(Located in County Kildare off of the R401)
The Gaelic word for Kildare is Cill Dara, which means the Cell or Church of the Oak. St. Brigid built her Abbey in Kildare around 480AD, on a hill beside a great oak tree. However, we all know that the Irish/Celts believed in a Goddess Brighid long before she became a Saint and this area was sacred to her. This was always an important gathering place and pilgrimage site in earlier centuries. Without Brighid/Brigid, there would not be a modern town of Kildare. Before Christianity took hold of Ireland there was a great cult that surrounded the Goddess. She presided over healing, inspiration/poetry and smithcraft. She is provider of plenty, giver of life and is also identified with nurturing, fertility and fire. All wells are sacred to Brighid for they are the doorway to the Underworld and the womb of our Mother, the source of all life.
The Priestesses of Brighid kept her flame eternally lit. 19 Priestesses kept vigil and made sure the flame was never extinguished. When Christianity spread throughout Ireland, the Goddess was so engrained in the Irish people that they couldn't eradicate her, therefore she became a Saint. In the 6th century, a monastery was built on the same sight where the Priestesses kept vigil at the Fire Temple. The original monastery no longer exists but a new Cathedral was built on the site during the 13th century. This Cathedral still stands and the sisters of St. Brigid (nuns) continued the work begun by her Priestesses. They too kept her flame ignited until the time of the Reformation in the 16th century. It was at this time that King Henry VIII destroyed many of the monasteries. The flame was extinguished but never forgotten. On February 1, 1807 Daniel Delany, Bishop of Kildare, began the restoration of the Sisterhood of St. Brigid. Their mission was to restore the ancient order and bring back the legacy and spirit of this amazing figure. In 1993, Brighid’s perpetual flame was finally re-kindled in Kildare’s Market Square by Mary Teresa Cullen, who at that time was the leader of the Brigidine Sisters. The sacred flame was kept by the Brigidine Sisters in their home and on February 1, 2006, the flame was brought back to the center of the Market Square where it has been permanently housed in a large glass enclosed vessel.
If you are to make your pilgrimage to Kildare, make sure you visit with the Sisters of the Brigidine Order. Sister Mary Minehan and the other sisters are wonderfully spiritual women who have devoted their lives to Brighid. This Order is unlike any other Catholic Order, for they embrace the Goddess aspect of Brighid and merge the old world with that of the new. The Order is in the process of building a Celtic Spirituality Center in the spirit of Brigid of Kildare. Visit their website http://solasbhride.ie/
This is the site believed to be where the Priestesses of Brighid kept her eternal flame lit. Later, when Christianity spread throughout Ireland, the Sisters of St. Brigid (nuns) continued this role that was started by her Priestesses. The Fire Temple is located in the rear of the Cathedral and it's such an awesome experience to stand on this ancient and sacred ground and feel the energy of the Goddess and the many women who honored her here.
St. Brigid’s Well and Prayer Stones
This well is large and elaborately decorated and is the well that most people visit. It is very well kept with a bridge leading onto the sight and a beautiful statue of Brigid. There are 5 prayer stones standing in a line and it’s customary to stop at each stone and reflect upon an aspect of Brigid/Brighid:
First stone: Brigid a woman of the land
Second stone: Brigid the peacemaker
Third stone: Brigid the friend of the poor
Fourth stone: Brigid the hearthwoman
Fifth stone: Brigid woman of contemplation
Behind the 5th stone is a round well that you are to encircle 3 times deosil to achieve harmony within yourself and within the universe.
The Wayside Well
This well seems to be older and not as well known as the other well. However, it is actually the main well where the waters run off, feeding the newer well. This well is located at the end of the parking lot at the Japanese Gardens, not too far from the
first well. This well is over shadowed by the larger well, but this is believed to be much older and when you approach it, it’s quite plain, but lovely. There are no fancy sculptures or bridges, only an inscription in Irish which translates, “St. Brigid, Mary of the Gael, pray for us”. It’s customary to gather well water in a bottle because of its strong healing properties. But don’t forget to leave an offering for the spirits and Fey who dwell here.
Statue of St. Brigid
(This is located in Suncroft on the grounds of a little church a few miles away)
Look closely at the carving of a small cross on Brigid’s chest. In the center of the cross is a crescent moon. When the artist, Annette McCormack, was originally carving the cross on the statue, the shape of a crescent moon began to appear before her eyes. The sudden appearance of the crescent moon in the center of the cross is as if the two worlds were joining. It’s believed to be a sign connecting the old world with the new. Brighid embodies Pagan Celtic and Christian Celtic Ireland. She inspires unity and peace in a troubled world. We need to bring into our lives this wholeness and the miracle of the crescent moon appearing is symbolic of this.