Monday, July 23, 2007

She Receives the Flame from Her Sister

this morning i was assigning shifts to two Daughters of the Flame who are returning to tending Brigit's flame after a time away.

i was telling each who was passing the flame to them, and who they would be passing it to, and who was tending the flame in the other two cells at the same time as them. contemplating the beauty of this endless sharing i was moved to write this prayer:

she receives the flame

she receives the flame from her sister
opens her palms
accepts it
it lights the planes and curves of her face

Blessed One
Grace-Giving Goddess

she receives the flame from her sister
it enters her heart
enters thoughts and eyes
all is blessed in her regard
with the flame of Brigit within

Blessed One
Grace-Giving Goddess

she receives the flame from her sister
they circle the same altar
continents apart
the same flame animating them to joyous life

Blessed One
Grace-Giving Goddess

Brigit and Her Sisters sit together
They share the vat of beer and laughter
the crucible of creation and insight
the healing poem sang upon the world's wounds

Blessed One
Grace-Giving Goddess

Their Children receive their manifold blessings
and receiving give
the flame that enters is the flame that passes on
to the next and the next and the next

Blessed One
Grace-Giving Goddess

she receives the flame from her sister
from their Goddess they receive Her flame
tend it love it nurture it
pass it on to the next and the next
and the next

mael brigde 2007

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Brigid's Cloaks

Below find info on Sara Jane Kingston's Brigid's Cloaks and other items related to the cloaks, including art, communities, a children's book... She also has a Brigit meditation CD available:

Sara Jane Kingston began making Brigid's Cloaks for sale last year after discovering their value as spiritual tools. You can make your own or order one from her, or from the Catholic Brigidine sisters at Solas Bhride in Kildare, Ireland.

A snippet of her story:

Brigid's CloakTraditionally, the brat bhríde, or Brigid's Cloak, was laid outside before sunset on the eve of Brigid's feastday, 1st February, and brought back in before sunrise.

Blessed by Brigid, ancient Spring goddess and saint, the dew which fell that night imbued the cloth with powers of healing and protection which lasted throughout the year.

Brigid's Cross, now usually associated with the 5th-century Christian saint, was made annually from straw or rushes and hung above the door. In pre-Christian times, it was probably a sun symbol and celebrated the power of the goddess to bring back the light at the Celtic feast of Imbolc. It holds the promise of fertility and abundance...

...As a child I had loved the story of how, when St. Brigid went to the King of Leinster looking for some land on which to build a church, he had tried to put her off by saying that he would give her as much land as her cloak would cover. Not to be daunted, Brigid asked four of her nuns to each take a corner of her cloak and as they began to walk, the cloak began to stretch in size until it was large enough to cover a substantial piece of land. The King, true to his promise gave her the land and she built her first church there. This seemingly miraculous power over land of the 5th-century Christian saint in this story holds the resonance of the more ancient Brigid, the great Celtic Land Goddess.

As I work in healing through the energy field, I used the symbol of Brigid's Cloak as a starting point to allow people to connect into seeing their own "energy cloaks" or auras by imagining that they were wearing a cloak and seeing what it was like. Was it old and frayed, heavy or light? What material was it made of - what sort of texture, or textures? And the colours - were they bright or dark or a mixture?

Go to Sara Jane's site at for more of her story. If you would prefer to make your own Brat Bhride, go wild--the possibilities are endless! Don't forget their use as healing tools. A cloak may be cut into smaller pieces and distributed to those in need of blessings once it has been used in ritual. Or the entire cloth laid over a sick person to aid in her recovery.

Many other sites refer to Brigid's Cloak.
  • for a simply beautiful painting of Brigid's Cloak as the land of Eire, go to Barrie MacGuire's listing at Barrie is also a quilter, and has included a video of his paintings of quilted Ireland. Go to his homepage to view it.
  • "St. Brigid's Cloak" a prayer circle for Christian women flame-keepers, dedicated to keeping the fire of St. Brigid of Ireland burning bright in the world today. Local members in Las Vegas, Nevada have an annual St. Brigid's Food Drive for the Poor in November and December.
  • "Brigid's Cloak", a children's book by Bryce Milligan, published by WhipperSnapper Books.
  • The Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians, Inc says of St. Brigid's Mantle: "In very traditional homes, two devout practices are still observed on the Eve of St. Brigid's Feast Day (February 1st). A strip of cloth called "brat Bhride" (Brigid's mantle) is hung outside the door. A loaf of oat bread baked in the shape of a cross and a sheaf of straw are left on the windowsill. For on that night, Brigid travels through the land with her red-eared cow bestowing blessings on those who keep the old ways."
  • Sr. Mary Minehan of Solas Bhride says, "I also remember my mother having an ulcer on her leg. A customer told her to leave out a piece of cloth on the eve of Brigid’s feast. There was a belief that St. Brigid left her curative powers on the cloth on the eve of the feast day. I can’t remember if it cured mam’s sore leg but I remember the faith and belief she had in Brigid. I have learnt since that the cloth is called the Brat Bríde. The custom is being revived in Kildare, so my earliest memories are of Brigid the protector, Brigid the healer."
Sweet Blessings on you all this Beautiful Bealtaine!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Electronic Texts on Brigit & Irish Studies

Several valuable internet resources exist for Irish documents. See, for example:
Bethu Brigte & Milk Symbolism in the Bethu Brigte & The Festival of Brigit the Holy Woman.

Thanks to the Brigit-loving people on Live Journal for these sources.

Briget's Crosses & Biddy Boys

Although generally this blog is for referring to other sites, books, etc. to do with Brigit, I would like to add a few notes on Brigit's Crosses from the book Irish Folkways by E.Estyn Evans (Routledge, London and New York, 1957, 1988). This book is an excellent resource and is considered the classic reference for information on folk-customs and tools.

To the left is a drawing taken from pg. 269 of this book. Fig. 1-7 are Brigit's crosses, and Fig. 12 is a Brigit's Girdle. The other figures provide comparision with other cultures. Figure 3, the three-armed cross, is made with 9 stranded plaits (pg. 210).

From the book:

"The blessed Bridie was a cowherd and is therefore associated with cattle and with such flowers as the dandelion--the Plant of Bride--yielding a milky juice which was believed to nourish the young lambs in spring. St. Briget's Feast was very popular and many superstitious practices, more or less Christianized, cling to the preparations made on St.Briget's Eve, the last day of January. On that day rushes are fashiuoned into protective charms known as Briget's Crosses, a name which illustrates how the church has won over pagan symbols, for the 'crosses' take the form of either swastikas or lozenges, and comparative evidence suggests that they are magic symbols of suns or eyes. A three-legged swastika, presumably an old form, is reserved for the byre: its shape may be compared with the Celtic triskele.

"The lozenge-shaped charms have their counterparts in many parts of the world. The Huichols of Mexico make similar charms of wool mounted on a bamboo frame: knwon as 'god's-eyes', they bring good health and long life to children (F. Toor, A Treasury of Mexican Folkways (1947), pg. 72). A CAlifornian Indian charm made of grass or rushes is very similar. In the Old World similar magic 'squares' have a wide distribution, in Europe, Africa, Tibet, Burma, Assam and Indonesia, and farther afield iin Melanesia, Polynesia and Australia. Among the Nagas of Assam the squares, made of coloured thread, are placed on the graves of women and protect them against evil spirits (H. E. Kaufmann, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, 73 (1943), 101, 106.) In Sweden and Estonia straw squares are strung up as Christmas decorations and tied to the straw masks worn during Christmas games (Fig. 10).

"Briget's Crosses are believed to protect the house and the livestock from harm and from fire*. No evil spirit could pass the charm, which was therefore hung above the door of house and byre. The rushes must be pulled, not cut, on St. Briget's Eve, and care must be taken to fashion the crosses from left to right, with the sun. As a rule they are left in position until replaced the following year, though I have seen byres with many crosses thrust into the underthatch, the decaying accumulation of annual offerings. In Co. Galway similar crosses made of wood or straw were also placed in the rafters at Hallowe'en, and the discovery of a partly burnt rush cross which had been deposited in a megalith in Co. Limerick points to a more general cult of the 'cross' (S. P. O'Riordain, North Munster Antiquarian Journal, 1 (1936), 36. For a study of Briget's Crosses in Co. Armagh, see T. G. F. Paterson, Ulster Journal of Archaeology, 8 (1945), 43-48). A 'love-knot' of similar shape, fashioned out of sedge leaves, is known from South Wales."

Evans goes on to add that:

"It was popularly believed that the saint wandered through the countryside on the eve of her feast day. Bread was left on the doorstep, and in some districts it was the custom to place it by the fire so that Bridie might come in and rest. Sometimes the last sheaf of harvest was used for the purpose. In south-western Ireland a doll made of straw--or decorated churn-staff--was carried from house to house by 'Biddy Boys', wearing straw masks such as are used by mummers and by strawboys at weddings, and singing songs in honour of the saint. They would solicit gifts and end the day in jollification. The evening was celebrated by a supper of pancakes taken from a plate laid on a rush cross, and as on the other quarter-days prognositcations were made.

"A ribbon or piece of cloth exposed on St. Briget's Eve became endowed with curative powers. It was believed that no work which involved the turning of a wheel should take place on the saint's day. The placing of a periwinkle in each corner of the kitchen likewise hints at a remote pre-agriculatural origin for the festival, but it came to be associated with the pastoral promise of spring, of warmth, new grass, lambs and milk. It is said that the saint placed her foot in water on her feast day so that on that day it begins to warm up each year."

* "The crosses would have blessed the thrashing as well as the cattle." (pg. 215)

Friday, January 19, 2007

Two Hundred Years of Rekindled Flame!

This Imbolc marks the second centenary of the rekindled Brigidine order of nuns--the Congregation of Saint Brigid.

The Oak planted by Bishop Delany

Celebrating Heritage and Horizon Brigidine Bicentenary1807—2007

On February 1st 1807 Daniel Delany, Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, gathered six women catechists in Tullow, Co. Carlow and established the
Congregation of St. Brigid.

They were Eleanor Tallon, Margaret Kinsella, Eleanor Dawson, Judith Whelan, Bridget Brien and Catherine Doyle. The Brigidine Annals record that he was not founding a new Congregation but rather refounding the Sisters of St. Brigid.

To show continuity between the old and the new, Bishop Delany brought an oak sapling from Kildare and planted it in the convent grounds in Tullow.

“From every seed sown and cultivated by love we shall be sure to reap a harvest”, was one of his sayings to the early sisters.

In 2007 the Brigidine Sisters and the wider Brigidine Family throughout the world will celebrate the harvest, plant seeds for a new horizon and continue to further compassion and justice for humanity and the earth.

from the Solas Bhride site