IMBOLC © Hamish Burgess 2011.
Signed and numbered Limited Edition Giclée print of 300 on water-colour paper. Approx 12 x 12 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 second of a series of four seasonal works.
Imbolc – the coming of Spring – 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 – also called Brigit, Bride, Brighid, 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 Bride with her white wand (top left) is 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 (centre), and associated with sacred flames, representing the return of the sun and warmth, coming with the lengthening days. Her 3 fires are the hearth, the forge and inspiration.
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, with Imbolc 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 cross (centre) has been a popular talisman since the 17th century, known as St.Brigit’s Cross, but is thought to have origins in the ancient symbol for the sun. According to folklore, the young woman destined to be St.Brigit was fed on the milk of a Red-Eared Cow (bottom right).
Pictured above the goddess Brigid are her legendary “Oxen of Dil, Fea and Feama, Red and Black”.
She is associated with many holy springs and healing wells, and legend has it that the old goddess of winter, the Cailleach (bottom left), drinks from a sacred well and transforms into Brigid and the spring.
Bottom right – Brigid is the triple goddess of Smithcraft (with Celtic warriors invoking her protection before battle), Healing (represented by the cauldron), and Poetry and the Arts (the Ogham stone, reading ‘Imbolc’ in the ancient markings from the bottom upwards). Patroness of Druids and Bards, she ruled over inspiration, poetry, and divination. She is goddess of Weaving (shown by the tartans), and of Ale-making. Around the islands of Britain and Ireland, standing stones (shown on the hill-top) are sometimes called Bridestones, named after the goddess Bride.
Along with healing, she is the goddess of Childbirth. The expectant mother (top right), prays to Brigid among the snowdrops, a sign of new life flowering through the cold snow. Ravens start to build nests for their young at this time of year. The entrance to a burial mound on the Hill of Tara aligns to the sunrise on Imbolc morning.
Imbolc, also spelled Imbolg (translated as ‘in the belly’), and Oimelc (‘ewes milk’) is a time of the renewal of life, with lactating ewes (bottom left) ready for their young. The milk is a sign of life, shown here as white interlacing knotwork and flows into the earth. In folklore, people pour a small amount of milk on the ground this morning, to thank the Mother for feeding them for the last year.
A symbol of Brigid (and that of healing, still seen on the physician’s staff of today) is the Serpent, who at this time of year was said to come out of it’s 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.
Also shown are of course the elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water.
All prints signed and numbered by the artist in pencil at the bottom.
The print you receive will not have the artist’s name across it, as in the photo. That is for internet viewing only.
Aloha and mahalo for looking.