The Goddess Brigid

Goddess of the Dawn

The Goddess Brigid is one of the foremost within Irish mythology, and she remains a vital and powerful force even today, thanks to the early Christian Church adopting her as one of their own in the guise of St Bridget. She has had many names over the years, including Brid, Bride, Bridhe (pronounced ‘breed’), Brigantia, Bridgid, Brighid, Brigit, and Bridget. Roughly translated, the name can mean ‘exalted one’, ‘lofty or elevated one’, or ‘she who is on high’. A fitting epithet for this important Goddess.

Lady of the Light

She holds the spark of inspiration and can be equated with the muse of creativity, although she is a good deal more than that. She is also a fertility goddess, a guardian force who protects livestock, women and the land itself.

While some see her as a warrior goddess, this is not the role she takes in my worship. She is certainly a protector – you never want to anger the goddesses who hold the power of the land, because the land can turn against you – but she is not moved by a love of the fires of battle. She will use them if she has to, but she is far more a shield against them than a sword to leap into them.

Within Brigid, the warmth of the sun, and the security of fire are combined. While her feast day is Imbolc, and so she is a very appropriate Goddess for this time of year, she can be invoked all year round. Anytime you feel the need for the protective, grounding force of the land, you can call on Brigid’s power to aid you.

Imbolc 2018

Celebrating Imbolc

I know I have written about Imbolc before, but it is the first of the festivals to appear in any year, and as such, it is an important point in the pagan calendar.

Imbolc is the Celtic festival which marks the beginning of the lambing season and the first stirrings of new life in the land. At this time of the year, all of nature is pregnant, and only just visible. The celebrations which surround Imbolc reflect this. It is not the flashy celebration of life which will come later, at Beltane. Instead, Imbolc celebrates the hope of new life and the welcome return of the light.

Imbolc is a time to let go of the past and look to the future. It is a reflective celebration, a turning inward to attempt to work out the thoughts and habits which no longer serve any practical purpose in your life. It is also a great time for spring-cleaning, although this is an aspect of the festival that I personally struggle with!

For those who want to identify the festivals with a specific deity, Imbolc is one of the great Fire Festivals held in honour of the Goddess Brigid (or Bride, Brigit, Brighit, and a host of other spellings). She was held in such esteem that the early Christians converted her into St Bridget rather than attempting to discredit the worship of her. She is a Goddess of healing, poetry, and smithcraft. She brings fertility to the land and its people, and as such is closely connected to both midwives and new-born babies. She is one of the Triple Goddess, appearing at Imbolc in the guise of the Maiden.

Imbolc Rituals

It is traditional to light every lamp in the house at sunset on Imbolc – even if only for a few moments. Alternatively, light candles in each room in honour of the rebirth of the Sun. If there is snow on the ground outside, walk in it for a moment, while summoning thoughts of the feel of summer.

Celebrate by having a simple meal of meat and dairy products, remembering that this is only the start of the bounty that this year will bring.

The Festival of Springtime

Ostara is one of the many names for the celebration of the spring equinox. It is said to come from the name of the Anglo-Saxon goddess, Eostre, who was a goddess of spring and fertility. It is also close to the Christian celebration of Easter, and the Jewish festival of Passover.

It is not surprising that a celebration can be found at this time of year in almost every civilisation, fro ancient Persia and the Mayan civilizations to the more modern religion of Christianity. The turning of the Wheel of the Year is obvious, and the returning of life in the spring is too powerful a symbol not to be recognised.

Here are a few examples of how this exciting time of the year is celebrated around the world.

Marzanna – Poland

This is a celebration which dates back to around the middle of the 16th century. Dolls known as Marzanna are made of straw and decorated in order to symbolize the cold, dreary winter. They are then paraded through the street as crowds make their way to the nearest body of water. The decorated dolls are then thrown into the water in order to drown the wrath of the winter.

Baba Marta – Bulgaria

Baba Marta literally translates to ‘the grandmother of March’, and folklore says that Baba Marta is a cranky old lady who must be treated well and with kindness, or she will bring more cold, bleak winter days to torment the land.

In order to welcome the change of the season, people wear red and white bracelets which symbolise health and fertility. They hand out other red and white symbols to friends and family to wish them peace and happiness for the rest of the year.

Holi – India

The colourful festival of Holi takes place in late February or early March. The festival was originally a Hindu tradition, but it is now seen as more a cultural celebration than a religious one.

Holi ushers in the spring with bonfires and parties the night before the festival itself. The next day, people gather on the streets for a giant colour fight, with people through dyed powder onto each other. It offers a chance to let go of the cares and hardships of winter and to reconnect with other people.

Falles – Spain

The population of Valencia in Spain almost triples in size during the annual Falles festival in March. It is a week-long spectacle of fiery, satirical entertainment which starts with processions in order to honour Saint Joseph and ends with the mass burning of paper-mache figures filled with firecrackers.

It is not uncommon for those attending these celebrations to wear medieval clothing, and the entire week is accompanied by a huge street party.

Celebrating Imbolc

Imbolc is one of the lesser-known festivals in the Celtic pagan calendar. It marks the point in the year where the first signs of spring begin to emerge, and the world turns back from the dark quiet of winter to the warmth and life of spring. It is a time for bringing new ideas and projects into the light, and for moving to actively grow projects which have been building over the winter months.

Spring Cleaning

Imbolc is the perfect time for that cleaning that you have been putting off. Get rid of anything that is cluttering up your home, and scrub all the surfaces down thoroughly. If you can bear the drop in temperature, open all of the windows and let some refreshing clean air flow through your home. Making the cleaning part of the celebrations is one of the easiest ways to encourage the whole family to join in – just remember to donate things that can still be used to appropriate charities instead of simply throwing them away.

Light’s Return

While Yule is a celebration of the rebirth of the sun, Imbolc is when its return first truly begins to be noticeable as it grows in strength. Candles are a practical response to this, as it is frequently too impractical to celebrate with a bonfire, whether due to weather or regulations. Have your feast lit by the warm glow of candles, and prepare for the blessings to come in the year ahead.

Feasting and Food

No true celebration is really complete without a meal to go with it. At Imbolc, it is important to concentrate on foods which honour the hearth and home – breads, grains and root vegetables are all appropriate, as are dairy products. After all, this is the festival designed to celebrate the beginning of lactation in both cows and sheep.

Brigid

Brigid (also spelt Brighid, and Bridget) is one of the daughters of the Dagda, and part of the Tuatha de Dannan. She is the patron of poets, bards, healers and magicians, and is particularly connected with prophecy and divination. She is a fire goddess, and deeply tied to the light of the sun. This means that any form of ritual healing or divination by candlelight is highly appropriate as part of any Imbolc celebration.