Thursday, January 31, 2008

~Oimelc, Imbolc, and the Feast of Brigid~

This evening the Feast of Brigid begins, so I’d like to share a bit about this wonderful goddess.

Brigid, beloved Celtic goddess, was well-known throughout the British Isles as the three-aspected goddess of poetry, smithcraft and healing. Occasionally the three aspects were portrayed as three sisters, all named Brigid—an example of the “triple” form so beloved of the Celts. She was sometimes said to be the daughter of the Dagda, the “All-Father” of the Tuatha De Danaan. In Ireland she was known as Brigid, in Scotland, as Brigid or Bride, and in Britain, she was known as Brigantia, goddess of the Brigantes of Northern England. Her name means Exalted One.

In spite of the fact that not many tales seem to have survived about her, she looms larger than life in the psyche of the Celts of the British Isles, and it is likely that her legends were juxtaposed onto those of the early Irish Christian saint of the same name, who, in Wales, was known as St. Ffraid.

Brigid’s feast day, which fell on February 1, was known as Oimelc or Imbolg. Cormac’s
Glossary tells us that Oimelc means ewe’s milk and refers to the fact that this is the time lambs are born. Because of this, Brigid is associated with milk and the animals that give milk.

Imbolc is variously translated as “in the belly” (a time of quickening/birthing) or “washing up.” Taken together, these names inform us that this festival was one of lactation and cleansing. Interestingly, the word “February” comes from to the Roman “Februa” which was a festival of washing and purification.

Brigid was, and is, the goddess of poetry, smithcraft, and healing, and the Fire that is behind them all—

Poetry: The fire of the mind and mind’s inspiration that sparks and ignites the poet’s creativity, Smithcraft: The tempering fire of the forge and the skill of the craftsman/woman.
Healing: The fires of life and body that must burn properly so that life may continue, and healing occur.

Each of these show themselves to be fires of creation and transformation. Thus, she is the pre-eminent deity-saint of Celtic Healing.

The stories, but particularly the customs and lore about Brigid in either her Pagan or Christian guise, inform us that we are dealing with a very powerful Being, one of the Old Ones, deeply connected with the primal powers of Life itself —fire, water, air, earth, origination, creation, formation, and manifestation, fertility and abundance. (from
Faery Healing, Chapter 1)

The legends of Brigid show her to be associated with that borderlands/liminality/ threshold state, which clearly links her to the Otherworlds, including faery. Her association with liminal states is shown in her St. Brigid legends by the fact that she was born at sunrise, and while her mother was straddling a threshold; it is shown in her Goddess legends by the fact that she was of the Tuatha De Danann, yet married to a Fomorian.

Brigid is associated with water as well as fire, and many healing wells are sacred to her throughout the British Isles, including a well near Glastonbury, and most well known, the well near Kildare in Ireland.

Places where water emerges from the earth are always considered thresholds between the worlds, the underworld and middleworld, in this case. As a goddess of healing associated with seership and liminal states of being, she is uniquely suited to be the especial matron goddess of Faery Healing. (from
Faery Healing, Chapter 15)

Brigid is, above all, the goddess of the hearthfire, and this is a good time of year to ask for her blessings on your own home’s hearth-and heart-center. Light a candle to Brigid tonight, and ask for her blessings.

Blessings of the growing light to you,
Blessings of the pure white snowdrop to you,
Blessings of the newborn lambs to you.
And may Brigid’s blessings bring you
Inspiration and deep healing.




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