K is for Keeper of the Flame
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.