Brigit is the poet’s goddess, just as her sister, also named Brigit, is the goddess of healers, and their sister, Brigit, the goddess of smiths.
In this month, which began with the festival of Imbolc, we are blessed to put our attention on the many gifts that Brigit brings. Let us look now at the poet.
To the ancient Irish, the poet was not only a crafter of words. Wisdom and inspiration—imbas—arose, with the blessing of the gods, through hard work over many years; these were the pinnacle the poet aspired to. Though the poet held the genealogy of the people, all their history and every story, and knew the reason for every feature of the land, he or she could also create, and through these creations bless or curse the object of their words.
The hazel, in Ireland, is the fruit of wisdom, and it falls into the stream to be eaten by the salmon, who is eaten by the poet, and thus the wisdom of the fruit enters the poet—with great good luck.
Pray to Brigit at her pool. Study hard the lore and wisdom of land and people. Dedicate your heart and let inspiration rise.
In the following poem I imagine Brigit at her sacred spring. Though nothing in the literature directly links her to the salmon of wisdom, her connection to springs and wisdom and poetry seemed reason enough to me to set her here.
Beannachta Bhríde Ort. Blessings of Brigit Upon You.
brown hazels ring
the leaf-laced waters
nine sweet cracking maidens
elbow to elbow grow
branch twined in sisterly branch
around the sacred spring
Brigit bestower of wisdom
into glint-back salmons’
they who would be transformed
they who seek the second sight
they whose hearts yearn for sober
enlightenment of truth
toil for lifetimes in their poetic quest
in hope of one brief taste
of the salmon’s nut-fed flesh
come the black of night-time
through the smoke-dense thatch
of the poet’s darkened hut
touches the brewing cauldron
foments the brewing cauldron
of the dreamer’s sleeping thoughts
pours in the stream
of sweet dark bounty
from the fairest of the trees
from the salmon’s
hears the poet’s gasp of insight
© Casey June Wolf
Sanas Cormaic (9th century): “Brigid, that is to say, a poetess, daughter of the Dagda. It is that Brigid who is the goddess of poetry and the wisdom contained therein, that is, the goddess whom the poets used to follow. Her craft was magnificent & splendid. Therefore they called her the goddess of poets, whose sisters were Brigid, the goddess of medicine, & Brigid, goddess of metalwork, daughter of the Dagda; the goddess Brigid was called by these names by almost all of the Irish.”
Translated by Antone Minard.
“Coll, the hazel, is one of the premier symbols of wisdom in Irish and Scottish traditions. References to it abound throughout the lore, and the literature regarding poets. Nine hazel trees are found surrounding the Well of Wisdom in the Otherworld realms, and its nuts fall into the well to be eaten by the salmon that dwell there, each nut eaten adding a spot to their sides. The salmon themselves are the carriers of wisdom and in many tales a Fili or Draoí might spend years or a lifetime waiting for the opportunity to consume the salmon and gain enlightenment and poetic ability from this profound source.”
From Ogam:Weaving Word Wisdom by Erynn Rowan Laurie (2007) pg 89.
Mael Brigde is the founder of the Daughters of the Flame, an inter-faith, all woman flame-keeping group which lit its first candle to Brigit on Imbolc 1993—the same day, she learned much later, that the Irish Brigidine sisters relit her perpetual fire in Kildare. She maintains the blog Brigit’s Sparkling Flame, which points readers to Brigit-related websites, books, CDs, and so on, as well as offering reviews and original materials. Feel free to contact her with suggestions for future postings.
She is currently working on an ever-expanding book of poems and prayers to Brigit. Some of her poems, and those by other lovers of Brigit, can be found at Stone on the Belly. Mael Brigde lives in Vancouver, Canada.
Daughters of the Flame (flamekeepers): http://www.obsidianmagazine.com/DaughtersoftheFlame/index.htm
Brigit’s Sparkling Flame (general Brigit blog):http://brigitssparklingflame.blogspot.com/
Stone on the Belly (Brigit poetry blog):http://stonebelly.blogspot.ca