Happy St. Brigid’s Day! For those of you who live outside the British Isles, more particularly Ireland and Scotland, you may never know the exquisite excitement of this celebration. It is ancient and modern. Originally, there was a goddess Brighid who had a fire temple in what is now Kildare, tended by nineteen priestesses. Then, in 453 CE, along came a child named Brigit, daughter of a dairy maid slave woman and a noble, or maybe Druidic, father. She was born on the cusp of a new day and slid into this world on the threshold of the dairy where her mother laboured. Later she spurned marriage as an inevitable option for a female, founded an order of nuns, wangled land from the King of Leinster, founded and abbey and was a bishop. She also had nineteen nuns who tended that eternal flame, just as the priestesses had for the goddess Brighid. When Henry VIII smote the abbeys that flame was extinguished. But it was re-kindled in 1992 by some Brigindine nuns in Kildare at the end of an AFRI conference considering Peace and Reconciliation.
So whether you like the ancient version or the modern version, this is her holiday season. Last night I pegged out some cloth as Brat Bríds. One is made of Irish Prison Service sheet. St. Brigit is the patron saint of prisoners. Some will be sent to friends who are ailing. St. Brigit and the goddess have a mission for healing, for bringing peace and reconciliation into a fevered world. I shall keep some for making clouties to leave at her holy wells, for St. Brigit (and the goddess) not only are associated with the eternal flame of hope and faith, but all the holy wells where you can plunge to the source of unconditional love and inspiration.
Basically, the feisty abbess of Kildare is an all round good model for the 21st century. She was kindness itself to the lame, sick, distressed and marginal. She had no truck with accumulated wealth in the face of suffering and famously sold her father’s sword to pay for a cloak to cloth a beggar. (She really was an Aggravating Woman to both her father and the King of Leinster. In this way, she worried patriarchy. So she is a bit of a feminist icon, too.)
But I digress from the poetry practice. Because she is also the patron saint of poets. Last night I hung out the bits of cloth to capture her blessings as she walked across the land on the eve of her feast day. There was frost on that sheet when I brought it in this morning. It is gently steaming dry for me to take to my re-scheduled workshop.
St. Brigid takes a night walk
even though the moon's glow is low.
She passes through every parish,
past badgers' dens and hare hollows.
Brigid walks along coastal strands,
hailing oyster catchers and sea gulls.
At dawn she walks into the sky
having spread her blessings
trailing from her miraculous cloak
upon the land,
having left her blessings
to invoke renewal
within the land,
having brought Her blessing
spreading her mantle of love
across the land.
Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.
Have a blessed Imbolc and St. Brigid’s Day.