NB: If you’d like to see the recorded class/discussion from last night, please join The Way of the River Community Facebook Group. You can search “The Way of the River Community” in the upper left-hand corner of your Facebook page to find us. It’s a private group, so you’ll need to ask to be added, if you haven’t already. Joining the group will also give you access to the rest of Turning the Wheel, my year-long series on the eight solar holidays celebrated by many contemporary Pagans.
Wow. The people of The Way of the River are amazing.
Some of us were able to get together last night (23 January) to discuss the goddess Brigid/St. Bridget of Ireland and Imbolc/St. Bridget’s Day, the holiday Pagans and Irish Christians both celebrate on February 1 each year.
I have been celebrating Imbolc for twenty years, and venerating Brigid for nearly as long. And yet, in my research for our time together, I learned things I had never known before. I learned how in Scotland, Bride (Brigid) is associated with snakes, and with their emergence in the spring. And that those same snakes’ emergence is part of weather foretelling. Groundhogs, anyone? (I am from Pennsylvania, after all. Punxatawney Phil is an important guy!)
I learned that while Imbolc is the birth of fire, the first of the fire festivals,
the Cross-Quarter Days, Brigid is indeed widely recognized as the keeper of the inspiration and flow of Fire and Water. That relationship was something I had learned/put together from my own work in my tradition as we worked with Brigid the patronness of smithcraft, healing, and bardic skill. Fire and Water, whether materially, energetically, or metaphorically, are both needed for all these abilities.
“I am the Fire / and the Union of Opposites. / I am the Mystery. / I am calling you in your dreams. / I am bringing you home to Me.” ~ first verse, Earil Wilson
Yes, the Eternal Flame at Kildare is important. And yes, the women of the Brigidine Order who tend it have a special charge.
But the Sacred Well at Kildare, and Brigid’s role (along with Sulis, the goddess from Bath, England) as the spiritual keeper of all sacred springs and wells…this, too, is special.
In fact, this dual role makes me think of the water protectors in North Dakota. They have the fire of conviction on behalf of the life-giving water. While protesting peacefully, they nonetheless are “on fire” with commitment to their sure understanding that water is life.
This combination, this union of opposites, this heat + water + roots/leaves/herbs/oils/people = transformation and healing…all of this comes together. Imbolc is the perfect time and Brigid is the perfect goddess for invoking or petitioning for protection of Land and People. Brigid’s cloak can cover the land. Brigid’s fire can inspire the people. Brigid’s water can restore and heal both the land and people.
And so as we approach Her day on the first of February, I invite you to consider creative ways to honor the day, to honor the Lady, “Blessed Mary of the Gaels,” the mythic midwife of that other powerful Mary, the mother of Jesus of Nazareth. (Brigid is also called Jesus’ foster mother!)
I invite you to consider the Land and People of your nation, whatever that is. I invite you to consider the Land and People of your neighborhood, wherever that is. I invite you to consider yourself, one of the People, and Land on which you walk.
What needs Brigid’s aid, and how can you ask it? Next week, I shall write more on Imbolc and Brigid, and how to approach Her holiday. For now, though, I leave you with the thoughts above, and with an invitation.
If you’d like to participate in our discussions, if you’d like to engage with The Way of the River more deeply, please be welcome! I invite you to sign up for Turning the Wheel. Or if you’d just like a weekly spiritual boost, a meditation on something seasonal, something of Spirit, of justice, of hope, or beauty, sign up for Reflections. Be welcome. Be welcome. Be welcome.