BRIGID AT IMBOLC
“Every day and every night
That I say the genealogy of Bride,
I shall not be killed, I shall not be harried,
I shall not be put in a cell, I shall not be wounded …
No fire, no sun, no moon shall burn me,
No lake, no water, no sea shall drown me.” (1)
Brigid has a long history, stretching back in Gaelic traditions to at least the pagan Celtic iron age. The words above come from the Western Highlands of Scotland, in this form probably dating to the traumatising early modern period. Caitlin Matthews suggests that, even though the the words are addressed to ‘St. Bride’ rather than the Goddess of poets, they still have the talismanic power to preserve life.
More recently, Brigid has been successfully revived as a Pagan Goddess, where, according to an affirming Imbolc self-dedication story by Morgan Daimler (2) she has lost none of her capacity to protect her devotees.
“When I decided that it was essential for me a self-dedication to the pagan path, just like all my books talked about, I chose Imbolc to do it on. At that point the holiday to me was on the 2nd, the same day as America celebrated Groundhog Day, and was about cleansing and blessing of the self, so it seemed ideal for a self-dedication. I got everything together and when the night of the ritual arrived I was excited to take such a life changing step. At 13, coming from a non-religious background, doing something like this was momentous and I felt like I was ready to commit myself to the spirituality I had been studying.
“I went out alone into the bitter cold, without a winter coat on, and tried to do the ritual the way I had learned how to, but it was hard to focus. February in Connecticut is frigid and the darkness on that particular night was total, without any moon to light my way. It was Brigid’s holiday, so I automatically started calling on her, asking for her help, for the strength to do what I planned to do. At the same time it was almost a reflex to call on a Goddess I associated with warmth a light under those circumstances. It was important to me to make a declaration of my religious path, the books I’d read at that point had emphasized the need to be outdoors, and I was too stubborn to let the cold weather stop me. So I prayed to Brigid.
“It’s funny the way, as children, we simply take experiences in our stride, without considering them at all out of the ordinary. I don’t remember ever feeling Brigid’s presence or having a sense of the numinous, but I prayed and then I was warm. The cold simply ceased to be something I noticed, as if everything around me had become an indoor room temperature. I took the usual half hour or so kneeling on the cold ground to do my ritual, dedicating myself to the Irish Gods and to pagan spirituality. And then I got up, collected my supplies and went back inside, feeling euphoric.
“At the time it never even registered that what I did was dangerous or that I was risking frostbite and hypothermia. And I never stopped and thought that it should seem at all remarkable to pray to Brigid for warmth and then be warm. It all seemed entirely natural and normal.
“We speak, and the Gods really do listen. Sometimes they even answer.” (2)
(1) Alexander Carmichael Carmina Gadelica Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press, 1972 (Cited in Caitlin Matthews The Element of the Celtic Tradition Shaftesbury: Element Books, 1989)
(2) Morgan Daimler Pagan Portals – Brigid: Meeting the Celtic Goddess of Poetry, Forge, and Healing Well Winchester UK & Washington USA: Moon Books, 2016. Daimler identifies as a reconstructionist polytheist pagan working in the Irish tradition.