Friday, February 01, 2013

Là Fhèill Brìghde

Brigid: Igniting the Fire
This time of year marks the transition period between the powers of the Cailleach, the Winter Queen, and Brìghde, the Summer Goddess.  

Today, where I sit, the Cailleach, Beira, The Great Queen of Winter, is curled away in her bed, asleep.  The snow is shoveling down in heaps from the grey-white sky and blanketing the land.  The Cailleach was busy the last few days, raising the winds, spitting rain and icy snow, and wore herself out in the process. According to Celtic tradition, if Là Fhèill Brìghde (February 1st) is the day the Cailleach wanders out to gather firewood for the remainder of winter.  If she intends to make winter last, she will make certain the weather on the 1st is clear and sunny, so that she can easily gather the wood.  However, if the weather is foul, as it is here today, it means the Cailleach is sleeping.  If she is sleeping, she will run out of firewood and winter will end earlier.  If I go by the view out my window, Spring will be arriving a bit earlier than usual in my part of the land.  

While some of us might look upon this mythic tradition as a quaint rationalization of the unpredictable qualities of nature. How might this story resonate with me, a human living on the earth today?  We are not as dependent on the conditions of the weather as people were centuries ago, so why would such a myth hold any meaning for me? I like to look deeper:

Nature moves in cycles, repeating patterns, and we humans are not exempt from this.  We may choose to ignore the cycles, but we are subject to them nonetheless.  At this time of year, we experience a transition from darkness into light, as the days begin to noticeably lengthen.  Nature responds by an  increase in activity.  Rabbit tracks can be seen in the snow, evidence of their foraging for tender green shoots just beginning to emerge from the frozen ground.  Ewes begin lactating and Cows give birth at this time. Ravens start building nests and buds begin to appear on tree branches.  For many people, this is a difficult time of year.  Seasonal Affective Disorder afflicts many people who physically feel the lack of light during the winter months, and this time of year is often the most difficult.  These people experience directly the battle between the Cailleach and Brìghde.  They must decide whether the dark power of the Cailleach, will be defeated by the rising light of Brìghde or not.  Many fight their battles with aids of special lights that mimic the sunlight.

For those of us that do not experience such a direct example of this ancient power struggle, we still can utilize this time of transition.  We can look bravely into the darkness around us and bear witness to the growing light.  We can look at this time as one of renewal and re-affirm those resolutions we made at the beginning of the year.  We can remind ourselves that any challenges we currently experience, no matter how difficult and dark they may be, will pass, for in order for darkness to exist, light must exist as well. Often, we face the hardest parts of a challenge just before we transcend it.  This is not the time to give up or give in.  

Brìghde, as the goddess of wisdom, intelligence, creativity, and light, offers us the skills to apply her qualities to our lives, to live with passion and in accord with our spirit and true nature.  Brìghde's fire is the spark of life.  Now is the time to ignite!

Happy Là Fhèill Brìghde, Imbolc, St. Brighid's, Mid-Winter....

PS: The image here is of my painting Brigid: Igniting the Fire (ink on canvas).  Prints and greeting cards are available here.

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