The dark days of winter are behind us now, and we turn our faces once again to the dawn of a new year. Halfway between winter and spring, the cold winter days are lengthening and the Sun is lingering longer in the sky. It is Imbolc once again, the Celtic celebration of the Feast of Brigid – the Irish Goddess of the holy well and the sacred flame and Goddess of Healing, Creativity and Transformation.
In creating this program, I intentionally chose this time of year for its meaning and symbolism. Imbolc, meaning “in the belly”, was traditionally the time when the first crops of grain were planted for the year, and seeds sown in the belly of the earth during February wait in darkness for the warmth that will give them life in early Spring.
Brigid’s Feast is a time of initiation, of dedication to a new path, new endeavors and a way of being. Initiation is also the word we use to mean learning about the mysteries, the deepest insights of our sacred wisdom and bringing it into the light for healing, for creating and for transforming the old and outworn into beauty and usefulness.
An initiation is both a commitment and a test, one that requires training, preparation, and the courage to face challenges. We have to leave the shelter of all that it is comfortable and safe and take risks, but in the end we become more truly ourselves. As we discover our gifts and do our work, we gather true power, wisdom and understanding.
Brigid, as a Fire Goddess, is also in charge of inspiration – especially in poetry – as poets were as important and respected in ancient Ireland as sports heroes are today. They were regarded as powerful workers of magic and could bless a field or curse a village. Fire, a powerful energy, is used in forges to heat metal until it is soft enough to be hammered into tools and other useful things. In healing, Fire is unbalanced when fevers run high and Brigid as healer was called upon to bring balance to ailing.
Brigid reigns over the holy wells as the water that comes up from the earth is seen as the lifeblood of the Mother Earth. Throughout Ireland, sacred wells are still acknowledged a sites of power, their source rises from deep within the earth. They are believed to contain the energy of the ‘night sun’ in the way that water catches and traps the sun’s fire like the Earth’s eyes looking at sunlight.
There is no Goddess more appropriate to invoke when survival is an issue – be it physical, emotional, financial, or otherwise. Many Goddesses have survived the destruction of their culture by going underground, or cloaking themselves with new names and legends, we know of no other who’ve lived so long in disguise as Brigid. Through the art of transformation, She helps us adapt to the times in which we live as modern women. We know for survival to occur transformation is necessary.
Whenever we are challenged by life crises, in ways that our own survival seems to be at stake, we are offered the opportunity for great change and growth – which can seem quite fiery at times. Brigid’s wisdom can be called upon whenever we feel threatened and overwhelmed – be it from physical illness, emotional and mental burnout from work related stress or relationship issues, when our bills exceed our resources, Brigid urges and guides us to relinquish hold on what that which we we have known and become comfortable, to surrender to what seems like defeat in order to continue, that transformation is the only way to survive.
February 2nd is Brigid’s day and in contemporary women’s spirituality, this is the day for inner transformation, the day which you dedicate yourself to a specific path, assume a new name, pledge to specific changes in your life – like a Goddess specific New Year’s Eve and a time for resolutions and rituals that move the inner self toward a greater clarity of vision. Ceremonies to Brigid are called for when the soul is in wintry conditions and wishes to move onward to better and warmer times.
When the season is ripe for change, Brigid is the Goddess of choice.