For those of you who are not familiar with how we chose the name of our project, here is the story:
In February 2000, we opened a space for the children under three years, where they could be cared for as ‘at home’ when their parents needed support. We realized we were going to need a lot of inspiration and a lot of courage.
Caring for someone’s child –serving as a foster mother– is a very delicate profession.
During my first year workimg with young children we recited a verse called Brigit’s Prayer. Already at that time we spoke of a project that could welcome and serve the needs of the youngest of the children of our community. And the name of Brigit’s Garden was born.
The following year with the help of a friend, who donated the funds to purchase an iron cast stove, we started the work in one of the drawings rooms of an old parish mansion. We rented this very cold room for very little money, supplemented by ironing the white clothes of a farming family of five children.
The organic gardens were quiet, old and full of enchantment with an old orchard and sheep, cows and hens all around. The house was by the old parish church and every day at 12 we heard the bells of the Angelus.
The enormous Georgian front door was painted in a golden yellow color. I still remember the time when I opened the door to a new little boy and his mum and he said: ‘are you Brigit?’ I said I wasn’t Brigit but that I was a very good friend of her. I felt so humbled and inspired.
During this time we continued reciting Brigit’s prayer every morning as we put our work with the children, under her protection and guidance.
Over the years as we celebrated Brigit’s day we read and discovered all the many aspects that relate our work with this mother, warrior, healer and goddess of the Irish. I really liked the idea of being under the protection of an Irish identity when working in Ireland and felt a great connection with the etheric forces that are represented in Brigit’s green mantle. I liked her relationship with the fire, the fire that gives courage to the heart, the fire that represents also the warmth that is one of the main pillars when caring for very young children.
I read wonderful inspiring stories about Brigit over the years while looking for strength and inspiration. There this one of how Brigit’s parents house went on fire when she was a baby and how they all ran out of the house to find out that they had forgotten to bring out Brigit who was in her cradle. Someone ran back into the house for her and discovered that the source of the flames was Brigit’s cot, although she was intact. Inspired by this image we decided we wanted our permanent house to have a 'heart of fire', a hearth at the center. When the opportunity to build such house arrived, we fought for this idea and today we have a sophisticated but simple wood burning stove cladded in clay in the middle of our main room that heats the entire house.
One of the many things that stroke me when I first came to Ireland was the profound simplicity of the crafts found here. The beautiful and warm wool garments, the stone crosses and the little wild Irish animals carved in Connemara marble were my favorites. I remember being a tourist and walking into the shops and being stunned by the heart that came out of everything. Everything was made of natural materials that could be found outside all around. I must add that my first encounter with Ireland took place in the little village of Cleggan in Conemmara where I stayed three weeks in the summer of 1991 (It has rained a lot since then and I have been a witness of this). One of the souvenirs that caught my attention, even then when I knew nothing about Brigit or about my destiny, were the Saint Brigit’s crosses.
How would I know that a few years later I would come to Ireland and spend every first of February making Brigit’s crosses. These crosses are a perfect example of the elaborated, full of meaning although simple character of all that is Irish.
In our work with the children we have also tried to surround them with simplicity and meaning. Our programme, the house, the food, the toys, the stories, everything we do is guided by these principles and supported by the blessing and protection of Brigit, great mother of the Irish.
by Lina Peláez
Brigit's Hearth Director