Walking through the inner fire of Imbolc.
Today, February 1st, we are crossing through fire.
It is a quiet, but significant, turning point in the year, marking the ancient Celtic feast of Imbolc, as well as Saint Brigid’s Day.
It’s so easy to plow through this “dead” time of winter, just keeping our head down and getting through it, waiting out the cold for a little more warmth. But this marker is quite beautiful and very much worth noticing. It is a signifier of the seasonal—and mystical—arrival of early spring.
It’s helpful to have these conscious transitions in both in our inner and outer lives. They remind us that there is a deeper mystery that weaves through our regular days, filled with the comings and goings of routine, emails, deadlines, meetings, cloudy afternoons, and school pickups.
How beautiful that the seasonal festivals we celebrate throughout the year are all about changing light. When we are conscious of the transition of one season to another, we can see the reflection of this change illuminated in our own lives as well.
We are well past the winter solstice now, a primary solar landmark in which we plant the seeds of our hope for new life. On February 1st, the halfway point between the solstice and the spring equinox, we celebrate the transition of light from inward to outward.
Brigid is the illuminator of our process of light.
There are three aspects.
Her primary hallmark is the inner flame, a sacred light that resides in our heart. Early priestesses tended an “eternal flame” on the sacred ground of her temple in Kildare. Modern priestesses do the very same to this day
[ View of Saint Brigid’s Cathedral and the ancient Pagan fire site of Brigid’s eternal flame (the rectangular stone pit within the cemetery) taken from the top of the medieval roundtower, a unique kind of Irish belfry, offering quite a mystical vantage point!]
Brigid is a syncretic archetype. That is, her mystical legacy is two merged things: the ancient Irish Pagan goddess Brigid and the early Christian saint, Brigid of Kildare. This very day marks the fusion of these two energies, two sides of the same fiery coin.
The goddess Brigid is a threefold diety. She is the patroness of poetry, birthing, and (I love this) smithing. She is a woman of wisdom and strength, a Sage and Protectress, a daughter of the Gods, and her name in ancient Irish means “the Exalted One.”
Saint Brigid was a woman of embodied compassion. To me, she surrendered herself as a vessel of Good Works, the flow of life moved through her without resistance. Her energies were spent in building community, building bridges, and reflecting to others their innate worthiness and, of course, their inner light.
This merging is mysterious, though. It is meant to be contemplated and imbibed by the cells of our being, rather than the mind’s desire for a complete understanding.
When I contemplate this merging, I am drawn to the 30th hexagram of the ancient Chinese I Ching called, “The Clinging.” It is composed of two trigrams: fire over fire. It feels like the an ideal companion to the essence of Brigid, helping us comprehend the nature of our own essential fire.
The elemental combination of Fire over Fire signifies that light is released from the flames.
“The Clinging” illuminates our requirement for sustenance. Just as a flame must have fuel, clinging to the wood that it burns, we, too, must have spiritual sustenance in order to carry out our works in the world.
We are clinging to the Divine Source, the sacred fuel of the inner flame. And then, once the fire is forged, it produces light, like photons emanating from the nuclear furnace of the Sun.
The flame must be fed (Source), the fire is inwardly forged (Goddess), and the light is outwardly emanated (Saint).
The tighter we cling, the hotter the forge, the brighter the light.
This is the merged Brigid. She is mysterious, yes. But always rather practical, too. Because the real, earthbound question is:
Are you willing to walk through the threshold of fire in order to share the light that only you may bring?
Which brings us back to this wintry day. We’ve passed through January, fulls of its ups and downs. But let’s call a spade a spade: it’s a dark place. Dare I say: it was really freaking hard. And yet, without the darkness, we are unaware of the growing light, unwise to our own new life surging from the flames.
Imbolc and Saint Brigid’s Day are a passageway. It’s a threshold of fire, in which the inner flame gives way to an outer light. We are letting ourselves be bright in the world, through our words, our works, and our being.
It’s a collective portal, but it’s also very personal in terms of our fears and challenges.
Brigid reminds us that:
We have a Source.
We have a Forge.
We have a Light.
They are gifts with no strings attached. There is no guilt or blame for sitting by the fire and concentrating on the flames, rather than staring out the window at the sky. You are simply learning how to tend a sacred flame.
But today I invite you to ask yourself: what is the most peaceful way to share my light with the world?
Listen inwardly to the goddess-saint: she is the illuminator of light, after all. And hers is a gentle voice.
Ironically, the way to walk through fire is as just as gentle. The only sacrifice is your fear. I cannot imagine a more sacred offering to Brigid.
And when you surrender your fear to the flames and pass through, there is the revelation of a new life, waiting patiently on the other side.