It will be Imbolc on Friday, the feast of the hearth. A hearth is a fire, traditionally the central fire of the home. In ancient times it was the meeting place around which families would gather to keep warm, cook and tell stories on cold, dark winter nights. The feast is often associated with the ancient Celtic fire goddess Brigid. She was seen as the protector of the family hearth fire and the home.
As a Naturalistic Pantheist, I obviously do not subscribe to the idea of a supernatural protective goddess that looks after my home, but is there still a reason to honour Brigid at this time? I think so. As I’ve written elsewhere, the gods can be understood not as supernatural beings, not as human-like entities which think and act like us, but rather as simply impersonal forces of nature. What if Brigid is not the goddess of fire or the hearth, but is actually the fire itself, the hearth itself? What if Brigid is not one fire but all the different hearth “fires” in our modern homes – the light bulbs, the fireplace and radiators, the boiler, microwave, toaster and stove? She is the heat that comes from them, she is the electricity that powers them. What if the flame is not an image or symbol of Brigid – its the very presence of Brigid? It is Brigid! What if she is not just the protector of the home but she is the home? What if she is the amalgamation (though not anything literal) of all the forces and things that protect our home? What if the is the embodiment of our hope and our intention that our homes be safe, warm, welcoming places? What if honouring her means we are being aware and grateful for the wonderful gift that fire, heat and light brings to our lives? What if honouring her means we are expressing our hope that our homes will be safe places? What if Brigid is the very flame on our candle?
As part of Friday’s celebrations I shall be honouring Brigid, but understanding her in the way I’ve suggested. What will you be doing?