In honor of the first anniversary of Clann Bhride, we are pleased to announce the beginning of our very own Flamekeeping Cill. Flamekeeping is a Brigidine devotional practice that takes place over a 20-day cycle. Members of the Cill are assigned one shift during each cycle, which then repeats itself after the twentieth day. This ground is intended to grow Clann Bhride’s community and help devotees deepen their relationship with Brighid.
Is there a literal fire?
Traditionally, the fire at St. Brigit’s abbey in Kildare was tended round the clock by nineteen women, with Brigit Herself said to watch over the flames every twentieth day. Few of us now have the opportunity to tend a large source of fire such as that found in a fireplace or fire pit, so using a candle, lantern, or oil burner in modern Flamekeeping is certainly acceptable. Ideally one would light this fire for as much of the 24-hour shift shift as possible, but things like housing arrangements, pets, or even just the need for sleep can make this impractical if not dangerous. Therefore, Clann Bhride encourages the use of substitute flames, such as LED tealights, special jewelry, or even changing the background of your computer to an image of a flame, when such substitutions are needed or desired.
How does the shift cycle work?
A full Flamekeeping cycle runs over a 20-day period during which the duty of tending Brighid’s flame passes from person to person each day. Flamekeeping begins at sundown the day of your shift and continues to sundown the following day, at which point the fire tending responsibilities move to the next person on the roster. Sundown is measured at an individual’s local time wherever they are in the world. The 20th day is the day when Brighid tends Her own flame, meaning no one is assigned for the last shift of the cycle. The following is an example of what a shift roster might look like:
Shift 1: Sage, Saturday January 31
Shift 2: Aster, Sunday February 1
Shift 3: Gilbride, Monday February 2
Shift 20: The Lady, Monday February 19
Shift 1: Sage, Tuesday February 20
It bears repeating that this is a cycle and is not simply a one-time event. If you choose to join, do so knowing this is an ongoing commitment to Brighid and our community. Because your shift falls on a different day of the week for every cycle, you cannot ask for, say, only weekend shifts or the first of every calendar month.
Because we might have Flamekeepers in different time zones around the world, it’s possible that some shifts could overlap by an hour or more, while there could conceivably be gaps between other shifts. However, it’s extremely difficult logistically to account for different time zones when managing a Cill.
What do I do for my shift?
There are as many ways to observe your Flamekeeping shift as there are individuals devoted to Brighid. Some people may choose to spend much of their shift in quiet contemplation and prayer while others may simply light a candle think of Brighid when they see the flame as they go about their day. Some may have a structured ritual for the beginning and end of their shift while others prefer a more casual approach. There are prayers for Flamekeeping in our Book of Hours, which is available as a free ebook on Lulu.
Prayer and ritual are not the only options for your Flamekeeping shift; perhaps you enjoy creativity and want to write songs or paint during your shift, or perhaps you spend your shift researching and supporting a social justice cause in Brighid’s name. Sage, one of Clann Bhride’s founders, has blogged about different approaches to tending Brighid’s flame at their personal blog.
What is group tending?
Group tending occurs during the four Celtic fire festivals:
Imbolc – sundown January 31 to sundown February 1
Beltane – sundown April 30 to sundown May 1
Lughnasadh – sundown July 31 to sundown August 1
Samhain – sundown October 31 to sundown November 1
For each of these festivals the entire Cill will tend Brighid’s flame together. This is in addition to the regular shift schedule rather than displacing it. If one of the above festivals occurs during your shift, simply follow the roster as normal for that cycle and enjoy sharing your shift with the rest of the Cill!
Can I join the Clann Bhride Cill if I belong to another group?
Yes! Your membership in other Flamekeeping groups has no bearing on whether you can participate in our Cill. There is no guarantee your shift with Clann Bhride would match up with your shift in another group, which means you would be responsible for tending Brighid’s flame multiple times over a cycle. Whether you feel comfortable with this situation is between yourself and Brighid, but we will not make that call for you.
However, if you would prefer that your Cill shift with us fell on the same day as your Cill shift with another group, you may specify that preference when applying for a shift. We’ll do our best to accommodate requests, but shift assignments are on a first-come, first-serve basis.
What if I forget my shift or don’t want to participate anymore?
Life happens sometimes! If you forget a shift or two, you may keep a shift as soon as you remember and return to your regular shift during the next cycle, or you may simply wait until the next cycle to get back in the rhythm of Flamekeeping. If you know in advance you won’t be able to cover your shift, try to let us know and we’ll find someone to take care of your shift for you. The same principle applies for temporary breaks from the Cill. We’d much rather know ahead of time if you need a few months to yourself than not have a shift covered at all.
Flamekeeping is meant to be an ongoing commitment but not a strenuous one; we do wish to accommodate as many individuals’ desires and needs as possible. However, if you find yourself at any point unwilling or unable to continue Flamkeeping with us, let us know and we’ll update the shift roster accordingly.
How do I join?
To join, simply send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org announcing your intent. Please include the name you want to use for the Clann Bhride Cill as well as any preferences for which shift is yours, which we will try to accommodate.
Would you like a candle linked to the Solas Bhride flame in Kildare?
Aster, one of our founders, has a candle lit from the Solas Bhride flame in Kildare, Ireland. She has offered to light other candles from her own and send those in the spirit of passing along Brighid’s fire. While this is not necessary for working with the Cill, it is made freely available to those interested. To receive a candle from Aster, please email email@example.com with a physical address to ship to.