At the Spring Equinox 2022, after a two-year gap, I returned to the sacred Isle of Iona to be present there with the energy of Brighid, Bride of the Isles again. I was in doubt for a long time if the retreat would be able to go ahead, because there still was a lot of fear around travelling. However, receiving an (as always) inspirational letter from visionary Elinore Detiger cleared any doubt there was still in my mind and I decided to follow my heart to the beloved island!
This year there were two sister Priestesses of Brighde-Brigantia joining me, Mary Tidbury and Darcie Kermode. Both are devoted Priestesses and have been assisting me in the Priest/ess training and work I offer in Glastonbury-Avalon. From the very start we felt the sacredness of this triple energy, the power of three. It reminded us of the ancient Goddess triad of Maiden, Mother and Crone, although Darcie is more in the ‘Lover’ phase of her life and I am more in the ‘Queen’ (menopausal) time, so we called ourselves (Maiden-)Lover, (Mother-)Queen and Crone, a triple energy nonetheless.
For the retreat I had taken with me the ‘Flame of Kildare’ and the ‘Glastonbury Unity Candle Flame’.
The Kildare Flame, I received personally from sister Mary of the Brigidine sisters of Solas Bhride in Kildare, Ireland. This flame is a continuation of the ancient fire held by ‘The Daughters of the Flame’ (19 Priestesses) in honour of Goddess Brighid, which was passed on to the Order of St. Brighid and held by 19 nuns in Her time and later relit in 1993 by the Brigidine sisters at the peace & justice conference, which carried the name: ‘Brigid, Prophetess, Earth Woman and Peacemaker’.
The Glastonbury Unity Candle Flame, was lit by myself from the Unity Candle in Glastonbury-Avalon, England (where I live), initiated by Morgana West as a symbol of ‘Unity through Diversity’. On the Unity Candle website it says: “We ask that the Glastonbury Unity Candle be a constant reminder that we are all part of the One. May its light remind us to be accepting, loving and open to all those we meet, regardless of different backgrounds and opinions. Let us learn in a creative and non-competitive way, to take our world into a brighter and peaceful future, filled with understanding.”
After lighting these two flames at the start of the retreat, Mary asked if there was a Brighid Flame of Iona. This question immediately touched on something deep within me and ignited a longing and excitement that could only come from Her fire within, and it inspired us to set about initiating and lighting Her/The Flame of Iona!
The next morning we went to the Iona Community shop and bought a beautiful green pillar candle, which we were going to use to ignite Her flame. We climbed to the top of Dun-I and near the Fountain of Youth we created a beautiful ceremony. We became present in the energy of Iona, Ioua, I – called upon the energy of Bride of the Isles – evoked the 5-fold Fire energy of Brighde-Brigantia – connected with all the elements and all directions – with sun, moon, stars, earth and otherworld and – called on the power of three – and speaking our intentions for this fire, we lit the candle, the Flame of Iona, for the first time.
The intentions which we spoke into the Flame of Iona were: the intention of Peace (especially peace of heart and mind and heart-mind), the intention of Stillness (so prevalent on Iona), the intention of Compassion for all beings and the invitation to ‘Seek Beyond’ *** (beyond the liminal space that Iona offers).
It was a very moving and emotional moment as the Flame was lit and dancing in the wind next to the Fountain of Youth, one of the places most related in myth and story with Bride-Brighid-Brighde.
We connected the Flame with the four elements, putting the candle in the water of the Fountain of Youth, holding it in the air (luckily it was not a windy day) whilst a sky-lark was singing its beautiful song, holding it in the peat-earth and on the rocks and finally raising the flame to the radiant sun, which blessed us so much that week.
We subsequently took the candle to several places on the island, where we lit it ceremonially and infused it with the energy of that place as well as the elements and the direction that place was in.
We took the Flame to St. Oran's chapel and into Iona Abbey, where we lit The Flame holding it up to the stained-glass window of St. Brighid, with prayers of peace and reclaiming Her equally as the Light of the World, reclaiming the Feminine in harmony with the Masculine in all spiritual traditions.
We went to the Nunnery and sat together, sharing the story of St. Brighid being the foster-mother of the Christ-child and sister of St. Mary, by Fiona McLeod, and lit the Flame with prayers for sisterhood and brotherhood.
We walked over the Machair (which echoes the energy of the Curragh in Kildare as Brighid’s Green Mantle), over the hills and alongside the little loch to Columba’s bay in the South. Here we gathered our serpentine healing stones, swam as Selkies, walked the labyrinth through the 3 worlds and restored the Brighid Cross that I have been manifesting there since the first time on the island. In the centre of the Brighid cross we lit The Flame of Iona, again to bring balance, equality and harmony between the Feminine and Masculine energy within and without.
On the way back we stopped at the West beach, which links the Machair to the ocean, and lit the Flame there on that liminal place between land, water and sky. It was quite windy, and the flame of the candle formed a saucer-like circle that kept dancing and turning in the wind, but never went out, which felt quite magical!
That evening we went out at night (the night the clocks changed to Summertime) into an amazing, dark, still and starry night over Iona and lit the Flame in the dark, connecting it with the constellation of Cygnus, the great Swan which crosses the Milky Way and which is connected with Brighid-Bride. Lighting the flame reminded us of the prayer we say at Imbolc when ‘Bridey’ brings in the returning light into the dark of the White spring in Glastonbury: ‘Her light shines in the darkness, and the darkness shall not overcome it’ – May it be so! There were ‘controlled’ fires going on both Mull and Iona in that time and in the smoke and light of the fires a dragon appeared, which felt to us as a confirmation of the strength and power of this beautiful flame.
The next morning on the East side of the Island we lit the Flame to the rising sun, in the garden of our beloved Highland Cottage. The flickering flame danced with the reflecting sun light on the Sound, dressed in the same colour as the sunrise!
We walked over to the North Beach, Traigh an-t-Suidhe and bathed ourselves in the beauty of sight, smell, sound, tasting the Atlantic swell on our lips. Here we lit Her Flame, sheltered from the wind with a view towards Staffa, which we were going to visit later that day. We also connected the Flame here to the song of the Oystercatcher, the
Gille-Brid, servant of Bride.
We had now travelled with the candle and had lit the Flame at all directions of the island, connected with all elements and infused it with many of our intentions and prayers. Time to bring The Flame home.
We placed the candle on the central altar in the Brighde ‘temple’, we created in the mediation room in Highland Cottage for our retreat, where it was surrounded by elemental objects and the beautiful imagery of Greg Tricker’s ‘Bride of Iona’ book.
We then lit the three candles – the Flame of Kildare (red candle – for worldly peace), the Flame of the Glastonbury Unity Candle (purple candle – for community peace) from the candles I had brought, and the Flame of Iona (green candle – for inner peace) from the central candle, creating another triad and connecting Scotland (Iona), Ireland (Kildare) and England (Glastonbury-Avalon) as a sacred triangle.
The journey was complete… for now…
We have left the candles in Highland Cottage and trust that you will be able to light your candles (like we did) from these flames and take them home with you, spreading their intentions all over the world, together with Her energy and the invitation to ‘Seek Beyond’!
Bright Blessings with gratitude!
Marion Brigantia van Eupen
*** ‘Seek Beyond’ or in Gaelic ‘Sireadh Thall’ is (according to the Ceile De) ‘one of the many poetic names for the great Goddess of the Gael, Brighide or Bridget. In this aspect, She reminds us that, whatever we are experiencing, there is always more.’