!st February Celtic celebrations
St Brides Bannock
The Brides Bannock
1st February :St Bride or Brigids day
2nd February : Candlemass
On the first of February two thousand years ago the Celts celebrated the first day of spring. Women who were in labour are reported to have prayed to the fertility Godess Brigantia whose holy day was february the first.
In the Scottish highlands and Islands there are still some celebrations and traditions resembling the festivity and welcoming of spring.
Although the tradition has weakened as a child i can remember bonfires being lit on hilltops and a young girl would be crowned with candles and honored in Brigids name. Candles could be seen glowing in every window and early spring flowers would be cut and brought indoors. Corn was woven and hung around the house.
Straw dolls were woven to represent St Bride or Brigid as some still preferred to call her, she was laid in a crib of cut corn and placed near the door of the house and surrounded by candles. Just before midnight
the women of the house would call out three times: ‘Bride is come, Bride is welcome!’ Or they would go to the door and call out into the night for Bride to come and enter their house.
The weather on the second of February is important to many of the old farmers because the saying goes :
If Candlemass day be fair and bright, Winter will have another flight.
If Candlemass day be shower and rain, Winter is gone and will not come again.
Brigid was actually three Godesses in one. Some say there were three sisters and others still believe that it was the one person. Whichever is correct Brigid represents Midwifery/fertility,poetry and healing.
As goddess of fertility Brigid represents humans, animals and vegetation alike. It was believed that wherever she walked flowers sprang up under her feet, her cows always gave milk and her crops never dried out.readily fresh and available In her shrine it was always springtime and her herds never ran dry of milk.
Secondly Brigid was the patroness of midwifery and healing. People would meet her at wells and running springs to be blessed believing that they would give birth to healthy babies who were protected against disease. You can still find holy wells in places of pilgrimage today which were taken over by the christians.
Thirdly as the goddess of poetry, Brigid gave her followers inspiration, the symbolism of water and fire is combined in the Cauldron and represents the fire of her enthusiasm for life.
To celebrate St Brides a tasty fruit loaf called Bride's Bannock is made.
Here is the recipe:
The bannock is a flat loaf about the size of a dinner plate and traditionally baked on a griddle. It should be weighty, slightly rounded on top and half it's weight should be in fruit.
Preparation: 20 minutes
Rising time: 2 hrs
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Preheat oven to 215 degrees C or 415 degrees F.
Ingredients for 3 Bannocks
450g Sultanas ( 1lb )
450g strong white flour ( 1lb )
l tsp salt
75g Butter ( 3 oz )
75g Sugar ( 3 oz )
1/2 pint /300ml Milk warmed
25g fresh yeast (1oz )
A little beaten egg to glaze.
Soak the sultanas for half an hour in enough hot water to cover. drain and pat dry.
Sieve the flour and salt rub in the butter and make a well in the centre. Dissolve the sugar in the milk , use 3 spoons of this to make the yeast into a paste then pour milk and sugar into the well.
Mix vigorously to blend, then knead the dough for 5 mins or more to make a springy dough. Shape into a ball and place into a slightly buttered bowl and covered with cling film, put into a warm place to rise for 30 minutes.
Take out and gently knead in the sultanas without bursting them, shape into a ball again put back in bowl to rise for a further 15 minutes.
Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces and mould into smaller balls and place on a slightly buttered baking dish cover once again with polythene or cling film and leave to rise for 1 hour. Flatten the ball with your hand and brush with beaten egg after the dough has risen for 15 mins. Place the tray into a pre heated oven and bake for approximately 20 minutes
I hope you enjoy this as much as we do. Happy Candlemass.