mother's family since the old ones gathered in a circle and lit the first bonfire or wove the first stalks of wheat.

In a hidden glen, in the east of Eire, the chosen came to tend a fire first lit long before they were born. They were young and old alike, married and single. And while the menfolk fought to defend the land from invaders, or hunted for food amid the frozen lakes and snowy woods, these women had a purpose as vital as their men.

They kept the power of fire constant. It was said that so long as the eternal flame burned bright, Ireland and her people would survive. It was a promise made to them by the goddess, Brigit of Fire. Without her flame, raw meat could not be cooked, and the village could fall prey to disease, the dark of night would not change to a harbinger of light and spring.

Around the home fire, the oral traditions of my people were alive and well, as the men told of their bravery in battle, or their journey, and songs were sung to honor the goddess of fire.

In time, this day, February 2, became known in Ireland as Brigit's Day and in Scotland as Bride's Day, (February 2 is also known as Candlemas or Imbolc). Dried sheaths of wheat and corn were woven into special crosses called Brigit's Cross. These would be made in honor of the goddess and hung in each house to ask Brigit for her protection from the cold, illness, and from hunger.

Brigit is a triple goddess, with three different aspects. She is patroness of poets and writers, a goddess of inspiration, learning, divination, witchcraft, and the arcane. She is also a goddess of smithcraft, and patroness for those who create any crafts. Her final aspect of is that of healer, as a goddess of healing, herbs, and medicine. She is also associated with animals and thermal springs.

Centuries later, another Brigit would keep the home fires burning. In Cill Dara, there lived a group of women, nuns they were. And they were lead by a woman who was wise beyond her years. She knew the old ways, and kept them despite pressure from the church. It was important for the people to keep the fires burning, and this new Brigit made sure they were always tended, lest their flame burn out and Ireland fall.

Today, she is honored as St. Brigit. Many believe she was the old goddess of fire born anew. But whatever you believe, she was a remarkable woman.

So on this day, when the snow coats the land and the wind howls with bitter force, know that the chosen still tend the fire for us all, and that the blessing of Brigit and of spring, await.
Faoi bhrat Bhride sinn!
May you be under Brigit's mantle!

1 comment:

Mary Kirkland said...

Thanks for sharing that.