Thursday, 6 December 2012

St Brigids Flame - Kildare

The following information comes from the website

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The Gaelic word for Kildare is Cill Dara, which means the Cell or Church of the Oak. St. Brigid built her Abbey in Kildare around 480AD, on a Hill beside a great oak tree. However, we all know that the Irish/Celts believed in a Goddess Brighid long before she became a Saint and this area was sacred to her. This was always an important gathering place and pilgrimage site in earlier centuries. Scholars suggest that priestesses used to gather on the hill of Kildare to tend their ritual fires while invoking a goddess named Brigid to protect their herds and to provide a fruitful harvest. Without Brighid/Brigid, there would not be a modern town of Kildare. Before Christianity took hold of Ireland there was a great worship group that surrounded the Goddess. She presided over healing, inspiration/poetry and smithcraft. She is provider of plenty, giver of life and is also identified with nurturing, fertility and fire. All wells are sacred to Brighid for they are the doorway to the Underworld and the womb of our Mother, the source of all life.

The Priestesses of Brighid kept her flame eternally lit. 19 Priestesses kept vigil and made sure the flame was never extinguished. On the 20th day, Brigid tended it herself. When Christianity spread throughout Ireland, the Goddess was so engrained in the Irish people that they couldn't eradicate her, therefore she became a Saint. In the 6th century, a monastery was built on the same sight where the Priestesses kept vigil at the Fire Temple. The original monastery no longer exists but a new Cathedral was built on the site during the 13th century. This Cathedral still stands and the sisters of St. Brigid (nuns) continued the work begun by her Priestesses. They too kept her flame ignited until the time of the Reformation in the 16th century. It was at this time that King Henry XIII destroyed many of the monasteries. The flame was extinguished but never forgotten. On February 1, 1807 Daniel Delany, Bishop of Kildare, began the restoration of the Sisterhood of St. Brigid. Their mission was to restore the ancient order and bring back the legacy and spirit of this amazing figure. In 1993, Brighid’s perpetual flame was finally re-kindled in Kildare’s Market Square by Mary Teresa Cullen, who at that time was the leader of the Brigidine Sisters. The sacred flame was kept by the Brigidine Sisters in their home and on February 1, 2006, the flame was brought back to the centre of the Market Square where it has been permanently housed in a large glass enclosed vessel.

The Brigid Light is still guarded and tended in Solas Bhríde as it was in Kildare many centuries ago by the Sisters of St Brigid. The flame burns as a beacon of hope, justice and peace for Ireland and our world.

Photo Source courtesy of Jackie Grogan
St Brigids Cathedral

If you are to make your pilgrimage to Kildare, make sure you visit with Sister Mary Minehan of the Brigidine Order. She is a wonderfully spiritual woman who has devoted her life to Brighid. This Order is unlike any other Catholic Order, for they embrace the Goddess aspect of Brighid and honor that fully. Sister Mary can give you a tour of the Cathedral and Fire Temple and if you’re lucky, she’ll invite you back to her home for some tea in her Temple Room where Brighid’s light shines brightly. You can contact her at Solas Bhride

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Temple Room of Sister Mary Minehan

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Sister Mary Minehan

This is the site believed to be where the Priestesses of Brighid kept her eternal flame lit. The Fire Temple is located in the rear of the Cathedral and it's such an awesome experience to stand on this ancient and sacred ground and feel the energy of the Goddess and the many women who honored her here.

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Fire Temple 

This well is large and elaborately decorated and is the well that most people visit. It is very well kept with a bridge leading onto the sight and a beautiful statue of Brigid. There are 5 prayer stones standing in a line and it’s customary to stop at each stone and reflect upon an aspect of Brigid/Brighid:

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St Brigid's Well and Prayer Stones 
First stone: Brigid a woman of the land
Second stone: Brigid the peacemaker
Third stone: Brigid the friend of the poor
Fourth stone: Brigid the hearthwoman
Fifth stone: Brigid woman of contemplation

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Prayer Stones
Behind the 5th stone is a round well that you are to encircle 3 times deosil to achieve harmony within yourself and within the universe.

Photo Source http://sacredsitetour.comSt Brigid's Well
This well seems to be older and not as well known as the other well. However, it is actually the main well where the waters run off, feeding the newer well. This well is located at the end of the parking lot at the Japanese Gardens, not too far from the first well. This well is over shadowed by the larger well, but this is believed to be much older and when you approach it, it’s quite plain, but lovely. There are no fancy sculptures or bridges, only an inscription in Irish which translates, “St. Brigid, Mary of the Gael, pray for us”. It’s customary to gather well water in a bottle because of its strong healing properties. But don’t forget to leave an offering for the spirits and Fey who dwell here.

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The Wayside Well
Look closely at the carving of a small cross on Brigid’s chest. In the center of the cross is a crescent moon. When the artist, Annette McCormack, was originally carving the cross on the statue, the shape of a crescent moon began to appear before her eyes. The sudden appearance of the crescent moon in the centre of the cross is as if the two worlds were joining. It’s believed to be a sign connecting the old world with the new. Brighid embodies Pagan Celtic and Christian Celtic Ireland. She inspires unity and peace in a troubled world. We need to bring into our lives this wholeness and the miracle of the crescent moon appearing is symbolic of this. This statue is located in Suncroft on the grounds of a little church a few miles away.

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Statue of St Brigid
The website talks on the keepers of the flame the Brigidine Sisters.

These Catholic sisters have houses in Australia, Ireland, Kenya, Mexico, New Zealand, UK, and the USA. The sisters in Ireland relit Brigid's flame at Kildare, the home of the original abbey, in 1993. The Brigidines of Australia write on their web site:

We are a small, diverse and prophetic group of women inspired by the person of Jesus and the vision of Brigid of Kildare and Daniel Delany. There is mystery at the heart of what holds us together, expressed in shared symbols, stories, and experiences. We engage with the issues of our time, stand in solidarity with the oppressed and seek to build a more inclusive community. We move forward into the future, conscious of many ambiguities, living as women religious at this moment in history. In the midst of diminishment, as we move toward our bi-centenary, we will continue to seek new ways of affirming the aspects that bind us as community and to search for new ways of being generative. In this context, we go forward with openness to risk and a fidelity to our shared story.

The Daughters of the Flame consists of three cells of nineteen shifts each. We wish to remain small and to be accessible to women who do not own computers, so although discussion often takes place via email, communication by letter is also encouraged, and a yearly newsletter is published, containing, among other things, members' articles, letters, poetry and artwork. The time commitment is one day out of every twenty; how much of that day is spent in active devotion and in what way is for you to decide. If you are not able to set the entire time aside for occupations that spring from your spiritual work, it adds tremendously to the day to make a point of recalling periodically the sacred activity you are engaged in, and use it as a platform for contemplation, however your day is spent. We start at 2:00 AM Irish time, which works out to 6 PM Pacific and 9 PM Eastern time in North America, with a nice round noon in Sydney, Australia. 
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Ord Brighideach is a sister organization of flame-keepers begun by Ruadhán ní Mabon. She began as a Daughter of the Flame but wished to create a group accessible to many more people, men and women, and entirely accessed through the internet. They are located on the Web at:

The Three-Fold Fire of Brighid
Fire in the forge that
shapes and tempers.

Fire of the hearth that
nourishes and heals.

Fire in the head that
incites and inspires.

The website

St. Brigit, Brighid, Brid, Bride, Briga, Brigid, Bridgid, Briginda, Brigdu, Brigittina, Brigantia, Ffraud, Cailleach Bearra, Minerva, Maman Brigitt

We of Ord Brighideach have heard and have answered Her call. We are a Brigidine Order of Flamekeepers engaging in devotional work to Brighid. We are committed to carrying out Brighid's work in this world in the manner in which we have been called, or, if we have not yet been called, in a manner in which we feel will serve Her. If She speaks to you - as poet, healer, smith, storyteller, musician, craftsperson, midwife, mother, hearth keeper, land steward, tender of herds, seer, woman of fire, lawgiver, deity of the home, lady of the sun, or simply as saint or goddess - you are welcome to walk among us.

"One of the reasons I love Ord Brighideach, is that we are drawn together, people of different paths, by the warmth of Brighid's flame. I do not think that this harmony can be found anywhere else, and my prayer is that it spreads, like the light and heat of the hearth fire." Coinin Carroll

Each Flamekeeper is assigned a shift to tend Brighid's flame on a 20 day cycle - 19 shifts, plus one day upon which Brighid tends the flame herself. Since the Celtic day runs from sundown to sundown, we tend from sundown to sundown. The expectation is that you will tend the flame for as much of the day as possible, taking safety into consideration. If you can only manage a few minutes, that is acceptable, although tending the flame the entire day is optimal. The longer you are able to tend, the more energy we will be able to generate: an offering to this world and the otherworld, as well as to Brighid.

Each cell of 19 shifts is named after a sacred tree. Flamekeepers have the choice of being in a coed, all female or all male cell.

Currently we have 36 cells, with over 500 Flamekeepers representing 19 different countries: Over 500 members in 19 countries: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Ireland, Malaysia, Mexico,Netherlands,New Zealand, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, Turtle Island (Fiji),United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales) and USA.

Brigid of the Morning
Rowan Fairgrove
I am the poet and the poem
The inspiration in the night I stand beside the Tarb Feiss
And whisper wisdom low and true
I am the shining sun of morning
A fire that burns inside the head
My gifts are knowledge and transformation
I pound and quench and draw out souls upon the forge of time
The flowing waters of my well
Soothe womb and soul alike
At childbed I am the midwife who brings new souls to birth
For mine is the gift of life.
Those who seek me will find nourishment
I am the brewer of new ale
I am the baker of the grain
All acts of transformation will I aid
The seed becomes the shoot
The shoot grows as its nature dictates
Thus has it always been and always shall be
I am the vitality of fire that dwells within.

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Like many goddesses she who's name means "The High One" had many names and titles.

Brigh means 'Power'
Brighid bhoidheach: Bride the beautiful
Brighid, Bride (Scottish)
Brid, Brigit, Bridget, Brigantia (English)
Brigan, Brigindo (Gaul) 
Brighid of the Green Mantle 
Lady of the Shores 
Brigandu, Briginda, Brigdu
Breo-Saighit/Saighead: The Flame of Ireland, means Fiery Arrow 
Brighid-Sluagh (or Sloigh): Brighid of the Immortal host 
Brighid-nan-sitheachseang: Brighid of the Slim Fairy Folk
christian name: Muime Chriosd: "Foster-Mother of Christ"

Brigit was probably originally a Sun Goddess, and a charming story of her birth is that she was born at sunrise and a tower of flame burst from the forehead of the new born Goddess that reached from Earth to Heaven.

In an other tradition she is the daughter of Dagda and the wife of Bres. Her Son Ruadan was murdered by Goibnui. She sang the first "Keening" for him. 

She was the Goddess of Healers, Poets, Smiths, Childbirth and Inspiration; Goddess of Fire and Hearth and a patron of warfare. She is said to be present at every birth.

As the Goddess of Inspiration, she blesses poetry, creativity, prophecy and the arts. She was even esteemed as the patron deity of language, having inspired the alphabet. As the Goddess of Smithcraft, she blesses blacksmiths, goldsmiths, and other crafters of the household. As Goddess of Healing, she blesses physical and spiritual healing, fertility of crop and livestock and mid-wifery.

Her Signs and Symbols

A Solar Sign, the St. Brigit's-Cross: Up to today many Irish homes have a St. Brigit's cross for protection - made from rushes as in the old days. 

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Brigid's Mantle - Spear: She favoured the use of the spear or the arrow. Indeed, various interpretations of her name exist including, "Bright Arrow," "The Bright One," "the Powerful One" and "The High One," depending upon the region and the dialect.

The household fire is sacred to Brigit.

Sacred Animal of St. Brigit : Swan, snake, cow, wolf the magical unicorn and phoenix.

Kathy Jones of Glastonbury at states

Brighde is the ancient Goddess of Brigit’s Isles, where She is Bridie, Bride, Brid, Bree, Brue, Brigit, Brigid and Bridget, Lady of Fire, of the Sun and Moon, of the Springs and Wells, of the Four Directions, the Divine Midwife of the Soul, Bride of the Isles, Bride of the Fair Palms, Mary of the Gael. As Goddess of the land She gives Her name to the ancient land of Brigantia and to our tutelary (guardian) Goddess Britannia.
Her green cloak covers all the land that belongs to Her. As Goddess of the land She gives Her name to the ancient land of Brigantia and to our tutelary (guardian) Goddess Britannia. Once Bride was well known in these lands as the Great Goddess, ruling the land and all the seasons. Now She is mistakenly just honoured at Imbolc in Her Maiden form. But She is the Wheel, Her energy is tangible through the whole year, in every season, in every element in every phase in our lives.
In Glastonbury we recognise Brighde in the landscape as Her Sacred Swan stretching Her long neck along Wearyall Hill and spreading Her wings over the Glastonbury town hills. She flows in the waters of the sacred wells and the river Brue, which is called after Her. But foremost She is revered on Brides Mound which is part of The Beckery, where St. Bridget stayed at a little monastery which was then dedicated to Mary Magdalene. Later on a chapel dedicated to St. Bridget was built on Brides Mound.

Brighde has the strength and power to bring light to the dark places inside our lives. She inspires and transforms us, by challenging us to be true to ourselves. She has the ability to awaken the Alchemy of our Soul! Through her healing fires she reaches out to our hearts and shows us how to burn through our dross, and clear out the old patterns and ways, so that our soul can come through with more light, bringing gifts of inspiration and creativity!

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I will finish with this last little story of Brigid from the
Brigid was a gentle and loving woman whose gifts of healing and compassion were evident even when she was a child. Her touch would heal the sick and her blessing bring food and warmth to the poor. Her compassionate nature and strong will eventually led her into her religious vocation. Some versions of her legends tell that her parents sent her to the nunnery because they could no longer afford her incredible generosity. Giving her father's jewel-encrusted sword to a poor leper was simply the last straw! Others say it was her persistent refusal of all marriage proposals.

When the Bishop went to interview the young girl in her home to assess her suitability for the religious life, Brigid was called in from the fields where she was tending the cattle to meet him. When she entered the room, sunbeams from the window surrounded her head like a halo of flames. Brigid removed her cloak and hung it up as the Bishop hastened to introduce himself. He was started to noticed that her mantle was hanging on a sunbeam. Needless to say, she passed the entrance exam and was promptly accepted into the convent.
Brigid's influence in the church grew steadily and soon she was given permission to form a convent of her own. She asked for land on which to build, and the local king was greatly amused at the audacity of a woman to make such a request. Mockingly he responded that yes, she was welcome to take as much land as she could encircle with her cloak! Thanking him, the clever Brigid unravelled the yarn in her cloak and with it staked out the ample boundaries of her new site!
Eventually, with the help of other women who joined her work, Brigid built her abbey. The land she had chosen was the site near a large oak (rowan) tree near Kildare, the ancient site used for the worship of the pagan goddess Brigid and the location of her holy well and sacred fires. Those in distress soon found their way to Saint Brigid's convent where they were comforted, healed, and fed. Her fame spread quickly.

Legends arose that she was the midwife at the birth of Jesus, baptizing the infant with three drops of water from her holy well, weaving his swaddling clothes from the wool of her ewes, and leading the holy family to Egypt when she foresaw the 'Slaughter of the Innocents'. One of St. Brigid's titles became 'The Foster Mother of Jesus'.

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