Photography spotlight: Valerie O’Sullivan
Saint Brigid’s Day, or Lá Fhéile Bríde in Irish, is celebrated on February 1st, the day of the old Celtic festival of Imbolc. The ancient pagan feast of Imbolc is one of the ‘quarter days’ of the Celtic calendar which marked the mid-points between solstice dates.
In Irish folklore, Brigid and her sisters (also named Brigid) are Goddesses, and she is the Goddess of healers, poets, smiths, childbirth and inspiration; Goddess of Fire and Hearth, and a patron of warfare. Her name means “Exalted One” and she is also known as Brigantia, Brid, Bride, Briginda, Brigdu, and Brigit.
So popular was Brigid’s popularity with the ancient Irish that Christendom renamed her Mary of the Gaels and canonised her in the 5th century as Saint Brigit. To this day, her symbolic cross made from rush can be seen throughout the countryside, in schools and elsewhere in February.
St. Brigid’s Well in Liscannor, County Clare is one of the oldest wells in Ireland rumored to have healing powers. Also, know as Dabhach Bhríde (or Brigid’s Vat) it is also known as Dabhlach Bhríde – Brigid’s Bath.
The Aran Islanders have always had a deep attachment to this place. There are two Pattern Days celebrated at this particular site each year – February 1st and August 14th.
Regarded as a place of healing, it is enclosed in a little passage or grotto. The Ula íochtarach or lower sanctuary is lined with mementos, rosaries, prayers, and pieces of offerings left by pilgrims.
Traditionally, the water of this well should be sipped at the end of a visit to this shrine. Legend says if you see an eel in the well, you will have good fortune.
The graveyard located behind the well is the final resting place of several mythical kings and clan leaders of Ireland and is known as the Ula Uachtarach or upper sanctuary.
The traditional rounds that pilgrims adhere to when visiting are as follows:
1. I, Standing, say Go mbeannai Iosa duit, a Bhrigid Naofa, Go mbeannai Muire duit is go mbeannaím féin duit; Chugat a thainig mé ag gearéan mo scéal chugat Agus d’iarraidh cabhair in onóir De ort. May Jesus salute you, O Holy Brigid, May Mary salute you and may I salute you myself. It is to you I come making my complaint And asking your help for the honour of God. 2. Walk around the statue five times praying. Keep the statue o your right. 3. Praying, walk the circuit up and around the steps give time sunwise/deiseal/clockwise. 4. Circe the cross five times and then kiss the cross. 5. Pray at the well
Consider reading Early Irish Saints by John J Ó Ríordáin C.Ss.R (Columba Books) for a succinct understanding of the life and times of St. Brigid.