According to the ancient Celts, it’s springtime already! A little earlier than volunteers used to, but people of Ireland believed that nature began to revive at this very moment. This time heavily connected with St. Brigid, an old pagan Goddes turned Christian Saint of Healing and Knowledge once Christianity arrived on the Island, and a woman of fascinating history. Linked to the Pagan Goddess of the same name, she was baptised by St. Patrick himself. Brigid founded a large number of churches and monasteries across the island, as well as schools of arts and places of learning. Today Ireland celebrates the 1st of February as her day, but the history of this holiday is much deeper and more intriguing! Although she is claimed by the Church as a saint, she is the bridge between the older Celtic faith and Christianity. The Goddess of Brigid herself represents poetry, fire, and smith crafts!

Many Faces of the Saint

As St. Brigid day recalls the renewal of nature and human affinity when the Irish winter steps down, GEAI organised an event dedicated to this day in Ballinaglera Community Hall. It’s a great opportunity for the people of Leitrim to explore their past, reconnect with the Nature that surrounds them and bring the community together. 

Our volunteers in cooperation with local activists prepared several activities for this event, including the St. Brigid workshop, where people all across the county were invited to join us to celebrate this day.

The event starts with the legends, myths, and stories about the main heroine – St. Birgid herself – of The Goddess, the Bishop, the Midwife. Each one of them explores one of many aspects of this mythical figure: her roots as a pagan goddess, her role in the Christianisation of Ireland, and her important place among people as the defender of female health.

After the storytelling time, the ceremony to St. Brigid began, which evolved around people letting go of the past and welcoming a brighter future ahead. People sat in the circle around Brigid’s altar, place their meaningful objects on it and share stories about them.  Combined with chanting St. Brigid’s prayer, it was a memorable sight to see.

St. Brigid’s cross is one of the most important symbols of early spring. In legends and myths of St. Brigid this was an important symbol that represents a link between the saint and the baptism of her pagan father on his deathbed. For ordinary folk, however, this cross was a powerful symbol of protection against evil spirits. You can still find it in many households across rural Ireland. GEAI organised the workshop, where everyone could try to make one from them from scratch – our volunteers spent a good amount of time gathering all the materials, so combined with the dedication and skill of our guests the quality of crosses was top notch! 

Releasing the past

Letting go of the past and welcoming new times ahead is an important aspect of this day. The last (but not least!) ceremony involved St. Brigid’s fire: guests write down on a piece of paper what they want to let go of and what to find in the new year, then set it on fire.

The evening at the Community Hall ended with refreshments being served to our guests, as they needed time to rest and reflect. It was a day to remember, no doubt. Always great to see people reconnect with Nature, their community, and themselves after winter, welcoming spring in their life.

We hope that this spring will bring good fortune into your life and will help overcome any difficulties you face.

Written by: Ilya Linevich