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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Another World

Getting to Know You

I’ve always enjoyed the humor in scenes with strangers who pretend to be married. In this excerpt from SHINING ONES, Sam, an ordinary man, and Tessa, Danann shapeshifter, pose as a couple for the benefit of their powerful and potentially dangerous host.

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Excerpt–

Desmond assigned the bridal suite to Tessa and Sam. They looked at each other, neither willing to confess to lying about their bogus marital status. After Desmond left, Sam broke the silence. “So, which side of the bed do you want?”

“We’re not going to sleep together?” Tessa protested.

“Sorry.” Sam went to the bed’s left side, sprawled and moaned, “Oh God, it feels good to stretch out. I’ve been up hill and dale, and dodged a UFO that killed two people.” Sam shut his eyes and held them closed for a moment. “Next, I was sucked through a rock, took another hike, and played farrier to an 1800-pound horse who kept leaning on me to hold her up. I’m beat. Have to disappoint you.”

“What? I didn’t mean—” Tessa closed her mouth and shook her head. He’d gotten her, fair and square.

Her turn.

“You know, you should be afraid, very afraid,” she warned. “Can’t tell what I might turn into if I have a nightmare.”

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Tory Island–Balor’s Base

Scota gazed at rocky, treeless Tory Island, feeling a sense of homecoming as the launch made its way from the yacht Thoraígh to the island’s pier. Atop the fierce island cliffs, the great Balor’s fortress once stood. Her ancestors came back to the island after the defeat at Mag Tuired, vowing vengeance on Dananns forever. Scota would continue their mission.

—Excerpt from Shining Ones: Legacy of the Sidhe

For a beautiful view of the island and the story of Lugh’s birth, enjoy this video:

Tales of the Formorians, Tory Island

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5Ldq…

St Winefride’s Well, Holywell

Marvelous article! St. Winefride’s Well figures large in Shining Ones: Legacy of the Sidhe.

Well Hopper

It would not be possible to keep a blog on the holy wells of North Wales without reference to St Winefride’s Well at Holywell; however it would be difficult to say anything new about this site  without extensive original research. St Winefride’s is a fully described in numerous guidebooks and has been the subject of extensive more scholarly research. IIt shrine of national if not international importance, the only shrine in Britain to have survived the Reformation; and has, since late Victorian times provided the town with the epithet of “The Lourdes of Wales”.

Unlike the other wells I have described, this is very much an “exit through the gift shop” attraction. Strongly promoted on the tourist trail, it is the only well to charge an entrance fee, albeit a modest 80p, and to be a fully fledged “visitor attraction”. Saying this, however, it remains at the same time a place of pilgrimage, holds regular services…

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First Love: Cliodhna’s Passion for Ciabhan

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Legendary beauty Cliodhna is the patron of the O’Brien family and the source of the Blarney Stone’s mystical ability.

AND it was in the time of the Fianna of Ireland that Ciabhan [pronounced Kee-von] of the Curling Hair, the king of Ulster’s son, went to Manannan’s country.

Ciabhan now was the most beautiful of the young men of the world at that time, and he was as far beyond all other kings’ sons as the moon is beyond the stars. And Finn liked him well, but the rest of the Fianna got to be tired of him because there was not a woman of their women, wed or unwed, but gave him her love.  And Finn had to send him away at the last, for he was in dread of the men of the Fianna because of the greatness of their jealousy.

Now Gebann, that was a chief Druid in Manannan’s country, had a daughter, Cliodna [pronounced Kleev-na] of the Fair Hair, that had never given her love to any man. But when she saw Ciabhan she gave him her love, and she agreed to go away with him on the morrow.

And they went down to the landing-place and got into a curragh, and they went on till they came to Teite’s Strand in the southern part of Ireland… And as to Ciabhan, he came on shore, and went looking for deer, as was right, under the thick branches of the wood; and he left the young girl in the boat on the strand.

But the people of Manannan’s house came after them, having forty ships. And Iuchnu, that was in the curragh with Cliodna, did treachery, and he played music to her till she lay down in the boat and fell asleep. And then a great wave came up on the strand and swept her away.

And the wave got its name from Cliodna of the Fair Hair, that will be long remembered.

Text source: Lady Gregory – Gods and Fighting Men, 1904

Image: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/469781804852700068/

Another World

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Who were the Formorians?

In my novel, Shining Ones: Legacy of the Sidhe, Formorians are the bad guys. They’re used to this role: they’ve been the villains of Irish mythology for thousands of years.

Fierce, seafaring people from the North (most likely Scandinavians), they were pirates and warlords who demanded tribute of food and slaves. In the Irish annals, they’re monstrous and grotesque, with body parts in all the wrong places (lips on breasts, eyes on backs, mouths in stomachs). Scottish legends describe them as giants.

It’s easy to imagine warriors maimed from battle and literally dressed to kill presenting a terrifying appearance, but how to account for the strange abilities they had? Balor, the war leader, was said to have a lethal, burning eye so large it took four men to open his eyelid. Balor’s wife, Cethlinn, exuded deadly venom. Formorians were more than fierce fighters; they had supernatural skills, as well.

When the Tuatha dé Danann first encountered Formorians in Ireland, they turned back to their four cities in Danu’s Land (Denmark) to rethink their plan of colonizing the island. Some Dananns must have remained because a future Danann king, Bres, was the son of a Danann woman and a Formorian leader named Elatha.

Elatha contradicts the image of ugly, misshapen Formorians. Seen landing his boat, he was so appealing to the Danann woman Eriu, she was smitten on the spot. Their brief encounter resulted in pregnancy and a bit of remorse on her part. To console her, Elatha gave her his ring, telling her to send his son to him when the boy grew to manhood. Elatha would acknowledge their child as his heir.

Fate had other plans for half-Formorian Bres, called “the beautiful.” In need of a king after their first battle on the island, the Dananns elected Bres. He was also wed to Brigid, daughter of the Dagda, Danann patriarch. These strategic moves, the Dananns hoped, would keep peace with Formorians.

The alliance didn’t work. Bres turned out to be a stingy king, violating the code of hospitality so important to Bronze Age peoples. He was deposed. Going to Elatha, whom he expected to help him fight his way back to kingship, Bres learned his father valued honor. Elatha told Bres he’d been a bad king and didn’t deserve the job.

Bres turned to other Formorian leaders for support. They agreed to fight the Dananns, and chose the plane near Moytura, Co. Sligo, for battle. The scene was set for the Second Battle of Mag Tuired.

 

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Ireland’s Tuatha dé Danann: Myth or History?

If you were an Irish school child before World War II, you’d have learned your history began with the Mythological Cycle, accounts written by medieval monks based on oral tradition going back at least two millennia. Though these texts were considered factual until the 1940s, later historians regarded them as fabulous tales suitable only for fireside storytelling.

One of the texts, the Lebor Gabála Érenn (The Book of the Takings of Ireland, also known as The Book of Invasions) dates from the middle of the Twelfth Century (around 1150 C.E.). According to the LGE, five groups entered Ireland before the arrival of the “Milesians” (Celtic Gaels, ancestors of the modern Irish).

The first three groups died out or left the island, while the fourth, called Fir Bolgs, stayed to meet the fifth wave, the Tuatha dé Danann (Clan of Danu). Described as tall, fair haired and beautiful, Dananns possessed more than mortal abilities. Shapeshifting, great strength, resurrection of the dead, magical metalworking, and spellcasting were some of their more remarkable skills. Above all, they never grew old.

After battling the Fir Bolgs for territory, the Dananns settled into a peaceful life until fierce Nordic raiders called Formorians demanded tribute and slaves from them, as they had from earlier peoples. To pacify the Formorians, the Dananns elected Bres, a man with both Formorian and Danann parents, to be their king.

Their strategy failed when Bres proved to be a stingy, selfish king. After he was deposed, he went to the Formorians seeking allies to force the Dananns out of Ireland; instead, Dananns defeated Formorians at the Second Battle of Mag Tuired. Later, incoming Celts expelled the Dananns to an underground world. Now called People of the Hills (Daoine Sidhe) or simply, Sidhe, Dananns were said to return to Ireland at will throughout the centuries. In 1014, they joined mortals in the fighting Danes at the Battle of Contarf near Dublin according W.Y. Evans-Wentz in his book, The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries (1911).

Hard to believe?

Imagine if the Bible’s New Testament books were transmitted from elder to youth in the same way—seven hundred generations of retelling—before being set down in writing in the year 2000. How much would be lost? How much added? Would dubious scholars, disturbed by accounts of miracles, dismiss all as fantasy?

In my book, Shining Ones, I take the Tuatha dé Danann into the modern world. As one Danann descendant puts it,

Our history became legend, legend turned to fairytale until no believed we ever existed.

And that is just as we wish it to be.