On February, Imbolc and St Brigid's Day 2012

The month of February always stirs something in my Irish heart so this is the first of a couple of posts specially related to Celtic themes.

The time of Imbolc is almost here ...

February 1st- 2nd was one of the cornerstones of the Celtic Calendar, as the first day of Spring heralds the underground movements of renewed life beneath the earth's belly.

It was known by the term Imbolc, pronounced 'im'olk' also known as Oimelc) from an Irish word that was originally thought to mean 'in the belly' although many people translate it as 'ewe's milk' (oi-melc).
 
The success of the new farming season was of great importance. As winter stores of food were getting low, Imbolc rituals were performed to harness divine energy that would ensure a steady supply of food until the harvest six months later.


It is still a significant turning point of the year, halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. 

It is a time when the frozen ground thaws, days start to lengthen, the sun appears higher in the sky and new life stirs. Ewes start to produce milk.

Like many Celtic festivals, the Imbolc celebrations centred around the lighting of fires. Fire was perhaps more important for this festival than others as it announced the holy day of Brigid, the Goddess of fire, healing and fertility, celebrated on 2nd February.

The lighting of fires celebrated the increasing power of the Sun over the coming months. For the Christian calendar, this holiday was reformed and renamed 'Candlemas'.



Human actions reflect the actions of nature, so as the world slowly springs back into action it is time for the small tasks that are neglected through the busy year. Rituals and activities might include the making of candles, planting spring flowers, reading poetry and telling stories.

  

Happy St Brigid's Day !!


As Christianity swept through the British Isles, 5th century missionaries incorporated Brigid, the Celtic goddess of Imbolc, into St. Brigid of Kildare, one of three patron saints of Ireland, along with Patrick and Columba.








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Imbolc was later replaced with Candlemas, a feast dedicated to St. Brigid that took place every year on Feb. 2.

The heritage of St Brigid's cross extends to the Neolithic Age when it symbolized the four seasons.
It is often hung over Irish doorways to protect home and hearth. 

It is also related to the symbol of the "turning wheel" which symbolized the movement of the sun and is a design seen on Celtic crosses.

These are several songs to St Brigid.  

Blessed Woman come to me
Woman of the Fires,
Woman of Poetry
Blessed Woman come to me
woman of Healing,
Woman of Skillful Means

Blessed woman of the land
Guide my heart and guide my hand
Blessed Woman of the streams
Guide my soul and guide my dreams
Blessed Woman come to me
Woman of the fires
Woman of Poetry,

Blessed Woman come to me
Woman of Healing
Woman of Skillful Means.
Blessed Woman of the hills
Heal all wounds and heal all ills
Blessed Woman of the flame
Awaken me to renew again.






Lyrics to the second one

Blessed Bridget comest thou in
Bless this house and all of our kin
Bless this house, and all of our kin
Protect this house and all within

Blessed Bridget come into thy bed
With a gem at thy heart and a crown on thy head
Awaken the fire within our souls
Awaken the fire that makes us whole

Blessed Bridget, queen of the fire
Help us to manifest our desire
May we bring forth all thats good and fine
May we give birth to our dreams in time


Blessed Bridget comest thou in
Bless this house and all of our kin
From the source of Infinite Light
Kindle the flame of our spirits tonight

Blessed Bridget come into thy bed
With a gem at thy heart and a crown on thy head
Awaken the fire within our souls
Awaken the fire that makes us whole

Blessed Bridget, queen of the fire
Help us to manifest our desire
May we bring forth all thats good and fine
May we give birth to our dreams in time

Blessed Bridget comest thou in
Bless this house and all of our kin
From the source of Infinite Light
Kindle the flame of our spirits tonight






St. Brigid became a monastic and established the first women's cenobitic monastery of Ireland on land that was given to her by the King of Leinster.  The land was called Cill Dara or Kildare, meaning "the church of the oak." 

Her scroll reads:

"To care for the poor;
To lighten everyone's burden; 
To comfort the suffering."




 Brigit's Cross is made from rushes and tradition has it that it is able to weave the hopes of our hearts' delight into it. A chant asking for blessings from the Four Directions including love from the South and strength from the North is sung on the 31st January at St Brigid's well Kildare.


Brigit's flame is carried as lanterns along the mile -long torch-lit route to her Garden Shrine. "Brigit light our path through darkest night and brightest day"

This is Christy Moore's brother, Luka Bloom singing his great song to Brigid...





 Lyrics below :

Out of the cold, dark winter space
We come together, looking for Brigid's grace
We dip our open hands deep into the well
Where our rivers run to, who can tell, who can tell?

We warm our hearts and faces in the heat of the burning flame
Something about our spirit never stays the same

Dont be afraid of the light that shines within you
Dont be afraid of the light that shines within you
Dont be afraid of the light that shines within you
Within you

So many lives in shadows, with so much to give away
Brilliant dreams in waiting, to see the light of day.
We step up to the well at the dawn of spring time
When we go our way, we let the light shine, let your light shine

Dont be afraid of the light that shines within you
Dont be afraid of the light that shines within you
Dont be afraid of the light that shines within you


Let the light protect you
Let the light direct you


Dont be afraid
Dont be afraid
The light that shines within you.


There are some fantastical  tales about St Brigid but this one I rather like
that one tradition says she was ordained a priest and another claims she was a bishop.


She was known to travel the countryside on the Eve of her feast, blessing households as she went ... accompanied by a white cow with red ears. 



Brigit heralded Spring and breathed life into the mouth of dead winter.


Traditionally, farm animals would be especially well taken care of on Saint Brigid’s Day. 

There you go – if you don’t own a farm, give your companion animal a special treat.  





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