The well known ancient Celtic Goddess known as Brighid, (Brigit, Brid, Bride, etc…) is beloved to Ireland and the British Isles, as the keeper of the home`s hearth, patroness of healing, smith craft, fertility, poetry, and midwifery. Legend says that when she was born at sunrise, a tower of flame reached from the top of her head to the heavens. Her birth is said to have given the family house the appearance of being on fire. The household fire is sacred to Brighid, and each evening the woman of the house would smoor the fire, (cover it over to keep the fire overnight), asking for the protection of Brighid on all its occupants. Brighid`s festival is Imbolc, or Candlemas and falls on February 2, and is the in between time after the winter solstice and before the spring equinox. It is the time the very first signs of impending spring become apparent, as the ewes and cows come into milk and prepare to give birth. This festival is usually celebrated by keeping a flame burning in the home, either in the fireplace or with candles to honor this fire Goddess, and invite her to bestow blessings upon the home. Traditional foods served during this time include dairy items such as milk and cheese. Many Irish households proudly display a Brighid`s Cross, an ornament made of rushes and hung in the home for protection, and to honor Brighid. She is one of the best historic examples of the survival of a Goddess in Christian records. During the time when Christianity moved into Celtic areas, her followers refused to give up their worship of Brighid, so the Church had no choice but to bring her into their fold by making her a saint. The most popular folk tale being that she was midwife to the Virgin Mary, and thus was always invoked and prayed to by woman in labor. There had been a shrine dedicated to the Goddess Brighid at Kildare, Ireland with a Perpetual Flame tended by 19 virgin priestesses called Daughters of the Flame. Their tradition was that each day a different Priestess was in charge of the Sacred Fire and on the 20th day of each cycle, the fire was miraculously tended by Brighid herself. When Catholicism took over Ireland, the Shrine became a convent and the virgin priestesses became nuns, but the same traditions held, and the Eternal Flame was kept burning. For over a thousand years, the Sacred Flame was tended by nuns, and no one knows how long before that it was kept by the priestesses.
Legend has it she made the cross from rushes she found on the ground beside a dying man in order to convert him. It is interesting that this legend does not appear in any of the oldest sources and to this day its origin remains lost in the oral tradition. It remains the custom in many houses in Ireland to have a Saint Brigid’s Cross in honour of the saint. The cross takes many forms and is technically classed by folk crafts experts as a "’plaited corn dolly", although the technologies utilized can extend beyond plaiting to weaving and other forms. Many of these forms such as that of the "eye of God" appear in other cultural contexts. According to tradition a new cross is made each Saint Brigid’s Day (February 1), and the old one is burned to keep fire from the house, yet customs vary by locality, and family. Many homes have multiple crosses preserved in the ceiling the oldest blackened by many years of hearth fires. Some believe that keeping a cross in the ceiling or ro of is a good way to preserve the home from fire which was always a major threat in houses with thatch and wood roofs. Bridget is a Celtic/Gaelic goddess of the moon and is also known as St Brigit of Kildare. Bridget is also tied to Greek goddess Hestia and her Roman counterpart, Vesta for when the Romans arrived they found Bridget’s priestesses keeping a sacred fire burning in her honor. With the advent of Christianity, Bridget was deemed to popular to disregard, so she was transformed into a saint by the Church. Some things attributed to Bridget: * Deposed the blue-faced goddess of winter every spring * Known for her generosity, a character transferred to St Bridget * She is invoked during childbirth * Her feast day is February 1st, Imbolc * Bridget means “exalted one” * Has a connection to the beginning of lactation in ewes * In Irish myth, she became the midwife to the Virgin Mary.
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