February 1st is Brigit’s Day, a celebration known in Ireland as Imbolc, one of the four great festivals that are gateways into the seasons of the turning year. Among the many rituals and traditions is leaving a brat bríde (Brigit’s cloak) outside to receive Brigit’s blessing as she passes by in the night, the day having begun at sundown for the Irish and Celtic peoples. This piece of cloth is then torn into strips and used for healing – perhaps tied around a sore throat or sprained ankle.
A principle Irish goddess Brigit is also believed to be one of the Tuatha Dé Danann, the indigenous spiritual ancestors of Ireland. The Church, not able to eradicate her powerful personae, effected a transition to St. Brigit and replaced the celebration of Imbolc on February 1st with a celebration of Candlemas on February 2nd. However these transitions were likely not as successful as the Church hoped for. Yes, the Irish embrace St. Brigit as a patron saint, but they also continue to visit the goddess’s holy wells with ceremony and ritual. For all its efforts the Church really gave the Irish people two mystical women to celebrate. And St. Brigit was indeed a shamanic wise woman.