Cill Information

The Cauldron Cill
Tending the Fire of Brigid

by Moon Ivy

Who is Brigid?

According to Irish myth, Brigid is the daughter of the Dagda and the wife of Bres, a Fomorian king. She is either a triple goddess, or three sisters all named Brigid, and is worshipped as the patroness of healing, smithcraft, and poetry. In addition, she has associations with both fire and water, and with fertility, and is known as the protectress of women in childbirth and of livestock.

The goddess Brigid is closely associated, and may have been syncretized with the Irish St. Brigid, who founded a monastery in Kildare in 490 AD. Like the goddess, St. Brigid was associated with fire, and many of her stories illustrate her care of those in need and her concern for livestock. Also like the goddess, St. Brigid was a patroness of poetry and crafts.

The name Brigid - variously spelled Brighid, Brigit, and Brid - comes from the Celtic word brig, meaning "High One" or "Exalted One." As such, it was originally a title, rather than a proper name. It has also been interpreted to mean "Fiery Arrow." As both goddess and saint, Brigid is closely associated with Imbolc, celebrated on February 1. [1]

What is Brigid's Flame?

Legend tells us that St. Brigid's monastery had a perpetual flame, tended by 19 nuns. This tradition was possibly a carry-over from earlier pagan worship of the goddess Brigid. The story of St. Brigid's flame was recorded in 1185 AD by Giraldus Cambrensis:

At Kildare, in Leinster, celebrated for the glorious Brigit, many miracles have been wrought worthy of memory. Among these, the first that occurs is the fire of St. Brigit, which is reported never to go out. Not that it cannot be extinguished, but the nuns and holy women tend and feed it, adding fuel with such watchful and diligent care, that from the time of the Virgin, it has continued burning through a long course of years; and although such heaps of wood have been consumed during this long period, there has been no accumulation of ash.

At the time of St. Brigit, twenty nuns were engaged in the Lord's warfare, she herself being the twentieth; after her glorious departure, nineteen have always formed the society, the number having never increased. Each of them has the care of the fire for a single night, the last nun, having heaped wood upon the fire, says: "Brigit take charge of your own fire; for this night belongs to you." She then leaves the fire, and in the morning it is found that the fire has not gone out, and that the usual quantity of fuel has been used. [2]

St. Brigid's flame was extinguished during the Reformation. It was relit in 1993, by Mary Teresa Cullen, the then leader of the Brigidine Sisters, in the Market Square, Kildare at the opening of a justice and peace conference. The flame that was symbolically re-lit in 1993 is tended in the Solas Bhr¡de Christian Community Centre for Celtic Spirituality in Kildare. [3]

What is a Flame Keeping Cill?

Cill is Irish Gaelic for "church", but is also used for other groups of a religious nature. A Flame-Keeping Cill tends Brigid's flame. Traditionally a cill is composed of nineteen women; however, many modern cills, including The Cauldron Cill, are open to both women and men.

Each rotation is 20 days long, with one shift each for the nineteen Keepers. The twentieth night is Brigid's. A keeper's shift begins at sunset and carries through until sunset the next day. Many Keepers begin their shifts by lighting a candle or lamp while saying a prayer, invocation, or chant to Brigid.

During a shift, the Keeper tends Brigid's flame physically, symbolically, or both. For many, that means lighting an actual candle or oil lamp and keeping it burning for 24 hours. Others can't do that for various reasons (children, pets, safety, etc.). They might extinguish the flame when they sleep or go out, or use a nightlight or other safe light source to symbolize the flame. Many Keepers also use other symbolic flames, such as artwork or a piece of jewelry.

In addition to the tending the flame, Keepers use the time, or whatever part of the time they can, for some activity that brings them closer to Brigid. For example, some Keepers study Irish or research Celtic history, art, and mythology. Others might work on art projects, writing, cleaning, meditating, or working on their spiritual paths. As one Keeper says, "As far as my experience goes, She doesn't seem to mind what I do, as long as I keep Her close to my heart and remember that all my duties (even washing the dishes) are sacred."

Keeping is a commitment to set aside time for a relationship with Brigid. The Cauldron Cill was founded in January 2007 as way for members to commit to this time and to share our thoughts and projects and questions with each other. Moreover, it is also a way for this community to share Brigid's energy and blessing, and pass it from one Keeper to the next.

How can I join The Cauldron Cill?

Post your request in the Requests to Join the Cill thread on the message board and ask to be added to the shift calendar. Please note if you have a preference for a particular shift. 

Where can I find information about Brigid?

Many books and websites touch on Brigid, either as goddess, as saint, or both. Some of the resources listed here focus on the iconography and epigraphy of the goddess Brigid, as understood through the archeological record. Some detail the legends and historically recorded celebrations dedicated to Saint Brigid, often as possible survivals of pre-Christian pagan practices. Others suggest more modern, spiritually oriented interpretations ritual expressions of a devotion to Brigid.

Additional resources on Celtic mythology and history can be found at The Cauldron's Celtic Reconstructionist information page.


Berger, Pamela, The Goddess Obscured: Transformations of the Grain Protectress from Goddess to Saint, Beacon Press, 1985.

Clark, Rosalind, The Great Queens: Irish Goddesses from the Morrígan to Cathleen ní Houlihan, Barnes and Noble Books, 1991.

Condren, Mary, The Serpent and the Goddess: Women, Religion, and Power in Celtic Ireland, HarperCollins Publishers, 1989.

Green, Miranda, Celtic Goddess: Warriors, Virgins and Mothers, British Museum Press, 1995.

Gregory, Lady, A Book of Saints and Wonders, Colin Smythe Limited, 1972.

Harrow, Judy, Devoted to You: Honoring Deity in Wiccan Practice, Citadel Press, 2003.

Hutton, Ronald, The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles: Their Nature and Legacy, Blackwell Publishing, 1993.

Hutton, Ronald, Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain, Oxford University Press, 1996.

Jones, Noragh, Power of Raven, Wisdom of Serpent: Celtic Women's Spirituality, Lindisfarne Press, 1994.

Kondratiev, Alexei, The Apple Branch: A Path to Celtic Ritual, Citadel Press, 2003.

Monaghan, Patricia, The Goddess Path: Myths, Invocations, and Rituals, Llewellyn Publications, 2004.

Monaghan, Patricia, The Red-Haired Girl from the Bog: The Landscape of Celtic Myth and Spirit, New World Library, 2003.

Ó Duinn, Seán, The Rites of Brigid: Goddess and Saint, The Columba Press, 2005.

Ross, Anne, Pagan Celtic Britain, Academy Chicago Publishers, 1996.



[1] There are many sources of information about Brigid. The information in this section was drawn from:
Celtic Goddess: Warriors, Virgins and Mothers, Miranda Green, British Museum Press, 1995.
The Rites of Brigid, Goddess and Saint, Seán Ó Duinn, The Columba Press, 2005.

[2] The Rites of Brigid, Goddess and Saint, Seán Ó Duinn, The Columba Press, 2005, pp. 63-64.