Here She is, the image I’ve been living and breathing for the last ten days. I didn’t have any plans to paint a new image of Brigid — in fact, I had no plans to paint at all. My focus this year is writing (it’s my word of the year too). So imagine my surprise when I woke up in the middle of the night last week, seized with the idea of painting a portrait of Brigid as an offering to Her in time for Her holy-day of Candlemas / Imbolc on February 1st.
I cleared my calendar, cancelled quite a few projects and appointments, and got to work. It was in turn exhilarating and exhausting.
But She’s here, and I am thrilled with the way the painting turned out.
And I imagine Brigid accepting my offering with a slow smile and a twinkle in Her eye.
Brigid (or Brighid, or Brigit, or Bride) is the Great Mother of the Celts, the triple Goddess of Smithcraft, Healing, and Inspiration. Reverence for her has continued unbroken throughout the centuries, just as it has for Kwan Yin and the Virgin of Guadalupe. Beloved as St. Brigid, her sacred flame was kept alight by her women for over a thousand years, but was extinguished during the Reformation. It was relit in the 1970s and has been burning ever since, kept alive by the Brigadine Sisters of Kildare.
At holy wells dedicated to her, pilgrims often tie prayer cloths (or “clooties”) to branches of overhanging trees to symbolize their prayers and offerings.
She is sometimes called the White Swan. Swans are a herald of winter, and when they leave around February 1st (Brigid’s feast day), it’s a sign that spring is on its way.
In this image, we see Brigid offering us her sacred fire —
- The fire of creativity that brings forth poetry, music, and art;
- The fire in the head that is the hallmark of shamans, seers, and bards;
- The fire of the forge, that symbolizes transformation;
- The fire of healing in the hands;
- The fire of medicinal and magical herbs;
- The fire of the sun emerging from its winter slumber;
- The fire at the center of the earth waking up once more to Spring.
Will you accept Brigid’s offering?
And in return, what will you offer Her?