The Lady Brighid called to me early in 2001, through the rays of the Sun, her most powerful symbol. Since then, I have been developing my relationship with her through meditation and prayer. And she has been encouraging me with significant co-incidences, like Sun breaking through cloud when I most need it, and the discovery of a picture of her by the artist Stuart Littlejohn. Here is what I have learned.
Brighid is the Irish Goddess of Fire, both the Sun-fire in the sky and the fire in the hearth. She is the fire inside all of us, the part of us that burns with desire for Life. From of old, she was honoured as the Triple Goddess, the fire of poetic inspiration, the fire of creative work - traditionally smithcraft, and the fire of healing. A perpetual fire was kept burning at her sanctuary. It was extinguished at the time of the Reformation of Henry VIII, but since Candlemas of 1993 it burns again. In addition, I also honour the shadow that is cast by that fire, because all things in Nature have their counterpoint for balance.
Brighid was such a popular Goddess, that the coming of Christianity could not wipe out her worship. Opportunistic as ever, the Church adopted her and transformed her into St Brigit. To me, Brighid the Goddess and Brigit the saint are one and the same. From the stories and poetry she inspired before and after the coming of Christianity, we can learn about who she is, and how she can be significant to our world today.
One story tells of the birth of Brighid. She was born at sunrise and her mother was standing in the doorway, with one foot inside and one foot outside the house. Immediately, her head was surrounded by fire.
This story tells us two things about Brighid. Firstly, of course, it clearly associates her with the Sun. But the strange place of her birth also indicates that she is a Goddess of the threshold, of the gates between this world and the Otherworld. This makes her a patroness of shamanic journeys, which take place at the Centre of the Wheel. She is the natural protectress of shamans, since in the Celtic tradition poets, smiths and healers were all shamans.
At the Centre, Brighid is also the Lady of the Mantle. A story is told of how Brighid asked the local lord for land to found her abbey at Kildare. At first the lord refused, but Brighid said that she asked for no more land than her mantle could cover. The lord was obviously not a generous man, but he did think that he could spare as much land as a lady's mantle can be stretched over. So he consented, and Brighid returned to Kildare where she spread her mantle on the Earth. When she tried to stretch it as far as it would go, it kept stretching, until it comfortably covered enough land for her community to live off.
Brighid's mantle covers and protects the land. The Goddess also lovingly wraps her mantle around each person who asks for her protection. The threads on her Mantle are the filaments of relationship that connect all things in a great Web of Life. Brighid's mantle and the Web are one. Shamans journey along those threads into the world of Spirit. They bring back knowledge and healing for this world.
Brighid's fire at the Centre of the Wheel is also the fire, the life spark, within each of us. It is our duty as human beings to find out what each of us burns for, what lights our fire, so to speak. We are all unique expressions of Spirit, and we are alive in order to let Spirit express itself as fully as possible through us. We are called to tend the flame within, to let it grow, so that it will burn for all to see.
Brighid is also Bride, or St Bride in Scotland. She is the young maiden of Spring, the Eastern Quarter of the Wheel. She appears at the first signs of new growth. She is the Inspirer of poets and other crafts of the word. Her festival is Candlemas.
In Summer, the Southern Quarter of the Wheel, Brighid is the creative maker, protectress of all creative endeavours. She supports and inspires my doll making and collage making. She also has a thing or two to do with the creation of this web site. But she is also the British warrior Goddess Brigantia, defender of the hearth and the creative process. She will go out and fight for what has to come into being.
When Autumn comes, and the Western Quarter, we are reminded of St Brigit, patroness of a thousand healing wells. She supports all the healing crafts, be it herb craft, spell craft, or plain witchcraft. Hers are the powers that will heal the Earth and all the ailing souls within it.
In Winter, the Northern Quarter, I honour the shadow that is cast by Brighid's fire. The still time stretches from Hallowmas to Candlemas. The light is at its greatest ebb. The shadows are long and the nights are cold. In this time the Cailleach reigns, the ancient Earth Goddess who is one spirit with Bride.
Main picture: Brighde by Stuart Littlejohn.