Imbolc already? Holy smoke!...which is appropiate as this is the feast of Brigit, Goddess of the flame. And where there's smoke...
In prior February blogs, I talked about the Brigit's cross, the Candlemas rituals, the coming of the ewes into milk. Blah blah blah (or baah, baah, baah. Ewes? Sheep? Never mind.) But this time, I just want to focus of the lady of the hour, Brigit herself. To that end, I found a wonderful posting at www.shamarbriyth.com, under Paganism, which captured all the things I wanted to discuss. Here, then, is what they had to say:
born 451 AD - died 525 AD
Brigit is a goddess who survived the onslaught of catholic Christopaganism. She wasn't turned into a devil like so many other goddesses. So great was the love of the Irish Celtic people for this deity, that they retained all her characteristics as a pagan-catholic saint! They would not have had anything to do with catholicism (pagan christianity) if they couldn't keep Brigit. So the catholic church had no choice but to make her a nun and a saint. She is a triple goddess. This triple aspect of the goddess is where catholics got the idea of exploiting the Trinity concept. The three-leaf shamrock was originally of "The Three Mothers", as well as the three phases of the moon being her symbols. She shares some attributes with the ancient Greek triple goddess Hecate.
There is a Swedish St Bridget also. Brigit's fame has been far and wide. Even as far as Africa, having come to Haiti in the hearts of deported Irish and Scottish indentured servants. However she went through a radical transformation, and her distant relative Maman Brigitte bears little resemblance, being rather a goddess of vengence. She, did, however, retain the healing aspects, being called on to cure those at death's door.
Brigit is known by various names, Brigit being the most ancient form. The name variations are: Brighid, Bride (Scottish), Brid, Brigit, Bridget, Brigantia (English), Brigan, Brigindo (Gaul) and Brigandu. Her name derives from her worship by the pre-christian Brigantes, who honored her as identical with Juno, Queen of Heaven. Into the 18th Century, her sacred flame was tended, at first, by priestesses, who later became catholic nuns, when the pagan shrine became a convent, at Kildare, Ireland. These nineteen virgin priestesses (called nuns by the catholic church) were called 'Daughters of the Flame'. No man was ever allowed near. In fact, these women had other women in the village bring them their necessary supplies so they wouldn't have to deal with men. This no-men policy infuriated the catholic church. Because they would not submit themselves to inspection by a priest, the bishop ordered the sacred flame to be extinguished. Even so, Brigit remained Ireland's most popular saints, and in 1993, the Brigidine sisters of Ireland rekindled her flame at Kildare.
Brigit's triple aspects are of Inspiration, Smithcraft, and of Healing.
As the Godess of Inspiration, she blesses poetry, creativity, prophecy and the arts. She was even esteemed as the patron diety of language, having inspired the alphabet.
As the Goddess of Smithcraft, she blesses blacksmiths, goldsmiths, and other crafters of the household.
As Goddess of Healing, she blesses physical and spiritual healing, fertility of crop and livestock and mid-wifery.Imbolc (Candlemass and Groundhog Day), the Celtic spring festival, honors Brigit. The Druids called this sacred holiday Oimelc, meaning "ewe's milk". Held on February 1st or 2nd, it celebrated the birthing and freshening of sheep and goats. The catholic version of Imbolc (Candlemas), also, involves much elaborate rituals and feasting, and to this very day, many Irish homes have a St Brigit's cross for protection, still made from rushes as in days of old.
Here are pictures of Bridget's well as it looks today.
Yeah, nothing Pagan about this. There is a cathedral as well as a center in Kildare. This is the center's logo:
And this is the Saint Bridget's window in the cathedral:
I've realized, over the past few years when mobility became a challenge, that you needn't do anything elaborate to honor this Goddess turned Saint. Have a glass of milk. Hang a Brigit's cross on your door ( it also protects against fires in the home). Light a candle and think about life stirring under the snow. Breath in the flame. Take into yourself Inspiration, Courage, and Healing. Celebrate the turning of the year, also symbolized by a simple pinwheel of rushes.
Good Imbolc, one and all.