Loop of Brighid: Private Practices 2 – The Fiery Water

The practice of making pilgrimages to holy wells is so ancient it is probably pre-Celtic in origin, but many of the traditional holy wells in the British Isles are now dedicated to St. Brighid. Central to the concept of the healing well is the image of sunlight reflected in water- the power of heaven and the power of the underworld combined in one, Sea and Sky united in the Land.

Eduard Bendeman (1811 – 1889), Two Girls at the Well

Many of the healing wells have traditional rituals associated with them, which often involve walking sunwise around the well a number of times while making certain prayers. The fiery water ritual is a visualization based on this practice.

To perform the ritual, begin by closing your eyes and breathing slowly and deeply. Raise the circle of fire as described in the previous column. Once you have a clear and vibrant mental image of the circle of fire and a distinct feeling of being surrounded and blessed by Brighid’s flame, visualize a holy well directly in front of you in the center of the circle.

On the front of the holy well is a carving of a Brighid’s cross. There is a bucket hanging above the well, filled with the clearest, coldest and purest water you have ever seen. The light from the circle of fire flickers in the water so that it shimmers like gold.

Walk to the boundary of the circle of fire and slowly circumambulate the well in total silence. You can silently recite a prayer of your own choosing, or simply contemplate the brilliance of the holy fire, the clarity and purity of the water and the beauty of the two in combination.

Walk up to the well after you have circled it nine times. Cup your hands and take up a mouthful of the water. Silently recite a prayer in your mind such as the Genealogy of Brighid or any other appropriate prayer.

Splash the water over your face and feel it purify you on the deepest level. Repeat this three times and then drink a mouthful of the holy water. Feel it transforming you from head to toes, cleansing your spirit and healing your body.

Once this is done, you can either repeat the ritual — as many times as you like — or finish by slowly expanding the circle of fire until it encompasses the entire universe.

Loop of Brighid is published on alternate Thursdays. Follow it via RSS or e-mail!

About Christopher Scott Thompson

Christopher Scott Thompson is the president of the Cateran Society, and the author of several books on the historical Gaelic martial arts. Under the name C.S. Thompson, he is the author of the Noctiviganti dark fantasy novels. Under the religious name of Gilbride or “Servant of Brighid,” he has been active in the pagan community for a number of years, serving as the vice president (and briefly the president) of Imbas, a board member of the Fellowship for Celtic Tradition, a flamekeeper of Ord Brighideach and now the Cauldron Cill, and a member of the Kin of the Old Gods temple. He is a member of Clann Bhride, an organization of Brigidine devotees. He lives somewhere between this world and the Sidhe in the company of his wife Cicely and daughters Leila and Rowan.