February 1st in Ireland (Imbolc and/or LáFhéile Bride): From Christian Saint to Pagan Goddess
Like in many countries of Europe, the 1st of February (Imbolk, the Brigid’day) in Ireland marks the beginning of Spring and is connected with some fertility rites. In old rural Ireland the people spent time watching hedgehogs (to see one was a good weather sign), preparing and eating special food, making straw girdles and caps, putting red ribbons on their houses (Brat Bride ‘Brigit’s cloak’), making special Brigit’s crosses and straw
dolls, called Brideog, to visit a sacred spring which had a magic healing and anti-sterile power (wells and springs, worshiped in pagan Ireland, were prohibited by St. Patrick), and finally singing protective charms. In modern
urban Ireland all these rites remind in the past, but the Brigid’day is not forgotten or abandoned. In this article, the author tries to outline three main ‘tracks’ of the old tradition: 1. Pseudo-folkloric (fake-lore): singing, dancing, making crosses, storytelling etc. 2. Pseudo (Vernacular)-Catholic: early mass and pilgrimages to the places connected with St. Brigit, especially – sacred wells. 3. “Neo-paganic”: special dresses, red ribbons, ritual dancing, fires, divinations of the future, bath in the sacred water etc. (in the most part – performed by women). Collecting material for the classification, the author outlined a special new direction of ‘shared spirituality’ representing presumably a new mode of collective behavior in modern urban societies.
Copyright (c) 2020 Tatyana Mikhailova
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