Rekindle Your Wild Joy and Deep Belonging to the Earth

Happy Imbolc! February 3, 2011

Beannacht Brighdhe – happy Brigid’s day!

May your ewes give plentiful milk; may your awakening plants be safe from frost and bloom abundantly once summer comes; may the pale sun grow to warm your spirit and quicken what is most precious to you.

The prehistoric Irish goddess/woman Brigid, aka Bríg (& later, the female saint Brigit) is the Irish patron of healing, poetry, learning, and smithcraft. The meaning of her name, according to Lady Augusta Gregory, is “Breo-saighit, a fiery arrow.” In a way, she’s sort of a western Saraswati. Besides her main skills listed above, she is credited in early Irish tales for the invention of the whistle (for calling each other during the night before the invention of cel phones) and of keening, a particularly moving wailing cry for mourning the death of a beloved. At this turning of the year back toward the warmth, we remember her by visiting wells or springs, and by lighting candles.

At Kildare, Ireland, one flame burned constantly in her honor for thousands of years, non-stop. It was tended by 19 priestesses in rotation, one each night in sequence. On the 20th day, the flame was tended by Brigid Herself. Men were expressly forbidden to cross the hedges to view the sacred flame. Giraldus Cambrensis reported that males who tried would go insane, die, or have their penises wither off. No messing around here! This was strictly women only.

In the middle ages, this ancient flame was extinguished by the Church in an attempt to snuff out such pagan worship – but the people, in good Celtic fashion, just switched names and began worshipping Saint Brigit instead of the goddess Brid. The holiday on Feb. 2 now became known as “Candlemas.” And Brigid’s flame was lit once more, this time by Catholic nuns, who continue to tend it to this day.

“Groundhog Day” is a remnant of Pagan spiritual practice for this time of year. I’ll admit to feeling mischievous delight every year when weather augury by rodent gets televised.


At this time around February 2, Imbolc, how might you honor the spirit of Brigid and invite her gifts into your life?

  • You might do so by letting your springs of inspiration flow. Compose a poem, a song, a dance, a recipe, a goofy rhyme, a blog post.
  • Light a candle, with intention of allowing your inner lights of hope, strength, love, perseverance, attention, kindness, etc. to return with the light of the sun. Staring into the flame of a candle for three minutes while stilling the mind to pay attention to only that can be a powerful meditation.
  • Pick some herbs and place them in a cauldron to brew tea for healing.In what way can your health be better attended to? Imbolc offers a second chance to go for those new years’ resolutions. After all, the quickening of spring feels much more like the real new year of life beginning, eh?
  • Perhaps you need to be inside the cauldron: take a long hot bath with candles and lavender and perhaps a really good book.
  • Clean and repair your home – the hearth is another aspect of Her sacred fire.
  • You could bring in white: decorate with white flowers or wear white garments. White is an important color for Brigid’s Day – the melting of the last snows; the rising of the first flowers, which in the cold British Isles are often white snowdrops; the white milk that gives this day its other name, Imbolc (from the Gaelic oi melc, ewes’ milk, beginning to flow around now due to the birth of the spring lambs).
  • Go to a water source with reverent intention to help. Clean the debris from a well or spring, so it can flow freely and cleanly once more. (As without, so within, as the sages say.) Then sit by it and watch the birds. Listen to the frogsong. Make little offerings – perhaps of ribbons or tokens; perhaps of poetic words – and ask her blessings.

I once saw such a well deep in the forests of Brittany, the tree overhanging it festooned with petitions and offerings. It was a moving sight, and a beautiful reminder to tend the spirit of our living world.

Whether you prefer to think of her as pagan deity, Catholic saint, or the manifested qualities her name invokes: inspired eloquence, skill at forging, and healing, may the blessings of Brigid fall softly upon you this Spring like petals from an abundantly flowering tree. And may they smell sweet.


30 Responses to “Happy Imbolc!”

  1. Lane Says:


  2. Laura Sebastianelli Says:

    Tina — so many welcome thoughts here! Lovely!

  3. Max Says:

    Thanks for this post. I like how you usually seem to find the right balance of tone for both the uninformed (me) and the initiated. I will be mindful of your suggestions for honoring Brighdhe (albeit a day late) while trying to forget that at any moment my penis may ‘wither off’.

    • Tina Fields Says:

      Why, thank you!
      And just to allay any fears/horrors I might have unintentionally invoked in male readers, remember that such withering only occurs when getting too close to the holy flame.
      (Hm – maybe that doesn’t help. :-p)

  4. Karen Says:

    Blessings! Thank you for refreshing and revitalizing my spirit and soul..with the picture of the well and stones and trees. City living wreaks havoc with the internal. I am grateful and uplifted, knowing Spirit renews me.

  5. Ethan Hay (Facebook link) Says:

    Awesome! I was describing Candlemas (and the French counterpart, Chandleur) and wondering what the origins were. Thank you!

  6. Jon Berger (Facebook link) Says:

    Our Ameracauna hen Betsy has celebrated St. Bridgid’s day by laying her first egg of the season, a sure sign that spring is on the way. Perhaps we should rename her Brigid.

  7. Ethan Hay (Facebook link) Says:

    I have a cousin named Brigid, nicknamed Biddy until later in her life, when she started emphasizing “I’m Brigid.” Beats trying to spell “Brighdhe” without looking.

  8. LindaFlanagan Says:

    ah tina, it’s been awhile since i’ve checked into your blog and it is a beautiful thing to read and savor. thanks for all that you give us with your insightful and detailed writings. i hope i get to see the first week of may when i am in your neck of the woods…….

  9. Birrell Walsh (facebook link) Says:

    And Phil, my spy in Pennsylvania tells me, saw his shadow.

  10. Tina Fields Says:

    I just found out there’s a virtual Brigid’s Poetry Festival going on every year on Facebook, and you can join in. “Participate in the Annual Brigid Poetry Festival by posting your poem here to honor the Goddess Brigid, patron of poets and healers.”

  11. […] att fortsätta en ursprungligen hednisk dyrkan i en nödtorftigt ”kristnad” form… Många hedningar och hedniska kvinnor västerut har skrivit om […]

  12. Tina Fields Says:

    Just found these wonderful musings about Brigid’s Day on the Pagan website, The Wild Hunt.

    “Perhaps on this Imbolc, Brighid will ignite some fire in me that will illuminate ways in which I can better align myself with the rhythms of the earth. Perhaps I will see in the mind of my heart some memory of a simpler time; an ancient world that my spirit belonged to, and still belongs to. Perhaps when that happens I will think of the ewe, and the newborn sheep, and I will see in them something true about the world, about myself, and about the Great Mystery to which we all belong.” – Teo Bishop

    “Brigid is a time to honor how the potentialities hidden in the year to come, potentialities that can with skill and wisdom be transformed into what is visible. If we are uncertain as to what they are (and how can we not be?) we can invoke Her in whatever aspect seems most appropriate, and ask Her to help them manifest in a good way, and as gently as possible. But if the blows from Her hammer within the forge are mighty ones and Her fires overwhelmingly hot, know it may take such blows and such heat when the material to be shaped into its inner promise is strong and perhaps also recalcitrant.” – Gus diZerega

    “The fire of Brigantia was both the fire of fertility with the earth and the fire of the sun, which gradually gained in strength as the days lengthened. The lighting of bonfires or candles was an expression of magical encouragement to the sun, as well as a sign of rejoicing at the more abundant light. Traditionally, Imbolc marked the point after which it would no longer be necessary to carry a candle when going out to do early morning work.” – Alexei Kondratiev, The Apple Branch: A Path to Celtic Ritual

  13. Erfert Fenton (Facebook link) Says:

    So, you are emboldened to inculcate us, in bulk, into the intricacies of Imbolc? Cool!

  14. Martha McCabe (Facebook link) Says:

    IMBOLC bringing healing water RAIN to Nor Cal. Blessed Bridget

  15. Virginia Grace Abraham (Facebook link) Says:

    Too good not to share, thank you Goddess of Spring 😉

  16. Ryan Kennedy (Facebook link) Says:

    Happy Imbolc. St. Brigid’s Day. Groundhog Dog. Halfway to Spring Day. Between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox Day. Super Bowl Sunday.

    • Tina Fields Says:

      What is this last esoteric ritual of which you speak? 😉

      • Ryan Kennedy (Facebook link) Says:

        Tina, thanks for asking. It’s a complex ritual symbolizing ancient fertility rites. There are two “end zones” representing the archetypal feminine. These end zones call forth qualities of the heroine’s journey such as creative potential, patience, and yielding. Then there are two teams of players running around with a pigskin ball trying to impregnate their respective end zones while preventing the opposite team from impregnating their own. These players represent the archetypal masculine and call forth qualities of the hero’s journey, such as courage, ambition, and power. Of course there is some bloodshed in the ritual to symbolize the importance of the cyclic nature of life and death, the eternal return. The crowds seem to love it, probably because it helps them sublimate their own existential fears of meaninglessness, nonbeing, alienation, and self-responsibility.

  17. Patricia Krown (Facebook link) Says:

    WOW!! ancient ritual shared with modern sight! Amazingly done!

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