Imbolc – Festival of Brighid

Brighid:  Beloved Goddess of Imbolc

The Goddess, Brighid

The Goddess, Brighid

Great Lady, Exalted One

King Maker, Bright Arrow

We call on you;

Brighid of the Eternal Flame

Brighid of the Sacred SpringsBrighi

Mistress of poets, healers & Smiths

We invite you to our circle;

Enter and give us your blessing

 

 

Brighid was a much loved and primary Goddess of the Celtic people.  She has been known by many names depending on where you were located and the time period you were in.  Her festival, Imbolc, is held each year on February 1st or 2nd and is seen as welcoming the first vestiges of Spring.  She is known by many names including Bright Arrow, The High One, The Bright One, Lady of the Sacred Flame & Healing Waters and Brighid of the Green Mantle.

She is a triple goddess and many pictures of her depict those aspects as the Goddess of Poetry (inspiration, learning, divination), Healing (medicine, herb crafts and midwifery) and Smithcraft.  These three aspects are all united by the element of fire and thus she is known as a fire goddess and is often pictured carrying a sacred cauldron.   Her story even predates Celtic times going back as far as 2000 to 3000 BCE.

 

In Celtic myths, she is one of the Tuatha de Danaan and daughter of Dagda, “Father of All” and “Lord of Great Knowledge”.  She was married to Bres and they had a son, Ruadan, who was killed by the Goldsmith, Govannon.  At the death of her son, she is said to have invented “keening”, which is the mournful cry of a bereaved Irish woman.  The Banshees who wail for the deaths of men are said to embody part of Brighid’s soul.

 

Legend has it she was born at dawn, that in-between time of night and morning, so beloved by the Celts, near the waters of a magic well.  She was said to have slipped into the world and the waiting hands of nine sisters who swayed and crooned in a great circle around her.  The water of the magic well bubbled its joy.  A column of fire rose out of her head to the sky.  It is said that she reached up with both hands and pulled some of the fire from her crown and dropped in onto the ground, where it formed a hearth for her house.  From out that hearth fire she pulled a flame and swallowed it, where it went straight to her heart.  Thus, she is pictured with fire at her head, heart, hands and feet.

 

From the fire of her hands comes the craft of smithing.  From the fire of the hearth and water from her magic wells come her healing teas.  From the fire of her head come the gifts of inspiration, divination and poetry.  From the fire of her heart comes the gift of compassion.

 

When all of the medicinal plants of the earth were gathered into her house, Brighid would make healing teas with their leaves, flowers, barks and roots, along with the water from her magic wells.  Soon the people wanted her recipes but they couldn’t remember which plants to use for which tea; where to gather the plants and how long to steep them.  To assist her people, Brighid then invented the Ogham so that they could write down her recipes and the stories of her wisdom.

 

One story of her healing power was that of two men who were afflicted with terrible leprosy.  They came to Brighid seeking a cure for their disease.  Brighid told one of the men to bathe himself in her well and wherever the healing water touched him, he was healed.  Soon he was completely whole.

 

“Now, bathe your friend”, stated the Goddess.

 

The man looked at his friend and was so repulsed by the disease that he exclaimed,

“I cannot touch him”.

 

“Then you are not truly healed,” replied the Goddess.  So she gave the first man back his leprosy and healed the second man.  “Return to me with compassion,” she said to the first man.  “Therein you will find your healing.”

 

Her sacred number is 19 (the Celtic Great year…….the number of years it takes for the new moon to coincide with the Sun’s winter solstice) and there was an eternal sacred fire built in her shrine in Kildare, Ireland.  19 Priestesses tended the fire, in turn, through a 20 day rotation and on the 20th day of the cycle, it is said that the fire was tended by Brighid, herself.

 

So strong was the love of the Celtic people for their Goddess, that even when Christianity came to Ireland, her worship could not be snuffed out.  Since they could not stop her worship, she was made into a Christian saint and she was made the Patroness of poetry, healing and smithcraft.  She was said to have been baptized by St. Patrick himself, and then went on to become a nun and established a nunnery at Kildare, on the site of her former shrine.  In Brighid’s Abbey, the nuns continued the practice of watching the eternal flame.  This went on until in 1220, when Archbishop Henry of Dublin decreed that the flame was an affront to Christianity and a pagan atrocity and ordered it extinguished.  The flame has since been restored and is again loving tended in her honour.  Today, you can join a Brigitine Order of Flame Keepers to help keep this tradition alive.  You will find their website at www.ordbrighideach.org .

 

To learn more about this most beloved of Goddesses, you might wish to read:

 

The Storyteller’s Goddess by Carolyn McVickar Edwards

Magick of the Gods & Goddesses, by D. J. Conway

The New Book of Goddesses and Heroines, by Patricia Monaghan

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