by iele Paloumpis
The Celtic Goddess Saint Brighid has always resonated with me, especially as someone who has survived trauma, identifies as queer and transgender, and sometimes wears an eye-patch to aid my vision. Old lore has it that half of Brighid’s face was considered beautiful, while the other half was thought to be quite ugly. The Celtic Goddess is best known in Irish mythology to have invented the act of keening. Keening is a combination of weeping and singing – a lament for the dead. It is said that Brighid cried out the first keening in all the land when she witnessed the death of her son, who was pierced by a spear right in front of her.
Brighid went on to become a great healer – whenever there is a need to relieve pain and suffering Brighid is present, asking us to call upon her energy. She is a Goddess of Light, reigning over liminal spaces like thresholds and doorways perhaps because of her ability to inhabit multiple spaces at once. It so happens that the cross-quarter holiday, Imbolc is also known as Brighid’s Day.
What strikes me most about Brighid is the complexity she unabashedly holds in her body. False dualities, seemingly at odds, make up the wholeness of her being. In her act of keening she was able to access a world of emotions to express the complexities of her grief. And the descriptions of her face, said to be half beauty/half beast, make me wonder what she thought of herself. I wonder if she conceived of her own body in ways that diverged from how she was perceived by others. I like to think so. I believe she made her own sense of things, declared her own truths. She was a survivor after all.
So as I lay here in bed fully present with myself, I invoke Saint Brighid and welcome her spirit into my home. On February 1st and 2nd I’ll be lighting candles near windows, and hanging Brighid’s Cross above the doorway to my apartment. Here’s a lovely tutorial video explaining how to make the cross.
As we take this time to celebrate Imbolc,I invite all of you to embrace your physical and emotional complexities as an act of healing. Ask for Brighid’s guidance. She is a light bearer and can lead us through the shadows of what is seen and unseen, the things we know but may not yet know how to express, magic only our bodies fully understand. So here’s to our wholeness and asymmetry! Here’s to healing false two-dimensionalities and binaries! Everything can exist all at once within each of us – we are that powerful. May Brighid’s radical spirit of warmth and light be with you all. Blessed be!