I have been a devotee of Brìde for over a decade, a flametender for Her off and on over those years with various flametending Orders, and now am mother-priestess of my own Order I created a few years ago, Nigheanan Brìghde (http://nigheananbrighde.wordpress.com). Historically, twenty nuns kept alight the perpetual fire of Brìde in her abbey at Kildare in Ireland, each sister taking one 24-hour shift, while Brìde herself took the 20th vigil, and kept her fire burning. The abbey is thought to be built upon the foundations of an earlier native temple in which priestesses likely performed this same vigil-keeping to their goddess. After having been extinguished for hundreds of years, the sisters of Solas Bhrìde in Ireland formally re-lit her flame in 1993 and have been tending it perpetually ever since. New flametending Orders have sprung up, passing around candles which have been lit from the flame in Kildare, so that women, and sometimes men now, all around the world can tend the perpetual flame, whether in honor of the goddess or the saint. While flametending is a wonderful form of devotion which allows me to commune with my goddess, it is only performed every twenty days, so does not make for a daily practice or communion opportunity. I have created and experimented with different daily devotions over the years, and am creating and experimenting again.
Brìde as an Irish goddess is associated in the lore with poetic inspiration called Imbas, and with druidic knowledge. She is said to have been revered by the druids and held in high esteem; in fact, her name means, “Exalted One.” One tract in an Irish MSS describes the goddess Brìde as three identical sisters of fire, with one being a blacksmith, representing the fire of the forge, one being a healer, representing the fire of the hearth which heated the cauldron and water in which healing herbs were infused, and one being a poet, representing the ‘fire in the head,’ or inspiration, called Imbas. The Irish druid-poets were said to work with Imbas via three internal ‘cauldrons,’ which were said to be activated in different ways. They were said to be located within the body, similar to the way the Indian chakras are said to be. The Cauldron of Warming is said to reside in the pelvic cavity, and is upturned in all people, as it is our basic vitality which holds our life essence. The Cauldron of Vocation is said to reside in the chest cavity near the heart, and is originally found sitting up on its side, until it is turned facing up by strong emotions of sorrow or joy. The Cauldron of Knowledge is said to reside in the cranial cavity, and is originally tipped upside down in people at birth, and might only be tipped facing up by someone who seeks out and receives inspiration and wisdom, or Imbas, which is then chanted from the mouth in the form of poetry.
In Scottish folklore, Brìde was honored as a fairy queen, bringer of the springtime, Queen of Summer, and giver of wisdom to women, equated with both the hibernating snake in the ground, and the shining sun in the sky. Gaelic prayers sung to Saint Brìde called he, “my maker of song,” “my companion-woman,” “my constant guide,” and so she has been for me in her goddess and fairy queen forms over the many years we have spent together. I regard her as my spiritual foster-mother, leading me through soul guidance and inspiration, and giving me healing and comfort in times of stress.
I have been inspired recently to call upon Brìde upon rising and retiring in the morning and night, to ask that her fires bless my inner cauldrons. Then I recently came upon a prayer online which spoke to me, a modern adaptation of an older Gaelic prayer from the Carmina Gadelica, a collection of Scottish Gaelic prayer and folklore from the Highlands and Islands at the turn of the 20th century, in which one can appreciate how the native tradition was a blend of indigenous fairy lore and Catholicism. I was inspired to adapt the prayer slightly more myself, and combine it with this inner cauldron prayer-meditation, and have been happy with the way this feels for me. It allows me to prepare for both waking and sleeping, and provides me with daily moments in which to commune with Brìde, my maker of song. They refer to the Gaelic tradition of kindling and smooring (banking down) the hearth fire as described in the Carmina Gadelica, as was traditionally done and blessed each morning and night.
I am inspired just now to refer to these meditation-prayers instead as communions. Rather than praying to entities in these cases, directing words towards them, I am seeking to connect with their essence, here the essence of Brìde, and to open myself and receive that essence within me as a blessing. These are my 3 Cauldrons Communions ~
Morning 3 Cauldrons Communion ~
Dearest Brìde, foster-mother of my soul, my guide and my maker of song, I call on you this day, that I might kindle my fires this morning with your blessing. May your earth-fire kindle my Cauldron of Warming; may I walk with vitality this day. (I pause to envision and feel this fire travel up from the earth, through my legs and into my pelvic area, awakening this cauldron until it glows brightly.) May your solar fire kindle my Cauldron of Vocation; may I walk in honor this day. (The Sun in Irish lore is equated with one’s countenance, or face, and ‘face’ is also a cultural term for referring to one’s honor, or integrity of action and honesty of word. I pause to envision and feel this fire travel up from my pelvic area to my chest region near my heart, awakening this cauldron until it glows brightly, while also envisioning the sun shining upon my face and chest, and breathing in its fire.) May your stellar fire kindle my Cauldron of Knowledge; may I walk with Imbas this day. (Here I pause to draw the inner fire up to the top of my head, while also envisioning the light of the stars of the universe shining down into my head, awakening this cauldron until it glows brightly.) Moran taing, agus sla\inte mhath (Gaelic for, many thanks and health to you).
Nighttime 3 Cauldrons Communion ~
Dearest Brìde, foster-mother of my soul, my guide and my maker of song, I call upon you this night, that I might smoor my fires with your blessing. May your earth-fire bless my body with rest in this time of dreaming. (I pause and envision the glowing in my pelvic region shrinking down to a small light with a soft glow, like coals in a woodfire.) May your solar fire bless my soul with healing during this time of dreaming. (I envision this same shrinking and soft glowing in my chest/heart area.) May your stellar fire bless my spirit with insight during this time of dreaming. (Once again I envision this same shrinking and soft glowing, now behind my eyes and at the top of my head, picturing the wide dark sky above me filled with stars.) Moran taing, agus sla\inte mhath.
Both morning and evening, after reciting my cauldron prayer-meditation, I then recite the Imbas prayer, adapted twice from a traditional Carmina Gadelica prayer, once, and primarily, by Morgan Daimler, found in her book, By Land, Sea, and Sky, and once again, slightly, by myself, to include Brìde and the night ~
Imbas Communion ~
Imbas with me lying down,
Imbas with me rising up,
Imbas with me in each ray of light,
Imbas with me in the dark of night.
I am a ray of joy with such inspiration!
Imbas with me sleeping,
Imbas with me waking,
Imbas with me watching,
Every day and night,
Each day and night.
Brìde with me guiding,
Imbas with me directing,
Imbas with me strengthening,
Forever and for evermore,
Ever and evermore.
So, my contemplative druidic practice now includes these rising and lying-down communions, the four offices communions with the stations of day and night, and my communion with the seven elements (or three worlds, lately- that will be for another post) during my daily walk. Each communion takes about 5 minutes, and offers ample opportunities for me to spiritually connect and commune with the many powers throughout both day and night, building meaningful relationships with these powers, and deeply nourishing my soul.