Powerful New (and Old) On Line Classes!

Brigit, Classes, Goddess, Learning, Priestess

Did you know that Goddess Ink is an online class portal!!  Find all our classes at www.goddess-ink.com.

We have some wonderful instructors that we would love for you to meet!  Kathryn Ravenwood teaches a great Introduction to the Spiritual Directions course.  Sylvia Brallier has a powerful Energy Clearing Course  We also have several courses on the Goddess Brigit, Stepping into Brigit – Goddess Activation Course with Mael Brigde  and Discovering Brigit – Goddess and Saint with Mael Brigde

 

 

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Brighid, Keening and a Time of Crisis by Jude Lally

Brigit, Divine, Goddess, Imbolc, Loss and Grief

brighid-imbolc-altarImbolc

It is currently Imbolc, we are still in winter with snow often arriving in early March. Imbolc is a time when we can feel fragile and full of unease. Maybe part of that unease comes from a past down worry of ancestors knitted into our bones about food supplies running out and hungry mouths to feed. Maybe another part of that unease is that many who are ill can’t say yes to another year of living and choose instead to make their journey over into the next life.

In my tradition of experiencing the Wheel of the Year  is as a women’s psychology – other interpretations are still there – but as a woman I see the Wheel reflect all the phases in a women’s life. In my tradition we note our feelings at this time and no matter where we experience them throughout the year we refer to them as “Imbolcy”. With our current political climate and state of the world we might be travelling around the Wheel this year with Imbolcy feelings of unease and uncertainty.

Brighid comes back into the world at Imbolc, a holy day full of  rich traditions such as making Brighid’s wheels, making a bed for Brighid, laying out cloth and items for her to bless, making Brideog dolls and some make their vows and state their dedications for the year. Then there are those who, due to age or illness (and a thousand other reasons), cannot say yes to another year of living.

Imbolc Vows

In the days of keening, laments would be heard all year where people gathered to mourn loved ones. While many take their vows at this time of year and say yes to Brighid and yes to another year of living, there are those whose time isn’t to say yes as they have begun their journey onto the next world.

My grandmother was one of those who couldn’t say yes to another year of living at Imbolc and so took that journey with Brighid who birthed her into her next life. As with tradition, there was a wake with her body returned to the house in the coffin while neighbours came to visit. Keening was long gone by this time and the song for those days was the clinking of teacups on saucers and the rattling of rosary beads. I was a little taken aback when neighbours came over and lovingly touched her face and stroked her hair, for I had never seen a dead body before and my Grandmother looked different due to the makeup the Mortuary staff had used. The wake is an old tradition where the body is kept at home for three days after death – so that the person can adjust to being dead and know it’s time for them to leave this realm of the living and move on to what awaits them.

What is Keening

Anne Schilling who has studied keening for many years defines keening the verb, ‘to keen’, as the act of wailing and lamenting and yet it can also be described as a noun ‘the keen’, meaning the text or the song used when lamenting. Traditional keening is a ritualistic practice of vocally mourning the dead. While there are schools of thought exploring both theories, (Schilling, 2013) suggests that both are correct due to the evolution and the variations of keening over the years.

I’d love to play you some keening tracks to illustrate what keening is but none exist, plus keening is traditionally done in the presence of a dead body. By the time we had tools to record, Keening was already seen as a backwards Pagan tradition and, women couldn’t be persuaded to give an example of a keening song, as to do it outside of it’s proper ritual before a body laid out was a great superstition (McCoy 2009).

The keen itself drew upon traditional motifs, themes and vocalisations with a characteristic falling inflection of the voice with a three part structure comprised of a salutation, verse and then the cry. Some of those inflections you would recognise from modern singers such as Sinéad O’Connor or Dolores O’Riordan. Yet the keening couldn’t break out too early or the ‘devil’s dogs’ were alerted and the soul could lose it’s way (McCoy 2009).

Keening was always a woman’s tradition and the role of keening, like today’s funeral, was to take our grief through ritual and a rite of passage of sorts allowing us to go on with our lives even though we still held our personal grief.

The roots of keening lie within the Pagan tradition and the purpose of the keen is as (Collins 2014) explains to traversing the parallel worlds of this world and the next and as the keener used her voice guided the dead person’s soul from this world to that of the spirits and so the sound of the keen connects this world and the next.  It is the very essence of a female shamanic tradition which Collins explains: “It is possible to suggest that keening women entered  state of liminality through use of what ordinarily would be publicly unacceptable words, sounds – such as howling, screeching and wailing – appearance and dramatic actions, occupying a peripheral position, a state of betwixt and between, inhabiting both this world and the next. This was very different to women’s regular behaviour presented in public which did not allow women the opportunity to behave, dress, act out or publically criticize their world. Bean chaointe* gave the impression of being out of this world, and through inclusion of the congregation during the third part of the keen, constructed a space in which change would happen. Between worlds, outside of custom, convention or the law, and neither of this world nor the next, the bean chaointe, bringing the community from actions of their keen were the means through which transformation occured, bringing the community from a state of intense grief and disharmony to a post-liminal state, a place of acceptance and stability.” (Collins 2014, pg. 3)

*Bean chaointe – keening woman

Brighid

It is the Goddess Brighid who brought keening to the world. In the Battle of Moytura, Brighid appears as the wife of Bres of the Formarians, the mythical Irish invaders and enemies of the people of the Goddess Danu. The position Brighid plays as married to a Formarian see’s her acting as an intermediary between the two opposing sides who are fighting for control over Ireland. Her son, Ruadan, was given help by the people of the Goddess Danu, his maternal kin, who taught him how to make weapons. Yet he acts on behalf of his paternal side, the Formarians and wounds the sacred Smith (blacksmith) of the People of the Goddess Danu. He only wounds the smith who has enough strength left to retaliate and kills Ruadan. Brighid then begins to mourn her son and it is said that through her grief was the first time crying or wailing were ever heard in Ireland (Condren 1989, pg. 61).

The Disappearance of Keening

In the mid-nineteenth century, in post famine Ireland and with the emergence of a new middle class, keening became an embarrassment in a society that was modelling itself on Victorian values and beliefs. The Catholic Church viewed keening as barbaric and uncivilised and went out of their way to banish the practise. They viewed the keening woman as taking on the role of the priest and viewed it as a Pagan practise as it contained no reference to Christ and the Christian afterlife (Collins 2014).

As a woman, artist and priestess, my mind paints a picture of the woman keener as stepping into the role of the death priestess, a tradition of Brighid as the midwife of birth and death, accompanying the soul onto the otherworld. For me, this is a tradition which taps into the lineage of my foremothers, a shamanic tradition of women’s mysteries which can be traced going back to the Paleolithic.

The American Wake

An Irish storyteller describes that when people left for America they were grieved for, a term called “cumha” which he describes as a grieving for the living (Porter, 2013). For those taking that journey out of desperation, choice or by force of law, it’s not hard to imagine the grief for those leaving didn’t even know that they would survive the journey, they didn’t know if they would ever be able to return and i they did return it is highly likely that many friends and their parents would be dead.

My Own Keening

I have lived in the Appalachians for seven years. I return home as much as I can and regularly keep in touch with family. Social media has allowed me to keep in touch with family I wouldn’t normally be able to have conversations with. I often think of the ancestors of the people in this area and can feel that sadness that they must have lived the rest of their life with – not getting back home to familiar land. As much as I get to go home and, plan to move back at some point, sometimes a particular cold temperature or a strong enough wind suddenly transports me home and I’m surprised not to see a wide mountain view when I open my eyes. The positioning of a hill on the horizon here in Western North Carolina see’s my mind superimposing a familiar scene from home on top of that scene. While it’s not something I talk about I wonder if others longing for home did the same thing?

Maybe part of this superimposing of familiar places isn’t just your own longing for home but in the words of John O’Donohoe:  “Perhaps your place loves having you there. It misses you when you are away and in its secret way rejoices when you return. Could it be possible that a landscape might have a deep friendship with you? That it could sense your presence and feel the care you extend towards it? Perhaps your favorite place feels proud of you.” (O’Donohoe 2003, pg.24).

I find that song and these rituals of missing a place a keening of sorts, there is no death but a constant melody of grief or longing. It is an emotion that can always be heard within the melodies of much Celtic music.  I hear the same longing between the words of stories, from women who attend workshops and yearn for a time they’ve never lived and a place they’ve never visited.

Keening Ceremonies Today

In her study of keening, Michelle Collins attended several modern keening events. She notes that the contemporary keen is now found outside of the traditional funeral setting. Keening ceremonies are infrequent events where groups come together and keen. At such ceremonies, participants are not keening any one individual’s death as each person keens their own personal grief.

My Keening Invitation

While I have always been interested in keening since an Irish cousin told me there were keening women in the family, it has only become real since a friend – who has described her death as ‘a body which is deathing and a soul ready to be born into her new role in the next world’ – invited me to facilitate a keening ceremony at her wake. As she works through the last things she wishes to do in this world, she is breaking apart our society’s taboo about dying! We have sung together with our tribe, explored communicating from the otherside, explored ancient Old Europe rituals of death and made Goddess figurines in the pottery studio. She has talked to children about her process of dying, painted murals and held our hands in this process.

Keening in a Time of Crisis

Brighid created keening and we live in an age which desperately needs to engage with our grief. We are on a threshold between what is and the new world which we are creating. That new world is being built by millions of grassroots programs which are already flourishing. Keening is still a healthy ritual to mourn our dead and, mourn all our personal griefs and, it can invite us to move through our grief and allow us to put our full focus on the work we do now. It can be the catalyst to move us out of a shocked and stunned apathy.

It was the Wise Woman throughout countless generations who was called in a time of crisis. Today we find ourselves in the middle of a crisis which can affect every living system on the planet. Both the Wise Woman and keening come out of an ancient female tradition that is much needed in today’s world.

Right now on this planet women all over the world are holding a collective grief for what is happening. As a woman I can only reflect on my own personal experience through the unique ways women relate to the world. Brighid gave us keening and I use keening as a way for groups of women to unleash, to vocalise and to embody their grief with purpose. The purpose is not to stay with the grief, but to move beyond it into asking for wisdom in what needs to be done and stating what each individual commits to doing. Joanna Macy (Macy and Brown 2014) offers a powerful example within her program of “The Work that Reconnects”. All of this work invites us to dig down to the roots and be nourished by an ancient spirituality, which has fed countless generations of women and holds the torch for remembering we did once live in balance and partnership with each other and honored life in all forms and the mother of all.

Resources

Collins, Michelle. 2014. ‘Divine Madness’ and Collective Grief: Ritualized Sounds and the Potential for Transformation.

(Accessed online: http://www.inter-disciplinary.net/probing-the-boundaries/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/collinstsb4paper.pdf)

Condren, M. 1989. The Serpent and the Goddess. Women, Religion, and Power in Celtic Ireland. Harper and Row, USA.

McCoy, Narelle, Phyllis. 2009. Madwoman, Banshee, Shaman: Gender, changing performance contexts and the Irish wake ritual. Contained in: Mackinlay, E. and Bartleet, B. and Barney, K, (Eds), Musical Islands, Place and Research. Cambridge Scholars Press, UK. Pgs. 207-220.

Macy, J. and Brown, M. 2014. Coming Back to Life. New Society Publishers, Canada.

O’Donohoe, John. 2003. Divine Beauty: the Invisible Embrace. Bantam Books, London.

Porter, G. 2013. Grief for the Living: Appropriating the Irish lament for songs of emigration and exile. Humanities Research. Vol XIV. No. 2. Pgs. 15-25.

Schilling, Anne. The Search for Irish Keening in the 21st Century. Voice and Speech Review. Pgs 148-154. (Published online 2013 – accessed 02/01/2017: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/23268263.2011.10739534?journalCode=rvsr20).

 Join Jude on her Ancient Mothers of Scotland Retreat which will explore keening in feeling our rage and grief for all that is happening in the world within the balanced framework of Joanna Macy’s Work that Reconnects. Full details at www.judelally.com

Jude Lally is an artist, writer and ritualist. Her work focuses on the wise women ways, of women’s mysteries and employing shamanic tools to heal the damaging split modernity has created between nature and ourselves which only exists in our mind.

Originally from Scotland Jude is currently residing in Asheville, NC where she runs her Celtic Soul School as well as offering a series of workshops, online courses and retreats to Scotland. For online courses, workshops and to activate your free membership in her Celtic Soul School visit http://www.celticsoulcraft.com or find her on Facebook. Additionally, Jude teaches Weaving the Protection of Brighid- A Goddess Activation Course .

Goddess Ink is your source for inspiration for the Divine Feminine. Find books, classes and sacred tours to feed your soul.  For more information and to follow Goddess Ink Blog visit www.goddess-ink.com  or visit us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/goddessinkbooks/.  Also, please sign up for the Goddess Ink Newsletter for a monthly dose of inspiration.

Photo credit:  Jude Lally

 

The Great Bear Mother: A Journey with Brigit to the Ancient Dawn of Imbolc by Jude Lally

Brigit, Classes, Divine, Goddess, Imbolc, Story

 

Celebrating Brigit!

My sense of Brigit has always been timeless, her roots stretching back past saint and Celtic goddess. This idea began to take form when I encountered the work of Irish scholar Séamus Ó Catháin, suggesting that Brigit was the great bear mother, venerated in early bear cults. Alongside this interest lay a question: “Does the source of the new consciousness required by our modern world lay in an ancient spirituality?” This journey took me to the earliest Imbolc, to the bear emerging from hibernation: a symbol of renewal, sacrifice, and ritual. Coded themes within myth revealed a very different Imbolc from the one of the Celts—familiar motifs representing something hidden, taboo, whose roots stretch back to a far older time.

The theme of regeneration emerges throughout, and employing Joanna Macy’s work in examining our modern sense of self expands who we are when we consider our ecological self. Brigit reminds us of our creativity, our ability to remember, revision, and reclaim, as if she herself morphs and changes to meet our needs.

In his seminal book, The Festival of Brigid: Celtic Goddess and Holy Woman, Ó Catháin suggests that the folklore associated with Brighid shows a continuous link stretching back to shamanic practice 4,000 years ago to early bear cults. The stories he searched within Nordic, Celtic, and Germanic folklore hold the same knowledge, which exists within the layers of our unconscious as ancient folk memory. The bear wasn’t just a biological entity to our ancestors; Shephard, Sanders, and Snyder contend that she represented both the physical and magical qualities early bear worshipers observed. She was a wise teacher, a loving mother who was fiercely protective of her young. Each fall, ancient peoples observed the bear going into hibernation, and in the heart of winter she would have appeared dead, her heartbeat slow and her breathing barely noticeable. To observe the same bear coming back from the dead would suggest magical powers, that she was a communicator with the otherworld.

Emerging from the dead, bearing new life in the form of cubs, she also emerged bearing life to the land itself. She breathed life into the dead of winter, which lost its grip as the stirrings of spring radiated throughout the soil. All of these qualities fed our ancestors’ spiritual beliefs, creating myths, ritual, and practices to live by, which also marked the great cycle of the seasons.

Marija Gimbutas, in her archaeological work, unearthed what may be evidence of bear cults in the form of figurines, possibly representing the bear as birth goddess. Small figurines from Eastern Europe 5,000 BCE have been discovered and called “bear nurses,” which depict human figures wearing bear masks. Similarly, we find “bear madonna” figures dating from 6,000 BCE that depict human female figurines wearing a bear mask while holding a bear cub. The existence of such ancient figures shows the importance and variation of the image.  The idea of the bear cult, however, has flourished in popular culture, quite possibly owing its success to evoking our ancient memory.

Gimbutas offers linguistic evidence to illustrate the connection of the bear with birth. The Proto Indo-European root bhere refers both to the bear and also to the ability to give birth. This is reflected in the Germanic beran (to bear children or to carry) and the Germanic barnam (child), as well as being present in the Old Norse burdh (birth.)

Circumpolar societies associate the bear with supernatural qualities, although this similarity of beliefs is not related to a common ancestral belief system, but one that each culture developed separately due to revering the bear above all other creatures. From ancient Siberia, Shepard et al illustrate a practice of sacrificing a male bear, which was seen as essential in maintaining the order of the shamanic worlds. Within early myths, Ó Catháin notes the symbolism of shamans using the psychedelic mushroom Amanita muscaria (fly agaric, which he color codes as“white speckled”), linking its use to rituals undertaken at Imbolc. McIntosh speculates that Imbolc could have been an ancient magic mushroom festival celebrating the essence of spring with the new life as it dawns, radiating out across face of the northern hemisphere.

  1. muscaria use was likely at this cycle of the year to facilitate communication with the otherworld, ensuring the return of spring to the land and the survival of life. Laurie and White highlight one reason why the role of psychoactive mushrooms in Celtic mythology has been overlooked: with the demise of the old growth forests in Ireland, A. muscaria is rare in the Ireland of today. While it is likely that it grew in such forests, dried A.  muscaria could have been easily obtained from the filidh’s (poet-seer’s) Celtic neighbors.

While A. muscaria use is documented in numerous cultures throughout Europe and Asia, there are only obscure references to it within Celtic culture. Celtic legends are full of sleep-inducing berries and apples as well as magical hazelnuts and salmon. These were selected by the filidh as magical foods, yet there is nothing psychotropic about the foods that would allow them to produce inspiring and prophetic visions. The Roman historian Laertius recorded that Celtic Druids and bards spoke in “riddles and dark sayings,” and it seems many taboo subjects were referenced in obscure and coded ways. Motifs of such magical foods could be explained as being metaphoric references to A. muscaria, as it is probable that direct referencing was taboo due to its sacred qualities, argue Laurie and White.

Inspiration and divination was fundamental to the filidh, and Brigit, as patron of poets, would have been invoked in rituals undertaken to inspire ecstatic poetry and induce prophetic visions. Brigit was a fire goddess, and instances throughout her life associated with pillars of flames around her head could have been an ancient coding for A. muscaria, which produces a pronounced heating of the head.

While possible A. muscaria references were coded, so too were Brigit’s associations with speckled cow and snake, both having otherworldly origins. Her association with the snake is well known, and Scottish and Irish folk references refer to A.  muscaria as the speckled snake. There is a possible link to Saint Patrick who, in banning certain pagan rituals as well as banishing snakes from Ireland, was actually attempting to wipe out an A. muscari cult, claim Laurie and White.

Later agricultural communities celebrated Imbolc as a time when Brigit brought the new life to the land; with milk being so important to the Celtic diet, the celebration also anticipated the lactation of the pregnant ewes. Ó Catháin notes that, when anyone complained of the depleted winter’s store, they were met by reassurances that, ‘‘it won’t be scarce very long now as Saint Bridget and her white cow will be coming ‘round soon.”

With the loss of such rich mythology, our sense of self has undergone a shrinking; once capable of shape-shifting, that self is now reduced to a mere shadow. Statistics abound with graphs showing sharp rises in the use of antidepressants alongside our insatiable hunger for consumerism. This, in part, explains our reaction to an unconscious feeling of loss, partly due to the urgency of the overwhelming array of issues vying for our attention.

The root of this great change lies in the destruction of tribal Europe and the worship of the great goddess, where our sense of self was drawn from each other, our non-human family, and the land. Salomonsen explains that these early matrifocal and matrilineal cultures, which laid down the foundation for our civilization, were eventually conquered by worshipers of a male warrior god, which lay the foundation for patriarchal and oppressive societies in Europe. The overthrow of the goddess by a male god, whose reign is removed from the earth, brought about an epic change in thought, which is still in place and dominates cultural thinking that places women, animals, and the earth as second-class citizens. As we adapted to this new myth, our notion of self changed. The founding principle of the myth of progress is self-destruction. It views our race as apart and separate from nature, concerned only with economic growth and material accumulation.

In Celtic culture, it was the role of the bard, devoted to Brigit, who kept the myths—the stories of the people—alive. McIntosh explains that this poetic power was eroded away by repressive laws such as the 1609 Statutes of Iona in the Highlands of Scotland, which suppressed Gaelic culture. Clan chiefs were required to send their eldest son or daughter south to learn English. Bards were outlawed and chiefs were no longer allowed to entertain them, with the threat of being punished or banished.

Similar laws were replicated throughout the ancient Celtic world, repressing the bard’s role in maintaining cultural and ecological awareness, and were replaced by the power of money and the adoption of values of commerce. The crisis currently unfolding on our planet is a spiritual one whose roots stem from a dysfunctional and pathological notion of the self. Could the loss of the bear, in Scotland and Ireland—the loss of ancient forests, of habitat, of indigenous belief—be the reason for the shrinking of our notion of self? With each loss, we are losing aspects of ourselves.

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Joanna Macy’s work centers around accepting the pain we feel in facing the overwhelming issues in our current world, before it develops into grief and denial, so we are able to turn our feelings into effective action. In defining ourselves, we naturally adopt different notions of self to meet different needs. While we are free to select our boundaries—whether they end at our skin, our family, our tribe, our non-human family, the mountains, the oceans, the planet, ancient goddesses and gods, or they extend to the very universe—Macy envisions that a return to this ecological self will bring us into kinship with other forms of life, and ultimately bring us new reserves of strength.

Reconnecting is one route to wholeness, to reassembling our missing parts. The method employed does not lie outside; instead, it is a journey inwards, deep into our bones, our blood, our cells, our DNA, where remnants of ancient memory have been passed down through the generations. This was my journey in rediscovering Brigit, resonating with her as bear mother. Myths are the language of the soul, and the essence of a myth only comes alive when it resonates in the soul of the recipient. Just because the bear no longer roams in the Celtic lands of Scotland and Ireland, this does not mean that the same psychological needs that brought about the veneration of the bear are no longer relevant.

As Brigit regenerated the land, her regenerated spirit becomes meaningful again. She offers us the inspiration to envision a future which values our nonhuman relatives and the earth in our natural relationship of interconnection. Rather than accepting a future borne out of fear and helplessness featured in films that feed us horrors of ecological destruction, we must join in creating an empowering vision in which technology serves us in renewable ways, and empowers us to create sustainable futures right now. Brigit spans the existence of humankind, offering the deep well of wisdom to those who seek her. In rediscovering her symbols, hidden in layers of myth and accumulated in tales told over the years, her symbols, which might at first seem obscure, produce a powerful picture once they are reassembled.

Brigit is the great mother bear who returns the energy to the land after winter. As she regenerates the land, her regenerated spirit becomes meaningful again. She is the great mother who midwives our continual rebirth, her flame the transforming fire that burns within us. She is the fire of inspiration that the Druid filidh invoked, the fire that ignites our heads to dream new dreams, burns in our heart as compassion, and warms our hands in the work we carry out.

References

Condren, M. T. 2002. “Brigid: Soulsmith in the New Millennium.” Irish Journal of Feminist Studies 4 (2): 34–39. Cork, Ireland: University Press.

Gimbutas, M. 2001. The Language of the Goddess. London: Thames & Hudson.

Laurie, E. R., and T. White. 1997. “Speckled Snake, Brother of Birch: Amanita Muscaria Motifs in Celtic Legends.” Shaman’s Drum 44.

McIntosh, A. 1998. “Deep Ecology and the Last Wolf.” United Nations Biodiversity Proceedings: Cultural and Spiritual Values of Biodiversity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Macy, Joanna. 2007. World as Lover, World as Self: Courage for Global Justice and Ecological Renewal. Berkeley, CA: Parallex Press.

Ó Cathain, Seamus. 1995. The Festival of Brigid: Celtic Goddess and Holy Woman. Ireland: DBA Publications.

Shepard, Paul, Barry Sanders, and Gary Snyder. 1992. The Sacred Paw: The Bear in Nature, Myth and Literature. New York: Viking Press.

Jude is an artist, writer and ritualist. Her work focuses on the wise women ways, of women’s mysteries and employing shamanic tools to heal the damaging split modernity has created between nature and ourselves which only exists in our mind.

She describes her work as walking the Ancestral Soul Path weaving through women’s circles, ritual and ceremony she builds ways to approach our ancestors with sacred intention and lets those insights and inspiration flow through us in creative ways allowing it to nourish us and fostering it to root it in our lives, our circles and communities.

Originally from Scotland Juse is currently residing in Asheville NC where she runs her Celtic Soul School as well as offering a series of workshops, online courses and retreats to Scotland.

For online courses, workshops and to activate your free membership in her Celtic Soul School visit http://www.celticsoulcraft.com or find her on Facebook.  For details of her Ancestral Mothers of Scotland Retreat visit www.judelally.com.  Additionally, Jude teaches Weaving the Protection of Brighid- A Goddess Activation Course .

Editor’s note:  This essay originally appeared in Brigit, Sun of Womanhood, edited by Michael McDermott and Patricia Monahan, published by Goddess Ink.

Bear Photo Credit: Jessica Weiller at www.unsplash.com
Brighid Imbolc Altar: Jude Lally
Other Photos Credit:  Shutterstock

What the Goddess Brigit Means for Women and Men Today by Mael Brigde

Brigit, Compassion, Divine, Goddess, Priestess, ritual

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Why has the Goddess Brigit become so popular, and with so many different kinds of people?

Apart from a lull in her popularity in the last century*, Brigit has always been beloved, especially among the Irish and Scots—and where they have migrated churches bearing the name “Saint Brigit’s” or “Saint Bride’s” have popped up with great regularity. So many Irish girls were baptized with her name that its diminutive—Biddy—came to apply to Irish women generally (not in the most flattering way, at all times, but that’s another story), just as their men became known as Paddies, after Saint Patrick.

Brigit’s fortune seems ever on the rise. Her appeal has spilled out beyond the pews and holy wells. Irish social justice and peace activists have adopted her**,  feminists, Celtic revivalists, and environmental activists look to her for inspiration, scholars are penning tomes and journal articles about her, Orthodox iconographers are painting her, Wiccan priestesses are making room for her on their altars and in their rituals, and Celtic Reconstructionist NeoPagans are exploring her literature and myth and offering their insights to the world. Indeed, interfaith orders like the Daughters of the Flame are dedicated solely to devotion to Brigit.

Why???

The diversity of Brigit’s traditions and lore are part of the explanation. In the fleeting mentions of the goddess, wisdom, poetry, healing, smithcraft, motherhood, grief, lamentation and other vocal expressions are touched on. These alone encompass vast portions of life, and their symbolism may be applied to much more again. The stories of the saint range from those of female independence to miraculous abundance, peacemaking, and generosity—and so on and on. Coming from a background of bondage, as reported in her later Lives, her understanding of and tolerance for oppression speak to those who themselves have experienced or witnessed oppression.

Brigit has both antiquity and modern cultus on her side. Goddess and saint, fire and water, bird and fish, wild and cultivated life are all a part of her tapestry. She frees captives and listens to the mad and the lost. If once her flame was kept only by women, today it is tended by men as well; the LGBTQ communities find sympathy with her in her gender-challenging life choices and her friendship with a nun named Darlughdacha; Catholics cherish her commitment to the protection and guidance of her people; pro-choice activists point to the story of St Brigit causing a foetus to disappear *** as for support for their stance.

Brigit is not all things to all people—she is distinctly and utterly herself (her selves?)—but she offers immense scope to those who seek her out.

To learn more about Brigit, please explore Mael Brigde’s Courses on Mystery School of the Goddes

* A recent article in Irish Central reminds us of this, saying, “St. Brigid is the female equivalent of St. Patrick in Ireland, but there are no parades in her honor, and apart from the St. Brigid’s Cross, her name is hardly known…Growing up in Ireland we were all told about St.Brigid’s cross made of rushes which became in many ways a national symbol, used by RTÉ, the national broadcasting company, for one. But we learned little about Brigid herself.” From “Why Irish women should follow St. Brigid, not just St. Patrick”, Niall O’Dowd.

** From the website of Action From Ireland (AFRI): “Féile Bride happens annually in Kildare around the start of Spring in February. The first Féile Bríde was organized in 1993. It is a time for celebration and reflection in spirit of Brigid’s message of justice, peace and hope which remains as vibrant and as relevant today as it was more than a thousand years ago.” http://www.afri.ie/key-events/

*** Cogitosus  wrote, “Brigid, exercising the most potent strength of her ineffable faith, blessed her, causing the foetus to disappear, without coming to birth, and without pain”.  Another might point to the next line, “She faithfully returned the woman to health and to penance” as less than complete support for the issue.


Sources:

Action From Ireland (AFRI). http://www.afri.ie/key-events/

Liam de Paor, translation and commentaries. “Cogitosus’s Life of St Brigid the Virgin”, Saint Patrick’s World: The Christian Culture  of Ireland’s Apostolic Age (1993) pg 211.

O’Dowd, Niall. “Why Irish women should follow St. Brigid, not just St. Patrick”, Irish Central. @niallodowdFebruary 01,2016 01:00 AM. http://www.irishcentral.com/roots/irish-women-should-follow-st-brigid-not-just-st-patrick-189219961-237561981.html

Mael Brigde is a Priestess of the Goddess Brigit and a Writer. She is the Founder of the first interfaith Brigidine flame-tending group, the Daughters of the Flame.

Mael Brigde on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mael.brigde

Daughters of the Flame (flame-keeping group): http://www.obsidianmagazine.com/DaughtersoftheFlame/index.htm

Brigit’s Sparkling Flame (general Brigit blog): http://brigitssparklingflame.blogspot.ca/

Stone on the Belly (Brigit poetry blog): http://stonebelly.blogspot.ca/

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