Monday, January 30, 2012
Imbolc and Brighid
The first stirrings of new life are felt as the great wheel turns from winter to spring. Water begins to move beneath the ice. We notice the lengthening of days. Dreams conceived on the Winter Solstice begin to take root. Although the weather is still wintry, there is no turning back on the journey to the sun's return. Winter's darkness begins to loosen its grip, and new beginnings are seen all around as spring approaches. This is a time for rebirth and healing, sacred to Brighid, goddess of poetry and arcane learning.
The worship of Brighid originated in the southeast region of Ireland known as Leinster and was attended by an all-female priesthood. She is often characterized as having two sisters, or alternately a triple aspect whose attributes also include healing and smithcraft.
Many sources purport that Brighid the goddess was assimilated into St. Brigit of Christian lore. Certainly there are striking similarities between the goddess and the saint. The shrine of St. Brigit in Kildare is attended by nineteen nuns, echoing the exclusively female priesthood of the goddess Brighid. Additionally, many stories surrounding St. Brigit prove somewhat impossible for a single mortal woman to accomplish. Her legend claims she was born at sunrise and was so chaste a woman that she gouged out her own eyes in protest of her impending marriage and became a nun instead. [Now does she sound like patriarchal influence or what]
Other accounts claim she was a friend to the Virgin Mary, and in fact was Mary's midwife when the baby Jesus was born. She has also be described as Jesus' foster mother, and it is said she assisted Mary in her search for her son when he was lost in the temple and was later found instructing the rabbis. It does not take a huge leap of the intellect to discern the improbability that a blind nun from Ireland was able to escape the confine of time, let alone the limits of transportation, to be present in Bethlehem for the Natiity. The lines between the goddess and the saint are blurred, and Imbolc is celebrated as Candlemas or the Candle Mass in honor of St. Brigit to this day.