Monday, January 23, 2012

Goddesses in the Dirt: Brigid - the Goddess of Imbolc

An archaeologist unearths the Divine Feminine, one archetype at a time...


Goddesses in the Dirt - Issue #27: Brigid - the Goddess of Imbolc


In a few days it will be February 1, known as Imbolc, or the Feast of the Bride in the Celtic calendar year.

It is the day sacred to Brigid, also known as Bride, an old Celtic goddess who became a Christian saint. 

In the Celtic year, Imbolc is the time of the lactation of ewes and the returning flow of milk which announces the return of spring and life to the earth. February is a harsh month in many parts of the world where people are looking for any sign of the coming spring. Groundhog's Day on February 2 represents a more modern agrarian ritual in which the small burrowing creature (most famously known as Punxsutawney Phil) scrambles up from his warren and watchers divine whether or not he has seen his shadow, prognosticating either an early spring or six more weeks of winter. In the Catholic calendar the date is celebrated as Candlemas, also known as the purification of the Virgin Mary.


One tradition still celebrated in Ireland on St. Brigid's Day is that of Brigid's Bed. Young unmarried girls of the village create a doll made of corn which symbolizes Brigid and call it the "Brideog".


They adorn it with stones and ribbons and fashion a small bed for it to lie in. On St. Brigid's Eve they stay awake all night with the Brideog and on the following day the girls carry it from house to house throughout the village while the women staying at home give offerings of coins or snacks.
Corn Dolly
Fast Bergholt, near Ipswich, England
Wheat Straw
1980s
24 1/2 x 7 1/2" (62 1/4 x 19 cm.) 

Another tradition is the making of the Brigid's Cross, usually fashioned from rush or straw. They are then hung over the door and are believed to protect the household in the coming year, particularly those who are expected to give birth.

Neopagans celebrate Imbolc as the solar midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, often by lighting bonfires and marking the date on the night of the full moon nearest the midpoint.

On the eve of Brigid's Feast Day, people would leave out a piece of cloth to be blessed by the Goddess/Saint as she passed by, which would be used to heal those giving birth in the coming year. This gorgeous scarf in honor of Brigid's Day is featured at the wonderfully named blog Knitting, Sex and God.

On February 1st, I will join in the celebration of Imbolc and Brigid's day by lighting a candle 

calling my girl to celebrate the bond Brigid represents between mother and daughter

watching for the first attempts of life to push through the cold earth,


and listening for the sound of spring's voice in the wind.


Photos from Knitting, Sex and God blog and Google images

36 comments:

  1. Lovely tradition and interesting about the combo goddess/saint Brigid and the meshing of the two worlds. I remember making a God's eye in school which are Native American which reminded me of Brigid's Cross. Thank-you for your wealth of knowledge always~!

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    1. i must know more about that God's eye......hopefully there is also one for the Goddess ;-)

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  2. I always enjoy my visits here and learn so much. Interesting how many traditions are meshed together.

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  3. This is my first introduction to Brigid's Day and Imbolc. What wonderful traditions and it is so very cool that you'll be celebrating the day with your daughter. I think I will join you and others in lighting a candle on the 1st.

    btw, That scarf is so gorgeous!

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    1. rubye, i wish the celebration on feb 1 could be in person with my daughter, but alas, it will have to be over the phone..

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  4. You've shared another delightful story, with us in many details. Thank you.

    Historically, there was a woman named Brigid, who headed a double monastery (one for men, one for women) at Kildare, Ireland. She is Ireland's leading female Saint, and second only to St. Patrick in Irish veneration.

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    1. thank you r-bear, for sharing this additional insight about brigid. i think i might do another post on her at some point, because of the dichotomy between brigid's positive view of snakes and st. patrick's obvious vilification of them - what a pair they make!

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  5. that is interesting-I have not know about this fest, although I also consider February as the most tough month of winter-I can hardly wait for spring to come!

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  6. I like Mia`s face as she senses her cold feet, so cute! And your mother/daughter faces, too! And the dollies, oh what not on your blog, Amanda?! Always a pleasure to visit you, even if I almost get cold feet from the last pictures myself!

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  7. My wife's name is Brigitte . . .

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  8. Such a lovely, lovely post - and you've covered all the bases! From the lovely green gown of our Irish Brigid (that I would have given my eye teeth for in my heyday :)) to Patrick's first 'mother superior'. We've had many Bridgets in my Irish family lineage, and this was to by my confirmation name, excepting I had one already and decided to just use my middle name.
    I especially love your girls celebrating the day with you together. So sweet!
    And, of course, our Imbolic, which I was thinking of posting about, myself after thoughts of the Chinese New Year. Cheers and well done! (Excellent photos too.)

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  9. Your goddess posts are captivating! Your Kosmos-purchased pomegranate candle holder will have special meaning for your lighting on Feb 1st.

    I love the last snow shot... stay warm, mon amie!

    Bises,
    Genie

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  10. I really love that we are almost half way there! There is such a sense of community in this tradition.....lovely to remember on Feb 1...I will light a candle on my side of the world....and feel the ancient energy of Brigitte....lovely post Amanda!

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  11. So much to learn, and yet, so much we know already.
    This was new to me.
    We had a burning ceremony in my hometown in the middle of winter, big mounts of old wood burning all night in front of people's homes. I have a vague recollection of it; yet, it must have come from a long tradition necessary to survive long winters.

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  12. Ancient traditions never die... I love your snow shots.

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  13. My mother's home has always had a Brigid's cross hanging up. And now I'm realizing that mine is missing one. I must fix that xo

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  14. I didn't know about Brigid's Feast Day - very cool although that photo is alarmingly rather KKK. I love your snow pictures - the best part of winter.

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    1. sarah - i can see why you say the foto of the cloaked individuals holding torches would recall the kkk. the wearing of hooded cloaks goes back to druidic times and those who keep the ancient pagan rites alive wear them to honor the old ways. it's too bad it has become synonymous with the kkk. i remember the first time i learned that the swastika was actually an ancient symbol infused with positive meaning which the nazis later purloined, obviously profaning its significance. it seems that modern organizations - particularly those with nefarious goals - feel the need to appropriate the strength of ancient symbols in order to establish their own power base.

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    2. i just saw the heart shaped leaf in your header for the first time..

      so much to digest here, amanda. hello saint brigid hello hopes of spring, hello straw beds and passionate hopeful nights :^)

      and knitting, sex, and god? that is one great title!!!

      you are writing a book here on your blog, amanda. i hope it will be so.

      love
      kj

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    3. you have one sharp eye kj - i never saw that heart shaped leaf until now!

      a resounding hello to all the abovementioned items you state....including passionate hopeful nights (hehe)

      don't you love that blog name? who would have ever thought of those in the same sentence...

      xoxo
      a

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    4. I think I read somewhere that the Nazis - in a nutshell - went all out to create their own package of "the bells and the smells", to replace locally practised religions with a new state religion. [Not that I'm suggesting any established religion would try to tell people what to think].

      There's more here about Brigid than I ever knew before, and some stunning photos as well. I just know I'm going to enjoy the content of your previous posts. :)

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  15. I love Brigid and her powers of protection for the vulnerable in the world. She is my very favorite of the goddesses. Thank you for the abundant information about her!

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  16. Amanda, I loved this post. I love the Celtic traditions and am intrigued by pagan observances. Did not know about this goddess, but midwinter is always a reason for celebration in my eyes.;)
    Simply love that gorgeous picture of you and your girl.;)
    As a curiosity, in Slovakia, where I was born, making corn-husk dolls is a very old tradition and part of our folklore.;)
    Have a great week dear friend and thank you for your always kind and substantial comments.;)
    xoxo

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  17. Hello, my dear Amanda -- what a beautiful photograph of you and your daughter! (Goddesses in your own right, I do not exaggerate, I am sure.)

    A, have you heard of the Eve of St. Agnes? The way you describe some of the traditions of Imbolc remind me of that tradition.

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    1. suze - i've not heard of st. agnes' eve - would love to know more.......i suspect she would be a good candidate for my goddess series?

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  18. Whilst here in the south the Wheel of the Year will be entering Lammas and the Goddess will be entering her phase of Wise Crone and time for quiet contemplation as our days begin to shorten.

    I hope you hear Spring singing of sweet days to come your way Amanda. Smiles*!*

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    1. annie - lammas is new to me - i will be looking that one up!

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  19. ooh neo-pagans - how interesting; i love this post and all its ancient connections, and Brigid herself; and the mother daughter connection, and the snow picture. I hope this whole series will be a book one day that i can cherish and reread xx

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  20. Just Beautiful Sister! The magnolias blooming through the fluffy snow are gorgeous. .. and daughter and mother... and adorable mia...a very feminine portraiture...hmmm

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  21. Another fabulous post....you draw us in with your words and photos... you know how I adore all the Celtic traditions... and hope that one day you will write a post about St.Brigid and ST.Patrick and....sssssssnakes!

    I love your Pomegrante candle holder so much! It casts a warm, magical glow....it will be beautiful to look at year round - but especially now in Mid-Winter. The Magnolias bursting through the snow......ah.....

    And Mia....in the snow....she is so adorable!!!!!

    Love the photo of you and your daughter too.... although you will be celebrating via phone....the heart reaches out through the lines and Skype....your bond will only be stronger!

    Love,

    ♥ Robin ♥

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    1. robin, you and r-bear gave me a great idea for a post - discussing brigid and st. patrick on or around march 17 ;-)

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  22. I'm always interested in traditions and your post is so interesting Amanda!!!

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  23. What stunning pictures, all of them, but especially the first one. I commented earlier on a blog, posted by Barbara Scully in Ireland, that was about Brigid. I'm learning a lot about her today! I love hearing about the Celts, and all these wonderful traditions. Your post is a great way to slide into the evening silence that I share with my daughter. Thanks!
    Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror & Other Memoirs

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    1. what a lovely compliment, ann - i'm honored to know that you and jen enjoyed this post so much.

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  24. What a beautiful post. Thank you so much for sharing these wonderful traditions.

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