The Goddess Bride and St Bridget are closely linked in Irish belief and mythology. Both are very beautiful beings.
Bride is the Goddess of healing, poetry and blacksmiths. She symbolises the elements of Fire, the Sun and the Hearth. She is seen as bringing fertility to the land and its people and is closely connected to midwives and new-born babies. The pre-Christian festival of Bride is celebrated as the Eve of St Bride on 31st January and Imbolc on 1st February. This is a time of expectation, when evenings are ever so slightly longer and the hope of spring becomes a reality. Lighting a fire and candles is a lovely way to mark this turning point day.
Bride – Green Maiden. Symbol of youthful feminine energy and fertility of Spring Time.
The 1st of February is St Bridget’s Day. St Bridget of Kildare is as well-loved in Ireland and was a contemporary of Saint Patrick. Having consecrated her life to God at the age of 15, she went on to became the Abbess of the Kildare where she presided over both male and female communities. Bridget was a strong and capable woman who made her monasteries great places of learning; with an art school devoted to making highly decorated copies of scripture and other holy writings. As a highly generous and practical lady, she is said to have performed a miracle by turning a tub of bath water into a tub of excellent beer so that a group of lepers could ease their thirst! St. Brigid saw that the needs of the body and the needs of the spirit intertwined and understood that all things rightly used could be a means of bringing glory to God. Like so many of the great saints, she was as earthy and real as the soil she walked on.
Bridget died shortly after her 70th birthday in 525, she is the Patron Saint of poets, dairymaids, blacksmiths, healers, cattle, fugitives, Irish nuns, midwives, new-born babies and brewers.
The poem below has been attributed to St Bridget.
I’d like to give a lake of beer to God.
I’d love the heavenly
Host to be tippling there
For all eternity.
I’d love the men of Heaven to live with me,
To dance and sing.
If they wanted, I’d put at their disposal
Vats of suffering.
White cups of love I’d give them
With a heart and a half;
Sweet pitchers of mercy I’d offer
To every man.
I’d make Heaven a cheerful spot
Because the happy heart is true.
I’d make the men contented for their own sake.
I’d like Jesus to love me too.
I’d like the people of heaven to gather
From all the parishes around.
I’d give a special welcome to the women,
The three Mary’s of great renown.
I’d sit with the men, the women and God
There by the lake of beer.
We’d be drinking good health forever
And every drop would be a prayer.
St Bridget the Midwife
There is a beautiful story within the mythology of St Bridget which tells of her being carried by angels to the place of the birth of Jesus and being allowed to act as midwife for Mary. This vision/experience/myth is depicted in this wonderful painting by John Duncan.
Within the concept of eternity we can travel forwards and backwards in time.
The Christian tradition of Candlemas follows through on the 2nd February. This is the churches festival of light when church candles are blessed in the church ready for the coming year.
This day is also closely associated with ceremony known as the ‘Churching of Women’ during which a blessing is given to mothers after recovery from childbirth, and includes giving thanks for the woman surviving the birth (even if the child is still born or died during the birth).
The usual reading for the festival of Candlemas is Luke 2:22-40 ‘The purification of the Virgin’, where Jesus is taken to the Temple to give thanks for his birth as the first born son, and for the ritual purification of Mary. The Churching of Women ceremony has developed from this Jewish rite, although this ceremony is essentially a celebration and blessing not a purification ritual.
This image is from my calendar ‘Lord of the Seasons’ – Simeon takes Jesus in his arms and blesses God.
I love the way the old Celtic earth based festivals blend and melt into the Christian. I believe that the meaning comes to life and goes that much deeper when we respect the connection of Old and New.
Happy St Bridget’s Day!