Why is February the season of Bride?

“A bannock fur Bride

Roun lik the sun

A snawdrap fur Bride

Pure lik dawnlicht

Hearth fire fur Bride

Reidbreist warm

The days rax oot

Spring kens its time.”

The legend of Bride, or Brigid, goes back to pre-Christian Ireland where she has been known as a goddess, saint and Celtic cultural icon.

A link between the pagan and Christian traditions, she became known as St Brigid following the introduction of Christianity to Ireland.  

As a member of the Tuatha Dé Danann (tribe of the gods in Irish mythology) she is culturally significant in many ways, with many related songs, stories, poems and dances.

The celebration of Bride, often known as St Brigid’s Day, is further associated with the ancient Celtic festival of Imbolc, which sits alongside Beltane, Lughnasadh and Samhain as the four biggest seasonal festivals in the Celtic calendar.

Imbolc focuses on welcoming and marking the beginning of spring, traditionally celebrated on the 1st of February or shortly thereafter. Many communities marked and celebrated the seasonal festival by crafting Brigid’s crosses, commonly woven from rushes, and just like Santa, families would leave gifts out for Brigid before bed, as well as items of clothing for her to bless – it was seen as a good omen for the spring and summer ahead if Brigid paid a visit.

This was particularly the case in the Gaelic tradition – until the late 18th century, it was common in the Hebrides for a bed of hay to be laid for Brigid, before calling out 3 times “a Bhríd, a Bhríd, thig a stigh as gabh do leabaidh/ Bríd, Bríd, come in; your bed is ready.” Alternatives to this included women dancing while holding a large cloth (Bride’s bedsheet) and calling “Bridean, Bridean, thig a-nall ‘s dèan do leabaidh/Come over here and make your bed.”

This February, TRACS gives you the opportunity to reconnect with this ancient festival and focus on the figure of Bride at the Storytelling Centre – beginning with a workshop, Celebrating Bride, which will explore how to mark the season and its relation to Bride in story, song, poem and dance. TRACS will provide context on the traditional calendar and its associated mythology, alongside three experts who will guide us through the influence of Bride across traditional artforms:

Déirdre ní Mhathúna is a sculpture graduate, a singer and a Gael. Her work spans art genres and disciplines, but it is always rooted in Gaelic culture. Déirdre has recently worked with Artlink, the Psalmboat Project & Edinburgh University’s School of Scottish Studies. She will introduce the poems and blessings of Bride.

Susanna Orr Holland grew up in Australia and moved to the UK when she was a teenager. Her interest in folk songs took flight after her move to the UK surrounded by the sights and sounds of the places where so many folk ballads came from.  She will explain the development of her performance work based on the traditions of Bride, created after she undertook a storytelling course in 2015 that gave her greater skill to weave storytelling and singing together.

Colin MacLennan is a dance enthusiast of wide experience with great knowledge of many European dance traditions. He has worked as a ceilidh dance teacher for Dance Base and for twenty five years as a dance caller with many bands in Edinburgh and beyond, and will introduce the Circle Dance and its associations with Bride.

The following day, there will be another chance to explore this theme in an evening performance – Remembering Brigid with Susanna Orr Holland, fiddler Morag Brown and storyteller Kate Walker – exploring how we have individually or collectively expressed hope and grief, coped with the mundane, related to our seasons and landscape and used our stories and traditions to try to understand or make sense of our social mores, expectations, dreams, losses, behaviours and experiences.

The performance evokes Brigid through both Gaelic and English music, song, rhyme, folklore and story and is inspired and informed by material from archive recordings, old texts and academic research, painting a fresh way of seeing this cultural icon that you probably already know and just don’t realise it yet.

Come and celebrate the turning of winter to the beginnings of spring’s whispers and remember around the warmth of Brigid’s hearth.

Workshop: Celebrating Bride, Friday 3rd February, 2pm (2hrs 30)

Performance: Remembering Brigid, Saturday 4th February, 8pm (1hr 30)