Festival of Imbolc, St. Bridget’s Day February 1st

Today is Imbolc, one of the four Celtic Fire Festivals. It corresponds with St Bridget’s Day, which is a Christian festival for the Irish Saint, and is the eve of Candlemas. Bridget is the patron saint of all things to do with brides, marriage, fertility, and midwifery (amongst many other things, see above). And in Ireland, this year (2024) is the very first St Bridget’s/ Imbolc Day Bank Holiday!

St Bride,s Statue St Bride's Church. Fleet Street
St Bride’s Statue, St Bride’s Church. Fleet Street from K.Flude’s virtual tour on Imbolc

St Bridget, aka Briddy or Bride, converted the Irish to Christianity along with St Patrick in the 5th Century AD. She appears to have taken on the attributes of a Celtic fertility Goddess, called Bridget or Brigantia, so some doubt she was a real person. There are Roman altars dedicated to Brigantia, and it is thought that the Brigantes tribe in Yorkshire and the North were named after the Goddess. The Brigantes were on the front line against the invading Romans in the 1st Century AD, and led by Queen Cartimandua, It is interesting that two of the British leaders facing the Roman invasion were women. Cartimandua tried to keep her independence by cooperating with the Romans, while, a few years later, Boudica took the opposite strategy. But both women appear to have had agency as leaders of their tribes and show a great contrast with Roman misogyny.

altar to Brigantia
Altar to Brigantia from K Flude’s virtual tour on Imbolc

There are many wells dedicated to St Bride. They were often used in rituals and dances concerned with fertility and healthy babies. And perhaps, the most famous, was near Fleet Street. Henry VIII’s Palace of Bridewell, later an infamous prison, was named after the Well. St Bride’s Church has long been a candidate as an early Christian Church, and although the post World War Two excavations found nothing to suggest an early Church, they did find an early well near the site of the later altar of the Church, and by the remains of a Roman building, possibly a mausoleum. Therefore, it is possible that the Church was built on the site of an ancient, arguably holy, well.

St Bridget's Well Glastonbury
St Bridget’s Well, Glastonbury

The steeple of St Brides is said to be the origin of the tiered Wedding Cake, which, in 1812, inspired a local baker to bake for his daughter’s wedding.

Steeple of St Brides Fleet Street
Steeple of St Brides Fleet Street

Imbolc and St Bridget’s Day are the time to celebrate the return of fertility to the earth as spring approaches. In my garden and my local park, the first snowdrops, violets, and daffodils are coming out, and below the bare earth, there is a frenzy of bulbs and seeds budding, and beginning to poke their shoots up above the earth, ready for the Spring. In the meadows, ewes are lactating, and the first lambs are being born.

Violets, bulbs, and my first Daffodil of the year. Hackney (2022), London by K Flude

I, occasionally, do walks about Imbolc and other Celtic festivals, in conjunction with the Myths and Legends of London, and at May Eve, the Solstices, Halloween and Christmas (when I have time). See the walks page of this blog


And let’s end with the Saint Brigid Hearth Keeper Prayer Courtesy of SaintBrigids.org

Brigid of the Mantle, encompass us,
Lady of the Lambs, protect us,
Keeper of the Hearth, kindle us.
Beneath your mantle, gather us,
And restore us to memory.
Mothers of our mother, Foremothers strong.
Guide our hands in yours,
Remind us how to kindle the hearth.
To keep it bright, to preserve the flame.
Your hands upon ours, Our hands within yours,
To kindle the light, Both day and night.
The Mantle of Brigid about us,
The Memory of Brigid within us,
The Protection of Brigid keeping us
From harm, from ignorance, from heartlessness.
This day and night,
From dawn till dark, From dark till dawn.

For more about St Bridget.

First published in 2023, revised and republished Feb 2024

I have republished my post of the Chinese New Year which you can see here:

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