BRIGIT OF THE CELTS
Brigit was one of the great Triple Goddesses of the Celtic people.
She appeared as Brigit to the Irish, Brigantia in Northern England,
Bride in Scotland, and Brigandu in Brittany. Many legends are told
about Brigit. Some say that there are three Brigits : one sister in
charge of poetry and inspiration who invented the Ogham alphabet,
one in charge of healing and midwifery, and the third in charge of the
hearth fire, smithies and other crafts. This catually indicates the
seperate aspects of her Threefold nature and is a neat division of
labor for a hard-working goddess.
Brigit was probably originally a Sun Goddess, and a charming story
of her birth is that she was born at sunrise and a tower of flame
burst from the forehead of the new born Goddess that reached from
Earth to Heaven. It was likely She who inspired the line in the famous
Song of Amergin: "I am a fire in the head." Her penchant for smithcraft
led to her association by the Romans with Minerva/Athena. As a warrior
Goddess, She favored the use of the spear or the arrow. Indeed, various
interpetations of her name exist including, "Bright Arrow," "The Bright
One," "the Powerful One" and "The High One," depending upon the region
and the dialect.
As a Goddess of herbalism, midwifery and healing She was in charge
of Water as well as Fire. I don't beleive that anyone has ever
counted all teh vast number of sacred wells and springs named after
or dedicated to this Goddess. A story is told of how two lepers came
to one of her sacred springs for healing and She instructed one Leper
to wash the other. The skin of the freshly bathed man was cleansed
of the disease and Brigit told the man who was healed to wash the man
who had bathed him so that both men would be whole. The man who was
healed was now too disgusted to touch the other Leper and would have
left him, but Brigit herself washed the leper and struck down the
other arrogant fellow with leperousy once more before he could leave.
Offerings to the watery Brigit were cast into the well in the form
of coins or, even more ancient, brass or gold rings. Other sacrifices
were offered where three streams came together. Her cauldron of
Inspiration connected her watery healing aspect with her fiery poetic
Brigit is clearly the best example of the survival of a Goddess
into Christian times. She was cannonized by the Catholic church as
St. Brigit and various origins are given to this saint. The most
popular folktale is that She was midwife to the Virgin Mary, and thus
was always inviked by women in labor. The more official story was
that She was a Druid's daughter who predicted the coming of
Christianity and then was baptised by St. Patrick. She became a nun
and later an abbess who founded the Abbey at Kildare. The Christian
Brigit was said to have had the power to appoint the bishops of her
area, a strange role for an abbess, made stranger by her requirement
that her bishops also be practicing goldsmiths.
Actually, the Goddess Brigit had always kept a shrine at Kildare,
Ireland, with a perpetual flame tended by nineteen virgin priestesses
called Daughters of the Flame. No male was ever allowed to come near
it; nor did those women ever consort with men. Even their food and
other supplies were brought to them by women of the nearby village.
When Catholicism took over in Ireland, the shrine became a convent
and the priestesses became nuns but the same traditions were held
and the eternal flame was kept burning. Their tradition was that
each day a different priestess/nun was in charge of the sacred fire
and on the 20th day of each cycle, teh fire was miraculously tended
by Brigit Herself. There into the 18th century, the ancient song
was sung to her : "Brigit, excellant woman, sudden flame, may the
bright fiery sun take us to the lasting kingdom."
For over a thousand years, the sacred flame was tended by nuns,
and no one knows how long before that it had been tended by the
priestesses. In 1220 CE, a Bishop became angered by the no-males
policy of the Abbey of St. Brigit of Kildare. He insisted that nuns
were subordinate to priests and therefore must open their abbey
and submit themselves to inspection by a priest. When they refused
and asked for another Abbess or other female official to perform
any inspections, the Bishop was incensed. He admonished them to
obediance and then decreed that teh keeping of the eternal flame
was a Pagan custom and 6rdered the sacred flame to be extinguished.
Even then, She remained the most poular Irish saint along with
Patrick. In the 1960's, under Vatican II modernization, it was
declared that there was insufficient proof of Brigit's sanctity
or even of her historical existance, and so teh Church's gradual
pogrom against Brigit was successful at last and She was thus
decanonized. It is very difficult to obtain images or even holy
cards of ST. Brigit outside of Ireland anymore.
Her festival is held on Febuary 1st or 2nd. It corresponds to
the ancient Celtic fire festival of Imbolc or Oimelc which
celebrated the birthing and freshening of sheep and goats (it really
is a Feast of Milk). This festival was Christianized as Candlemas
or Lady Day and Her Feast day, La Feill Bhride, was attended by
tremendous local celebration and elaborate rituals. Her festival
is also called Brigit. Brigit (the Goddess and the Festival)
represents the stirring of life again after the dead months of the
winter, and her special blessings are called forth at this time.
Since She was booted out of teh Church for being Pagan, it is
incumbant upon us Pagans to restore Her worship to its former glory
especially those of us of Celtic ancestory. Here is an ancient rite
to invite Brigit into your home at the time of her Holiday:
Clean your hearth thoroughly in teh morning and lay a fire
without kindling it, then make yourself a "Bed for Brigid" and
place it near the hearth. The bed can be a small basket with covers
and tiny pillow added as plain or fancy as you like. If you have no
hearth, you can use the stove and put the bed behind it. Then at
sundown light a candle rubbed with rosemary oil and invite Brigit
into your home and into er bed; use the candle to kindle your
hearthfire if possible. Make your own poem to invite Her or use
the ancient song mentioned earlier. Let the candle burn at least
all night in a safe place. You might even want to begin the custom
of keeping the eternal flame; it is a popular custom in some
magickal and Wiccan traditions. AFter all, it's up to us now to
keep the spirit of Brigit alive and well for the next thousand
years at least!!!
Brigid is not really a Celtic Mother Goddess. She is generally
considered a Goddess of fire/smithcraft, of poetry and of healing. One
of her roles is as midwife, but although she has a son, she is not
usually seen as a mother.
I don't know any books that deal specifically with Brighidh, but please
look for a book called "Celtic Mythology" by Proinsias MacCana and for
"Gods and Heroes of the Celts" by Marie Lousie Sjoestadt for more
information about Celtic deities. They are both VERY good sources.
Brighidh is a Goddess of healing, smithcraft and poetry, brewer of mead
and ale, a lawgiver, a midwife, supposedly daughter of the Daghda,
mother of the poet Cairbre, and of the Gods Brian, Iuchar and Iucharba.
She was transformed into a Christian Saint and became the foster mother
of Christ. Some sources say that the healer/smith/poet were embodied in
one Goddess, other sources claim that she was three sisters, all named
Her holy day falls (on our calendar) on February 2nd (I wonder if She
likes groundhogs...) called Imbolc, Oimelc or Lady Day. Candles are
blessed that day in the Catholic churches.
Re: Somethnig about Brighid:
Brigit/Brigid/Bride was the daughter of Dagda. She was the proctector of the
poets, the forge and the healing persons. Her son Ruadan, which she had with
Bres, was killed by Goibnui. For her died son she sounds the first kenning of
Eireland. She also was put into the cult and the person of Brigit from
Kildare, which made the first female parish after Christianity falls into
Eireland. The convent of Kildare has had a neverending fire, which was
protected by the sisters of the parish. The saint Brigit is the second patron
saint of Eireland. within the scottish tradition Brigit belongs together
with the time of the year "Season of the lambs" and the comming of spring.
Brigit overcomes the control of the Cailleach Bheur.
Next: Finer Points of Ritual (Mike Nichols)