Adoption as Redemption

imbolc

A blessed Imbolc, St Brighid’s Day, and Candlemas to you. Three names bestowed on the same holy day.

Imbolc is another “in between” seasonal holiday (like Samhain), falling midway between the winter and spring solstices. Where Samhain welcomed the coming darkness, Imbolc heralds the coming light. Snowdrops and pregnant ewes are symbols. This was a holiday all over Europe, but especially celebrated by the herding peoples of Ireland, Scotland, etc.

Brighid was a goddess before she was a saint. Downgraded by the Catholic church, which does not approve of women being worshiped unless it’s Mary, the Mother of our Lord. They didn’t consider it a demotion. They called it a redemption. Brighid was mother goddess of childbirth, healing, poetry, prophecy, and smithing. Brigit is patroness saint of (among other things) babies, midwives, children whose parents are not married, healers, nuns, blacksmiths, travellers, scholars and poets. St Brigit of Kildare was, in fact, so well assimilated that it is hard to tell where the goddess leaves off and the saint begins.

Because Imbolc belonged to the goddess Brighid, the day had to be reclaimed (redeemed) for Saint Brigit. Crosses made of rushes are still made today, with a vague memory of it being for protection from fire. No matter how the church tried to Christianize this symbol (a pagan sun wheel) there’s no explanation for that.

Finally, we have Candlemas, or the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple. This is celebrated February 2nd (40 days after Christmas), on which Imbolc sometimes falls. So, they are celebrated together, much like how the winter solstice and Christmas are now merged.

The pagan holidays and deities were redeemed by “converting” them into something Christian. The Celtic crosses became the Cross of Christ, any triune god (including Brighid) now represented the Trinity, the festivals celebrating the turning of the seasons became feast days of various Christian saints. Even though we still use the words Easter and Yule, we mean Pascha and Christmas. The origin remains. The symbols remain. St Brigit is still the goddess. She has just been claimed by others and given a new name.

Adoptees can relate. We are given a name at birth, but it is shrouded in mystery. We aren’t allowed to know it. Some aren’t even allowed to know exactly when or where they were born. In an attempt to hide the trail, these “details” were altered on their amended birth certificates, along with giving them new parents and a new name.

But we do not change on a primal level, just because the powers that be renamed us. Our genetics do not change. Our inborn traits do not change. We may be made unaware of our history, but it remains. It is impossible to erase biology.

Many adoptive parents cannot face this reality. They believe that, by giving the child their name and ignoring all else, that the child will become theirs in every way. “We gave you a name!” is something my adoptive mother threw at my brother during one of their many confrontations. “I had a name,” he shot back. Only, he wasn’t allowed to know it.

That is how adoption was presented then, and sometimes now. You are given a fresh, new baby and nothing that happened before that moment matters. The thousands of years of ancestry that made this child is insignificant, because you will name this child and you will be the only parents he/she knows. You name it, you claim it. Any good quality will be attributed to upbringing, or coincidence, or God-given talent. But not genetics. The child was redeemed by adoption. Saved. Made a new creature.

<insert all misapplied biblical references about adoption here>

We are adopted by God spiritually: “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” Rom 8:15 (NIV)

Not legally, not physically. Spiritually, by the Holy Spirit. This is not about the Western practice of commandeering other peoples’ children and pretending they are yours biologically. This most-quoted adoption verse refers to “the Spirit you received.” It does not say it was done to us, as adoption is “done” to children, but that it was a gift we accepted. Don’t try to tell me there is no difference.

We are not saved by adoption. We are saved by grace. Renaming a child does not improve it, just as trying to blot out the pagan source of Imbolc with Candlemas doesn’t improve it. Just as trying to replace the goddess Brighid with saint Brigit doesn’t better her. Even if the intentions were good, that it was to be inclusive, the adoptee will still be who he/she is.

I am not saying an adopted child should not take the surname of the adoptive parents. I am saying the adoptee’s history should not be covered up or altered. That the adoptee has the God-given right to his or her own name and heritage. And mostly, that the adopted name is not better, just because it is new. Adoption is not redemption.

Brighid was a goddess first. Sainthood cannot change that.

Notes:

Brighid also known as: Brid, Bride, Brigid, Brigit, Brigantia, Briginda, Brigdu, Ffraid, Bridget, Mary of the Gael.
St Brighid’s Day also known as:  St Brigid’s Day, St Bridget’s Day, Lá Fhéile Bríde, Là Fhèill Brìghde, Laa’l Breeshey, Imbolc, Imbolg.
Candlemas also known as: The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, The Feast of the Purification of the Virgin, The Meeting of the Lord, The Presentation of Our Lord, Gŵyl Fair y Canhwyllau.

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