Kindling the Fire at Home & in the Community

Archive for May, 2012

K is for Keeper of the Flame

The Three-Fold Fire of Brighid

Fire in the forge that
shapes and tempers.

Fire of the hearth that
nourishes and heals.

Fire in the head that
incites and inspires.

In more than 2,000 years the flame in Kildare has only ever been extinguished twice. Once by Henry of London, the Norman arch-bishop of Dublin who ordered it to be put out as he considered the tending process to be a Pagan practice and not to be tolerated. However, it was quickly relit by the locals and the Sisters continued tending the flame secretly until the 16th century’s British Reformation. During the Reformation, King Henry VIII had a campaign to destroy Catholic monasteries and in this process, attacked the St. Brighid foundation at Kildare, thereby extinquishing the flame. On February 1st of 1807, the Bishop of Kildare, Daniel Delany, restored the Sisterhood of St. Brighid and thereby re-lighting the Eternal Flame of Brigid. The Sisterhood of St. Brighid’s mission was at this point to restore the Ancient Order and bring back the legacy and spirit of St. Brigid to Kildare (and thereby the world). Today Brighid’s flame is tended in Kildare by Brigidine Sisters at their centre called Solas Bhride. It is by the dedication of those who follow her and the deep love for this Goddess that her flame, whether tended by Priestesses or nuns, has continued to burn bright not only in Kildare Ireland, but across the world. Every day there are men and women from many different paths who find themselves drawn to the warmth of her flame like moths. They light candles, tend hearths and keep the oil in their lamps filled in her honor.

While the calling to be a keeper of the flame is personal and the reasons one would feel compelled to do so varies, the most common reason is simply to honor the Goddess Brighid. Since fire is sacred to her, it becomes sacred to those who follow her. In lighting and tending her flame,  the spirit and power of Brighid has a physical presence in our home. Some of the other reasons someone may feel drawn to tend a flame:

    • As a healing request
    • For creative inspiration
    • For guidance
    • To request protection
    • As a reminder of her presence
    • As a focal point in meditations

On the Daughters of the Flame site they say: “The reasons for rekindling are many. It is a celebration in our own lives of Her triple aspects of poet, healer, and smith. It is one effort to address the need for a global network of magical prayer, with special emphasis on some of the traditional concerns of Brigit. These include peace and reconciliation, sharing of wealth so that all will flourish rather than protecting wealth for a few, guarding the land and the creatures which nourishes us and share our lives, being tender with and caring for ourselves and each other. It touches on the need of individual women for a focus and a community through which to develop our personal spiritual practice, to reduce isolation and aid in developing our thought and learning while maintaining the autonomy of working as a solitary, if that is what we prefer or how we find ourselves due to life circumstances. It is, however, very much a self-motivated discipline, both in terms of tending the flame and in connecting with others in the group.”

Traditionally, tending the flame was done by 19 Priestesses who shared the task of tending the flame in 20 day rotations. Each of them tended the flame for a 24 hour period starting on sundown to sundown the following day. On the 20th day the Goddess Brighid tends the flame herself. At sundown following the Goddess tending the flame, the rotation starts anew.

Today in similar fashion as what was done by the Priestesses, each Flamekeeper is assigned a shift to tend Brighid’s flame on a 20 day cycle – 19 shifts, plus one day upon which Brighid tends the flame herself. Since the Celtic day runs from sundown to sundown, we tend from sundown to sundown. The expectation is that you will tend the flame for as much of the day as possible, taking safety into consideration. If you can only manage a few minutes, that is acceptable, although tending the flame the entire day is optimal. The longer you are able to tend, the more energy will be generated: an offering to this world and the otherworld, as well as to Brighid. Tending the flame isn’t meant to just be literal. The point of tending the flame is to spend time with your lit flame in prayer, meditation or silent contemplation. It is the best time to work on strengthening your spiritual bonds.

As a child of Brighid, I have always been drawn to fire and especially intrigued by those who are called to be flame keepers. There have been many times that I have considered tending her flame myself, but for whatever reasons have not followed through as a consistent vigil. This year that has changed and I feel the call louder than I ever have. As a member of Ord Brighideach International I have committed myself to tend her flame starting on June 5th. From June 5th until July 15th I will have 3 shifts where I am honored to keep her flame lit from sundown until sundown. Between now & August 1st I am trying to find 18 other people who are interested in creating a 19 member cell so that we can tend it in rotating shifts together. I’ve put out a request to members in my circle, but not all of them follow Brighid. My hope is that some of them will want to join, even if they don’t follow Brighid, as an offering to her and in honor of my devotion to her. Once I see if anyone from circle is interested I’ll open up the offer to join the cell to others in the broader Pagan community I’m a part of.

If anyone feels drawn to the ideal of being a flame keeper or feels a calling to dedicate themselves to Brighid, I would suggest looking into Ord Brighideach International. You have the option of being an individual flame keeper, joining an existing cell or creating a cell of your own. In addition, you can request and have a candle that was lit with the Kildare perpetual flame of Brighid sent to you for a nominal fee of just $3. If you think you might be interested in keeping the flame with me, please let me know as I am certain that I will need several people to make up my cell of 19 even after some of my circle members join.

I am looking forward to honoring Brighid in this way and hope that my relationship and understanding of her will deepen with each flame of hers that I have the honor of tending.


Blessed Beltane!

This weekend we celebrated, with much fanfare, the beauty of Beltane. We took a lot of photos with the Maypole… ribbons blowing in the breeze.

Rowan & I lead this ritual. It was our first time to lead together & was a lot of fun! We had so many ideas when we were brainstorming that it was hard to narrow down what all we wanted to do, but we managed to do nearly all we had planned. As with any ritual, we realized a little modification & improv was needed in order to get done so that the CUUPS group could hold their ritual after us. So the river stones we intended to decorate for the fae had to be put off for another time. Instead, we offered cookies, sweet wine & flowers.

The ritual was really beautiful. As I said, we made sure to make offerings to the fae (so not to anger them), danced the Maypole & paid homage to the nine sacred woods by utilizing the re-vamped nine sacred woods that Rowan came up with for our area. (Check out her post on it here!) Some of the things we did to make this ritual special were: using a besom to “sweep” the circle doused in peppermint oil, starting the fire in the pit with pieces from each of the nine sacred woods, having our circle mates enter the circle after ritual cleansing of their hands in magnolia, sweetgum & jasmine infused water and we raised energy not only around our usual circle, but incorporating the circle around the Maypole as well dancing a figure eight. This time in order to invoke the elements we used a guided meditation and the sounds of earth, air, fire & water, which was lovely. All of these things were fresh ideas Rowan & I came up with. They made the ritual feel very sacred and connected… exactly what we were hoping for.

Much like our New Moon ritual in March, our Beltane ritual seemed very focused on fertility in my interpretation. While this sabbat is generally very strongly connected to fertility and love, it felt even more so for me, as I’ve recently been taking steps to regulate my hormones through the help of modern medicine in an effort to become more fertile. It’s become a central priority for me and I’m ever hopeful that someday Jay & I will find ourselves planning for the arrival of a new baby. In keeping with the theme of fertility during ritual, Rowan and I carried out the ceremonial Great Rite with the athame & chalice. We decided that Beltane was the perfect time to perform this ceremony and chose to really make a bit of a production out of it. I was veiled and faced Rowan as she said a few words to explain the Great Rite to our circle mates (many of them never witnessing it before)… then I knelt down on the ground, veiled and waited for Rowan to reveal my face. As I knelt down on the ground I thought about the significance of merging the energies of the God & Goddess. As she lowered the athame into the chalice, I visualized the sexual union of the God & Goddess.  It was really powerful.

The highlight of the ritual though, was definitely the Maypole! We couldn’t get enough photos of us by it, draped on it, kissing it… it was a lot of fun. Not to mention dancing it was amusing to say the least. With many first timers, it took us a little bit to really get a good rhythm going, but once we did… we were unstoppable! We had the ribbons woven so well that it was hard to find enough slack to weave the flowers in between the ribbons, but we found a way to make it work (as evidenced by the photo above!). It turned out really beautiful after we were done decorating it. I think everyone was pretty proud of the collaborative work it took to dance the Maypole together and the symbolism wasn’t lost on anyone.

As with many Pagan circles, ours is predominately women, but we do have a few men and they were feeling REAL close to the Horned God standing next to the Maypole. There were many hilarious displays of channeling the Horned God on the part of the men in circle. Much to the delight of Raven (who’s love is on the left) and I (my Jay is on the right), as we knew they would certainly need to properly release some of that carnal energy. I don’t know about Raven, but I was happy to oblige Jay since they he was full of playful energy.

It has certainly been a good time bringing in the May this year. I couldn’t have spent it with a greater group of people. As the days, weeks & months go by, our circle is becoming a very solid family unit full of love, friendship & humor. I look forward to the time I spend with my circle mates, both in teaching circle, ritual and in social settings. Many of them have become some of my best friends and I cannot imagine my life without them.

Here’s to bringing in the May with loved ones! Wishing you all a fertile year full of prosperity & amazing sexual energy!