Bridget holds sacred the asp, the dandelion, the cow and her sacred bird, the oystercatcher. They represent her in nature, and in the spring, when she rekindles the fire of the sun and makes the milk flow in plenty from the cows. ~ Mercy Van Vlack
This day, February 2, has always been important to me, because it is my grandmother's birthday. Now that she is gone, except in those she left behind, I learn that this day speaks of her well. She was filled with life, and spirit, and an exceptional ability to nurture creativity.
Imbolc is one of the four principal festivals of the Irish calendar, celebrated among Gaelic peoples and some other Celtic cultures either at the beginning of February or at the first local signs of Spring. Most commonly it is celebrated on February 2, as this is the cross-quarter day on the solar calendar, halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. Originally dedicated to the goddess Brigid, in the Christian period it was adopted as St Brigid's Day. In Scotland the festival is also known as Là Fhèill Brìghde, in Ireland as Lá Fhéile Bríde, and in Wales as Gwyl Ffraed.
Imbolc is traditionally a time of weather prognostication, and the old tradition of watching to see if serpents or badgers came from their winter dens is perhaps a precursor to the North American Groundhog Day ...
... Fire and purification are an important aspect of this festival. Brigid (also known as Brighid, Bríde, Brigit, Brìd) is the goddess of poetry, healing and smithcraft. As both goddess and saint she is also associated with holy wells, sacred flames, and healing. The lighting of candles and fires represents the return of warmth and the increasing power of the Sun over the coming months.
I think that what interests me in paganism (which would horrify my grandmother) is that it reconnects us, as humans, to the nature we sometimes pretend we are above. Through image and story and metaphor, it reminds us that we all experience the cycles of nature, no matter how inattentive we may be. We are pulled by the moon, our bodies respond to the shortening and the lengthening of light, without our will.
. . . We can think of the deities as symbols of inner mystery. If we ponder the images in the stories as if they had appeared in our dreams, we will discover many valuable insights . . .
The symbolism of wells and springs reflects the connection to the waters of life that emerge from unseen sources. In psychological terms, this could signify the wisdom of the unconscious that flows from mysterious origins. The key is developing a practice of receptivity. . .
Brigid’s protection of agriculture and poetry underscores the need to tend our inner fertility. Tending our forms of creativity is crucial to a fulfilling life. The ancients believed that gifts of expression were only on loan. We are reminded to remain grateful, and to be good custodians of artistic talents.
Her association with fire also pertains to the creative life. Finding passion in our work is a major achievement. Handling our energies well requires maturity. It takes effort to find a balance where we have vitality without being consumed.
The plume of fire radiating from her head connects her to the life of the mind. She is the patron of scholars and colleges. One implication is that learning is a form of service to the divinities. She is also the protector of travelers. This applies to both those who explore new terrains and those seekers who are on inner journeys.
Brigid is said to have invented the fervent Irish mourning wail called keening. Part of her presence resides in the faerie spirit whose keening can be heard at night in times of grief. This link reminds us to respect our losses. Experiences of renewal often include bereavement. We continually suffer losses, especially in the moments of passage. Claiming our wholeness includes valuing the sorrow for that which is no more.
I begin to suspect that, if I were to choose a goddess of my own, Brigid would be the one -- though I'm certain she appears in many guises, in all cultures -- as does spring. She's certainly more evocative, for me, than our Ground Hog:
Just a note, that I am very pleased to have found the CENTER FOR STORY & SYMBOL; there is much there to explore.