Bride - The Fair Woman of February

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Comyn
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Bride - The Fair Woman of February

Post by Comyn » Tue Jan 22, 2008 10:48 pm

This was originally posted on Dalriada.co.uk, a wonderful magazine and online resource of Celtic information for many years, but that site has been offline for over a year now so I am posting this copy from my own archives (without permission).

(From the writings of Fiona MacLeod)

I have heard many tales of Bride, one of the most widely loved and revered beings of the ancient Gaelic pantheon. They are of the Isles, and may be heard in some of the Sgeulachdan Gaidhealach, or Gaelic tales still told among the seafaring and hill folk. Brighid bhoidheach. Bride the beautiful, is not infrequent in songs and seasonal hymns, for when her signals are seen along the grey beaches, on the sandy machairs, by the meadow path, the glen track, the white shore road, the islanders know that the new year is disclosed at last, that food, warmth and gladness are coming out of the south. Everywhere she is honoured at this time. Am fheill Bride was until recently a festival of joy throughout the west, from the Highland Line to the last weedy shores of Barra or the Lews; in the isles and in the remote Highlands, it still is.

It is an old tale, this association of Bride with February. It goes further back than the days of the monkish chroniclers who first attempted to put the disguise of verbal Christian raiment on this fair woman. It is a tale that refers to one to whom the women of the Gael went with offerings and prayers and to one whom the seannachaidh speaks of when he tells of the oath taken by Brighid of the Flame.

They refer to one whom the druids held in honour as a torch bearer of the eternal light, a Daughter of the Morning, who held sunrise in one hand as a little yellow flame, and in the other held the red flower of fire without which men would be as the beasts who live in caves and holes, or as the dark Fomor who have their habitations in cloud and wind and wilderness.

They refer to one whom the bards and singers revered as mistress of their craft, she whose breath was a flame and that flame song; she whose secret name was fire and whose inmost soul was radiant air, she therefore who was the divine impersonation of the divine thing she stood for, poetry.

She herself and no other, is she, that ancient goddess whom our ancestors saw lighting the torches of sunrise on the brows of hills, or thrusting the quenchless flame above the horizons of the sea; whom the druids hailed with hymns at the turn of the year, when, in the season we call February, the first comers of the advancing spring are to be seen on the grey land or on the grey wave or by the grey shores; whom every poet, from the humblest wandering singer to Oisin of the Songs, from Oisin of the Songs to Angus Og on the rainbow or to Midir of the Underworld, blessed because of the flame she put in the heart of poets as well as the red life she put in the flame that springs from wood and peat.

None forgot that she was the daughter of the ancient God of the Earth, but greater than he, because in him there was but earth and water, whereas in her veins ran the elements of air and fire. And how could one forget that at any time she has but to bend above the dead, and her breath would quicken, and a pulse would come back into the still heart, and what was dust would arise and be once more glad. Yes, the Fair Woman of February is still loved, still revered.

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