Tuesday, 13 November 2012

St. Brigid’s Fire Temple

After sharing a well deserved bottle of coke, it was off to the north side of the Cathedral where the restored foundations of an ancient fire temple. A small fire is often lit in the fire temple for ritual on St. Brigid’s feast day on the 1st February. This flame was symbolically re-lit in 1993 and for the present is kept in Solas Bhride House.


Before Christianity took hold of Ireland there was a great cult that surrounded the Goddess. She presided over healing, inspiration/poetry and smith craft. She is provider of plenty, giver of life and is also identified with nurturing, fertility and fire. All wells are sacred to Brigid for they are the doorway to the Underworld and the womb of our Mother, the source of all life.


The Priestesses of Brighid kept her flame eternally lit. 19 Priestesses kept vigil and made sure the flame was never extinguished. When Christianity spread throughout Ireland, the Goddess was so engrained in the Irish people that they couldn’t eradicate her, therefore she became a Saint. In the 6th century, a monastery was built on the same site where the Priestesses kept vigil at the Fire Temple. The original monastery no longer exists but a new Cathedral was built on the site during the 13th century. This Cathedral still stands and the sisters of St. Brigid (nuns) continued the work begun by her Priestesses. They too kept her flame ignited until the time of the Reformation in the 16th century. It was at this time that King Henry XIII destroyed many of the monasteries. The flame was extinguished but never forgotten. On February 1, 1807 Daniel Delany, Bishop of Kildare, began the restoration of the Sisterhood of St. Brigid. Their mission was to restore the ancient order and bring back the legacy and spirit of this amazing figure. In 1993, Brighid’s perpetual flame was finally re-kindled in Kildare’s Market Square by Mary Teresa Cullen, who at that time was the leader of the Brigidine Sisters. The sacred flame was kept by the Brigidine Sisters in their home and on February 1, 2006, the flame was brought back to the center of the Market Square where it has been permanently housed in a large glass enclosed vessel.

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