Bride of our hearth
Bless this place
With fire that burns for us.
Bride of our streams
Of wells and water courses
Asperge our land
Bride of the candles
Lit for your remembrance
Bright be your blessings
As the Sun climbs higher
In his Winter rising.
Bride of our company
Of links and friendship
Across Brigantia, the isles
Of your peoples:
Veil us within the bounds of belonging.
The end of January, or the first of February, is deeply entrenched in modern paganisms as Imbolc; the festival that celebrates the first signs of Spring and the growing presence of the sun in the sky. We may still be in the coldest months and face another equally cold month ahead of us; we are still in the deeps of winter. But, the days are noticeably shorter, it is getting brighter and there first signs of spring are emerging out of the ground in snowdrops and the shoots of daffodils.
This festival is inextricably intertwined with Brigit, Bride or Briganti and the many Saints of these names across the British Isles. These figures in themselves are complex and the links between them – if they represent a continuation and Christianisation of existing polytheistic belief is a matter of debate – let alone the relationships between differing Brigits and the spread of their veneration as either Goddesses or Saints from Ireland to Britain or around Britain. This is as complex as any biological investigation into the dispersal and evolution of species or groups of species, only with much more difficult evidence to extract from history and literature.
So, we shall leave that aside and focus on Briganti; the Brythonic name for the Goddess who for now we shall say lays at the heart of this Brigantine throng.
Traditions in Ireland seem to focus on two main areas; wells and springs, and hearth and home. Often with the former providing water (following libations and offerings) with which to cleanse and bless the latter. Both of these fit well with my own experience of Briganti. To follow the thread further back in time, to begin to look for Briganti amongst the Indo-European cultures we find her best as a Goddess of Dawn; associated with cattle and to some extent with fire, and so by extension we find her associated with the hearth. We lost the more specific Goddess of the hearth in the far West of Europe – though she remains as Hestia in Greece – and appear to have found Briganti as fulfilling that role. And so we come to the more modern day where some of those most ancient elements survive and others have become incorporated.
Brigantica is when life is beginning to stir. This is for us the ideal time to do the same; spring clean, throw open the windows and welcome the dawn with water and with flames at dawn. Bring the holy waters into our homes and asperge to bring blessings. Clean the fire, or lay out some sort of fireplace. Dairy foods such as milk, cream and cheese can be left out for the Gods and particularly Briganti to remember her as the firekeeper and first amongst the gods to whom we should lay out our hymns.
This is a beginning, a fresh start and we should use it to get ourselves ready and prepare for the lengthening days.
Briganti, mother of the flame, may I pray with a good fire
Briganti, mother of the flame, may I sacrifice well
Briganti; your flame in this house
Fill my home with your warmth
Briganti: your flame at my hearth
May it be bright for all who dwell here
Briganti: your flame in my hands
May I work well, may I sacrifice well, and may I honour the gods well.
Briganti on the Brython website
For a very different take on Imbolc; The Hidden Imbolc