Friday, January 29, 2010

Brigid: Igniting the Inner Fire

Brigid, whose name means “fiery arrow”, was beloved of the Irish Celts, and survived Christian conversion by becoming a Catholic Saint who is still revered to this day.  For the ancient Irish, Brigid was the goddess of all things lofty and elevated, such as high rising flames, upland areas, wisdom, perfection, intelligence, creativity, poetic eloquence, blacksmithing, healing, mystical knowledge, and warfare.  She was the daughter of the Father god, the Dagda of the Tuatha Dé Danann.  Some stories suggest that her mother was The Morrigan, the dark goddess, and with her birth she brought light from the void.

She was considered a solar goddess, and stories of her birth recount her rising from the earth into the sky along with the rising sun with rays of light emanating from her head. With every step she took flowers sprouted and birds sang and soared in the air.  Though she was associated with the sun, it was not the physical sun she represented, but the healing energy associated with it.  Snakes are sacred to Brigid, symbolizing  regeneration and the rising of the kundalini energy that exists and rising within each of us when we are healthy and balanced.

The blackberry is sacred to Brigid, and serves to symbolize her strong protective nature with its defensive thorns, and arching, tangled canes, as well as her healing nature by providing nourishing berries and herbal healing remedies.

Throughout Ireland, one can find shrines built over or near natural springs where people go to pray and receive her healing energy through her sacred waters. 

Imbolc was a significant holiday associated with Brigid.  In the ancient times this was a time to acknowledge that spring was not so far away, despite the tight grip winter still had over the land.  For the ancient Gaels, this time of year was particularly harsh.  It was considered the dead month.  But, despite the harsh winds and icy rain that fell, signs of spring could be found.  Ewes began to lactate, Cows gave birth, Ravens started to build nests, and green buds started to appear on branches and poke through the dirt.

Imbolc was important because it fell on an in-between time, a very powerful and sacred time for the Celts.  Brigid, if properly respected, brought the warmth of the sun, the flame of spring, healed the dead-time, and brought words to the poet’s lips.  Her miraculous powers could change water into ale and stone into salt. With boundless generosity she fed birds, animals, and the poor, and they all loved her in return.

Rabbits and Hares were also ancient symbols of spring.  The hare was an emissary of the Otherworld and a symbol of the in-between time, which made Imbolc a such a sacred time.  It is also the time of year that the footprints of rabbits and hares can be seen in the snow, as they search out the tender green shoots to eat and court their mates.  The snowshoe hare, with its ability to change its coat through the seasons, symbolizes the creativity embodied by Brigid. 

In modern time, Brigid can teach us to look bravely into the darkness and bear witness to the growing light.  It is a time of renewal, of re-affirming those resolutions we took at the beginning of the year to better ourselves. Now is the time to understand that no matter how difficult and dark things may appear to be, it will pass, for in order for darkness to exist light must exist as well. 

She asks us to apply creativity to our lives, to live with passion and in accord with our spirit.  A life that is full of passion, creative and healthy is blessed and burns with Brigid’s fire.

Brigid’s fire is the spark of life.


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