Thursday, February 03, 2011

Give Me That Old Tyme Religion ! Imbolc Fire Ritual, in Kildare, Ireland

Account of the 2011 nun-led Imbolc Fire Ritual, in Kildare, Ireland

By Paul McAndrew

Tue Feb 1, 2011 12:01 pm (PST)


As I arrived into Kildare, on the bus from Cork, I could see from the bus window, the beautiful 6ft Brigit's Cross in box hedging growing on the bank at the side of the road. I got off in the town square where there's a huge sculpture of a flaming torch wreathed in oak leaves, and a powerful-looking statue of Brigit. A big "Feile Bhride" banner was flying .

I was met from the bus by a friend, Paul who'd travelled up from Cork earlier. He took me to the house of his friend's Mum, Peg, a lovely 80 year-old woman who kindly put us up for the night :)   Paul and I walked the mile or so out of town down the dark side road towards Brigit's Healing Well. As we got close we could see flames along the side of the road. The ritual route was lit with flaming torches which were basically large food cans nailed to sticks and filled with some kind of fuel. They looked amazing!


We got to the healing well, again surrounded with flames, and I climbed down the steep bank so I could bless myself with the water. Just past the well, a 20ft Circle had been laid out in lanterns made from paper bags with sand in them, holding candles. In the centre of the circle was a large 3-legged brazier full of fire, surounded with arrangements of rushes, symbolizing the hearth. There was a big crowd there..maybe 100 people of all ages. One of the nuns welcomed everybody whatever reason they had come for, and started teaching us all different Brigit chants (she called them "chants" not "hymns) in Irish and English. One of them was "Oscailt mo chroĆ­" ("open my heart"). Another had the words "lead us to a deeper well"

She encouraged the crowd to walk deiseal (Irish for clockwise or 'sunwise') around the circle while we were chanting. We were asked to shout out the names of the places we had travelled from. The nun talked about the tradition of Brigit walking the land and blessing every town,home, and shed on the Eve of her feast and taught us to chant Her name to invite her to the circle. She talked about Brigit being the one who brings Spring and breathes life into the mouth of dead winter.

A woman then carried a piece of cloth around the circle holding it out towards the people to bless us. We were told that it was Bridget's mantle and that we should each leave a piece of cloth outside on our window -ledge that night which would become Brigit's mantle and could be used for healing throughout the year. A young girl of about ten sang a beautiful song to Brigit and then water from the Healing Well was carried around the circle by 4 women and sprinkled on the crowd.

A young woman wove a Brigit's Cross from rushes in the centre of the circle while we chanted about weaving the hopes of our hearts' delight into it. Then one of the nuns walked around the circle , holding up the Brigit's Cross made from rushes, asking for blessings from the Four Directions including love from the South and strength from the North. We followed Brigit's flame as it was carried away from the circle, chanting as we walked along the mile -long torch-lit route to the Garden Shrine. ("Brigit light our path through darkest night and brightest day") Many people were carrying lanterns or glass jars with lit candles in them.


Outside the entrance to the shrine was another large burning brazier.The shrine itself is about 1/4 of an acre, surrounded by trees, with a stream running through it, upright stones. and a statue of Brigit as a strong woman holding a torch. We chanted "Walk gently onthe Earth, we must respect Her, She does not belong to us, our children must inherit Her. We were invited to shout out our hopes for ourselves and the world. People shouted things like "justice "peace of mind" "reconnecting with the earth". People gave each other a sign of peace, hugging or shaking hands with the people around us

After the ritual had finished, Christy Moore's brother, Luka Bloom played his guitar in the shrine and sang his Imbolc song "Don't be afraid of the light that shines within you"

The ritual is held every year in Kildare on January 31st. I'd really recommend going! :)



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