Multifaceted Brigid

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…and Brigit, that was a woman of poetry, and poets worshipped her, for her sway was very great and very noble. And she was a woman of healing along with that, and a woman of smith’s work, and it was she first made the whistle for calling one to another through the night.—Lady Gregory, Gods and Fighting Men, 1904

The Tuatha dé Danann arrived in Ireland without their goddess-mother, Danu. Danu does not appear in the annals as a living presence. The role of feminine divine fell to her granddaughter, Brigid, who became so popular with the Irish that they would not convert to Christianity and leave her behind. All that Goddess Brigid had been, Saint Brighid (c. 451–525 CE) became.

Danann Brigid suffered through an unhappy, political marriage as well as the betrayal and death of her son. She was a healer, metalworker, inventor and warrior. She controlled fire. Goddess Brigid protected mothers and infants, inspired poets, and demonstrated her presence through both fire (Brigid’s Flame) and water (Brigid’s Well). Both well and flame are visible today, despite attempts by the Church and by Henry VIII to quench the flame.

…in 1220 AD, a Bishop disagreed with policy of non-admittance of men to the Abbey of Saint Brigid of Kildare. The Arch-bishop of Dublin, Henry of London, insisted that as nuns were subordinate to priests they must open the abbey to inspection by a priest. They refused and requested the inspections be carried out by a female official such as another Abbess. The Bishop was not impressed with this show of disobedience and decreed that the keeping of the eternal flame was a Pagan custom and consequently demanded that the sacred flame to be extinguished. The flame was thought to have been briefly extinguished but was quickly relit by the local people and the Eternal flame survived up to the suppression of the monasteries in the sixteenth century. It was at this time that King Henry VIII demanded the destruction of many monasteries and the Eternal flame was extinguished but never forgotten.–Clas Merdin blog

St. Brighid, true to her namesake, was no ordinary nun. Ordained as a bishop despite her gender, she founded monasteries, a school for art, and managed the eternal flame of Goddess Brigid (converted to a Christian symbol). Stories of the saint’s life echo the goddess’ actions: generosity, healing, care of mothers and children, inspiration of poets and artists, and metal working.

St. Brighid’s day, February 1st, is the festival called Candlemas or Lady Day. Brigid’s festival, Imbolc, is held on February 2nd. It celebrates the return of life after winter.

Sources:

Lady Augusta Gregory Gods and Fighting Men The story of the Tuatha de Danaan and of the Fianna of Ireland, arranged and put into English by Lady Gregory http://www.amazon.com/Fighting-Ireland-arranged-English-Gregory-ebook/dp/B006W12KRM/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1454102322&sr=1-1&keywords=Lady+gregory+gods

Clas Merdin blog http://clasmerdin.blogspot.com/2014/02/brigids-eternal-flame.html

Art: Joanna Powell Colbert  http://www.gaiansoul.com/shop/art-prints/print-brigid-at-the-forge/

 

 

 

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