February 1 (sometimes February) is Imbolc, the Celtic festival between winter solstice and spring equinox. As with all the Celtic holidays, it celebrates the coming of the light and is set around a fire burning throughout the night, with the emphasis on preparing for the season ahead. The word imbolc is said to mean “in or of the belly”. This is the holiday that marks the beginning of breeding season preparations; thus, the symbol of the lamb. You will also see the symbol of Brigid’s cross for it is also Brigid’s Day, or the St. Briget’s Feast Day. The link between the two is key to the story of what we call the Celts.
Brighid was the ancient goddess of fire, hearth, and birthing. Briget is Brigid of the Flame, mid-wife to Jesus, and Mary, Mother of the Gael. Her legends are many and she is a rich part of Celtic lore, particularly in Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. Brigid, by whatever spelling, is a t the heart of Celtic spirituality. Whether you enter from the path of Celtic mythology and lore, from a pagan/neopagan perspective or a Christian (from early Celtic Christianity up to and including Roman Catholicism) tradition, Brigid represents the Divine Feminine.
The new novel I am writing pursues this theme as Abby and Mark, my main characters from Amidst the Stones of Celtic Ireland, visit Kildare. My own visits to Kildare with its ancient well, the Brigit of the Flame statue and well, and the newly built Solas Bhride Centre are my inspiration. I am certainly not the only one to be inspired by Kildare or Brigid’s story. Guest blogger Ken McIntosh co-authored the book Brigid’s Mantle: A Celtic Dialogue between Pagan and Christian Perspectives with Lily Weichberger and this book speaks beautifully of Brigid’s role in Celtic spirituality. Future guest blogger, Cindy Thomson, has woven the legendary and factual life of Brigit into novel form with Brigid of Ireland. I commend both to those of you who wish to know more.
Today, however, I would like to feature Brigid of the Light, the twenty-first century personification of the Divine Feminine. Please visit www.Solas Bhride.ie to learn more about this new Christian Centre for Celtic Spirituality that is bringing the spirit of Brigid of Kildare into new light as they honor the past and guide us to the future. Note also their web page on Feile Bride (Festival of Brigid). It is a weeklong celebration of Brigid happening over the holiday.
A few years ago, I spent a week on pilgrimage in Kildare. I visited the pit of the original Brigid’s flame on the grounds of the cathedral, I visited the wells and walked the land. I also discovered Rekindling the Flame: A Pilgrimage in the Footsteps of Brigid of Kildare by Rita Menehan, which became my sacred book for the week (and beyond). To my delight, I got to meet Rita and her sister Mary and hear firsthand the story of the 1992 return of the Brigidine Sisters to Kildare and their vision of Brigid of the Light, a beacon of the new millennium. I also saw the Brigid’s Flame in the town center and heard about the 1993 International Conference where The Fire/Flame of Brigid was re-lit. These two women, who keynoted that conference entitled: “Brigid: Prophetess, Earthwoman, Peacemaker”, were --are-- such an inspiration! They brought Brigid’s flame home with them and kept it burning while the new Solas Bhride Centre was being built. This perpetual flame now lies at the heart of this new community center.
Last year, on my third visit, I actually got a tour of the center by Sister Mary herself, saw the flame in its new and rightful place of honor and walked the grounds and the labyrinth. I then had the extraordinary privilege of having tea with this beautiful visionary soul. She lives and breathes the Light and brings it to others through her words, actions and guidance.
I am seriously considering taking a small group of pilgrims to next year’s week-long festival next February. Contact me if that would be of interest to you.