Brighid, Keeper of the Flame
Week 3 (B): Brighid, whose name means “exalted one”
Brighid, red-gold woman of flame and wave.
Brighid, honey combed sun of winter’s end.
Brighid, lead me home.
(invocation to Brighid, from an Imbolc healing ritual 2013, inspired by Patricia Monaghan)
When I was 14, I read about a Celtic goddess named Brighid (pronounced “breed”). From the moment her name touched my lips, I felt connected. I had been praying to the Goddess and the God, per my early understandings of what it was to be Wiccan, but I wasn’t explicitly naming them. After that, I started addressing the Goddess as Brighid. I was mostly interested in the fact that Brighid was described as a goddess of poetry. Given that I’d written a good deal of poetry since age twelve, this seemed as good a sign as any that I ought to claim Brighid as my patron goddess.
Two years later, as a junior in high school, I was pretty sure I’d settled on my life plan: I wanted to be a doctor. Specifically, I wanted to be an OB/GYN, though it’s more accurate to say that I wanted to be a midwife. I did not, however, know the midwives still existed. At the start of the year, I had read The Red Tent by Anita Diamant and was thrilled by the idea of being a woman who helped with birthing. It seemed like such a timeless profession, one in which I would feel connected to myself as a woman and to the millions of other midwives who had done the same thing. I shared my interests with my doctor, who very generously responded with an offer to let me accompany her to a few births. Sadly, I never took her up on her offer.
Once I felt solid in my future career choice of OB/GYN, the choice of Brighid as a patron goddess made even more sense; Brighid is often described as a healer. I went off to college, fully expecting to declare pre-med the following year. Sadly, it didn’t work out that way. I managed to contract a nasty case of chicken pox at age 19 a week before finals. Apparently mandatory quarantine didn’t qualify as a legitimate medical excuse to get extensions for my finals, so I failed all my classes. As a result of this, rather than be a year behind, I decided to step off my chosen path. I picked another major and ran with it, but always felt, in the back of my heart, like I’d missed an opportunity.
Now, almost a decade into my pursuit of that other path, things are changing yet again. I still have a strong connection to Brighid. I still write poems. But in questioning my current career path, I find myself coming back again and again to my deep interest in midwifery. I live just down the street from a midwife center, and the region I live in is rife with midwives. I am being eaten alive by indecision: do I continue to follow a path that is not making me nearly as happy as I was at the start of it because I have invested too much time in it to change, or do I follow an old path that has called to me for longer than the current one?
I feel lost, and I’ve been lax in my meditation. I can’t see any answers and I can barely form the questions. Brighid remains silent. Yet I have the sense that, regardless of which path I choose, I will always be a poet. I sense that I will also always be a healer, in one form or another, whether I am seeking to heal bodies or ignorance. And Brighid will always walk with me, her fiery presence at my back, my lantern in the dark.