Santa Cruz Brigit's Circle
The Santa Cruz Brigit’s Circle works to actively keep Goddess/Saint Brigit’s legacy and sacred flame alive in our modern world. For 22 years and still going strong, more than sixty women have been part of our circles, tending Brigit’s flame and devoting our work on behalf of the Earth and social justice in her name.
The Santa Cruz Brigit's Circle was founded on Imbolc 2000 by Carolyn Brigit Flynn, Terese Armstrong and Mary Blaettler in the town of Santa Cruz on the Monterey Bay on the central coast of California. Carolyn had visited Ireland in 1996, with a pilgrimage to Kildare in honor of Brigit. When she saw the remains of the Fire Temple at the ancient Kildare Monastery, and read a 12th century first-hand account of the eternal flame kept burning in Kildare for Saint Brigit by nineteen nuns and women devotees for hundreds of years (and likely longer), she was inspired to ignite a similar flame in her own community. The goal was and is to create a home and sanctuary for the goddess/saint to enter our modern world and guide us towards a more just and balanced future.
Carolyn, Terese and Mary organized a group of thirteen women to gather on Imbolc 2000, as the millennium changed, to call in the spirit of Brigit using ritual prayer, song, poetry, invocation and drumming. Our group was diverse and included women of Irish ancestry and others with little or no Irish or Celtic ethnicity, all of whom felt called by Brigit’s power and her story. By the end of the ritual, Brigit had come to our circle, and inhabited a large flame we had lit in the fireplace in her name, fed primarily by oak logs—the tree most sacred to Brigit.
We committed to keep Brigit’s flame alive by each tending a candle burning in our homes for a month, from full moon to full moon. Carolyn took the first shift, and brought home a votive candle lit from the sacred flame that burned that first Imbolc 2000 night. Each year, as the circle has expanded and changed, we have continued to meet on Imbolc to welcome Brigit into the world, to bless and re-ignite her sacred flame, and to re-dedicate ourselves to living by her example and her divine energy.
In 2002, Carolyn and other members of the Brigit Circle visited Solas Bhríde in Kildare to meet the women who re-lit Brigit’s flame there in the 1990s and have kept it burning since. Led by three inspired and remarkable nuns, Solas Bhríde is a large, vibrant community and modern eco-spirituality center for pilgrimage devoted to Brigit. Members of our Santa Cruz Brigit's Circle make regular visits to Kildare every few years, and our ties with the Solas Bhríde community are strong. We have brought home candles with "seeded wicks," lit from the flame at Solas Bhríde, and re-infused our local flame with the Kildare energies.
On Imbolc 2008, we added a second circle, which tends Brigit's flame for 24 hours every twenty days, following the schedule used anciently in Kildare. The women in our "Circle of Nineteen" (the twentieth day is left to Brigit herself to tend), are located in Santa Cruz and all throughout North America. New members are mailed a seeded candle wick to light Brigit’s flame on her appointed day. Both circles continue to this day. Many of our members have committed to tending the flame through and past our deaths, passing it on to the next generation.
In 2019, Mary Camille Thomas became co-leader of the Santa Cruz Brigit’s Circle with Carolyn Brigit Flynn.
As we tend Brigit’s flame, we see ourselves as a throughline—a constant, dedicated presence for those who will come after us. In the future, Brigit Circles will rely upon our stability and our long commitment to the divine Mother and Saint Brigit to hold a flame of the divine feminine themselves. Destabilization and breakdown is apparent and growing everywhere, and yet, like Brigit Circles in Kildare and throughout the world, our sacred flame is lit, and continues.
Invocation for the Re-Lighting of Brigit's Sacred Flame
Imbolc, February 1, 2000
On this day in history, Brigit, we are gathered together in a sacred circle to call out your name and to actively invite you back into the human realm. We represent a turning back in history of the extinguishment of your sacred, perpetual flame, burning in Ireland at Kildare for thousands of years. We represent a turning of human kind back into your sacred flame, into the holiness of the elements, the holiness of the flame, the burning intention you represent.
We name this time as a pivotal time in history, a time when a new way of living is being birthed in the endless cycle of death and rebirth. We name this moment as one of leaving old ways behind, and with an intention to live sacred lives, we turn our light towards yours, as a way to provide new illumination for all, and to be one more light in the human community that has turned back towards an honoring of the Divine Mother, the feminine God.
We know you represent the Mother Goddess, the Source and the Light, that you are the patroness of smithcraft, the art of using the flame to transform material. We know that you are the patroness of healing, of birthing babies and the birthing of new forms of consciousness through physical and psychic healing. We know that you are the patroness of poetry, the making of pictures with words, and the power of the word to weaken the sword and sway the heart. We wish to practice these arts, in large and small ways, in the every day living of our lives, and we know that our practice of them is a way to honor and praise you.
And thus the circle continues.
We are gathered on this day in history, Brigit, to relight your sacred flame and to carry that intention with us into our lives. We wish to live sacred lives in which all elements are honored, in which trees are called sacred, in which the flame is tended as holy itself, in which the earth and the mother of us all can come dancing back into history, together.
And thus we begin.
-- Carolyn Brigit Flynn
Brigit Invocation, 2021
We wake and are welcomed by your light
Our houses not dark
We are not alone
We are connected
Note and prayers set with you
the light burns on
When we light a new candle or fire
We say, "Welcome Brigit"
and mean it
We ask you into our homes
into our life.
Brigid Invocation, 2019
Brigid, dear Mother,
We circle near and far
Upon your earth both scorched and green.
With tears and hope
We call upon your name,
Brigid, dear Mother.
O Triple Goddess,
Open our hearts
To your voice
In the murmur of spring water,
In crackling fire,
and poet’s verse.
Teach us to sing your song.
Put your healing touch into our hands.
Fire our hearts with your transforming flame.
We desire by the way we live
To invite what is right
Into this wounded world.
O Womb of Possibility,
Bless us with your presence.
Show us the way!
--Mary Camille Thomas
(Some of our members, left to right) Ginger Hedrick, Jean Mahoney, Kat Brown,
Carolyn Brigit Flynn, Rhea Gireaux, Nadia Stanchfield, Rachel Devereaux.
Our Flametending Process
In our monthly Brigit Circle, the flame is tended for 28 days, full moon to full moon. In our Brigit's Circle of Nineteen, the flame is tended for twenty-four hours, sunset to sunset, every twenty days.
Tending the Flame: During the period of tending the flame, each woman keeps the flame lit, and finds her own way to pay homage, make offerings, and to hold Brigit, the divine feminine and the sacred element of Fire in her heart. She tends the flame for our Circle and also for our communities, our families and beloveds.
Seeded Wick: Each woman has a “seeded wick” candle, which has been lit from Brigit’s sacred flame. We relight the flame from that candle, and then keep it burning non-stop for the tending period.
Safety: We find various ways to safely keep a candle burning non-stop. If we have a fireplace or hearth, it works well to keep the candle inside. It is important that the candle be placed on a non-flammable surface such as glass, ceramic, tile, cement or brick. The important thing is to hold the flame with mindfulness. We check on it frequently, and keep the flame safe in our hearts. If it is necessary for safety reasons for the flame to go out, we simply re-light as soon as possible. The glass tall votive candles can become very hot when they are low on wax; we have found that it is best to change the candle when there is about a half inch of wax left. If we are traveling or are not able to safely have a candle burning during our flametending shift, we hold Brigit in our hearts, and find other ways to keep her alive, with a small altar, a Brigit's cross, a statue or time in meditation, prayer, or time in nature.
Brigit's Well, Kildare, Ireland
Ten Things About Brigit....
1. From ancient times to today, Brigit is known as a triple goddess of poetry, healing and smithcraft. It is said she has a flame rising out of her head, and the meaning of her name is “the bright one.”
2. As the ancient, longstanding deity of poetry, Brigit is said to be the inspiration for poetry and bardic song, and was able to imbue the bards and poets of Celtic times with awe-inspiring ability to spew out beautiful and witty poetic verse. In Ireland, Brigit is believed to be the inspiration for Ireland’s famous bards, poets, and novelists, and many writers pray to her daily for inspiration.
3. Brigit’s healing capacity and her holy wells are the most widespread part of her legacy.As the goddess of healing and midwifery, her sacred waters are said in particular to heal problems with the eyes. One can find Brigit’s Wells all throughout Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales. Brigit’s Wells are usually naturally spring wells that have been devoted to Brigit for many centuries if not millennia. These wells are carefully tended by the local community, and are adorned with written prayers, intentions, flowers and lit candles. Many wells have established rituals, such as repeating a prayer as one circles the well nine times. Today, hundreds of people continue to gather at Brigit's Wells to honor her feast day of February 1.
4. Smithcraft is the work of working with fire to transform metals, the essence of alchemy. In Celtic times, the smith was a powerful member of society, akin to druids and poets. As Brigit was said to be a goddess of smithcraft, She is a fire goddess of transformation, moving dross into gold. She assists with the work of bringing forth necessary life changes and inner transformation.
5. The goddess Brigit’s feast day from time immemorial is February 1, known as Imbolc in the Celtic wheel of the year. Imbolc is a cross-quarter day, the half-way point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. In the Celtic tradition, the cross-quarters days between solstice and equinox are powerful portal days when one may more easily travel between the worlds. Imbolc is considered the beginning Spring… the moment when the cold and ice are thawing and the first small shoots of plants are beginning to show themselves. As such, Brigit is the portal energy into a new growth cycle.
6. When Christianity became rooted in Europe, the monks could not erase the people’s devotion to the goddess Brigit, and thus the Christian Saint Brigid's feast day is also on Imbolc, February 1. The practice of overlaying Christian beliefs over pagan deities, which happened worldwide, served to weaken earlier, earth-based religions. But it is also as if Brigit simply came along with her people into their new tradition, and the saint’s powerful legacy has also kept the flames of the goddess alive.
7. Many miracles were ascribed to the woman who was said to become Saint Brigit. Many scholars believe she may have been Head Priestess of a traditional druidic school in Kildare when Patrick and his Christian followers first arrived in Ireland in the 5th century AD. She was ultimately made a bishop in Ireland’s Christian Church, and as the Abbess of Kildare, established a thriving monastery for both women and men. This monastery operated for more than a thousand years, and gives the town of Kildare it's name, from Cill Dara, meaning "Church of the Oak." Saint Brigit served the poor and acted for justice. She is remembered as a guardian of the land and the earth. Her many folk traditions on February 1 continued unabated in rural Ireland through to modern times.
8. Saint Brigit is one of Ireland's three most famous patron saints, with her large number of active healing wells and a powerful tradition of honoring and educating women, care for the sick and the poor, sanctuary for those in need, deep connection to the land, care for wild and domestic animals, such as foxes, sheep and cows. She calls upon us to act on behalf of the environment and the Earth, as well as those struggling in our changing world.
9. Saint Brigit is said to have developed the famous Brigit’s cross. Brigit’s cross is woven from reeds, and is a symmetrical cross, creating a perfect circle. The symmetrical cross is a universal symbol of the four directions, an ancient symbol of pagan and shamanic knowing. Brigit’s crosses are revered throughout the world.
10. The goddess Brigit and our Circle is identified with the number 19, which is a sacred number in many traditions. According to the Metonic cycle, 19 is the number of years it takes for the moon to reach the same phase and position in the sky. Every 19 years the New Moon coincides with the New Sun of the Winter Solstice, what Joseph Campbell called the ‘Meeting of Sun and Moon’—creating the very longest, moonless night. Therefore, 19 is the number that unites the solar and lunar calendar. It was also the number of women tending Brigit's flame in Kildare in ancient times, and in many Brigit circles all over the world today.
-- Carolyn Brigit Flynn
"Brighid" by Miranda Grey