At midwinter in the northern hemisphere, hints of life appear as the frozen dark gives way to returning light. February 2 has many names. Ground Hog’s Day, Candlemas, St. Bridget’s Day, and Imbolc (IM-bulk) the ancient Celtic holiday that marked the birthing of lambs and the return of the goddess Bridget. The flower of this season is the humble snowdrop, the harbinger of the flowers of spring to come. For many of us, visions of the future are not blooming but dark. The forces of chaos seem to have been unleashed in our government. As we welcome the spirit of Bridget, we turn to her for guidance and comfort. What wise woman ways are available to help us navigate these turbulent political times?
Bridget is the goddess of healing, poetry and goldsmithing. Her wells are sources of life and renewal where people go to pray in times of sickness and turmoil. May she bring healing to us now. She imparts brilliance in those who create with words. May she inspire satirists to bring politicians to task and journalists to speak truth to power. As the keeper of the fire that transforms gold into objects of beauty, may her acts of charity and compassion become the gold standard of human behavior and her perpetual flame, tended by the Brigidine Sisters in Kildare, Ireland, burn as a beacon of hope, justice and peace.
Those qualities seem in short supply in the world today. Last Sunday, I rode the commuter rail into Boston. On the train, there were many people carrying signs, some parents with young children in tow, on their way to the Anti-Hate, Pro-Immigration rally in Copley Square. While I ate lunch at Au Bon Pain in Central Square in Cambridge indications of the furor caused by Trump’s sudden immigration ban were everywhere. At a table near mine, I observed three young women, two wearing head scarves making signs one of which said, “No human being is illegal.” Standing at another tall table in the center of the room, a white, young professional couple, probably headed to the march, were carrying on an audible conversation with a middle-aged, local, white man, who was a supporter of the ban. The sign-making girls kept a wary eye on him at first. For about a quarter of an hour it was hard to tune out his somewhat heated defense of a hard-line immigration policy.
When he said America should be helping its own first, like the homeless — hard not to notice them in this neighborhood where many hang out only feet away from the restaurant — the couple asked him what he did to help. He said he volunteered to help fix dinner for the homeless once a week at a local shelter. The discussion continued, but it became harder to overhear as it grew more conversational in tone. The three people were still talking earnestly a half hour later when I left.
What strikes many of us as insanity in the White House is having one positive effect. It’s bringing people out onto the street to exercise their civil rights to protest and fostering conversations like the one I overheard. We need to keep talking, not only to make our voices heard, but to enter into dialogue with others who may view the world differently from us. We each need to find true north on our interior moral compass. We need to fight for what we believe, but also remember to honor the worth and dignity of everyone, and listen to others with respect, not contempt.
In Celtic society in times of extreme deprivation when the survival of the people was at stake, all the residents of a village and its surrounding land would build a need fire. First, every light had to be extinguished. With their hearth fires cold, every able-bodied cottager carried an unlit torch to the center of the village. There a new fire was kindled and dedicated to Bridget and other deities, in whose mercy the villagers placed themselves, for the situation was more dire than they could hope to handle alone. Every household lit a torch from this need fire and carried the new flame back to their homes where they rekindled their hearth fires.
At this turning point of winter, when we see the first signs that the earth will quicken to life again, we call out to Bridget or to the Source of all Being by whatever name moves our hearts. We seek her/his guidance and direction. May she wrap us, all together, all of her people, under the mantle of her love and protection.
Three Candles Ritual
Extinguish all the lights in your home, turn off the power strips to which all your electronic devices are connected, turn down the thermostat, unplug the refrigerator, and, turn off your phone. Sit in the silence and the dark. Allow your breath to deepen, give your soul time to call out its need, its prayer. When you are ready, strike a match and light three candles, one at a time. As you light the first candle, ask that things which have been fractured may return to wholeness. As you light the second, ask for help in creating beauty, hope, and love in the world. As you light the third, ask for help in making visible your true self which is a reflection of the Great Mystery. Be still and listen. What seeks to be born in the silence? When you are ready, rise, turn on the lights, the power strips, the appliances, and reconnect. May your dot on the grid shine a bit brighter supported by divine love.
Photo: Bridget’s flame and cross. Check out the website for the Solas Bhride Centre run by the Brigidine Sisters in Kildare Town, County Kildare, Ireland. http://solasbhride.ie