Opening for Fourth Sunday ~
Begin this fourth Sunday by lighting your first, second, and third candles which you lit last Sunday, and your fourth candle, going around sunwise, so that all four candles are now lit.
Recite this Flame Lighting Prayer ~
Brìde, Excellent, Exalted One,
Bright, golden, quickening flame ~
Shine Your blessings on us from the Otherworld,
You, Radiant Fire of the Sun.
Inspirational Reading & Song ~
THE Genealogy of Bride was current among people who had a latent belief in its efficacy. Other hymns to Bride were sung on her festival, but nothing now remains except the names and fragments of the words. The names are curious and suggestive, as: ‘Ora Bhride,’ Prayer of Bride, ‘Lorg Bhride,’ Staff of Bride, ‘Luireach Bhride,’ Lorica of Bride, ‘Lorig Bhride,’ Mantle of Bride, ‘Brot Bhride,’ Corslet of Bride, and others. La Feill Bhride, St Bridget’s Day, is the first of February, new style, or the thirteenth according to the old style, which is still much in use in the Highlands. It was a day of great rejoicing and jubilation in olden times, and gave rise to innumerable sayings, as:–
‘Feill na Bride, feis na finne.’
‘Bride binn nam bas ban.’
‘A Bhride chaoin cheanail,
Is caoimh liom anail do bheoil,
’D uair reidhinn air m’ aineol
Bu to fein ceann eisdeachd mo sgeoil.’
Feast of the Bride, feast of the maiden.
Melodious Bride of the fair palms.
Thou Bride fair charming,
Pleasant to me the breath of thy mouth,
When I would go among strangers
‘Thou thyself wert the hearer of my tale.
There are many legends and customs connected with Bride. Some of these seem inconsistent with one another, and with the character of the Saint of Kildare. These seeming inconsistencies arise from the fact that there were several Brides, Christian and pre-Christian, whose personalities have become confused in the course of centuries–the attributes of all being now popularly ascribed to one. Bride is said to preside over fire, over art, over all beauty, ‘fo cheabhar agus fo chuan,’ beneath the sky and beneath the sea.
On Bride’s Eve the girls of the townland fashion a sheaf of corn into the likeness of a woman. They dress and deck the figure with shining shells, sparkling crystals, primroses, snowdrops, and any greenery they may obtain. In the mild climate of the Outer Hebrides several species of plants continue in flower during winter, unless the season be exceptionally severe. The gales of March are there the destroyers of plant-life. A specially bright shell or crystal is placed over the heart of the figure. This is called ‘reul-iuil Bride,’ the guiding star of Bride, and typifies the star over the stable door of Bethlehem, which led Bride to the infant Christ. The girls call the figure ‘Bride,’ ‘Brideag,’ Bride, Little Bride, and carry it in procession, singing the song of ‘Bride bhoidheach oigh nam mile beus,’ Beauteous Bride, virgin of a thousand charms. The ‘banal Bride,’ Bride maiden band, are clad in white, and have their hair down, symbolising purity and youth. They visit every house, and every person is expected to give a gift to Bride and to make obeisance to her. The gift may be a shell, a spar, a crystal, a flower, or a bit of greenery to decorate the person of Bride. Mothers, however, give ‘bonnach Bride,’ a Bride bannock, ‘cabag Bride,’ a Bride cheese, or ‘rolag Bride,’ a Bride roll of butter. Having made the round of the place the girls go to a house to make the ‘feis Bride,’ Bride feast. They bar the door and secure the windows of the house, and set Bride where she may see and be seen of all. Presently the young men of the community come humbly asking permission to honour Bride. After some parleying they are admitted and make obeisance to her.
Much dancing and singing, fun and frolic, are indulged in by the young men and maidens during the night. As the grey dawn of the Day of Bride breaks they form a circle and sing the hymn of ‘Bride bhoidheach muime chorr Chriosda,’ Beauteous Bride, choice foster-mother of Christ. They then distribute fuidheal na feisde,’ the fragments of the feast–practically the whole, for they have partaken very sparingly, in order to have the more to give–among the poor women of the place.
A similar practice prevails in Ireland. There the churn staff, not the corn sheaf, is fashioned into the form of a woman, and called ‘Brideog,’ little Bride. The girls come clad in their best, and the girl who has the prettiest dress gives it to Brideog. An ornament something like a Maltese cross is affixed to the breast of the figure. The ornament is composed of straw, beautifully and artistically interlaced by the deft fingers of the maidens of Bride. It is called ‘rionnag Brideog,’ the star of little Bride. Pins, needles, bits of stone, bits of straw, and other things are given to Bride as gifts, and food by the mothers.
Customs assume the complexion of their surroundings, as fishes, birds, and beasts assimilate the colours of their habitats. The seas of the ‘Garbh Chriocha,’ Rough Bounds in which the cult of Bride has longest lived, abound in beautiful iridescent shells, and the mountains in bright sparkling stones, and these are utilised to adorn the ikon of Bride. In other districts where the figure of Bride is made, there are no shining shells, no brilliant crystals, and the girls decorate the image with artistically interlaced straw.
The older women are also busy on the Eve of Bride, and great preparations are made to celebrate her Day, which is the first day of spring. They make an oblong basket in the shape of a cradle, which they call ‘leaba Bride,’ the bed of Bride. It is embellished with much care. Then they take a choice sheaf of corn, generally oats, and fashion it into the form of a woman. They deck this ikon with gay ribbons from the loom, sparkling shells from the sea, and bright stones from the hill. All the sunny sheltered valleys around are searched for primroses, daisies, and other flowers that open their eyes in the morning of the year. This lay figure is called Bride, ‘dealbh Bride,’ the ikon of Bride. When it is dressed and decorated with all the tenderness and loving care the women can lavish upon it, one woman goes to the door of the house, and standing on the step with her hands on the jambs, calls softly into the darkness, ‘Tha leaba Bride deiseal,’ Bride’s bed is ready. To this a ready woman behind replies, ‘Thigeadh Bride steach, is e beatha Bride,’ Let Bride come in, Bride is welcome. The woman at the door again addresses Bride, ‘A Bhride! Bhride thig a stench, tha do leaba deanta. Gleidh an teach dh’an Triana,’ Bride! Bride, come thou in, thy bed is made. Preserve the house for the Trinity. The women then place the ikon of Bride with great ceremony in the bed they have so carefully prepared for it. They place a small straight white wand (the bark being peeled off) beside the figure. This wand is variously called ‘slatag Bride,’ the little rod of Bride, ‘slachdan Bride,’ the little wand of Bride, and ‘barrag Bride,’ the birch of Bride. The wand is generally of birch, broom, bramble, white willow, or other sacred wood, ‘crossed’ or banned wood being carefully avoided. A similar rod was given to the kings of Ireland at their coronation, and to the Lords of the Isles at their instatement. It was straight to typify justice, and white to signify peace and purity–bloodshed was not to be needlessly caused. The women then level the ashes on the hearth, smoothing and dusting them over carefully. Occasionally the ashes, surrounded by a roll of cloth, are placed on a board to safeguard them against disturbance from draughts or other contingencies. In the early morning the family closely scan the ashes. If they find the marks of the wand of Bride they rejoice, but if they find ‘long Bride,’ the footprint of Bride, their joy is very great, for this is a sign that Bride was present with them during the night, and is favourable to them, and that there is increase in family, in flock, and in field during the coming year. Should there be no marks on the ashes, and no traces of Bride’s presence, the family are dejected. It is to them a sign that she is offended, and will not hear their call. To propitiate her and gain her ear the family offer oblations and burn incense.
The serpent is supposed to emerge from its hollow among the hills on St Bride’s Day, and a propitiatory hymn was sung to it. Only one verse of this hymn has been obtained, apparently the first. It differs in different localities:–
‘Moch maduinn Bhride,
Thig an nimhir as an toll,
Cha bhoin mise ris an nimhir,
Cha bhoin an nimhir rium.’
Early on Bride’s morn
The serpent shall come from the hole,
I will not molest the serpent,
Nor will the serpent molest me.
Other versions say:–
La Feill na Bride,
Thig nighean Imhir as a chnoc,
Cha bhean mise do nighean
’S cha dean i mo lochd.’ [Imhir,
‘La Fheill Bride brisgeanach
Thig an ceann de in chaiteanach,
Thig nighean Iomhair as an tom
Le fonn feadalaich.’
‘Thig an nathair as an toll
La donn Bride,
Ged robh tri traighean dh’ an
Air leachd an lair.’ [t-sneachd
The Feast Day of the Bride,
The daughter of Ivor shall come from the knoll,
I will not touch the daughter of Ivor,
Nor shall she harm me.
On the Feast Day of Bride,
The head will come off the ‘caiteanach,’
The daughter of Ivor will come from the knoll
With tuneful whistling.
The serpent will come from the hole
On the brown Day of Bride,
Though there should be three feet of snow
On the flat surface of the ground.
The ‘daughter of Ivor’ is the serpent; and it is said that the serpent will not sting a descendant of Ivor, he having made ‘tabhar agus tuis,’ offering and incense, to it, thereby securing immunity from its sting for himself and his seed for ever.
‘La Bride nam brig ban
Thig an rigen ran a tom,
Cha bhoin mise ris an rigen ran,
’S cha bhoin an rigen ran rium.’
On the day of Bride of the white hills
The noble queen will come from the knoll,
I will not molest the noble queen,
Nor will the noble queen molest me.
Bride is said to preside over the different seasons of the year and to bestow their functions upon them according to their respective needs. Some call January ‘am mios marbh,’ the dead month, some December, while some apply the terms, ‘na tri miosa marbh,’ the three dead months, ‘an raithe marbh,’ the dead quarter, and ‘raithe marbh na bliadhna,’ the dead quarter of the year, to the winter months when nature is asleep. Bride with her white wand is said to breathe life into the mouth of the dead Winter and to bring him to open his eyes to the tears and the smiles, the sighs and the laughter of Spring. The venom of the cold is said to tremble for its safety on Bride’s Day and to flee for its life on Patrick’s Day. There is a saying:–
‘Chuir Bride miar ’s an abhuinn
La na Feill Bride
Is dh’ fhalbh mathair ghuir an fhuachd,
Is nigh i basan anns an abhuinn
La na Feill Padruig
Is dh’ fhalbh mathair ghin an fhuachd.’
Bride put her finger in the river
On the Feast Day of Bride
And away went the hatching mother of the cold,
And she bathed her palms in the river
On the Feast Day of Patrick
And away went the conception mother of the cold,
Another version says:–
‘Chuir Brighid a bas ann,
Chuir Moire a cas ann,
Chuir Padruig a chiach fhuar ann.’ (?)
Bride put her palm in it,
Mary per her foot in it,
Patrick put the cold stone in it,
alluding to the decrease in cold as the year advances. In illustration of this is– ‘Chuir Moire meoirean anns an uisge La Fheili Bride is thug i neimh as, ’s La Fheill Padruig nigh i lamhan ann ’s dh’ fhalbh am fuachd uil as,’ Mary put her fingers in the water on Bride’s Feast Day and the venom went out of it, and on Patrick’s Feast Day she bathed her hands in it and all the cold went out of it.
Poems narrating the events of the seasons were current. That mentioning the occurrences of Spring begins:–
‘La Bride breith an earraich
Thig an dearrais as an tom,
Theirear “tri-bhliadhnaich” ri aighean,
Bheirear gearrain chon nam fonn.’
The Day of Bride, the birthday of Spring,
The serpent emerges from the knoll,
‘Three-years-olds’ is applied to heifers,
Garrons are taken to the fields.
In Uist the flocks are counted and dedicated to Bride on her Day.
‘La Fheill Bride boidheach
Cunntar spreidh air mointeach.
Cuirear fitheach chon na nide,
’S cuirear rithis rocais.’
On the Feast Day of beautiful Bride
The flocks are counted on the moor.
The raven goes to prepare the nest,
And again goes the rook.
Nead air Bhrighit, ugh air Inid, ian air Chasg,
Mar a bith aig an fhitheach bithidh am bas.’
Nest at Brigit, egg at Shrove, chick at Easter,
If the raven has not he has death.
The raven is the first bird to nest, closely followed by the mallard and the rook. It is affirmed that–
‘Co fad ’s a theid a ghaoth ’s an dorus
La na Feill Bride,
Theid an cathadh anns an dorus
La na Feill Paruig.’
As far as the wind shall enter the door
On the Feast Day of Bride,
The snow shall enter the door
On the Feast Day of Patrick.
From the Carmina Gadelica, Vol I—
Listen to, and try to use the given lyrics and pronunciation key to sing along with, a traditional song for Brìde, Gabhaim Molta Brìghde: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tP5FS6IXJJA
Recitation of relevant passage of the Four Fires of Brìde prayer ~
“Brighid, my heart is on fire for you-
Kindle thou my compassion, as you lovingly do.”
Prayer, Offering, & Silent Meditation ~
The compassion of the heart is the kindness, inclusiveness, and understanding that forges peace in our world. As our sun shines her light on all beings upon the land, so too can we extend this inclusiveness towards, and create peace with our fellow beings of the world. Consider this week how you might bring the light of kindness, inclusiveness, and understanding to make peace in the world, and how you might cultivate compassion and peace within yourself.
Close your eyes and take three cleansing breaths, breathing space into yourself, and sinking into yourself as you exhale.
Hold up a plate of cheese, bowl of yogurt, or cup of milk in offering for Brìde:
“Brìde, Giver of Light and Life, I offer You this gift of nourishment in gratitude and joy for all Your many blessings.
Glory of kindred,
Queen of Summer,
She of the high heavens,
Support of strangers,
Spark of wisdom,
Daughter of an Daghda,
The living one of life.”
~ adapted from In Praise of Brigit, from the Old Irish
Warm your hands over the lit flames, imagining Her energy and power collecting in them, and then place them over your heart —
“Brighid, may your crystal-clear light fill my heart with your illumination. May my Cauldron on Vocation be enlightened and directed by Your ‘reul-iuil Bride,’ you guiding star, and may Your light radiate from me like a sacred flame in a high temple, like a guiding beam from a lighthouse, like a candle in dark window, offering help and solace to all in need.
“I come here today to honor Your gifts of compassion and peace. I pray You might inspire and inform me, guide me and show me how I might best use them to bring Your Light into the world. How would you like me to keep Your Living Flame alight?”
Make yourself like an earthen temple of the Sun, directed towards and welcoming within its rays of light and illumination. Sit and allow Brìde’s light to work within you, to guide and inspire you. You might hum or play the song above to aid your meditation. If your attention wanders, recite or repeat the word, ‘welcome,’ or fàilte,’ in the Gaelic.
When you feel you have received some kind of guidance, insight, or inspiration, close the meditation with thanks—
“Brìde, Constant Companion and Maker of Song, I thank you for your guidance, inspiration, and insight. May Your Flame remain with me, lighting my way, and blessing my work. May I remain ever open to your signs and whispers. Mar a bha, mar a tha, mar a bhitheas gu brath.”
Close the meditation with three breaths in and out—
“The fire is in the temple, (breathe in)
The light shines forth.” (breathe out)
Journal the signs, insights, and inspirations received, and share them with your Brighidine community if you are so moved to, along with any plans you have for manifesting them. Watch and listen over the week for further guidance which may come, journaling that, also. Lastly, consider and journal how you engage with the concepts of compassion and peace, how you express them in your life, how you can become more aware of them as expressions of honoring and caring for all life, which brings the light of justice to our world.