February 2nd is known to us in the US as Groundhog Day, a day upon which we traditionally divine the future weather from the behavior of a rodent. However, in both ancient Ireland and in modern Celtic practice, it is called “Imbolc” and is known as the Feast of Brighid (Brigit, or “Breej” in the Gaelic). This is the time when we honor a powerful female figure of light and inspiration. Some scholars believe that the name Brighid is derived from brio-aigit, “fiery arrow,” which is certainly a fitting name for a goddess associated with three fires: the hearth, the forge, and the flame of poetic inspiration. She is the Celtic Goddess of poetry, healing, and smithcraft. In Irish tradition, poetry and seership are interwoven, so Brighid is often seen as the imbas (inspiration) behind divination and prophecy as well. All of these are magical arts of transformation. They are also gifts that can be of great value to society.
Walking a spiritual path can cause us to consider, develop, and appreciate our own talents and/or gifts. In fact, the journey will demand that we come to know ourselves and our worth, and the inspiration of Brighid, the fiery arrow, can illuminate our gifts. We begin to focus on what is right for us. As we focus on what is right for us, we will start to see our special gifts and the best way to share our special gifts with others. We can connect with our imbas. We can then each be gifts to one another, serving the community and the Divine in the way that best suits us. We can also appreciate the gifts of our fellows and realize that they were given to compliment, not compete with, our own. We will begin to understand that each one of us is gifted in our own way.
Brighid is the Fire in the Head, Heart, and Hearth. Her feast day is a Festival of Light, as we celebrate the returning sun and the divine inspiration that Brighid bestows upon us. In the coldest, darkest time of the year in central NY, as a warm and youthful Brighid vies with the icy Cailleach (old woman of winter) for sovereignty, it is good to reconnect with community to remember, celebrate, and welcome back the Light.
In Irish tradition, this festival begins at sundown tonight and extends to sundown tomorrow. In our home, we will be lighting candles and looking forward to warmer days. Blessed Imbolc!