Brigid, queen of the fairies,
goddess of poetry, healing and smithcraft,
fertility and fire
lived in the heart of ancient Ireland.
A flame she bore,
a well she drew upon;
from her well poured inspired waters,
from her flame poured passion—
passion for the little people,
for sweet-smelling earth,
for bluebells and raindrops,
emerald hills, rolling meadows,
silver birch, wild cherry,
hazelnut and holly.
Savory with spring,
she birthed the bards,
she bathed the ewes, the lambs, the mare, the foal,
her flame burned at Kildare,
her hearth fires ignited peace,
ignited justice, ignited respect
for all things maternal;
when the womb bloomed,
when the seed sprang forth,
when stars were born in the heavens
and the moon filled the night
with light, she smiled; and her people—
her people respected the earth,
they cared for the land,
they tilled and rested and gathered and reaped,
and never forgot
to lift her bright flame aloft
Brigid, queen of little people,
mother of many, protector, guide
forged in fire, forgotten not,
became Saint Brigid—her light
became a light of Christ,
of penance and redemption.
They say she went dark
five hundred years ago,
snuffed with monasteries
under a hostile regime—
a blink in the thousands of years
her fire had vanquished the darkness.
But her spark had dazzled hearts,
the virtuoso of her brilliance
could find no joy in hiding
and so once again she burst forth.
Three hundred years after
her flame was darkened
the revived Sisters of Saint Brigid
ignited her torch
once more at Kildare
blazing hope, justice, and peace.
This Candlemas we burn
a flame for Brigid—goddess and saint—
to honor ewes, mares, sows,
mothers and grandmothers,
sorrows and hopes, earth’s hollows,
her hills and fresh rills,
the voice of poetry and song.
Sisters, put your spark to the flame,
and never, never fall silent.
Celebrating the Great Mystery
by Nan Lundeen
There is a flame that burns at Kildare, a symbol beyond labels, the fire of love, the flame of peace. Once tended by followers of the Celtic goddess Brigid, now the keepers of the flame honor Saint Brigid. Do the labels matter?
This Candlemas season I mourn the passing of the great poet Mary Oliver. Nature awed her. She rightly identified Earth as a spiritual cauldron. When I think of the flame in the cauldron at Kildare kept alive in the name of hope, justice and peace, I think about what Oliver may have made of it. In her poem, “I Wake Close to Morning,” Oliver asks why people ask God for I.D. when each day, dawn breaking is enough.
And dawn will break earlier and earlier now as the wheel turns on this sabbat, halfway between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox. It is the time of Imbolc, the birthing of the lambs. In agricultural societies, a sure sign that spring is on its way despite the cold, bitter winds of winter gripping Earth.
Candlemas is a time for rededication. A good time for purification, one could go about the house with a critical eye, getting rid of flotsam and jetsam and sprinkling all corners in a counterclockwise or widdershins direction with sea salt or sage water to banish despair and negativity. Personal altars could be cleaned and cleansed and freshened. Red, white, silver and lavender are traditional colors of Candlemas. We will still be hibernating for a time, but we can take first steps toward the renewing energy of spring. Let us gestate under the moon casting shadows upon snow. Let us clear and refresh our minds. Let us kindle our hearths and light our homes and hearts with festive candles.
To me, the flame, the tending of the flame, the ritual and the pilgrims who visit Brigid’s well seeking healing signify the feminine face of the divine. She is spirit. She is love. She lives.