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Wake Forest
University Press

Wake Forest University Press

Dedicated to Irish Poetry

Wake: Up to Poetry

"The act of poetry is a rebel act."

Celebrating St. Brigid’s Day and “Imbolc”

Today, Irish people celebrate St. Brigid’s Day also known as “Imbolc,” which, in the old Irish Neolithic language, means “in the belly.” “Imbolc” is the Gaelic festival to celebrate the beginning of Spring and is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals including Beltane, Lughnasadh, and Samhain. This holiday was once only celebrated by pagans in honor of the Celtic goddess Brigid and then became a Christian holiday in honor of the patron Saint Brigid of Kildare.

St. Brigid is the patron saint of babies, cattle farmers, children whose parents are not married, children whose mothers are mistreated by the children’s fathers, dairymaids, dairy workers, fugitives, mariners, midwives, milkmaids, nuns, poets, the poor, scholars, and travelers—just to name a few.

Saint Brigid of Kildare is believed to have lived in c. 451–525. She was an early Irish Christian nun, abbess, and founder of many monasteries of nuns including Kildare in Ireland. Born in Faughart, Dundalk, Ireland, Brigid is believed to be the daughter of Brocca, a Christian Pict, and a slave baptized by Saint Patrick and Dubhtach, a chieftain of Leinster.

In 480, Brigid founded the monastery at Kildare on the site of the pagan shrine to Celtic goddess Brigid. Brigid also founded a school of art and many churches in the Diocese of Elphin.

She is celebrated for her generosity to the poor. Some of the miracles associated with Brigid are most often related to healing and household tasks. For example, she is credited with turning water into milk or beer for the curing of Easter, for conducting prayers known to stop wind and rain, and for helping a distressed wife by giving her a love potion for her husband.

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