Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Ord Brighideach

  • Artist Joanna Powell Colbert has very kindly given me permission to use her art on my blog! This is her conception of Brigit at the forge.

  • I’ve told ya’ll the story about how I found Brigit, or maybe it is better described as how She saved me. Well, way back then, in late 2001, I think, I found this website for Ord Brigideach, which was described as a “Brigidine order of flamekeepers.” Now, beings still somewhat of an adolescent male, I was immediately interested in any excuse to set fire to things.

    Brigit was the Celtic Goddess of Smithcraft, Healing and Poetry. I think you can probably see where I saw the parallel between what I do hear and poetry (I know, this is prose. Remember, the Celts did not have writing and used and oral tradition to pass on lore). The healing is also obvious—my recovery from alcoholism. Smithcraft fit my creativity, although as I have studied the ancient Celts, I have come to understand it was more than that to them. Remember, we are talking about a world that is 2,500 years ago. Smiths were regarded as almost demigods because they took what, to the common man, was essentially hunks of dirt and made steel. Steel made ploughs, forks, swords, jewelry, armor, belt buckles, lace holders for boots and countless more essential things. You can see why smiths were held in such regard.

    Brigit’s name translates to “Bright Arrow”, or so I have read. She is also the Goddess of Fire. According to the Franco-Celtic scholar Jean Markale, the Celts only recognized three elements: earth, air and water (think about all the trinities that seem to come from the Celtic world such as Maiden, Mother, Crone. Also from the Celts came the concept of Father, Son, Holy Spirit). Fire was not seen as an element itself, but rather as an agent of transformation.

    After the Christians came and beat the Pagan Celts into submission—one can almost hear them saying alright already, I’ll give up calling on Lugh, I’ll call him Jesus if you want, just stop hitting me—the Goddess Brigit became Saint Brigid. The parallels between the two are uncanny and unmistakable. The Christians simply could not kill the worship of Brigit, so they shamelessly co-opted it.

    Allegedly St. Brigid established a convent in the Irish county of Kildare about 500 C.E. At that convent there was an eternal flame and the nuns would tend the flame in shifts. Tending the flame of Brigid was an act of reverence and meditation. There were nineteen nuns, so the flame was tended for 19 days. The tradition was that St. Brigid herself would tend the flame on day twenty. Somewhere in the 1100’s the Catholic church heard about this tradition and said, no way man, that is so damn Pagan—put out the flame. And so the flame was extinguished.

    I gather that it was periodically lit later on, and then it would get extinguished.

    That brings us to Ord Brighideach. You can read the history of the order here, but briefly put, they follow the tradition of tending the flame in shifts with the twentieth day given to Brigit Herself.

    I tried to join in 2001 but they were not taking new members. I tried again in 2002 with the same result. I pretty much gave up on it.

    Patience does get rewarded. About a week ago, I got an email saying they were accepting members. I was very excited to say the least. I immediately applied.

    I am now the 13th shift in Cill Fááibhille(Cell Beech). My first shift will be from sundown November 1 until sundown Novmenber 2nd. How cool is that?

    Too cool.

    Blessings to all of you!

    Good Morning Goddess Brigit, my name is Andy and I am an alcoholic. I have been kept sober since Imbolc 2001 by Your grace and Your grace alone and that is overwhelming to realize. I thank You for my sobriety, my family and my friends. I am so grateful. May I do thy will! Thank You, Blessed Be.