BRIGID © Hamish Burgess 2012.
Signed and numbered Limited Edition Giclée print of 300 on water-colour paper. 11 x 14 inches, plus a white unprinted border.
Original Celtic and folk art by Hamish Burgess, a piece for the cover of The Celtic Connection newspaper in Vancouver BC and Seattle, the February Imbolc/St.Brigit’s Day issue.
Imbolc – the coming of Spring – a time to honour the feminine aspect of the divine. The great wheel of the year turns again on February 1st, with the ancient sacred day of the Celtic goddess Brigid – Mother Goddess of Ireland and daughter of The Morrigan and the Daghda. She was also called Brigit, Bride, Brighid, Brig, and Brigantia. The root of her name means ‘bright’ or ‘exalted’, and possibly ‘firebrand’. Tradition has it that she walks the earth Imbolc eve, and the portrait shows Bride with her white wand and open mouth said to “breathe life into the mouth of dead Winter, and bring him to open his eyes to the tears and smiles, the sighs and laughter of Spring” (Carmina Gadelica Vol.1).
She is goddess of the home and hearth, and associated with sacred flames, representing the return of the sun and warmth, coming with the lengthening days. Legend has it that the fire goddess was born at sunrise, in a house that burst into flames, and a pillar of fire was said to have risen from her head when she took the veil. Her 3 fires are the hearth, the forge and inspiration.
Brigid is the triple goddess of Smithcraft (with Celtic warriors invoking her protection before battle) represented here by the hammer and tongs; Healing represented by the serpent (still seen on the medical staff of today); and Poetry and the Arts represented by the smoke coming from the fire of inspiration on her head. The early La Tène style Celtic art of the smoke is based on the Turoe Stone in Bullaun, Co.Galway, Ireland, with connections to Brigid as a fertility stone. As patroness of Druids and Bards, she ruled over inspiration, poetry, and divination – tradition has it that she curled her palm and ‘looking through it’s pipe’ could see the future.
She is also goddess of Weaving, shown here by her tartan cloak, which in legend she could throw over Ireland for protection, and was famously said to have hung it up to dry on a ray of the sun. Along with healing, she is the goddess of Childbirth, with the ancient fertility symbol of the Sheelagh na Gig on her right cloak. Her season Imbolc, also spelled Imbolg, has one translation as ‘in the belly’.
Our goddess was to cross from the old world into the new – in the later Celtic Christian Church, an extraordinary woman was to become a famous abbess, who after her death in 523AD, became Brigit’s counterpart as Saint Brigit. Imbolc is celebrated today as St.Brigit’s Day – her sanctuary at Kildare, or Cill-dara (Church of the Oak), was likely continued worship on an older Druidic site to the goddess. The saint had a sacred flame tended by nuns, which was kept alight for about a thousand years. The following church day is Candlemass, a continuation of the sacred fire tradition.
The wickerwork St.Brigit’s Cross, a popular talisman since the 17th century, is thought to have origins in the ancient symbol for the sun, a stylized version seen here on her left cloak.
Another symbol of Brigid is the Serpent, who at this time of year was said to come out of her hole, like the badger, to see if the warming weather will affect her winter sleep. A fine frosty day forbode more winter ahead, but a cloudy day meant the quick end of winter. This tradition continued in the Americas, with European settlers seeing this habit from a new animal, and is now Groundhog Day.
All prints signed and numbered by the artist in pencil at the bottom.
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Aloha and mahalo for looking.