Several of the Pagan sabbats are intimately connected with individual deities, or aspects of Deity. Eostre/ Ostara is the festival of the spring goddess, Lammas/Lughnassad is the celebration of the Celtic Lugh of the Long Arm, Beltane is sacred to the shining god Bel, and so on. But no sabbat is more closely tied to any god or goddess than Candlemas, also known as Imbolg, Oimelc, and of course, Brigit’s Eve.
A Spiritual Treasure
Sometimes you can be aware of a deity for years, and then you look more closely and find a relationship that fills a place in your heart. That is what happened between us and Brigit. She is our latest spiritual treasure.
Brigit is known to many as the Celtic goddess of healing, smithcraft, and inspiration. She is a multi-talented goddess, like Minerva of Rome, Isis of Egypt, or Freya of the Northlands. To millions, she is a saint of the Roman Catholic Church. The deeper we explored her story, the more complex and amazing she became. Yes, she is healer extraordinaire, a poetess and wellspring of creativity, a metalworker ranked with Hephaestus and Vulcan. To mention only a few of her accomplishments, she is a fire goddess, the Lady of sovereignty who conferred her blessing on kings and queens, and teacher and patron of warfare and the martial arts. She is the one who calligraphers and scribes prayed to before they touched quill to parchment. She is the great protectress who guards us from all evil and calamity. She is the goddess who taught women the caoine, keening to mourn their beloved dead. She guards the health of flocks and herds, she invented whistling, and she likes beer.
The image that stays with us is that of the flame alight in the midst of winter. When February second dawned in ancient northern Europe, the first signs of spring could be seen in the British Isles. But across the isles and the continent, people knew that the storms were not over, that long months lay between the first buds pushing through the snow and the ripe fields of crops ready to be harvested.
Symbol of Hope
Yet there was Brigit, herself the eternal flame. Here was this solitary, indomitable spark who spoke one word to all of us, “Hope.” We believe it was she who inspired Camus to say, “In the midst of winter, I discovered within myself an invincible summer.” She is the harbinger of spring, a goddess of fertility, flowers, and lambs. In that respect she is the promise of survival year by year, for ourselves, families, communities, and the circle of life. Yet she is more significant even than that. She is hope in all circumstances at all times.
We look at a world filled with human suffering, where children starve, where men kill over their beliefs or territory, where there is never enough medicine but always enough weapons. We see the parade of history punctuated by the Inquisition, slavery, oppression, ethnic cleansing, and now by the events of September 11.
Perhaps we are deeply mired in our own personal tragedies: a childhood of abuse, an incurable disease, a faithless or cruel spouse, a parent with Alzheimer’s, or a dead-end job and poverty. We have heard it said that every person you meet this day has a personal tragedy that we don’t know about. And yet, in the middle of heartbreak and chaos, we keep going. We feed our children, care for our ill, even smile at the people around us. We fight for social justice, better education, kindness to animals, and peace.
Where does this courage and compassion come from? How can it exist in this harsh world? Why have we not surrendered? We do not understand it, but we have names for its source: God. Goddess. Providence. Original Source. The Tao. Buddha. Mary. Jesus. Isis. Allah. The Sacred.
One of those names is Brigit. Whether you see her as goddess, archetype, myth, spirit—or as a woman in fifth-century Ireland who showed us how brave and loving a human being can be—she is a perfect symbol of the light in darkness, the warm place in the blizzard, the invincible hope that keeps us going in a hard world.
Without that, we would have nothing. That is her gift.