Today is the festival of Brigid, the maiden aspect of the ancient triple goddess. She returns at 'First Light', the half-way point between winter solstice and spring equinox.
Brigid is associated with fire, creativity, poetry and healing. In Ireland people still visit Brigid's wells and springs at First Light, in search of healing.
'Brigid, Brigid, won't you come in?' cried the women of ancient Britain, as they flung open the doors of their cottages and welcomed in the light. Today, a circle of candles around Brigid's 'well' reminds us of the candlelit processions of ancient times.
Even when the Church converted the festival of Brigid into Candlemas, the lighting of candles continued, for who doesn't love to kindle brightness?
In Britain, the women would skilfully weave crosses, dolls and spiralling shapes from straw or corn. My old aunt Trudy from Yorkshire sent me this one, which is like a little straw bell.
We remember to give thanks for the return of the flow, just as our Celtic ancestors did, by pouring a libation of ewe's milk on to the earth,
blessing the new growth that is stirring in the dark soil. The old Celtic word for ewe's milk is Oi-melg, which gave rise to the name Imbolc (Imbolg) for this festival.
It's a fragrant and delicate season, this early spring awakening. Despite the nip in the air, we can feel the blessing of the returning light, bringing fresh hope and playful energy.Time to prepare to open to new life — but gently.
Come Bride! Come Bride!
We're ready for thy blessing now
Ready for thy blessing now.
[Old invocation. Bride was another word for Brigid]