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Spring is Sprung

January 31, 2013

St Brigid's Well, Liscannor, Co. Clare

St Brigid’s Well, Liscannor, Co. Clare

February 1st – Féile Bríde – St. Brigid’s Day

Danagher’s The Year in Ireland gives it 22 pages. A saint’s day, associated with pagan customs of Spring, fertility, and the richness of the land and the dairy herd. St Brigid’s crosses are made from rushes.  The custom has been revitalised, with groups of women often coming together to make crosses which adorn and bless their homes year on year.

If there is a local well associated with the saint, there will be a pattern at it. Prayers will be said. Favours and tokens will be left at the well: invocations of prayer, or tokens of acknowedgment of  prayers answered. Further down the coast from me, the well at Liscannor will be busy tomorrow. I hope it stays fine for the pilgrims.

The first day of our Irish spring, and of course several weather stories were linked to the feast day. This is Ireland after all!

There was an Irish version of Groundhog Day: to see a hedgehog out of his burrow was sign of ongoing good weather.

The light was changing and the saying went: ‘On St Brigid’s day, you can put away the candlestick and half the candle.’

Some time ago I wrote a piece about the nature of the light during the year and how it affects us. Here it is –


Anois teacht an Earraigh

Beidh an lá ag dul síneadh

Is tar éis Féile Bríde

Ardóidh mé mo sheol

The light has changed. It did some days ago. What is it about the light in this country, that it affects us so? We observe it constantly: clouds skimming the skies, the dulling of the light through the webbing of a lime tree, the luminous splash-back from a wind-whipped sea.

The women of my family have a connective relationship with light. Frosty starlight moves us. Texts pass from phone to phone. ‘Have you seen the moon tonight?’  Then there’s the mantra: ‘Have you noticed? The light’s changed.’

How does one explain instinctive, abstract, emotional reaction to a law of physics? A lumen is, seemingly, the SI unit of measurement for how the human eye perceives the power of light; allowing for the uniquely human sensitivity to differing light wavelengths.

How many lumen in the phrase ‘I love this early-summer light’?  For it is true: early May light is soft and voluptuous; caressing whitethorn and newly-sprouted foliage.

Skies in June have a gentility to their blueness, not like the brash azures of July and August. In those months the depths of Nature’s colours are revealed. In high summer as the setting sun rests millimetres above the horizon, plants suck in saturating light. ‘Johnson’s Blue’ geraniums and red pelargoniums glow with stained-glass concentration.

In late August it is time again to ask that question. ‘Is it me, or has the light changed?’  Already a sapphire coldness has crept into the blue intensity, presaging autumn. If we are lucky, the unclouded colour deepens; clarified and filtered by frosty October air.  In such generous weather breathing, although an involuntary act, is acknowledged. We stop for a moment. We breathe forcefully.

Light sensitivity affects us daily: the oncoming interrogation of traffic on a wintry night – reflecting against sleeting rain on the windscreen; the malfunctioning flashing strobe in the Chinese takeaway; the slightly blurred projection in a cinema.  Artificial light has a lot to answer for. Except at Christmas. One of the delights of country living is driving through darkened limestone hills and happening upon a lit-up home where welcoming fairy-lights gild barren trees.

In dulling January days, when getting out of bed is too much to ask of a body, there is barely enough light to inflame a migraine. These are the dark days, the engulfing days of carbohydrate snacking and feeling the blues. But then the pagan, and Irish, calendar moves on. With a blessing from Brigid, just before Candlemas, the light changes.

Lá fhéile Bríde faoi mhaise dhíbh go léir!

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  1. Gillian permalink

    Please note the above image of a Brigid Cross with snowdrops is copyright. You do not have permission to use this image.Please remove it immediately. Thank you.

  2. Hi Gillian – I don’t check my posts/emails every day. I did so today, and took down the photo immediately and I have also emailed you. All the best.

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