In this season of frozen ground, of recovery and hibernation, of orange

Midnights, in my painful silence I have listened for her,

Brigid of the earth and sky, of birth and inspiration and wisdom, of poetry and fire and the healing of ailments, of the cross 

Of rushes: the pagan goddess turned saint. I think surely it helped to smooth the transition, the conquering and converting of a people, a consolation prize, to keep her name as it was. or—is it what my own compass, which

Leans towards lovelier answers, points to? that two peoples’ shared need for a hero was greater than their desire to

Claim her as their own?

Madelyn Monaghan – Own Photos – Copyright February 2022

Some background for this piece

Tonight marks the end of of the Gaelic season festival of Imbolc and the beginning of spring in the ancient calendar. The word Imbolc or Imbolg is commonly thought to derive from the Old Irish “i m bholg” (in my belly) or “i mbolg” (in belly/in the belly) , which refers to the pregnant animals, specifically ewes carrying the creatures to be born in spring.

When Ireland was forcibly converted from Pagan to Catholic, the goddess Brigid (who was celebrated at Imbolc, being the goddess of birth, fertility, wisdom, poetry, and fire, all things related to or comforting in bleak midwinter) survived the transition and was named a saint. Her feast day was yesterday, the first of February, the first day of Imbolc. Her iconic cross made of rushes (or straw or reeds) is still made all over the world at this time of year and hangs in many Irish and Irish-American homes year-round. To me, it is the perfect symbol to represent the merging of faiths, and element of Christianity and an element of the humble earth. Brigid (or Bríde, Bríd in the Irish) shares the moniker of ‘patron saint of Ireland’ with St. Patrick.

I made this poem and this portrait series in my tonsillectomy recovery room to distract myself from the pain and boredom. Being silent and watching a snowstorm from the window while one spring plant withers inside and the other thrives, sets a creative mind ablaze. And being that Brigid is the goddess of fire, poetry, midwinter, healing, and new birth, she’s been of particular interest to me this year. I hope that the idea of this festival and Brigid will lift your spirits or that my words of images will resonate with you in what can be a bleak season.

By Culnacreann – Own work, CC BY 3.0

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