Brighid's Day Ritual | ADF

Brighid's Day Ritual

This ritual is designed to be performed as a part of the standard ADF ritual, inserted immediately before the opening of the gate. It replaces the lighting of the fire.

The nemeton is set up indoors, both for practical reasons in much of ADF territory and because, as a hearth goddess, Brighid should be worshipped inside. The door to the room is closed. In the center is a Brighid's cross about three feet across, made up of four boards arranged in the proper shape, with a gap in the center. The gap must be just wide enough for the brass Brighid's cross, which will be carried in to fit over it, with no danger of falling through. Such crosses are available in stores that sell Irish goods; if there are none in your area, the brass cross can be left out of the ritual.

In one of the spaces formed by the cross's arms is a large candle; in another is an offering bowl; and in another is a basket. In the fourth will be put the bowl of water used to purify the participants after it has been used for that purpose. On the arms themselves are at least as many candles as there are people present. Surrounding the cross is a circle marked on the floor, perhaps with a cord (we used clothesline--a nice domestic touch).

On a table are matches and a container of milk

The celebrants are two druids at least one of whom (D2 in this ritual) must be a woman; a fire tender also a woman, a young girl who will impersonate Brighid; and a Bard, who may also be one of the druids.

PROCESSION

 

As people leave the assembly area to go to the ritual site, they are each given a Brighid's cross.

HISTORICAL PRECEDENT

 

This may be said either at the very beginning of the ritual or when everyone has assembled in the nemeton.

D1: We are here today to celebrate the feast of Imbolc.

D2: It is the feast when the promise of the return of warmth is affirmed.

D1: It is the feast when we are purified in anticipation of this event.

D2: It is the feast when we are honored by the presence of Brighid.

 

LIGHTING THE HEARTH

D1: In the midst of our world we light the hearth fire, where the sacred and the mundane meet under the care of the Triple Bdghid.

Bard: We call to Brighid, the flame on the hearth.
 

All: Come to us, come to us, bless us with your presence.
 

Bard:We call to Brighid, inspirer of poets.
 

All: Come to us, come to us, bless us with your presence.
 

Bard: We call to Brighid, strength of smiths.
 

All: Come to us, come to us, bless us with your presence.
 

Bard: We call to Brighid, power of healers.
 

All: Come to us, come to us, bless us with your presence.

There are three knocks on the door.

D2: Lady Brighid, come in, come in, come in, you are thrice welcome!

All: Lady Brighid, come in, come in, come in, you are thrice welcome!

The door opens and a girl enters. She is dressed in red and carries a brass Brighid's cross in her left hand and a container of water in her right. She comes to the nemeton and goes straight to the center. She stops there and hands both cross and water to D2. She steps back to take her place in the circle. D2 pours the water into a bowl and then washes the brass Brighid's cross with it. This done, she places the brass cross on top of the wooden cross and places the large candle on top of it. She lights it and begins to sing:

Burn in our midst, O fire of Brighid, Opening to the sacred world,
One who inspires our every deed, Center of the spiral unfurled.

The others pick up on this song and come forward one at a time to the hearth. When each reaches the center, she stands to be anointed with water by D2 on the forehead, the hands, and the feet. If there are too many people for one person to do this comfortably, another woman may help D2. After being anointed, each person goes to the wooden Brighid's cross and lights a candle with a match lit from the center candle. She then puts her Brighid's cross down in the basket provided and returns to her place. After one person has been anointed, the next one comes forward. Males may not cross the circle around the cross and, instead, are handed first the basket to put their crosses in, and then a candle and a match lit from the center candle by the fire tender. They light the candle and then give it back to the fire tender, who puts it into place. When all are done, D2 lights any remaining candles and Dl says:

D1: Be our priestess, Brighid, drawing the gods near and conveying our offerings to them.

D2 pours milk into the offering bowl for Brighid.

D2: Mother Brighid, unite us all, for by worshiping at a common hearth we are made one family, one people.

D1: She is there at the hearth fire, tall and lovely, with red-gold hair, clad in flames, with shining face and hands held wide.

All: Brighid is in our midst!

D2 takes the bowl of water and asperges the bowl of crosses, says

D2: Bless these crosses, Gende Brighid, and with them the homes to Which they go and with them the people who enter those homes, and with them all that occurs within.

She puts down the bowl and goes to stand beside Dl.

 

From this point on, the ritual proceeds as usual when the Waters of Life are distributed, the crosses are distributed as well.

COMMENTARY

The traditional elements of Brighid's Day celebrations, such as encircling the home, marking crosses on structures, and washing, all imply a purification aspect to this day. It is indeed possible that the original meaning of "Imbolc" was "purification" (Hamp 111). This may be compared with "February," which has that meaning.

The young girl impersonating Brighid is taken from Irish folk custom (Danaher). The brass Brighid cross may be used at other rituals as a way of marking the center fire as the grove's hearth, either by putting it under a cauldron, if one is used, or hanging it from a short pole, if the fire is built on the ground. "Burn in our midst" are words by Ceiswer Serith, music bv Gwynne Green. Men are not allowed within the circle around the cross, first, as an honor to the hearth deity, who is uniformly a goddess in Indo-Europcan cultures, and second, as a reflection of the hedge of Brighid described by Gerald of Wales. This hedge surrounded a sacred area in which a perpetual fire, tended by women, burned in honor of Brighid. Males were not allowed to cross it.

SOURCES
  • Brayer, Dorothy Ann. "Saint Brigit and the Fire from Heaven." Etudes Celtique (1992) 106-13.
  • _____, The Image of St. Brigit in the Early Irish Church." Etudes Celtique (1987) 209-15.
  • Danaher, Kevin. The Year in Ireland. Cork: 1972.
  • Gerald of Wales (Gualdus Cambrensis). This History and Topography of Ireland. 1951. Trans. John O'Meara. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin Books, 1982.
  • Hamp, Eric. "Imbolc, Oimelc." Studia Celtica 14/15 (1979/80): 106-13.
  • Kondratiev, Alexei. The Apple Branch: A Path to Celtic Ritual. Chester Springs PA: Dufour Editions, 1998.
  • O Cathasaigh, Donal. "The Cult of Brigid: A Study in Pagan-Christian Syncretism In Ireland." Mankind Quarterly 19:4 (June 1979): 311-28.

Author Information

David Fickett-Wilbar (Ceisiwr Serith)

Articles by David Fickett-Wilbar (Ceisiwr Serith)