- a collection of essays on Neodruidic Studies
- a journal of Post-Reconstructionist Neopaganism

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


Who was Brigid to the Pre-Christian Celts? Sometimes it seems that there's nothing available but hearsay, and none of that can clearly be shown to predate the monastic scribes of the last 1200 years. Is there any "hard" evidence to reveal her to us? We have no dazzling Gundestrup or Reims-ish icons from Ireland or Britain to compare and review here, no Scythian or Roman craftsmen to fossilise a swarm of cross-cultural clues for us…

None but one;  the Romano Celtic shrine to Brigantia from Northern Britain…

Brigantia shrine from Birrens, Dunfriesshire

Above is an 1800 year old artifact bearing an image which we should cherish and hold central to our quests for understanding Her. Yet, somehow, it remains largely overlooked. Yes, the iconography here is almost completely Roman, calling her Brigantia and portraying her as a sovereignty goddess with a full set of the attributes of Minerva: the spear and shield and the Aegis on her breastplate, and in her hand, the orb as a symbol of her universal rulership. You may recall having seen this particular icon, but honestly, just how often? Why so infrequently?

The Minerval aspect of Brigid accounts for or at least informs many of the bits of lore we have from Irish and the Scots. The protectress function not only sees her as a guide and guardian of armies and nations but figures equally well in her inspiration to mothers and house keepers as foster mother, blesser of the home-hearth and protector of door, wall and roof. As inspiratrix she guides the creative with her flame of wisdom. As the emblem of the soul of the nation of Ireland to this day and more anciently of Britain, there is little question of her function as a goddess of sovereignty.

But, as usual, instead we are plastered (wattle and daubed?) with the same couple of fragments of Brigid-lore from the Irish hero tales, the sources for which only rarely exceed the first thousand years before our time. Younger yet, the remaining body of lore attributed to Her is actually booty from raids made by the wishful-thinking upon the lore and folkways attributed to the quasi-historical Christian saint bearing her name. I must confess I often have pillaged therein myself, particularly in the wonderful appendices to Campbell’s Carmina Gaedelica. That material, as beautiful and evocative as it is, bears its unshakable Iron Age pedigree only in that it was field-collected from Scottish folk traditions alive in the years stretching from the time of Charles Dickens through the reign of Queen Victoria. Yes, back when Lady Gregory carried her tablets me down from Ben Bulben, summing up for us the three primary aspects of Brigid as to forever more officially be parroted as... 

Quite simply: 
a Goddess of the Hearth 
and the Sanctity of Fire...

There seems to be a significant number of references to the quasi-historical saint, or dearly hoped-for “Celtic Goddess”, which indicate an association with fire, and in particular, sacred fires, and a strong and potentially very old set of household hearth-customs, the common ground there being specifically fire-based prayers and ritual activity. Again I will admit to falling back on my own intuition and syncretic tendencies (and some 25 years of ritual experience with Her) and I continually emerge with the conclusion that a primary component of Brigid’s identity was foused on the sanctity and utter indispensability of fire and as such it brought Her veneration to a central, veritably axial, role in every home, first then and foremost as a Goddess of the Hearth.


Protectress and Sovereign:  
Brigid / Brigantia - the syncretic Romano Celtic figure, often displayed with the hallmarks of Minerva (Spear, Shield, Aegis and Orb of Brigantia); St. Brigid is even today held to be the “patron saint” (matron) and figurehead of Ireland.

Flame-Tender / Home Hearth-blesser

Healer (Brigid of the Wells; flame upon the waters )

Muse / Initiatrix (Brigid of the poets)

Foster-Mother  (Brigid of the Milkmaid and Wet-Nurse) 
St Brigid, held to be Christ’s “foster mother”; Brigid as nurse who weans the Solar Infant: hence linking with the Imbolc milk-themes…The cosmic Child of Promise, born at Yuletide, is now given-over into fosterage

Candlemas, Feb.2nd, an annual blessing of the church’s candles, held upon the
“Feast of the Purification”: honoring the ‘re-churching’ of Mary, 40 days after the defilement of childbirth, women were only then ritually cleansed and allowed to re-enter the temple. Itself being adjacent to of the feast of St.Blaise, furthers the holy-flame motif;  a Feb. 3rd Christian fire-ritual of blessing the throat with crossed burning candles (Blaise healed a boy who was dying of a fish-bone stuck in his throat).


The Symbolic Formula:  From INFANCY, through WEANING, to FOSTERAGE
THEN, Yule Solc = Nativity and Vernal Eqx = Coming of Age...
THEREFORE, the Feb XQ = “from Infancy, through Weaning, to Fosterage”
Narrative Exgesis:
The Old World celebration of the Winter Crossquarter, the Calends of February has held much spiritual significance over the centuries. Throughout these various manifestations there runs a set of recurrent themes:
- The Deepest Deep of Winter  -yet, if the Sun shows his face today, the worst of winter may be yet to come; a persistent tradition a thousand years older than our pitiful “Punxsutawney Phil”.
- The Flame:  the Need Fire, the New Fire, the Sacred Fire of the protectress Brigid: Tender of the Hearth; Keeper of the Flame.
- Purification:  Februare (Latin), meaning “to expiate” or purify: the Roman precursor of the Christians’ Lent: to prepare for the coming cycle of life; to extinguish the old and worn-out and to start anew...
- Weaning:  In her traditional role of foster-mother, Brigid receives the divine solar infant, given over into Her care by the Dark Mother of Yuletide.    
Prepare yourself for the work of the Goddess Brigid’s invincible purifying fire:  review the aspects of your life and self that need the assistance and purification She can bring to you.  Remember; this is the Rite of Weaning, through which we may find the first steps of a new independence and self reliance, and, with our hearts transformed by Her fire, we may find our way out of the dark storms of winter and into a new cycle of growth...

(at 2015, a now 25 year old Neopagan tradition in our community...)

(T1) and
(T2) Standard Opening Phases of the Rite 
                              ( "T1" etc.= of the 5 "Tiers" in the ADF liturgical format**)
Gateway Opening & Gatekeeper
Invocation to In Dagda
In Dagda is entreated to hold the way open
Invocation of the Kindred Spirits

(T3) / Offeratory Phase of the Rite:
Nine Aspects by nine women (or 3 women do 3 aspects each)
Recite aspect; light one of nine candles from previous flame
THE MYSTERY, enacted... 
The flame of the Goddess is given to the people:
Priest on one knee, diagonally at far-end of the area, amid the Folk
Priest sings Isaac’s Hymn to Brigid, extending unlit candle...
Veiled/masked priestess slowly approaches with altar flame and lights his candle
Priest places the Flame of Brighde among the grove’s standard hallows
The wand is passed: individual offerings are made before the Priestess of Brighde...
SUMMARY OFFERING and Piacular Appeal
THE OMEN is taken
The ashes of the burned Yule-greens are scryed...

(T4) / Receptory Phase of the Rite
Induction of Receptivity
The Emblems of Blessing are distributed to the assembly
The Waters ( the congregation are aspurged )
The Flame  ( Brighde's flame is passed to each person's cadle )
The Guided Imagery*** by the priest:  
We open-to and are rectified-by the Flame of Brighde...
             (T5) / Standard Recessional Phase of the Rite  


***THE GUIDED IMAGERY in the Receptory phase of the rite (T4) wherein 
we each embrace the Flame of Brigid  ( used in our local rites since the early 1990's )

(( an MP3 recording, with brief intro, of the 
following can be accessed HERE... ))

Her image comes before us now,
woven from the very fabric of night....
She is clothed in the deepest sap­phire blue
and, amongst the folds of her robes,
glow the lights of a million stars.

Slowly, She reaches into her robe. . .  and. . .  Her hand emerges –
now bearing a pure, white flame... danc­ing over Her palm.
Her arm, bearing the flame, stretches out toward us now –
and we can feel the warmth of its light, flickering before us.

Slowly, She fades 

back - into the darkness, 

and all that remains

is the flame. 

It burns steadily, it burns brighter, and gradually. . . 

it overcomes all things to us; and becomes all things to us.
It is the new fire; the pure fire - the burning star, alone in the darkness.
It is the gathering light of the Invincible Sun.
Before its brightness no stain, no shadow, no doubt  can endure.
It is the light which we seek;
It is the light which we now embrace. . .
      To this light we now release our sorrows -
      To this light we now release our fears -

      To this light we now release all negativities -

And we watch as they meet the light  and are consumed...
In the light they are consumed and annihilated; utterly,
and we are free. . .

And now for a few minutes,
let us abide in that freedom,
   and when we are ready - return.


- Earrach of Pittsburgh     

Thursday, January 1, 2015


A printable PDF of the above charts
may be downloaded from HERE... 
The full series of Druids' Almanac charts,
essays and resources is found

Image: Solstice-Equinox Square (c) 2000 Earrach of Pittsburgh