Brigid’s Fire and Oatstraw Soup
The meaning of Imbolc
It is difficult for us to imagine the celebration that Imbolc was for our ancestors. They lived through the dark months of the year in small dwellings with extended family and with their farm animals. It was dark, and all of the food they had for the winter was carefully guarded within. They had a limited variety of food stocks and when something was gone there was no store to visit.
By Imbolc, they had likely not had cheese or dried berries since Yule. The pantry was running low on nearly everything except winter vegetables. Imagine how good the first glass of fresh ewe’s milk would taste! Many of the ewes would give birth around this time and start to lactate, Imbolc literally translates to ‘ewes milk.’ This was the first signal to our ancestors that spring was coming.
Many children were born around Imbolc, (and were conceived at Bealtaine). This was very much in alignment with the natural world and women’s milk came in right alongside their lactating ewes, often in the same room.
Imbolc is about sowing seeds for the coming year as the transition from winter to spring begins. It is a time of internal reflection and transformation when we take note of what is no longer serving us and do some ‘spring cleaning.’ We cleanse our lives, removing energies from our homes and bodies that do not serve our highest good.
Brigid’s Feast Day
Imbolc is also the feast day of the Goddess Brigid, known as the Bride of Avalon. Brigid is all about transformation and new beginnings, just like Imbolc. She is midwife to all of the promise of new life to come.
We celebrate her for the innocence in her love, for her mother’s milk. She feeds us with her living perpetual flame as sacred midwife to Sophia; to the in-between, and we do the same. As Brigid breathes her fire, we unfurl our swan wings, spiral our snakes up from their underworld slumber, and gather to prepare for the birth of the sun for another turn on the wheel.
Brigid is an ancient goddess said to be from the fae real, or the otherworld. For us in Song of Sophia, we remember the Tuatha de Danann (Celtic Tribe of the Immortals) as descendents of Lemuria. She is a bridge between Christian accepted society and the Fae Realm of Midwifery. She is magic and she is a saint.
Her progression from goddess, to saint in the beginning days of Chrisianity in the British Isles, and back to goddess in current times shows her ability to transform in order to keep her perpetual flame burning in our lives. She is a symbol for all women as she flows with the tides of life and remains in the wave. She has been served by a consecutive line of devotees who were first priestesses, then nuns, and now priestesses again. The title never matters and we have nothing to prove. She is the goddess of the in between, staying in the wave with her devotees. She is the merging of the red and white threads.
Brigid is a triple goddess and is midwife to the life/death/rebirth cycle as maiden, mother and crone. She is the goddess of both water and fire, the merging of opposites, polarity, the in between. She embodies the sacred mystery of the divine feminine, and her light burns eternally.
The blend of vegetables similar to what our ancestors would have had at the end of winter with fresh sheep’s milk yogurt is the perfect Imbolc combination. I love the blend of carrots, cabbage, celeriac and potatoes with the fresh dairy at the first sign of spring. The addition of oatstraw and rosemary infusions in honor of Brigid makes this recipe over the top magical. Oatstraw because of it’s nourishing, comforting nature. It is the plant version of mother’s milk! The plant version of Brigid’s milk! Rosemary because it is fire and air like Brigid. Rosemary is also a midwifing herb for the Rose Lineage, perfect during this time of the year when so much is waiting to be birthed or is birthing and Brigid is doing so much of her midwifing work and magic.
- 1.5 cups red cabbage chopped into thin strips, without the tough middle
- 1 heaping cup potatoes peeled, cubed
- ½ onion finely chopped
- 1 medium carrot peeled, diced
- ⅓ cup celeriac peeled, diced
- ½ leek cut lengthwise, finely chopped
- ½ cup spinach finely chopped
- ¼ cup dandelion leaves finely chopped
- 1.5 tbsp each: parsley and chives finely chopped
- 3 tbsp freshly chopped rosemary
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp irish butter
- 1 garlic finely grated
- 3 tbsp hazelnut oil
- 4oz rosemary infusion
- 16oz mushroom broth
- 32oz oatstraw infusion
- celtic sea salt
Tips on Ingredients
Red cabbage: Remove the tough middle bit (this can be added into a red cabbage juice) and chop the cabbage into thin strips. You could also shred the cabbage thinly if you prefer.
Apple cider vinegar: This will add a subtle tang and more flavour into the soup. Add 2 tablespoons to start with and perhaps a little more if you like after the soup has cooked. Be careful not to add too much as the flavour may become too overpowering.
Spinach: It’s sufficient to wilt the spinach so add it towards the end of cooking.
Hazelnut oil: Although recommended for the full medicine of the recipe, if you can’t get hazelnut oil you could use olive oil instead.
Rosemary infusion: Add two tablespoons of rosemary to 4 oz of hot water. Allow this to steep for at least four hours in the sunlight, and pour through a strainer before use.
Oatstraw infusion: Add six tablespoons of oatstraw to 32 oz hot water. Allow to steep overnight, and pour through a strainer before use.
Irish Butter: We are celebrating the first milk of spring, so it feels good to include dairy here BUT if you are a strict vegan or cannot tolerate dairy, you can substitute for a vegan butter of your choice.
Sheep’s Milk Yogurt: Add an extra spoonful or two to your bowl before enjoying! Imagine the nourishment our ancestors felt with this first dairy after months of a meager diet. Visualize being fed from Brigid’s breast and the sweetness of her milk. Of course, if you need to, swap this out for a vegan yogurt and enjoy it the same way!
Infuse this Medicine with Prayer
While preparing all of the ingredients and combining them, approach your cooking as you would making any medicine. Notice how beautiful each plant is, ask them if they have anything to tell you! Give thanks for the nourishment they will provide your physical and light bodies. Plant the seeds of your prayers in this beautiful medicine that will begin the transformation from winter to spring inside your body.
Say a personal prayer to Brigid over the celebratory soup.
- In a medium pot, heat up 3 tablespoons of oil, add the bay leaf, onion, leek and red cabbage. Stir and cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes stirring often.
- Add the carrot, celeriac, potato, rosemary and oatstraw infusions, mushroom broth and apple cider vinegar, stir, cover and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 25 minutes (or until the vegetables are fully cooked) stirring occasionally.
- Add the dandelion, spinach, herbs, garlic, butter and season to taste. Add a splash of water if needed. Cook for 2 more minutes.
- Remove from the heat and serve with fresh sheep’s or goat’s milk yogurt, a tablespoon or two dropped directly into the bowl when serving.
May Brigid’s Fire and Oatstraw soup be a living prayer to your body in this time of transition from winter to spring. May this medicine help to connect you to our Goddess Brigid of the eternal flame, and to reclaim the spark of this flame that is alive within your own heart.