Imbolc: A new day and a new start
The time of year for rebirth, renewal and healing is just around the corner once again, the time of ‘I mbolg’/ ’in the belly’ or Imbolg/Imbolc. It is time for the one who was born under the halo of fire and nurtured by the Bó Bán Naofa that resides between both worlds to walk again. Sacred Brighid, She of the forge, inspiration and healing. The Triple Aspect Goddess, the daughter of an Dagda and Boanne, the 5th Century nun, the Irish patron saint or which archetype your creed associates with Her, works through and within us.
Andrew has already written a brief history about this day in Ancient Celebrations – Part 8 – Lá Fhéile Bríde/ St. Brigid’s Day – Home | Order of Celtic Wolves and I will add this link to it also which gives a history of Lá Bríghid from medieval era up to more recent times and of the Lasair Naofa or sacred flame of Kildare. Lighting the Perpetual Flame of Brigid – A brief history of the flame (kildare.ie)
To date in the Republic of Ireland, 3 of the 4 major days of celebration fall on or around national bank holidays. The May weekend (Bealtine), August weekend (Lúgnasadh), and October weekend (Samhain). Even the months ‘as gaeilge’ are Bealtaine(May), Lúnasa(August) and Samhain(November). But Imbolg is left behind as the first day of Spring (an t-Earrach) and February (an Feabhra) is just a Church holiday. But this is changing.
Globally, the pandemic rocked us all but the light getting brighter as the end of the tunnel is getting nearer. This is especially true for Ireland. The HSE is still under pressure, but it is easing gradually. It has been announced that the pandemic restrictions will be finally lifted and as a mark of national celebration the country is getting a new public or bank holiday added to the year. This year it will be March 18th, the day after Patrick’s day but from 2023 onwards, it will be February 1st or Imbolg/ Brighids Day. The reason for the extra national holiday is to thank the Irish public for their patience and safeguard for themselves and others during the global pandemic. The day was chosen also as a memorial of those who lost their lives to the disease (approx. 6,136 source JHU CSSE COVID-19 Data dated 26/01/22).
As well as the Goddess of the forge, She is also the Goddess of healing and according to the various medieval texts, She wears a cloak. According to legend, when the cloak is placed on an afflicted wound or diseased area, they are healed completely. Even the legends surrounding the saint/nun archetype tells us of a similar healing cloak. The cloak is wrapped around the world now and the healing has begun.
This Imbolg, I will be undertaking a personal pilgrimage to Tobair na Faithní or Tobar Eoghain Naofa in the Muskerry hills (Sliabh Musheramore is the name of the mountain in the old Barony of Duhallow in Northwest County Cork). It is a Sacred Well that I have wrote about before in The Threefold Path – Home | Order of Celtic Wolves . There is a particular folktale that comes from Cullen, a small town nearby concerning St. Laitarian (also one of the aspects of the harvest Goddess that was associated with the Well in pre-Christian Ireland Lasair, Inghne Bhuidhe and Latiaran meaning flame, yellow hair and bundle/stack associated with harvest in seangaeilge).
“Latiaran went to the local forge each morning to take live coals from the fire in her apron or habit to her cell to start a fire. Because of her great holiness she was able to take these red-hot coals in her apron without getting burned in any way. It must be said that other a number of other Irish saints are also credited with this miraculous power. One morning the Blacksmith watching the saint lifting her habit to collect the red-hot coals complemented her on having a nice pair of legs. Latiaran was so much taken in by the Blacksmith’s compliment that she looked down and did agree that she had nice legs.
Next, we know her apron was on fire, and she completely lost her head and cursed the poor Blacksmith for the compliment he paid her. She prophesied that the sound of a smith’s hammer would never again be heard in Cullen. Apparently, this is the case. After this incident at the forge folklore tells us that Latiaran disappeared down through the ground and ended up in her cell. This spot is marked by a heart shaped stone where she entered the ground, but others would say that this stone marks her grave. This stone is at the holy well. Nearby ruins show where a church once stood and a tree from which items can be hung to so that their ailments can be taken away. Many cures are recorded as having taken place there. Crippled people walking away cured leaving behind their crutches and sticks.”
This particular piece of local folklore dates apparently dates back to the 5th Century and coincidently the day associated to her is 25th July (very close to Lúgnasadh and the start of the harvest celebrations) just as her 2 other sisters (also ‘nuns of the 5th Century’) with St. Inion Buí/Inghne Bhuidhe celebrated on the 6th of May (Bealtine??) in nearby Dromtarriffe and St. Lasairin celebrated at the 28th January (Imbolg??) in Kilmeen (source Cork folklore Project “Graveyards of Duhallow, Co. Cork” Tierney John).
Tosaíonn am nua dúinn agus muid ag cur tús le lá nua. Tá lá an leighis ag teacht.
Seán Ó Tuama.