Story Power author Kate Farrell has posted a new blog post on St. Brigid’s Day, the ancient feast of the Imbolg, honoring the Celtic goddess Bríd- read the post here!
St. Brigid is a mysterious figure in many ways. In the fifth and sixth centuries, during the time that Ireland was converting to Christianity, it was a common strategy to follow the example of St. Patrick by building the “new” religion onto the old one. And the truth is that one of the most powerful goddesses in the Celtic Parthenon was Brigantia—or Brigid. Her feast day, *Imbolg, became our St. Brigid’s Day, celebrated on February 1st or 2nd.
Born into slavery, it’s said that Brigid was “veiled” and became an abbess after vowing herself to Christ. According to tradition, around 480 CE she founded a monastery at Kildare on the site of an older pagan shrine to the Celtic goddess who was her namesake.
With an initial group of seven companions, Brigid organized the first communal consecrated religious life for women in Ireland. Brigid is also credited with founding a school of art, including metal work and illumination. The Kildare scriptorium made the Book of Kildare, which drew high praise from Gerald of Wales, but which has disappeared after the Reformation.
Could Brigid have performed miracles? It’s not impossible. Take a look at some of miracles credited over the centuries to this saint:
~Brigid was known to turn water into milk or beer for the celebration of Easter.
~When she was a teenager, Brigid was trying to go see Saint Patrick, but was slowed up by the crowd. To get through, she healed people along the way who were waiting for St. Patrick to heal them.
~The prayers of Saint Brigid were known to still the wind and the rain.
In one story, Brigid protected a woman from a nobleman who had entrusted a silver brooch to the woman for safekeeping but then secretly threw it into the sea. He charged her with stealing it, knowing that he could take her as a slave if a judge ruled in his favor.
The woman fled and sought refuge with Brigid’s community. Providentially, one of her fishermen hauled in a fish which, when cut open, proved to have swallowed the brooch. The nobleman freed the woman, confessed his sin, and bowed in submission to Brigid.
~On another occasion, Brigid was travelling to see a physician for her headache. She stayed at the house of a Leinster couple who had two mute daughters. The daughters were traveling with Brigid when her horse startled, causing her to fall and graze her head on a stone. A touch of Brigid’s blood healed the girls.
~One of the more commonly told stories is of Brigid asking the King of Leinster for land. She told the king that the place where she stood was the perfect spot for a convent. It was beside a forest where they could collect firewood and berries. There was also a lake nearby that would provide water, and the land was fertile. The king laughed at her and refused to give her any land. Brigid prayed to God and asked him to soften the king’s heart.
Then she smiled at the king and said, “Will you give me as much land as my cloak will cover?”
The king thought that she was joking and, hoping to get rid of her, he agreed. She told four of her sisters to take up the cloak, but instead of laying it flat on the turf, each sister, with face turned to a different point of the compass, began to run swiftly, the cloth growing in all directions. The cloak began to cover many acres of land.
The king was persuaded, and soon after that became a Christian and began to help the poor; he even commissioned the building of a convent. Legend has it that the convent was known for making jam from local blueberries, and a tradition has sprung up of eating jam on St. Brigid’s Day celebrated each year on February 1st or 2nd.
*Imbolc (Imbolg) – Cross Quarter Day
Imbolc (Imbolg) the festival marking the beginning of spring has been celebrated since ancient times. It is a Cross Quarter Day, midpoint between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox, it can fall between the 2nd & 7th of February when calculated as the mid point between the astronomical Winter Solstice and the astronomical Spring Equinox.
At the Mound of the Hostages on the Hill of Tara the rising sun at Imbolc illuminates the chamber. The sun also illuminates the chamber at Samhain, the cross quarter day between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice.
The Mound of the Hostages at Tara is a Neolithic Period passage tomb, contemporary with Newgrange which is over 5000 years old, so the Cross Quarter Days were important to the Neolithic (New Stone Age) people who aligned the chamber with the Imbolc and Samhain sunrise. In early Celtic times around 2000 years ago, Imbolc was a time to celebrate the Celtic Goddess Brigid (Brigit, Brighid, Bride, Bridget, Bridgit, Brighde, Bríd). Brigid was the Celtic Goddess of inspiration, healing, and smithcraft with associations to fire, the hearth, and poetry.
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