The earth is waking up again. The sun feels warmer, the days are getting longer. The snow is beginning to melt away and the world feels like it is humming, getting energized. The winter has been long and may feel everlasting, but surely change is in the air.
The Spring Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere takes place today, March 19, at 11:49 p.m. EST. Thus, Spring will arrive. If you are like me and are living in a colder climate of North America, it may not seem very…”spring-ish” outside. The temperatures are still low and more snow is sure to fall in the coming weeks. However, the forces of nature are at work, bringing us closer to the powerful energy of samos! Watch for the arrival of migratory animals, glimpses of newly greening grass through melted snow, and buds on the trees. It is truly an exciting time of year, full of metamorphosis.
I will be celebrating the arrival of the Spring Equinox beginning at sundown today and through until sundown tomorrow. I plan to light some candles in the evening, meditate, and encourage our waking sun through its journey. The following day, I plan to paint some eggs, symbolizing the impending fertility of nature. Some I may choose to paint with symbols of the goals I wish to come to life this year. I will bury these eggs in the earth so that she may help them grow. I may also do some “spring cleaning”, and decorating of my apartment to reflect and attract a more bright environment.
Do you observe the Spring Equinox? What do you call it in your religion, belief system, or community? What do you do to celebrate? Tell me in the comments below!
I am very excited to start my new series of blog posts on Celtic deities! I will be dedicating single posts to a random Celtic deity of choice so we can all learn about them. Today for my first post, we will be discussing Brighid.
In Irish history, Brighid is considered to be one of the most powerful religious figures. She is the patroness of poetry, healing, and smithcraft. She is often seen as a universal muse. Her worship expanded across ancient Ireland, Scotland, and even Western Europe. Often unifying Celts and bringing understanding and peace to warring tribes. Brighid is also the Celtic deity I feel personally closest to. I am a creative soul, take pride in my “hearth” and home, have a background in medical science, and favour spring time. It is no doubt why I was so instantly drawn to her. She is filled with wonder, never ending strength, and inspiration.
Brighid, (or Brigid, Brigit, Bride, Bridey, Brigantia, to name a few aliases) is an Irish Goddess and member of the Tuatha Dé Danann. She was born at sunrise wearing a crown of flames, stretching high into the heavens and connecting her to the cosmos. Those who witnessed her birth said the family house looked as if it was on fire. She is the daughter Dagda, The Good God and Chief of the Tuatha Dé Danann. Her mother is said to be the Goddess Morrighan, or the Goddess Boann, with multiple sources stating one or the other. She is also said to be the sister of Ogma, the God of Speech and Language.
Tales of Brighid say that she wed Fres, Chief of the Fomorians, a rival tribe of the Tuatha Dé Danann. She is seen as a mediator between the two warring tribes. Her children were the Gods Ruadan, Iuchar and Uar.
Powers and Symbolism
As mentioned earlier, Brighid is the patroness of poetry, healing, and smithcraft. With these three elements she is sometimes depicted as a triple goddess. Imagery of her can show one aspect carrying a pair of blacksmith tongs and a sword, another aspect holding two healing snakes, and a third aspect carrying a wand with a crescent moon and a tablet. Other attributes given to her include being the Goddess of childbirth, inspiration, hearth, cattle, and warfare.
As a whole, Brighid is considered a fire deity. This association is clear from her very birth. Her fire is said to bring early spring, poetic inspiration, divination, healing, fertility, and creativity in smithing and crafts. To a lesser degree, Brighid is also associated with water. Water is viewed as a healing and purifying element, and also symbolic of the womb. Many rivers, springs, and wells are dedicated to her in Celtic lands. In some Druidic rituals, she is honoured with a well decorated in candles, flowers, and greenery. People would bring coins and silver objects as offerings to these wells. The water in these wells were said to heal disease.She is sometimes depicted with a cauldron, a perfect symbol of the balance and harmony between fire and water. Cauldrons are associated with the hearth and home as well, fitting for our Goddess.
She is considered an important deity on Imbloc, and is associated with the first signs of spring. The lighting of fires, purification with water, and the welcoming of spring truly suit her. Worshipers also make Brighid’s crosses on this day, a solar symbol which also represents the perpetual cycle of the seasons. Hanging Brighid’s cross in ones home brings protection.
Brighid has many associations and attributes. She is often paired with her pure white cow, symbolizing her protection of cattle and also a manifestation of her Mother (Boann in this instance). Her flower is the dandelion, a sunny yellow plant with medicinal properties and which produces a milky white sap (another reference to cattle and motherhood). Other sources say her flower is actually the coltsfoot, a similarly looking plant with medicinal properties and happens to flower around the time of Imbloc. Her messenger bird is the oystercatcher, and her divinatory animal is the snake, namely the adder (which references healing).
The Perseverance of Brighid and her Importance to the Celtic Community
When Christianity took a firm hold on Celtic communities, the love and reverence of Brighid was still so strong and integral to the Celtic identity that the Church had to make her a Saint. As a Saint, Brighid has been worshipped for over fifteen-hundred years.
When Brighid was transformed to a Saint, she managed to keep most of her pre-christian symbolism and traditions. St. Brigid is the patroness of sheep and cattle, dairy, children, poultry, midwives, poets, and blacksmiths. This is a clear correlation to her original triple goddess form and associations. Depictions of St. Brigid show rays of sunlight coming from her head, much like the crown of flames of the Goddess. Depictions of her with milk, fire, or serpents also are found.
Imbloc, usually celebrated on February 1st by the ancient Celts, was then made St. Brigid’s Day, or St. Brigid Feast Day.This day is still celebrated in Ireland. St. Brigid’s crosses (the exact same from Imbloc) are made for protection and good luck in the home.
Before the introduction of Christianity, before the invasion of the Romans, Brighid had an eternal flame at Kildare that was attended to by 19 women on a 20-day cycle. Each woman would look after the flame for 1 day, and it is said that on the 20th day the flame was tended to by Brighid herself. When the Goddess was transformed into the Saint, the flame was then handed over to 19 Catholic nuns. This shrine was watched over into the 18th century, with it being extinguished a few times due to political and religious reasons. I know the flame has been relit many times, but I could not find any recent sources telling me whether or not a flame is being tended to at this date. The most recent update I found was from 2006.
The love and devotion given to Brighid by her followers allowed her to survive the conversion of the Celts to Christianity. The choice was to give her up completely, or allow her to transform into a Saint. She is truly radiant, powerful, and enduring. Her flames are never extinguished from the Celtic identity no matter her form. Now with Celtic Reconstructionism, we may celebrate her again as the Triple Goddess. The patroness of poetry, healing, and smithcraft. Our universal muse.
What are your opinions on Brighid? What name do you call her by? How do you honour her in your daily life or in ritual? Do you have a cool fact about her that I missed? Let me know in the comments❤
The earliest written references of Druids are found from the 3rd century BCE, however it is agreed among experts that Druidism goes back much further, with the exact date of its origins unknown. Druids were located in ancient Britain and France and their reach extended into all Celtic-ruled territories. The name “Druid” is thought to come from the Irish-Gaelic word Doire which means “Oak Tree” or “Wisdom”.
Unfortunately for us, it is difficult to truly know everything about the mysterious ways of the ancient Druids. Since oral history took precedence in Celtic culture, many facts and knowledge on Druidism have been lost. What has been written down is from non-Druid, second-hand sources which are often biased. Julius Caesar is the primary source of information on Druids, and he had plenty reason to take liberties on his accounts. He and the Roman empire were invading Celtic territories at the time, and were vilifying the Celts to dehumanize them. However, all of his records cannot be completely discounted, as some of his claims can be confirmed by early medieval Irish sagas.
What is Caesar Saying???
According to Julius Caesar, Druids were a priestly caste. They held high authority and advised kings. They were in charge of legal matters in tribes, mediated wars, and dictated public and private sacrifices. Yes, you read that correctly, sacrifices. Although Caesar mentioned they abstained from fighting wars, he made it quite clear they took part in many human sacrifices. I will mention now that there is no hard evidence that the Druids took part in human sacrifices, only the written word of the Romans. It is entirely possible that human sacrifice was practiced by the ancient Druids, but probably not to the extent the ancient Romans would have everyone believe. It was once said that the Druids would construct a giant wicker man filled with human scarifies, and burn the effigy, with the humans alive inside…
The Many Roles of the Ancient Druid
Druids studied and practiced a variety of different skills and sciences, which aided in their high position and authority in Celtic society. They concerned themselves with the natural world, taking great consideration of the natural cycles and events around them. Druids celebrated 8 main holy days which were designated based on seasonal, lunar, and solar cycles. They saw the earth as a living entity which responded to the actions of humans and needed respect. Trees were held as sacred, especially oak, and their places of worship were typically clearings in forests.
Druids would spend as much as 20 years training! Areas of training included but are not limited to:
lore, poetry & music
divination & prophecy
illness & medicine
The Druids would share their knowledge with their tribes. Acting as priests, shamans, judges, bards, historians, and even teachers to the younger tribe members. This knowledge was passed down orally, keeping the knowledge sacred and important.
It is also important to note that while Celtic tribes relied on Druids in many matters, they were still not at the top of the Celtic “social ladder” if you will. The aristocracy and the warrior class were the main focus of the tribes admiration (much like today’s society). This is where people looked for trends, fashions, and the like.
The Fall of Druidry
As I’ve mentioned several times, the ancient Celtic peoples dealt with invasion and suppression from the Romans. In the 1st century AD, the Roman emperor Tiberius banned Druidism (due to the human sacrifices which may or may not have even occurred). Christianity at this time was also getting traction within Celtic communities and many were converting. By the 2nd century AD, Druidism had mostly disappeared. The combination of the Roman invasion and conversion to Christianity led to it and the Celtic religion’s demise. Not everything was lost however. The vein of Christianity in these Celtic areas were heavily influenced by the Celtic religion and Druidry. Even today in the modern world, traces and influence of ancient Druid culture remain in Christianity and New Age religions such as Wicca.
From what we can know about the ancient Druids, and the culture and practices they participated in, we can try our best to revive the lost religions of the Ancient Celts. We will undoubtedly have to fill in the blanks with our own interpretations, and alter certain things to accommodate our modern lives. However, for me in my path, it is important to remain as true as possible to what we do know. I must honour my Celtic ancestors and bring back what was taken from them.
Some people will say that Celtic Reconstructionism must be free from eclecticism, but with such a patchwork of history, it is near impossible to not fill the gaps with similar practices and ideas from other religions, and personal preference. Some of you may disagree with me, and that is fair! In the end, this is my personal path. While I wish to stay as true as possible to ancient Celtic tradition, my practice will ultimately be my own personal concoction.
What is Celtic Reconstructionism? Celtic Reconstructionism can refer to a pagan or christian way of spiritualism. My personal path is Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism, and thus will be the main focus of this blog. Simply, it is a movement which aims to preserve ancient Celtic traditions and practices in the modern world through a historic lens. When talking about the ancient Celts, however, things are never quite that simple. I will try my best to give a brief overview, granted I am still learning more and more everyday!
To understand Celtic Reconstructionism, we must first know who the Celts were. The Celts are believed to have originated in central Europe and are known to have spread across Western Europe. Evidence of the Celtic culture evolving dates back to as early as 1200 B.C., with the earliest writings being documented to the 7th or 8th century B.C. The Celts were comprised of several groups with shared languages, beliefs, cultures, and traditions. The impact of these peoples and their cultures is still seen predominantly through Ireland and Great Britain.
The Celtic language is part of the Indo-European language family, and is separated into two groups: Insular Celtic and Continental Celtic. Use of Continental Celtic declined after the Roman Invasions in Celtic regions and are no longer in use today. Insular Celtic is divided further into two groups: Brittonic and Goidelic. Brittonic consists of Breton, Cornish, and Welsh. Goidelic consists of Irish, Scots Gaelic, and Manx. There are many revival efforts to keep the use of the Goidelic language branch alive. Being apart of the revival of one or more of these languages is often seen as a key component of Celtic Reconstructionism, as it brings oneself closer to the ancient Celts and ensures the survival and continuation of the culture.
The heart of Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism is of course the beliefs and traditions of the Ancient Celts. This is where things get a bit tricky. Due to the effects of having a largely spoken history, a (biased) written history created largely by the Romans, as well as the eventual decline (read: eradication) of the culture we are left with a history that is sparse and up to many interpretations. As Celtic Reconstructionists, we try our best to study the history, archaeology, and surviving traditions of ancient Celtic culture to piece together our best understanding of their beliefs. It is such a fascinating topic and I really could write on and on forever, but will force myself to stop for today. We will have many days to discuss and learn from now on. What we know about the Celts, their traditions, culture, beliefs, and language will all be explored in this blog.
I am very excited to share my path with you. I Welcome You Under the Holly Tree.