Category Archives: Uncategorized

Seeking the Woman-God

Sophia Awakens for February 26, 2019

Where do you go looking when your soul longs for a Mothering God? Do you find her in poetry? in ancient stories? in songs or rituals or art or sacred dance? Do you look for wise and loving women who embody her? Do you seek her in your own wise and yearning heart?

February snowdrops in Ireland

Or would you go out to explore the earth around you, seeking her in the beauty of spring flowers, in the grace of a flowing stream, in the tender presence of young birds in a nest? Would you look in wild places where the sea explodes into the rock face, pummels the cliffs, shapes stone into forms that resemble an ancient wise woman, a cailleach….

A year after my return from the Brigid of Faughart Festival in Ireland, I am still processing the insights, inspiration and experiences of those days. It is not surprising that what I found was sourced in the lives, the words, the stories, the songs and poetry of the women I met there.

The Sacred Feminine is an embodied presence.

Yet of all that I learned, what stirs me most is the way that women spoke of seeking, finding and being found by the Sacred Feminine in the land: in her sea and shore, her grass and trees, her wells and rivers, her mountains and ancient stones, her golden light and eerie darkness, her wild winds and gentle rains.

I am captivated by this new understanding.

To honour the feminine presence, Wisdom Sophia, is to honour the planet which embodies her. From earliest days, from the time even before the arrival of the Celts, the people of Ireland honoured the goddess, whose ancient names include Aine or Anu. She was the one whose eyes held the light of the stars, whose hair rippled like the corn, flowed like the waves of the sea, whose body was the great earth barrows, her breasts the hills, called “the Paps of Anu”.

Before this recent visit to Ireland, I had thought these descriptors were lovely metaphors, a poetic honouring of the sacred presence. On this journey I met women for whom the land, the sea, the rocks and rivers somehow embodied the goddess herself. This is not pantheism, making gods of nature, but rather panentheism, recognizing that the holy is present within all that lives, as Teilhard de Chardin understood and taught.

Snowbound for days in a never-ending winter, I sat by the fire reading Kate Fitzpatrick’s book. Kate spoke during the Brigid Festival of her years of workshops, story-telling and powerful shamanic healing rituals to help bring about peace in Northern Ireland. Her guide, counsellor and co-creative partner in this was Macha, the mythical Ulster Goddess.

In her book, Macha’s Twins: A Spiritual Journey with the Celtic Horse Goddess, (Immram Publishing, Inishowen, Donegal, Ireland 2017), Kate describes encounters with Macha, mediated by the land and sea. While living on Inis M`or off the west coast of Ireland near Galway, Kate writes:

“I am exhilarated with the vital power of this island. The shifting clouds, the showers of rain. What I love about it is the changing light in each hour of the day. The land is bleak and barren. Yet the play of light makes it so beautiful.

Site of ancient fort of Dun Aengus, Inis M`or, Ireland

“I begin to see that Macha is the Wild Mother here. Every day in the raw vitality of wind and rain and sea I find her. Like her wild spirit, all here is dynamic and powerful. Restless and free. Seeping right into my bones. I move through autumn and winter beckoned by this force. Every day I see more of the power of the feminine in the sea, the waves, and the rock.” (p. 67)

In the years that follow, Kate experiences a call to return home to Northern Ireland, to assist the Sacred Feminine presence in the work of bringing healing and peace to the soul of Ulster.

“By early June, it is becoming clear to me that the rocks, trees, stones and rivers, along with the elements and the sheer beauty of this glen, have, together, become an alchemical vessel to hold a wider healing of the soul of Ulster.

“The sea, as I look out at it this morning, is playing its part in the offering of light, the blue of its holding, the high vibration of its silver water, the wildness of its dance. There is a fierce power of transformation in the rolling waves. (p. 169)

Kate tells of knowing Macha’s presence with her:

“I breathe deeply as she shows me pictures of the town in County Antrim where I grew up in the 1960’s. ‘There are many towns in the North that need healing,’ Macha tells me. ‘This is a journey to bring the heart home, to bring back the kindness lost to everyone in the shadows of war. For you, Daughter, concern yourself only with this.’ (p.169)

Kate’s work, with the support of other women, led to a tangible presence of light and peace in the land. Two decades after her time on Inis M`or, Kate knew that “the old patterns are going now and light is coming in, bringing forgiveness, beauty and joy”.

Then she describes this experience:

“I sense a presence in the middle of the strand and when I look over, I see Macha walking in the shallow waters of puddles left on the sand. I see her bend down to pick up shells. As I walk towards her, she looks up, sees me and smiles….I sigh a deep breath and run towards her, power seeping into me from the very sand itself. As I approach her, she straightens up and, still holding the shells, opens her arms to welcome me. Her holding is of the ages. In the warmth and strength of her embrace, I weep.” (pp. 237-8)

Signed copies of Macha’s Twins, A Spiritual Journey with the Celtic Horse Goddess are available from: Little Acorns Bookstore, Derry, N Ireland. Available to order online and will deliver internationally. Please send an e mail to: littleacornsbookstore@yahoo.co.uk

Cosmic Brigid Encore: Three

Outside the Solas Bhride Centre on the edge of Kildare stands an enormous statue of Brigid, holding her crozier, symbolic of her rank as Bishop in the early Celtic Christian Church. Visiting the centre just before Brighid’s Feast last year, I was drawn to approach this statue, so tall that I had to bend my head back in order to see her face.

I ought to have been overwhelmed, but I was not. I sensed that the woman in whose honour this statue had been created held the wisdom I needed for the next phase of my spiritual journey. I trusted she would have an answer to my question, “Where do I go now? What must I do?”

Statue of Brigid at Solas Bhride

I wait in silence, hearing nothing. I begin to fear there will be no response. Suddenly clear soundless words form themselves deep within me:

“Stay on your path. Follow your call. Go forward. Don’t look back.”

It is then that I notice her fingers, lifted in a Bishop’s blessing, gesturing to my left, the feminine side….

Looking back now to that moment, I see it as the beginning of a deepening relationship with Brigid, the moment when I recognized her as an archetype for my life, for my work of preparing for the rebirth of the Feminine Divine.

As we prepare to explore this third and final segment of Kate Fitzpatrick’s writings on “Cosmic Brigid”, it may be enlightening to look at the concept of Archetype. Carl Jung taught that archetypes are an expression of the collective unconscious.

Jean Houston has written extensively on archetypes, assisting her students to identify the ones who can best support their own coming to wholeness, and assist them in fulfilling their personal calling. Jean teaches that archetypes are “the primal patterns from which you derive your sense of Essence and existence. Quintessentially, archetypes are about relationship. We might think of them as greater Presences which stand behind and inform the personal images of many individuals and influence our very perception of life.”  

Far from being rigid constructs carried over from a distant past, archetypes are fluid, capable of growing, changing, taking on new qualities required for an evolving reality. In Jean’s words: “Always, such beings ask to be seen in new and fresh ways – they ask to grow into the energy and needs of individuals and of the times…. today a new order of archetypes is rising to match the swiftly changing situations we now face. It is our privilege and our particular challenge to witness and assist a new story coming into time.”

A Higher Light of Brigid

by Kate Fitzpatrick

In the 2 years of 2011- 2013, I returned again to work with Brigid and Serpent and I was linking with the significant universal energy shift predicted to happen in 2012. Out of this reflection and journeying came an understanding of Brigid as ‘Cosmic Brigid’ in a far-reaching way. In the myth that was then weaving, it was Brigid’s light that could connect us with the Divine Feminine coming to birth in the cosmos as part of the 2012 alignment. The ancient energies of the Tuatha Dé Danann were always linked to the stars and to cosmic light. This ‘cosmic’ link with Brigid has never been lost and Brigid as spiritual midwife can support the birth of new light into the world and help to ground it safely where it can be used for spiritual development of the human race. I also knew that the higher evolved ‘Serpent’ energy we had been working with in 2000 is ‘Serpent in the Heart’.

In 2013, at Imbolc, I gave  a talk at the Navan Centre in County Armagh that was pulling together these new ideas and I called the presentation: ‘A Higher Light of Brigid’. This extract below summarises the evening where a new energy of Brigid was tangibly felt:

On Friday, 8 February 2013, an audience of some forty people have gathered at Emain Macha in County Armagh to listen to a presentation of the stories of Brigid, together with music, songs and poems. Brigid’s presence is tangible in our midst. Carrying her spirit on the wind, Brigid, Celtic Mother Goddess and Saint, brings to all who might receive her light the qualities of truth, clarity, creativity and healing. Tonight, we dare to call her ‘Cosmic Brigid’ and ask her to bring in an even higher light than heretofore. One that is linked to the sun and the moon and the stars, to all of the heavens above us.

That evening was the naming of Brigid as Cosmic Brigid. And it was a year later that I went to the Brigid of Faughart festival in Dundalk and presented the talk on ‘Cosmic Brigid’. This idea continues in my awareness today as we move onwards in our awakening of the Feminine spirit and witnessing its influence as it filters in to society and is changing our perspectives about women and roles and power.

New paradigms are being born and old, outdated patterns of spirituality are being shed. The idea of ritual and ceremony is still a potent way to link the cosmic energies with the land – thus blessing it and clearing it. The powers of Serpent energy, Feminine light and Cosmic Brigid to assist with this are, I believe, real.

We are linking across universal truths. In Ireland we hold and awaken our indigenous spirituality and we are no longer a separate island but part of a newly emerging world culture of indigenous spiritual potential that is currently giving birth to a healed Feminine Light.

I am knowing Serpent to have risen. From the centre of the Earth she came in Fire. Across the land she came in Water. I know her to have moved up through my body from the below to the above and be transformed in the love of the Heart.

Kate Fitzpatrick

February 2019

Kate Fitzpatrick is the author of Macha’s Twins, A Spiritual Journey with the Celtic Horse Goddess. She is currently writing a book about her experiences of shamanic work with the evolving roles of Brigid saint and Goddess.

Her e mail is katefitzpatrick2@gmail.com

Cosmic Brigid Part Two

Brigid as Serpent Goddess   by Kate Fitzpatrick

As we go deeper with Kate Fitzpatrick’s writings on “Cosmic Brigid” we explore Kate’s experience of a vision quest that led to her work with the Serpent power in the energy fields of Ireland. Because I knew very little about the symbolism of the serpent or of Brigid’s relationship with it, I began with Google. There I found that serpents and snakes are associated with fertility and rebirth, representing a “creative life force”. Snakes slough off their old skins, allowing a new skin to emerge from underneath. This is seen as a kind of rebirth, symbolic of  transformation, healing, renewal and even immortality.

But what of Brigid and serpents or snakes? Google responded with an article written by Feminist Thealogian Carol P. Christ on the symbols of Imbolc.

Here is an excerpt: Imbloc marked the day that cows and ewes give birth and begin to produce milk.  It was also said to be the day when hibernating snakes (like groundhogs) first come out of their holes…. a sure sign that the processes of transformation will continue and warmer days will not be far off.  As Marija Gimbutas says,“The awakening of the snakes meant the awakening of all of nature, the beginning of the life of the new year.”

St. Brigid’s male counterpart, St. Patrick, was said to have driven all of the snakes out of Ireland.  This legend reiterates the Biblical association of snakes with evil and temptation.  In Old Europe snakes were symbols of life and regeneration….In driving snakes out of Ireland, St. Patrick… was re-enacting the myth of slaying of the Goddess. 

Seeking images, I found Jo Jayson’s painting of Brigid with its stylized snake formed from Brigid’s braided hair: 

With this background, let us begin our journey down, down, down to where the treasures are in Kate Fitzpatick’s “Brigid as Serpent Goddess”:

Since 2000 there have been great changes happening in spiritual light and the Feminine. The patterns of cosmic energy began to shift in 1987 in what became known as ‘Harmonic Convergence’ (2). What this entailed was an increase in the vibration of the earth’s energy system. Along with this shifting of frequency, portals were opening and greater spiritual light was coming into the earth’s field.

Many people were tracking these changes and it was said that the new millenium of 2000 would be a portal also. Each four years after that – 2004, 2008 and right up to 2012 – would see another major shift in the measurable hertz (that is – in the earth’s vibration rate) and corresponding portal of energy opening. 

In 1999 I did a vision quest in Co Antrim, N. Ireland, and and as a result of this was shown to work with the power of ‘Serpent’ in the energy fields of Ireland. As I opened my heart and mind to find out what this meant I began in earnest doing shamanic journeys to follow this vision and carry out the work asked of me.

In March 2000 I decided to lead a workshop in November in Co Meath called ‘The Power of Serpent Rising’ . I felt the first resistance to the work on St Patrick’s day as the old saint’s spirit lashed out against the possibility of snakes being awakened again in Ireland. This work with Serpent was very powerful. In preparation for the workshop I found I had to sit in silence for long periods of time and hold absolute stillness and breathe very consciously. In this practice I felt the power of Serpent energy in my body as a vital force. She brought her gifts of healing, transformation and a sense of balance of all opposites.

In November 2000 four women and myself spent 5 days in Co Meath to do the workshop to awaken Serpent power and call her back to Ireland. At a birthing ceremony at Loughcrew, we experienced an awakening of the Serpent energy from the deep earth beneath us. In our myth, she poured out of the Stone Cairn and onto the rich green lands of Meath that surrounded us. On the final day we went to Tara – with the intention of grounding the energy of Serpent in the land as an act of sovereignity to the Feminine spirit  and we sent the power of Serpent out to the four corners of Ireland.

I hear the horses of the Tuatha Dé Danann thunder into Tara to witness the power of Serpent joining herself with the ancestors of this land. To Brigid in particular, she who was once known as Serpent Mother. I am knowing an ancient union has taken place that the Old ones have longed for. That Serpent would return from the depths of the Earth into the heart of this land and unite with the people of the Sidhe from whom she has been long separated.

Kate Fitzpatrick is the author of Macha’s Twins, A Spiritual Journey with the Celtic Horse Goddess. She is currently writing a book about her experiences of shamanic work with the evolving roles of Brigid saint and Goddess.

Her email is katefitzpatrick2@gmail.com

(next week: Cosmic Brigid Encore: Part Three “A Higher Light of Brigid”)

Cosmic Brigid

I have invited Irish author Kate Fitzpatrick to write this week’s piece on Brigid.

 Introduction

In February of 2013 Dolores Whelan invited me to give a presentation on Brigid as a part of the annual Brigid of Faughart Festival in Dundalk, Co Louth, Ireland. Upon reflection I called the talk ‘Cosmic Brigid’  as I felt it mirrored the cosmic shifts that were coming into force at the time. I am interested in tracking the changing role of Brigid over many centuries and coupled with my interest in the cosmic shifts that are happening in our world today I asked: How is Brigid relevant today? and Can we call her a Cosmic Goddess?

There are many aspects of Brigid covered in her folklore and in the myths. Michael Dames (1) in particular has outlined the cosmic role of the symbolism of Brigid. In his research he saw that the rituals performed for centuries by ordinary people at Imbolc when celebrating the feast of St Brigid had all cosmic symbolism and were four-fold blessings.

For example he cites a blessing called  ‘The Moon of Four Quarters’used in invoking Brigid for safe birth:

Song on the threshold:-

Four corners of the bed

Four angels at her head

Mathew Mark Luke and John

God bless the bed that she lies on

New moon, New moon God bless me

God bless this house and family. (1)

\And so Brigid has always held the role of being a cosmic Goddess. There are many areas of life that she governs. Her symbolism is vast and covers all elements – the power of transformation of the Fire, the healing qualities of Water and holy wells, and in the blessings of the Earth in the ritual prayers for crops for the year to come. The inspiration of her creativity given to poets and crafts people is the intuitive faculty associated with the element Air.

josephine wall image

image by Josephine Wall

I have worked with the Celtic Goddesses for almost thirty years now – in designing and facilitating spiritual journeys for healing and transformation. My work with the myths is to help bring them to life in a modern context. Let the myths live on. Let the myths change, transform and become a new thing as we work with them at profound depths. Become the myth. Listen with your heart and allow it to weave magic within you. Allow Brigid to be with you and to assist you in your own life. It is not theoretical knowledge but wisdom we are speaking of. It is the teaching of ages that we want to call in from the cosmic dimensions to help give meaning to our lives today. Let the women sing out the stories that the Goddesses will hear and they too will be changed in the process.

Can we allow the myths to change? Give permission for the music to evolve? And help Brigid to become an even bigger version of who she is? Archetype of the Divine Feminine in her full power, equality and wisdom. She is a guide to us such that we too can reach for the stars and have a model to find the map forward in this new age of Feminine wisdom returning. There is a higher light coming in to support us in these changing times. A living myth of cosmic dimensions is living through and beyond us. Will we lean into it to assist us in these challenging times?

Brigid as Serpent Goddess.

Since 2000 there have been great changes happening in spiritual light and the Feminine. The patterns of cosmic energy began to shift in 1987 in what became known as ‘Harmonic Convergence’ (2). What this entailed was an increase in the vibration of the earth’s energy system. Along with this shifting of frequency, portals were opening and greater spiritual light was coming into the earth’s field.

Many people were tracking these changes and it was said that the new millenium of 2000 would be a portal also. Each four years after that – 2004, 2008 and right up to 2012 – would see another major shift in the measurable hertz (that is – in the earth’s vibration rate) and corresponding portal of energy opening.

In 1999 I did a vision quest in Co Antrim, N. Ireland, and and as a result of this was shown to work with the power of ‘Serpent’ in the energy fields of Ireland. As I opened my heart and mind to find out what this meant I began in earnest doing shamanic journeys to follow this vision and carry out the work asked of me.

In March 2000 I decided to lead a workshop in November in Co Meath called ‘The Power of Serpent Rising’ . I felt the first resistance to the work on St Patrick’s day as the old saint’s spirit lashed out against the possibility of snakes being awakened again in Ireland. This work with Serpent was very powerful. In preparation for the workshop I found I had to sit in silence for long periods of time and hold absolute stillness and breathe very consciously. In this practice I felt the power of Serpent energy in my body as a vital force. She brought her gifts of healing, transformation and a sense of balance of all opposites. I entered the void and just sat in it. Often there were no images – just an awareness of body energy. The stillness was profound however – it was like the silence of Stone. I trusted the ancient priestess spirits who came to guide the work with Serpent. Their connection to Brigid as an archetypal feminine energy started to show itself. In my whole being I glimpsed the cosmic dimensions of the ancient stone alignments of Ireland and their eternal mythic links to the Tuathe Dé Danann.

In November 2000 four women and myself spent 5 days in County Meath to do the workshop to awaken Serpent power and call her back to Ireland. At a birthing ceremony at Loughcrew, we experienced an awakening of the Serpent energy from the deep earth beneath us. In our myth, she poured out of the Stone Cairn and onto the rich green lands of Meath that surrounded us. On the final day we went to Tara – with the intention of grounding the energy of Serpent in the land as an act of sovereignity to the Feminine spirit  and we sent the power of Serpent out to the four corners of Ireland.

Tara_3_Hill[1]

Hill of Tara

I hear the horses of the Tuatha Dé Danann thunder into Tara to witness the power of Serpent joining herself with the ancestors of this land. To Brigid in particular, she who was once known as Serpent Mother. I am knowing an ancient union has taken place that the Old ones have longed for. That Serpent would return from the depths of the Earth into the heart of this land and unite with the people of the Sidhe from whom she has been long separated.

 A Higher Light of Brigid

In the 2 years of 2011- 2013, I returned again to work with Brigid and Serpent and I was linking with the significant universal energy shift predicted to happen in 2012. Out of this reflection and journeying came an understanding of Brigid as ‘Cosmic Brigid’ in a far-reaching way. In the myth that was then weaving, it was Brigid’s light that could connect us with the Divine Feminine coming to birth in the cosmos as part of the 2012 alignment. The ancient energies of the Tuatha Dé Danann were always linked to the stars and to cosmic light. This ‘cosmic’ link with Brigid has never been lost and Brigid as spiritual midwife can support the birth of new light into the world and help to ground it safely where it can be used for spiritual development of the human race. I also knew that the higher evolved ‘Serpent’ energy we had been working with in 2000 is ‘Serpent in the Heart’.

In 2013, at Imbolc, I gave  a talk at the Navan Centre in County Armagh that was pulling together these new ideas and I called the presentation: ‘A Higher Light of Brigid’. This extract below summarises the evening where a new energy of Brigid was tangibly felt:

On Friday, 8 February 2013, an audience of some forty people have gathered at Emain Macha in County Armagh to listen to a presentation of the stories of Brigid, together with music, songs and poems. Brigid’s presence is tangible in our midst. Carrying her spirit on the wind, Brigid, Celtic Mother Goddess and Saint, brings to all who might receive her light the qualities of truth, clarity, creativity and healing. Tonight, we dare to call her ‘Cosmic Brigid’ and ask her to bring in an even higher light than heretofore. One that is linked to the sun and the moon and the stars, to all of the heavens above us.

That evening was the naming of Brigid as Cosmic Brigid. And it was a year later that I went to the Brigid of Faughart festival in Dundalk and presented the talk on ‘Cosmic Brigid’. This idea continues in my awareness today as we move onwards in our awakening of the Feminine spirit and witnessing its influence as it filters in to society and is changing our perspectives about women and roles and power.

New paradigms are being born and old, outdated patterns of spirituality are being shed. The idea of ritual and ceremony is still a potent way to link the cosmic energies with the land – thus blessing it and clearing it. The powers of Serpent energy, Feminine light and Cosmic Brigid to assist with this are, I believe, real.

We are linking across universal truths. In Ireland we hold and awaken our indigenous spirituality and we are no longer a separate island but part of a newly emerging world culture of indigenous spiritual potential that is currently giving birth to a healed Feminine Light.

I am knowing Serpent to have risen. From the centre of the Earth she came in Fire. Across the land she came in Water. I know her to have moved up through my body from the below to the above and be transformed in the love of the Heart.

Kate Fitzpatrick  January 2019

References

  1. M Dames, Mythic Ireland, London: Thames and Hudson, 1992
  2. The Harmonic Convergence is the name given to one of the world’s first globally synchronized meditation events, which occurred on August 16–17, 1987. This event also closely coincided with an exceptional alignment of planets in the Solar System.

 Kate Fitzpatrick is the author of Macha’s Twins, A Spiritual Journey with the Celtic Horse Goddess. She is currently writing a book about her experiences of shamanic work with the evolving roles of Brigid saint and Goddess.

Her e mail is katefitzpatrick2@gmail.com

Brigid:Celtic Face of the Sacred Feminine

Ireland is a land of story. The stories woven through and around Brigid’s life are interlaced with the stories of the Ancient Goddess Brigid so that the two have become one sacred archetypal presence. This is best illustrated in words overheard a few years ago at a ceremony at Brigid’s Well in Kildare: “Sure and wasn’t she a goddess before ever she was a saint.”

Last winter I was staying in the home of Dolores Whelan for a week of festivities marking Brigid’s Feast. Dolores, who is my primary teacher in the ways of Brigid, showed me the hill of Faughart, clearly visible from her upper story window… I had the joy of being present at the Oratory on February 1st, Brigid’s Day, for a Ritual of Music and Readings.

Here is the story Dolores tells of coming to know Brigid:

“Brigid of Faughart – Wise Guide for Modern Soul Seekers”

Faughart, near Dundalk Co. Louth, Ireland is an ancient place filled with a history that is both gentle and fierce. It is a place associated with battles, boundaries and travel. The Sli Midhluachra, one of the 5 ancient roads of Ireland, runs through the hill of Faughart on its way from the Hill of Tara to Armagh and then to the north coast of Ireland, making it an strategically important place.

However, Faughart is also a place of deep peace, tranquility, beauty and healing, being associated from ancient times with Brigid, Pre-Christian Goddess and Christian Saint. Brigid holds the energy of the Divine Feminine within the Celtic Spiritual tradition. Faughart is the place associated with Brigid, the compassionate woman who heals, advises and nurtures all who come to her in times of need.

People are drawn to her shrine at Faughart because of the deep peace they experience there. Brigid’s peaceful presence can be experienced in this landscape where the ancient beech trees radiate old knowledge and hold a compassionate space for us all.

20180201Faughart Oratory

Brigid’s Oratory at Faughart on February 1, 2018

On La feile Bhride (Feb 1st) people come in their multitudes! On this special day the shrine at Faughart is thronged with pilgrims who come to invoke Brigid’s blessing on their emerging lives. Brigid is associated with springtime and new life emerging. She is the one who “breathes life into the mouth of dead winter.”

20180201 faughart well and stream

stream on the oratory grounds with pilgirms arriving (upper right)

I first went to Faughart in 1992 and was amazed by the beautiful energy present there. At that time, I had begun to study the Celtic spiritual tradition, something from which I and so many other people had been disconnected over many centuries. My quest at that time and since then has been to recover some of the riches and wisdom of that ancient tradition. And to ask the question:  “How could this wisdom be integrated into the lives of us modern humans in ways which would create a more balanced and peaceful life for all of the beings on planet Earth”?

While at Faughart in 1992 something deep and ancient stirred in my heart and I have been on a journey with Brigid ever since. In 1993 I went to The Brigid Festival in Kildare, organised by Mary Minehan, Phil O’Shea, and Rita Minehan (Solas Bhride). At this festival these women, in a daring Brigid-like action, re-kindled the flame of Brigid in Kildare. The flame of Brigid had been quenched at the time of the suppressions of the monasteries around the 12th century.

20180129 Bhrigid Well Kildare

Brigid’s Well site near Kildare

As this took place an ancient part of my soul understood the significance of this prophetic act. My journey into the Celtic spiritual tradition changed and evolved over time, becoming a deeply significant part of my life’s purpose.

It is said that from the moment Brigid learned to know God that her mind remained ever focused on God/Divine. This allowed her to remain connected to God and the heavens while living on the earthly plane. Her great power of manifestation was a result of this ability to be aligned heaven to earth. The strong connection between her inner and outer worlds allowed her to focus her energy onto a particular intention so clearly as to ensure its manifestation in the physical world.

Brigid had the capacity to bring forth new life, to nourish, to create plenty in the crops or an abundance of the milk from cows, and to manifest or create ex nihilo. This gift reflected the true abundance and prosperity that was present in the society she created, a society living in right relationship with the land. Her life and work thrived due to her deep trust in life and because there was a total absence of fear within her.

Slowly, I began to understand that Brigid, the Pre-Christian Goddess and Celtic Christian saint who lived in the 5th Century in Faughart and Kildare, who embodied wonderful qualities of compassion, courage, independence and spiritual strength was not only a historical figure! I realised that those energies and qualities exemplified by her in her lifetime are still alive in the world and available to me and to all humanity. What a gift it was to realise this! And so the task became how could I access those qualities in myself, embrace them and use them to challenge the dominant thinking of our culture and become like Brigid, a catalyst for change in society.

Brigid challenges each of us to have that same courage; to live our lives with the passion and commitment that comes from trusting our own inner truth and living the integrity of our unique soul journey. She invites us, like her, to breathe life into the mouth of dead winter everywhere we find it in ourselves and in our society. She represents for me the spiritual warrior energy reflected in this ancient triad: “The eye to see what is, the heart to feel what is, and the courage that dares to follow.” Dolores T Whelan (www.doloreswhelan.ie)

Women’s Christmas

home another wayIn her Retreat for Women’s Chrismas 2019, Jan Richarsdon writes:

There is a custom, rooted in Ireland, of celebrating Epiphany (January 6, which brings the Christmas season to a close) as Women’s Christmas. Called Nollaig na mBan in Irish, Women’s Christmas originated as a day when the women, who often carried the domestic responsibilities all year, took Epiphany as an occasion to celebrate together at the end of the holidays, leaving hearth and home to the men for a few hours. Celebrated particularly in County Cork and County Kerry, the tradition is enjoying a revival… As the Christmas season ends, this is an occasion both to celebrate with friends and also to spend time in reflection before diving into the responsibilities of this new year.

 

Constellation by Jan Richardson

A Blessing for Women’s Christmas

Consider that the heart

holds its own constellation.

Consider that it has

a secret chamber

radiant with unspent light.

Consider this when you cannot find

that one star, that dream

that compels you to the road.

When every last thing seems

to have disappeared into dark,

consider that you cannot always know

how you bear this brightness

but that it holds you

and is not wasted

or lost.

See how we share this sky,

how it stretches above us

beyond every border,

how every day

turns each of us

in steady revolution

through morning, night,

morning again.

 

Or think of it like this:

that every heart is its own voyage,

sending its vessels out,

drawing them back again,

never by the same way they went

but still somehow making for

home, that place

that shimmers now in welcome

with all the gathered light

you had thought

you could not see.

Consider what helps you put the pieces of your life together: the experiences you carry, the scraps of your story, the fragments that seem jagged and painful as well as those that you think of as beautiful. What response—in words, in images, in prayer, in movement, in stillness, in conversation, in solitude—helps you recognize and honor the pieces and put them together in a new way, making your path as you go?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sophia: an Embodied Presence

As I continue to experience and reflect upon the ways the Sophia Presence reveals herself to us, I am coming to understand that hers is an embodied presence. As Maiden, as Mother, as Crone, within mystics of the past or women present in our lives, she shows herself in moments of light or deep need.

 I met the Sacred Feminine Presence through someone I would call a true Baba Yaga. Many years ago, I interviewed a woman renowned for her wisdom and holiness. She lived in the deep woods by the Madawaska River in the Ottawa Valley. Her name was Catherine de Hueck Doherty. Like the Baba Yaga, she was Russian.  Catherine, from an aristocratic family, had escaped from the Revolution barely alive after almost starving at the hands of the Red Guard. Arriving in Canada in 1921, she vowed her life to God, working for a time in Toronto, then in Harlem operating Friendship Houses for the poor. In 1947, she and her husband, Eddie Doherty, settled in the Madawaska Valley, creating Madonna House, a community of love and world-wide service that flourishes today, more than twenty- five years after her death.

Catherine_Doherty_1970

Catherine Doherty

On that October day in 1979, when I travelled from Ottawa to interview her, Catherine was 84 years old. I had prepared my questions carefully, rehearsing them on the three-hour drive. Armed with camera, notebook and tape recorder, I was eager for the encounter, already anticipating the wonderful article I would write for the Catholic newspaper I edited.

 

When I arrived at Madonna House, I was welcomed and invited into the dining room where some one hundred people were gathered around wooden tables, laid with platters heaped with an abundance of vegetables and meats from their farm and gardens. After lunch, everyone remained seated while Catherine gave her daily teaching, a mixture of red pepper and honey, sweet fire for the spirit.

Afterwards, I followed Catherine and her secretary to a small library for the interview.

 What is your message for the People of God today? I asked, opening with Question One.

You just heard it, Catherine responded dismissively. Seeing my blank expression, she added, my talk after lunch. You just heard it.

Whooops. I hadn’t been taking notes nor had I thought to turn on my tape recorder. Intent on the interview that would follow, I had scarcely heard a word Catherine had spoken. Now I remembered nothing.

Hastily, I pulled up Question Two: How can we make the Gospel more relevant to people today?

You won’t get far as a journalist asking questions like that, sweetheart, the Baroness said, managing to drain from the last word any trace of warmth or affection. She went on to say that the message of the Gospel is clear, simple and unchanging. Go, give what you have to the poor, then come follow me.

But I was a modern woman, a Post-Vatican Two woman, perhaps even Postmodernist, though I did not at that time know the term. I persisted. Many people today find it hard to know how to live the Gospel in this time. Will you offer some guidance in their confusion? I want to be able to quote your words in the article l am writing for our Diocesan paper. Catherine, who is Jesus for us now?

You, a nun, ask me that? You should know the answer yourself. And if you are a nun, why aren’t you wearing a habit?

 

Rattled, I spoke about my community, about our prayer-filled discernments, our communal decisions and choices, all the ways in which we had sought to adapt to the modern world.

Catherine would have none of it. Nor would she answer any further questions I put to her.

 I understand you knew Thomas Merton? I asked.

I don’t talk about my friends.

I was outraged.  No one I had interviewed before had ever treated me like this.  I struggled on until Catherine herself ended the interview, saying to me: I’d like to interview you. Not now. Later. You are living in your head. One day it will fall into your heart and the walls will come tumbling down. Then I’d like to interview you.

It was four months before I had cooled down sufficiently to write the article. In those months, inklings of insight had been making their way through me. I began dimly to understand what Catherine had tried to do. I had been speaking with a mystic, a woman who, as I learned later, had fallen in love with God at the age of six. I didn’t ask her about the great love that was the ruling passion in her life. Nor about the price she had paid in suffering and misunderstanding as she followed that love’s promptings. I sat with her, dressed in my late-twentieth-century outfit, asking about adapting the Gospel, altering it to suit the times, as though it were an outdated garment.

 

Unlike Vasilisa, I hadn’t the wisdom to ask her for what I really needed – fire.

 

Catherine had wanted to speak of fire, and I wasn’t prepared for that. She tried to cut through my careful persona, find the woman under the journalist.  It would be many years before I could appreciate fully what she had been offering me. She wanted to light a fire in me, give me a skull that was aflame with passionate love. I wasn’t ready for her gift.

 

But Catherine’s role in my life didn’t end with that encounter. Though we would not meet again in her lifetime, I have come in recent years to know her words, her life, her heart, through presenting a one-woman play about her, written by Cynthia Donnelly.

It’s called A Woman in Love.