Fire of the hearth that
nourishes and heals.
Fire in the head that
incites and inspires.
~ The Three-Fold Fire of Brighid, Ord Brighideach
Continuing the discussion of Brigid begun last week, even after the Roman Catholic Church banned all Pagan ways, She was so firmly and permanently beloved, She was absorbed into Christianity as a saint. Beloved to millions, She has been called the Mother Goddess of Ireland.
The woman identified as St. Brigid built her Abbey around 480 C.E., on a hill beside a great oak tree. This had been an important gathering place and sacred pilgrimage site since far more ancient times, and it was named from the Gaelic term Cill Dara, which means the Cell or Church of the Oak, pointing to its importance in Druid practice. We now know it as Kildare.
Long before Her adaptation as a Christian saint, possibly even pre-dating the Celtic civilization, there had been a great cult that surrounded this Sun Goddess with various spellings including Bride (pronounced “breed” or “breej”), Brigit, or Brighid.
Brigid (both Saint and Goddess) presides over healing, inspiration, poetry, and smithcraft. She is provider of plenty, giver of life and is also identified with nurturing, childbirth, fertility and fire.
In addition to Her fiery blessings, wells and many rivers and streams are sacred to Brigid, for they are doorways to the Underworld and the womb of our Mother, the source of all life. You can also see Her embodied in the bright stars of the constellation we call Orion.
For millennia at Her temple at Kildare, Brigid’s priestesses, and later, the nuns of Her order, tended an eternal flame in Her honor. Although it was extinguished during the Burning Times (the Inquisition) for being too Pagan, Sister Mary Minehan boldly re-lit St. Brigid’s flame on Her feast day in 1993.
It was lit again for the day in 1997, in the square at Kildare by Ragny Skaisten, a member of the Norwegian Brigidine Sisters.
Each year thereafter on Brigid’s Feast Day, despite reluctance from the Pope, the Brigidine Sisters in Kildare continued to light Her flame in the town square for the day.
For then, the Wheel turned yet again. That year, in Kildare, on St. Brigid’s day, with much ceremony and celebration, including the dedication of a specially commissioned sculpture housing it, Her eternal flame was lit once more, by the president of Ireland, Mary McAleese.
And there it burns to this day.
The local news reports described the sculpture as “a twisted column, which flourishes at the top into large-scale oak leaves, nestled into which there is a bronze acorn cup holding the flame. The use of oak leaves symbolises both the Christian beliefs of St. Brigid and the earlier Druidic worship of the trees.”
Brigid presides over all transformations: birth and brewing, metal-smithing and poetry, and the passage from Winter to Spring. Her name may be derived from Gaelic “breo aigit” meaning “fiery arrow.” Her name is noticeably similar to the Sanskrit derivation “Brahti” which means “exalted one.”
The gifts of Brigid transcend spiritual path and culture. Brigid inspires us to become more than we have ever been – to reach for the greatest potential that exists in each of us. Her Flame is given to us for inspiration. It lights the path from our dark Winter to the promise of Spring.
It illuminates us to see and know our ancient, true history. Hers is the purifying fire that heals our wounds, forges new strength, and weaves creativity and art into our lives.
May Brigid the Shining One bless you with Her hope and power. May the waters of healing in your life flow freely and clearly; may the Light illuminate your path. May we, with our lives, ensure that Her holy fire burns forever more. Blessed be.