The Flame we keep

I was born as I flew from the flint down through the air into the straw in a bowl many hundreds of years ago. The bowl was carried by a woman to a lamp and I have been tended by women ever since, a constant parade of ever changing and ever the same women, always 19 at a time.

Women of all sizes and shapes, at first they were mostly women with red hair like my flame or hair dark as the soot I leave behind or hair as grey as ash. I burned year after year tended by these 19 women but every 20 days and I was left alone. Then I was tended by the Goddess who seemed as ever changing as the women. Some times she was young as a spring lamb and as fresh as dew chanting poetry and singing as she kept watch. Sometimes she was older and had muscles and would come in blackened and sooty and smelling of iron and sweat. Sometimes she was much older and came in smelling of flowers and leaves and had a peace in her face as she tended me that soothed my fiery spirit.

It went for years like this first tended by women robed in white or green who sang to their Goddess and of the people they prayed for and much later the women changed to a somber black robe and were swathed in cloth and only their faces and their hands were visible to me. They sang different songs. Songs that didn’t always seem to be about their Goddess but the Goddess still came. She used to wink at me and tell me stories. She said they didn’t always know who she was anymore but she loved that they still faithfully tended her.

Then the men came, men in steel like the Goddess smelled of, men reeking of hate and with ugly looks on their faces and they tried to douse me with water and leave me as a steaming and cold thing. They didn’t know that the women had taken a gift from me and hidden me in a lantern and took me in a boat over the water. I burned and burned in that new land for hundreds of years and then, not so long ago more women brought me home and I am tended again in this place near a well, ever tended by women but now every once in awhile a candle dips into me and I’m taken to a new lamp or a new candle or even sometimes a radiant and lovely bonfire and I am tended by new people. People of all colours and races, people whose faces shine back at me all over the world and not just women but men too. People whose face shines with love for their Goddess or saint, people who pray for other people to be well and strong or whole in what ever way that needs to be even if well and whole means a quiet ending.

And every twenty days my Goddess, Brighid returns to me. Telling me stories and smelling of herbs or of hard work before she goes out again into the world and the people she loves and I shine in many places, on many hearths and I shine for my eternal Goddess.

This story is also available in my book The Heart Town Witch and Other Stories.