Moderator’s note: This marvelous FAR site has been running for 10 years and has had more than 3,600 posts in that time. There are so many treasures that have been posted in this decade that they tend to get lost in the archives. We are beginning this column so that we can all revisit some of these gems. Today’s blogpost was originally posted February 1, 2014. You can visit it here to see the original comments.
Brigid, Goddess of the Fire, greets us on Brigid’s Day, February 1. She is a Celtic sun goddess whose light burns brightly, illuminating the darkness of the land, of a heavy heart, and the dark night of our soul. With her shining light to guide us, we are lifted out of the Underworld darkness where we tend to descend in Winter, to the light of the World above, teeming with life as Spring begins to unfold her wet wings.
Brigid is a beloved goddess throughout the British Isles, particularly Ireland, where she is seen as the Mother of the Land and Her people. As a feminine archetype, she activates our solar, active nature. Much like the sun rising from below the Earth’s horizon, she urges us to come out of hiding and shine our light on the world. This may be done in a quiet manner, such as sitting by the hearthfire and doing needlework, finding inspiration by a walk in nature and writing a poem, moving about the kitchen making soup, getting busy with an art or craft project, or in big ways by taking on new roles as healers, artists, and leaders and calling others to join us.
As a Triple Goddess she fires her arrows of inspiration (poetry, writing, arts and crafts), healing (the fire of life within our physical bodies), and smithing (fire of the hearth and home and the alchemical fire of change) right into our hearts, igniting us to action.
In her shadow aspect (the unlived part), she represents feeling stuck in the underworld darkness, unmotivated, uninspired and immobilized — perhaps an unwillingness to claim or give life to a latent creative talent. Keep in mind that being in the darkness of the Underworld or cave of winter can be by choice — a longing to rest, hibernate and gestate — or by an unconscious process that draws us down. Activating Brigid in her light-bringing aspect helps us move out of this dark and quiet repose when we feel ready or inspired. Sometimes the very act of going outside and doing things in the world, particularly creative activities, helps to awaken us and move us out of a rut.
Saint Brigid is said to have been born at the crack of dawn in the threshold of a doorway, both representative of liminal states of being — of this world and not of this world. Because of this, in her Triple Goddess power, She represents the mediating force of standing between two opposites and holding the tension, e.g., pagan/Christian, freedom/slavery, rich/poor, upperworld/underworld, fairie/mortal, fire/water, goddess/woman.
Brigid grew up to be a strong-headed young woman who bucked authority, including her own father as well as the Church Fathers. This is part of her archetypal energy: the rebellious daughter and fierce leader who speaks up for what she believes in and does not submit to patriarchal authority. She rebuffed her father’s attempts to arrange her marriage when she came of age. She knew that she had work to do. One legend tells of how she went to the bishop to ask for land to build an abbey. The bishop scoffed at her temerity and said he would grant her as much land as her mantle could cover. Apparently he didn’t realize the extent of her abilities to create plenty, because when she spread her magic cloak, it covered many acres. The bishop had no choice but to grant her the land on which she built her abbey, and so she became the first abbess of Kildare.
So great was Brigid’s compassion, miraculous healing powers, and ministry to the poor and weak that she was ordained as the first female bishop. However, she did not reject the old forms of worship and devotion and so was a living bridge between the Old Religion and worship of the Goddess and the worship of the one Christian God. For many years, Her abbey at Kildare was a school that preserved ancient knowledge and the old crafts of which the Goddess Brigid was patron. St. Brigid herself became a focus for the veneration of the Divine Feminine, particularly by Gaelic women, and indeed by women across the British Isles and throughout time.
The Catholic Church, which had conflated the Saint with the Goddess to appease the people who loved Her, removed St. Brigid’s Feast Day from the calendar in the 1960s, however they did not decanonize her. Although they reduced her status to an Irish-only saint, they did not diminish Her in the hearts of the people. She holds equal status with St. Patrick as patron saint of Ireland.
As Triple Goddess, She is guardian of the blacksmith’s fire, the forge in which metal is shaped and transformed, much like the alchemical fire that transmutes base metal into gold. The blacksmiths were considered a type of alchemist and wizard in ancient times. As a patron of this art, Brigid helps us transform our darkest fears and doubts into love and strength. She helps us see things in a new light, to move out of the pain and suffering caused by our fixed way of thinking and to perceive things with a different perspective.
Brigid stirs the Cauldron of Inspiration, the Imbas, which brings divine enlightenment. She is the inner feminine spark of inspiration, the fire of the soul that ignites the inner masculine to go forth and do the creative work in the world. (Note: We each have an inner feminine and masculine, regardless of gender.)
As a healer, She stirred the cauldron of plenty that made the healing elixirs and soups that brought people back to health. One of her miraculous powers was that Her pot was always full and never empty. The poor and hungry knew they could always have a bowl of soup or cup of milk when they went to Brigid for help. It was said her cows gave milk four times a day. Whatever food was needed she made appear. In this way, She is a goddess of fertility and abundance who reminds us that we always have enough, indeed, that we always are enough.
Happy Brigid’s Day!
BIO: Stephanie Anderson Ladd is a psychotherapist and facilitator of workshops and groups on the divine feminine and the art of SoulCollage. She has a new lavishly illustrated book coming out later in February entitled Goddesses of Self-Care: 30 Divine Feminine Archetypes To Guide You. She is continually inspired by Brigid’s creative fire. She lives in Durham, NC