February 1st, St Bridgets Day, and the beginning of Spring. Irish school kids are taught to make simple crosses from rushes to learn the story of St Bridget of Kildare. A fascinating lady who embodies elements of the ancient pagan celtic goddess Brigid. Feb 1st is the halfway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. The “cross-quarter” days were very special in the pagan celtic calendar. This year Imbolc fell on the 3rd of Feb. It is a season of fertility and fecundity, a very un-Catholic thing, definitely not something you want to associate with a nun.
Her Oratory was built under an Oak, a tree sacred to the Druids. Her monastery tended an “eternal fire” guarded for hundreds of years by 19 nuns. A practice which was almost stamped out by the Norman bishop of Dublin, and lasted until the reformation of the church.
The cross of St Bridget looks far more like a Celtic fertility symbol to me than any facsimile of the cross of Christ. But who knows? Its origin is hidden by the mists of time.
Of course, you have to be careful not to confuse the Irish St Bridget with the Swedish St Brigit, she of the 15 prayers. No relation whatsoever!
Anyway, I need a poem. Where am I going to find a poem about springtime that embodies the concept of a Pagan Celtic Fire Goddess who inspires artistic creativity and fertility? A fecundity of both the land and the spirit! Tricky……..
The Enkindled Spring: by D. H. Lawrence
This spring as it comes bursts up in bonfires green,
Wild puffing of emerald trees, and flame-filled bushes,
Thorn-blossom lifting in wreaths of smoke between
Where the wood fumes up and the watery, flickering rushes.
I am amazed at this spring, this conflagration
Of green fires lit on the soil of the earth, this blaze
Of growing, and sparks that puff in wild gyration,
Faces of people streaming across my gaze.
And I, what fountain of fire am I among
This leaping combustion of spring? My spirit is tossed
About like a shadow buffeted in the throng
Of flames, a shadow that’s gone astray, and is lost.