In Celtic tradition, February 2, Imbolc or Candlemas is celebrated. This is the time when Brigid or Bride, makes her presence known. She is goddess of the fire; Imbas was the word that described inspiration that came from her creative and transformational fire. Imbolc refers to the time when the ewes are lactating in preparation to give birth to their lambs in spring, just six weeks away. it is a time for the maiden Brigid to bring in the light so as to usher the old crone of winter out and let the sunshine in.
Brigid’s triple aspect is as goddess of poetry, smithing, and healing. The fire is important to each of these crafts. The poet receives enlightenment and passion from the fire, and the stories and poems told by the bards were like fire themselves, unable to be harnessed, touched or held. They could only be passed from mouth to ear in a sacred way by those who were skilled in the art of storytelling. Both the white-hot fire of the blacksmith that shapes lumps of metal into useful objects, as well as the healing fire of the hearth that boils the herbs and potions, bring about transmutation. And so it is with each of us as we honor Brigid’s fiery presence. She has the power to enlighten us.
When Christianity usurped the worship of the goddess, St. Brigid was born in the fifth century CE, with many of the same attributes as the beloved goddess of yore. St. Brigid was born at sunrise just as her mother crossed the threshold of her home, associating her with the idea of liminality–existing between worlds. There were many legends about St. Brigid’s connection to fire, like the goddess of her namesake. One such is that when she was an infant, she was left in the house while her mother tended the animals. Neighbors saw great flames of fire engulfing the roof of her house and rushed to her. But when they reached her, there were no flames or burnt remains. She was said to perform miracles, like the magical goddess herself, healing the afflicted, bringing stillborn babes to life, and having a never-depleted cauldron of food for those who were hungry.
St. Brigid’s fire is still tended by 19 nuns in Kildare, Ireland and never allowed to go out. Tonight I gather with a group of women who celebrate these sabbats as the Great Wheel turns, and we will all light candles from one that was lit from Brigid’s sacred flame in Kildare. I invite you to light a candle in honor of the returning sun, the bright goddess, and the passions that stir within each of us.