(noon. – promoted by ek hornbeck)
For regular people (whatever the heck “regular” means), Happy Groundhog Day! If you’re a Christian, then Happy Candlemas. For my Pagan friends, Happy Imbolc! But if you’re just a crusty old Celtic traditionalist type like me, then happy Lá Fhéile Bríghde! (Brighid’s Feast Day). Since Brighid is the patroness of writers, naturally I’ll be celebrating her day with much feasting and libations and getting some writing done.
Mandatory Archeological tid-bit: The ancestors took Imbolc pretty seriously: at the Loughcrew burial mounds and the Mound of the Hostages in Tara, the inner chamber of the passage tombs are perfectly aligned with the rising sun of both Imbolc and Samhain. The rising Imbolc sun shines down the long passageway and illuminates the inner chamber of the tomb. You know my gal Brighid was a lady to be reckoned with when they designed burial chambers to light up especially on her day.
On this day, Brighid’s serpent would come out of hibernation and have a look around, and his behavior told the druids if there will be six more weeks of winter or not. The druids had Brighid’s snake, we have Punxatawney Phil. Nothing ever changes. Speaking of druids, Brighid is also the patroness of druids, so if any of you out there have any Druid tendencies (which would surprise me, since none of you look Druish….), then lift a beer to Brighid. She’s the patroness of beer and beer-brewers, so she always appreciates a cold frosty one. Back in the day she was known as a brewer of her own beer, which was said to be of unsurpassed deliciousness. A goddess who brews her own beer – how can you not like her?
Brighid is a goddess, not a “Saint”, though it’s no surprise to find that Saint Patrick subverted yet another local deity and turned her into “Saint Bridget.” Apparently those damned Irish heathens just wouldn’t stop worshipping her like they did most of the other gods (at least, publicly), so it was one of those wink-and-a-nod deals. Patrick was nothing if not practical.
It is said that when Brighid was born at sunrise, a tower of flame roared from the top of her head to the heavens. For this reason she is know by the honorific “Breo Saighead”, “The Fiery Arrow of Power.” Obviously not someone to fuck with.
Brighid watches over a lot of stuff: poets and writers; personal excellence; livestock (so also 4-legged family members); sacred flames; hearth and home; metalworkers and smiths; beer-brewing; and wells. Her feast days is the first day of Spring as the Celts measured it, the time when the ewes start lactating, and in the epic Tain Bo Cuailnge (“The Cattle Raid of Cooley”) Emer explains to the endearing homicidal-maniac hero Cú Chulain that “Oimell, the beginning of spring…is the time when the sheep come out and are milked”, and the name Oimelc is used, because “ói-melg, ‘ewe-milk’, that is the time the sheep’s milk comes”.
Brighid is VERY old, definitely pre-Celtic, very widespread. She turns up everywhere you look: Brighid, Brighde, Brigit, Brigantia, Brigindoni, Bride, Britannia, Bridey, Bridget. She even appears as the Caribbean voudoun goddess “Maman Brighite,” and some scholars see a reference to her in the ancient Indian Sanskrit word ‘Brihatî,’ meaning ‘the exalted’. A world traveller is our gal Bridge.
When Brighid became “Saint Bridget,” the former virgin priestesses became “nuns” and just kept on doing what they always did. They kept Brighid’s eternal flame burning without interruption for many hundreds of years, until the order was finally (seemingly) suppressed by that wife-murdering British imperialist swine Henry VIII. The worship of Brighid/Bridget (seemingly) disappeared, for hundreds of years. And then, not too many years ago, several amazing things happened. First, she was “de-canonized” by the Vatican; they basically fessed up and said “she’s not one of ours, you can have her back.” And a sweet collection of Catholic nuns from the mysterious Order of Bridget and some pagan ladies started working together to renew the sacred flame. The final triumph: the Kildaire town council recently made the nice ladies’ job easier by building an eternal flame monument in the Kildaire town square mounted atop an acorns-and-oak-leaves motif, officially recognizing Brighid for what she was and welcoming her home with honor. I imagine it was a “two-hankie” moment for all the faithful in attendance. For that matter, I wouldn’t doubt that some of the city functionaries probably got a bit “dewy” at seeing the old girl come home.
What’s to do for fun on this stay-indoors Imbolc day, you ask? Why not drive yourself insane with the evil, evil game of Fidchell (which it’s easy to believe was invented by a god, since no human can figure out the fscking thing): http://historicgames.com/RPgam… or online at http://www.ulyssesinteractive….
How to celebrate Imbolc Olde Schoole Style?
• On the day before the festival (i.e. January 31) clean and tidy your house, ready for Brighid’s visit.
• Decorate the place with flowers that are appropriate for the time of year – such as tulips, primroses, snowdrops, daisies or dandelions (but remember, folks, don’t pick wild flowers)
* Light candles in the evening, or have a fire if you have a fireplace.
• Celebrate the feast of Brighid on the eve of the festival with a meal of your choice. Dairy-based food are especially appropriate, in particular mashed potato and onions served with a well of melted butter in the middle. Lamb, bacon, apple cake, colcannon and dumplings are also appropriate. Beer can be drunk since Brighid was renowned for brewing it herself. Since Brighid was said to attend the meal as well, it was customary to invite her in before everyone sits down to eat.
* Hang up Brighid “crosses” (actually ancient sun symbols) at all thresholds to bring good health to the family for the rest of the winter season.
• Offerings such as cake or bread and butter should be left out (on the window sill) to indicate that Bride is welcome to visit. – If you have a fire, keep the ashes from the fireplace and scatter them in your garden; you will have bumper crops all the year long.