Brighidine flametending is a communal and devotional practice in which one works with a flametending Order, or group within an Order, to perpetually keep alight the sacred flame dedicated to the goddess and saint Brìde. Members are assigned a regular 24-hour shift among twenty such shifts during which each is responsible for keeping the flame vigil. These vigils are generally timed from one sunset to the next, as this is how Celtic time is traditionally reckoned. Traditionally, on the 20th shift, Brìde Herself keeps the vigil, and tends Her own flame.
Most Brighidine flametending Orders today are created and maintained electronically on the internet, and garner worldwide memberships. The Brìde-flame is shared around the world through candles lit from others which were lit from the original Brighidine flame, perpetually tended in Cill Dara, Éire (Kildare, Ireland) by the sisters of Solas Bhríde. Tradition holds that Brìde’s spirit is the flame itself, and is held in the wick of any candle touched by the Brìde-flame. In this way, like the light which shines, Her spirit can be eternally shared while being never diminished. Such candles, lit and extinguished, are then given and posted worldwide to sister and fellow Brighidine devotees alike.
During an individual’s flametending vigil, or shift, she uses this Brìde-flame to light a candle on her altar or shrine which serves as her tending candle. She need only light it once with the Brìde-flame; after this, Brìde’s spirit is a part of the candle being tended. In Nigheanan Brìghde, a liturgical flame-lighting prayer is used to open the vigil, which is done as close to sunset as possible. The sister then maintains this flame as much as she is able until the following sunset.
Once the flame is lit, a sister may spend her vigil as she is inspired and able to. She might set aside time to meditate or commune with Brìde. She might offer prayers of praise to the goddess, and/or offer prayers of healing to those in need. She might try to set aside time for her Brighidine vocations, like writing poetry or fiction or liturgy, practicing an art form, studying genealogy, crafting, gardening, creating herbal remedies, or working with a healing modality. She may both ask Brìde’s inspiration to be upon her, and offer her work to Brìde. She might practice divination, engage in journal writing, take a nature walk, or anything else which helps her feel spiritually nourished and grounded. And, as life is frequently busy with ongoing obligations, she might not find much time at all for such pursuits, but may strive to keep Brìde in her mind and heart, and extend Brìde’s warmth to all whom she encounters.
When she must be away from her altar or shrine, or when she is asleep, she can tend the flame in other ways, for safety, as unattended lit flames can create fire hazards. She might use electric candles on her altar or shrine; set a tall glass novena candle in a bathtub, perhaps with a bit of water in it; or wear a dedicated piece of jewelry when at work or traveling. Some sisters have propped up their cellphones on their desks in their workplaces with a lit-candle app featured on them.
When the next sunset comes, and her vigil concludes, the sister may close her tending time with formal prayer, visualizing the flame being passed on to the next sister who will keep vigil. In this way, though often far apart, the sisters of Nigheanan Brìghde maintain a connection with one another. We will also share our vigil experiences and insights with one another, so that we may all grow together in Her wisdom and blessings.
In these ways, flametending is at once a personal devotion to a beloved goddess, a time to spiritually reconnect and be nourished, and a service one offers, to keep Brìde’s spirit of inspiration, creativity, warmth, and healing alive in the world, so She might perpetually and perennially nourish the spirits of us all.