Samhain 2004 Isian News - Issue 114
Reflections by: Olivia Robertson
Brigid’s Fire is Brought From Ireland to England
One of the most romantic plane flights I have ever enjoyed, was to travel with a lantern containing Brigid’s Fire from Kildare to Glastonbury! How did this happen? With their travelling companion, Maura Fidgeon, I met Sisters Mary and Rita Minehan. Their story is a beautiful Goddess Rebirth legend brought to life in our day.
Mary and Rita are members of the Roman Catholic Order of Brigidine Sisters, who were founded in 1807, in Tullow, Co. Carlow, only seven miles from Foundation Centre in Clonegal, Co. Carlow. Tullow is a thriving market town, and there the Brigidines established the Mother House of what rapidly became a worldwide order, restoring ‘the ancient Order of Brigid,’ Foundress and Abbess of monasteries for women and men in Kildare in the 6th century. It is written that ‘both nuns and friars were placed by St. Patrick under the guidance of the holy Brigid’, and tradition suggests that it was she who invited Conleth, a hermit from Newbridge to assist her as Abbot-Bishop.
In 1992, two Brigidine Sisters, Mary Minehan and Phil O’Shea returned to Kildare, to re-connect with their roots and to reclaim Brigid in a new way for a new millennium. There, through their own courage and vision, they discovered that the magic of Brigid is still alive; people of all faiths and denominations are awakening to her message of love, justice, and reconciliation, together with care for the earth and all her creatures. In 1993 the then leader of the Brigidine Sisters, relit Brigid’s Flame in the Market Square, Kildare, at the opening of a justice and peace conference. Since then it has been kept alive in Solas Bhríde their home, until such time as the local Council’s plan to keep a perpetual flame burning in the Square, comes to fruition.
Each year, in the last week of January, from all over the world, people flock to celebrate Brigid, Goddess and Saint, at the Festival of “La Féile Bhríde”, which is held in and around Kildare town. A wide ranging programme of events take place. Workshops, concerts, exhibitions, lectures, pilgrimages to Brigid’s pastures on the Curragh, and torchlight processions to her Wells, all culminate on the Feast Day of the Saint, February 1st, the first day of Spring in the CelticYear.
Legend has it that the mighty Goddess Brigid of our British Isles guarded the Druid Sacred Flame in many parts of Ireland. Certainly the 13th century Church of Ireland Cathedral in Kildare is built on the site of Saint Brigid’s original “Church of the Oak” – “Cill Dara”. Within its grounds, the foundations still remain of a Druid fire temple. Indeed it is thought, that Saint Brigid’s first Order may have evolved from a sanctuary of Druidic priestesses who converted to Christianity, inspired by the many miracles performed by the Saint. Her Sisters continued the holy practice of tending the flame for over a thousand years, until the monasteries were destroyed in the 16th century during the protestant Reformation.
In 2000, the Pope called for representatives of all Catholic Religious Orders in Ireland, to gather in Kildare to renew their faith and dedication for the New Millennium at Candlemas, (February 2nd), by lighting lanterns from Brigid’s Flame and returning to their Communities with Her Light. This wonderful ceremony took place in the ancient Church of Ireland Cathedral. Minette Quick, member of the FOI Druid Clan of Dana, sang at this special event, both in the Cathedral and also later at the Fire Temple. During the preparations for Féile Bhríde 2000, she had been invited to write a special celebration of the spirit of Brigid in music and song, on her CD, “Braiding the Flame of Brigid”. She sang at many wonderful events throughout the Festival that year, and still returns, to keep in touch with the loving spirit so evident in Kildare, as do many FOI members worldwide.
Saint Brigid placed the flame in the custody of nineteen nuns. Nineteen is the number of years, which it takes the moon to circle the sky. Legend has it that during her lifetime, she herself took the twentieth night, watching that the embers did not burn out. After her death, the nineteen faithfully continued to take their watches, but always left the twentieth night to Brigid, and the flame never died by morning….
How did the Goddess Brigid of our yearly Glastonbury Goddess Conference become involved with this remarkable Saint? As a young woman, in about 470AD, when she went to take the veil from Bishop Mél in Telcha Mide, he saw a divine fire shining above her head, and consecrated her a Bishop! Thus she became the only uncontested woman Bishop in the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, and was held in high regard amongst her male counterparts, and her appointed successors were honoured until the reformation.
We gain some idea of the scope of the Goddess Brigid when we compare her with Pallas Athena: Pallas the warrior, Medusa of the Inner Sun, and Athena of the Owl of Wisdom and the Olive Tree of Health. Think of the words, which bear Brigid’s Name: Brigades, Brigadiers, Brigands, the Brig, Britannia, Britons, Bridges, Brides and Brightness!
The Deities project themselves as emissaries, incarnate on earth. Saint Brigid, the human woman, bore the holy fire from her head, and, like the Goddess, she blessed wells and springs. She had compassion for the poor and rejected: “All that I have is theirs” – but also efficiently organised her monasteries in Kildare. Like the Goddess Brigid, Saint Brigid loved cows, and their festival is celebrated at Imbolc, (Milk), and Lammas. The Goddess Brigid creates bridges: Saint Brigid was born on the threshold of her home, and was intermediary between Celtic paganism and Celtic Christianity.
Why should I fly over with her flame? A recently published paper identifies Clonegal Castle with an ancient Priory of Saint Brigid. Reference in the paper is made to the veneration accorded to the Saint Brigid’s well within the castle. The outlet from the well is beneath a stone-age bullaun stone which, like the well, has healing properties.
In the year 2000, on the 22nd June, I saw at midnight, a flashing white star and a large golden “Sun” floating in my bedroom. This “Sun” exploded within me on September 6th, since when I am able to share this golden glow, combined with the white light of Isis. At dawn on September 26th, 2000, during the period of the Eleusinian Mysteries, I saw by my bed a woman, her form shining white, flushed with gold. Later she was identified as Brigid, by those in the U.S.A. to whom she had also appeared, with hair like liquid gold, cut in “petals”. So I was very happy to be with Sister Mary and Sister Rita when Mary lighted the flame on Bride’s Mound in Glastonbury this Summer of 2004.
Bride’s Mound is once more being restored to its former connection with a Priory of Saint Brigid, through friends of Bride’s Mound and the Priesthood of Avalon. An FOI Priestess, the organiser of the Goddess Conference is the Rev. Kathy Jones. To receive the Flame from the nuns, Kathy introduced her Priesthood, who were garlanded and robed in white and crowned with white flowers.
The Fellowship of Isis contributed to this ritual through a ceremony at the Conference on the 31st July. We had an Isian procession led by the Shamanic drummer, Lydia Lite. Invocations to the Goddesses were made by FOI Priestesses, the Revs. Celia Thomas, Caroline Wise, Julie Felix, Lydia, Phyllis, Claire, Jane and Joy. Here the “Inner Sun”, came through to us in an almost overpowering way and I was inspired to share this “Sun Power” with everyone present, as had Minette when she received it in Clonegal in August 2000.
I asked Lydia to beat out a North American Indian rhythm, as we were overshadowed by Golden Eagle wings. Julie Felix and myself created a “Sun” between the palms of our hands, and put our Intentions within the golden orb. Then we turned to all and sent forth “Solar” rays for good. We ended by distributing this glorious power through the spiral dance, given to us all by Starhawk, an FOI member.
Balance brings harmony. Next day we held our own Fellowship gathering in Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine’s ancient house. It was from here that she organised the regal burial of Queen Guinevere and King Arthur by the Glastonbury Abbey Benedictine monks. Like Brigid’s fire, this tomb was obliterated during the reformation. For the Star Ceremony, we were joined by Archdruidess Eileen Laurence, the Rev. Brian Bourne and others. The White Star Light was brought through by each of us, through rays from constellations. Power came upon us like a shower of moonlike rain.
Brigid truly comes to Glastonbury, as she does in Kildare and Clonegal, and wherever she is invoked. She blesses all holy fires and wells. It is she who creates the Rainbow Bridges that are woven from star to star, mind to mind, heart to heart.
(Minette Quick, of the Circle of Brigid/FOI, helped with the Kildare information)
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