In Ireland, Imbolc is called La Fheile Bride because it is the festival of the Goddess Brigid or Bride. Known also as Brigdhe, Bridie, Bree-je, and Brigit. Brighid is the patroness of flocks, herds, and motherhood. In Ireland, Feb. 2 – Imbolc is the day of St. Brigit who has been known as the White Goddess and the “quickening Triple Muse”.
Imbolc was dedicated to the triple Brighid, who was believed to be born in a flaming house in the sun and usher in fertility and new life for the dead. At Imbolc Brighid’s Maiden Goddess form is celebrated.
Brighid’s colors were red, black, and white. Her sacred animals were the White Cow and sometimes the snake. Her flower was the Dandelion, coltsfoot, or Snowdrops. Her messenger bird is the oystercatcher.
Saint Brigid is one of the best known Celtic saints. St. Brigid has many names including: the Lady of the Isles; Bride of the Mantle; Gentle Shepherdess; Guardian of the Cattle; Protector of the Newborn; Nursemaid to the Sick; Midwife of Mary; Mary of the Gael, Second Mother of the Lord, St. Bride of the Kindly Fire, and St. Bride of the Shores.
The most prominent pan-Celtic female deity she was associated with holy wells and springs and with the sacred fire. In Kildare St. Brigid’s Sacred Fire was tended by nine (or up to 20 – depending on your source) maidens until the Pope shut it down for being heretical. But it was lit again in 1993 and continues to be tended to by the Brigidine Sisters. Brighid’s fire is first manifested in the Land through the warming and awakening of growth and movement and also in ourselves fueling our creative and inspirational energies.
Bride’s (Brighid’s) Wells are found throughout Brigit’s Isles. These are healing wells were people can drink of Her healing waters. There are many Holy Wells in Ireland and a special one at Kildare where St. Bridget founded a community of nuns and monks. A beautifully carved stone next to the River Brue beside Bride’s Mound, marks the site of another St. Bride’s Well. People come to these wells to hang prayer ribbons on the tree next to the wells.
Brighid – Daughter of the Dagda
She was the Daughter of the Dagda, a triple Goddess, and appeared as three sisters all named Brighid. Brighid was the triple Goddess of Smithcraft (especially spinning and weaving), Healing, and Poetry. She was also known as the Goddess of the Sun and Moon. In Ireland, she was known as Brigid , Bride in Scotland, and Brigantia in Britain.
In ancient times, Brighid was known as the Lady of Inspiration and her poets, carrying silver branches, would speak poems and chant their songs in honor of Brighid as they sought to convey the mysteries that went beyond language.
The Great Goddess of Healing
Brighid is one of the greatest Goddesses of Healing and she heals by bringing wholeness to us and finding new balance on all levels. She is said to posses a girdle that could heal all diseases. An old story tells of Brigid meeting a poor woman with many children who were destitute and ill. Brighid healed the woman and the children and then Brighid gave the woman Her healing girdle and told her to go and cure others and to receive money, food, and clothing in return. At Imbolc, healers may want to connect with Brighid and get the sense of how to make their own Healer’s Girdle under the tutelage of Brighid.
Snake is a totem animal of Brighid representing transformation – the shedding of the old skin into the new body. In ancient times, Snake was also connected to the Sibyl or the Prophetess (the Snake Goddess from Krete is shown holding snakes in her hands as she speaks prophecy). Some believe Brighid to transmits the ability to speak of the past, present, and the future.
Brighid’s snake emerging from the ground was observed as an oracle to predict the upcoming weather.
From a Gaelic rhyme:
This is the day of Bride
The Serpent will come from the mound or from beneath the stone
I shall not touch the (serpent of the Queen)
Nor shall the (serpent or Queen) touch me
In Scotland, if the snake became active a thaw would come soon. It if returned to its nest, another month of winter would be expected.In Ireland, the hedgehog served the same purpose, and in the US it is the Ground Hog.
Brighid is also seen as a Wisdom Goddess – Mystress of the Forge, the fire of Smithcraft – and brings us healing, wisdom, and understanding through the alchemical process of sloughing off that which is no longer useful for us and revealing the jewel of who we really are.
In many traditional cultures alchemical powers have been attributed to the functions of Smithcraft because the smith is able to transform seemingly useless material into a powerful and functional substance. Smithcraft has the energies of Otherworldy power and when the Forge was blessed on Imbolc it represented the blessings given by the Goddess to take material from the Land and transmute it into something else useful in the culture – a blessing that reiterated the close connection between the Tribe and the Land.
Brighid is known as the Quickener, awakening the dormant seeds that lie in the ground and the Incarnator who calls life to awaken. She is celebrated as the Inspiration, Healer, and Mystress of the Forge. She quickens within us the birth of new possibilities, new ideas, and new thoughts. With a touch of her Wand she warms Earth and calls us to re-incarnate again from our seeds of past experiences into a new form for the future. Our consciousness is Quicken and our transformation accelerates.
Cailleach, the Hag of Winter, visits the Well of Youth and on the dawn of Imbolc as she drinks from Well of Youth and her face is transformed from haggard old age to the youthful face of Brighid – the Maiden of the Rising Sun. Both Cailleach and Brighid carry White Wands of great power. However, in some traditions, Brighid carries the Green Rod of springtime. Callieach’s Wand brings storms and harsh weather and Brighid’s Wand brings warm winds and new life. It was said that where Brighid walked or breathed upon the ice would melt and the land turn green again.
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