Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Brigit, Brighid or Bride

She was and has been considered one of the main Celtic goddesses. She is mostly known to be the Goddess of fire.
     She is known as Bride in Scotland, and Brigantia in the British Isles. Her Roman counterpart is the Goddess Minerva and in Greece is was Athena.
     Brigit was the daughter of Dagda and one of the Tuatha De Danann. Bres of the Formorians was considered her husband. Her sons was Brian, Iuchar and Iucharba (Gods of Poetry) by Turenn who was a consort to Brigit. She also had a son, Ruadan who was slain while fighting for the Formorians. She had two oxen, named Fe and Men. They grazed on a plain that was named after them, Femen. She also possessed Torc Triath, the king of boars and Cirb, king of sheep.  Her family also included some half brothers named; Aengus Mac Og, Cermat Corm and Midhir.
     In Ireland she was called Breo-Saighit, the Flame of Ireland and also a Goddess of the Forge. When she was born at sunrise, it was said that a tower of flame shot up and reached from the top of her head to the sky/heavens above. It made the whole household as if it was on fire.
     Some consider Brigit to be of the Triple Goddess aspect and believe there are three Brigits. One is in charge of poetry and the inspiration that invented the Ogham. Another in charge of healing matters and midwifery. The third in charge of the hearth fire, smithies, forges and other crafts. So one could see that the Goddess Brighid ( another name for her ) was considered a goddess of many things. She was also perceived as a Goddess to things that were to be of high dimensions such as: high-rising flames, the highlands, hill-forts, upland areas, wisdom, excellence, high intelligence, poetic eloquence, craftsmanship, blacksmithing, healing abilities and druid knowledge. She was also seen as a warrior goddess whom favored the use of the spear and arrow.
     Not only was she a Goddess of the flame or fire, but also of water. There are a countless number of wells and springs throughout Europe that are dedicated in her honor, where she is honored as a Goddess of herbalism, healing and midwifery.
     The festival that's held in her honor is held on February 1st or 2nd and corresponds to Imbolc or Oimelc which celebrates the birthing and 'freshening' of the sheep and goats. It's a Milk Festival. The time when the little lambs are born and the promise of life continuing on after the the harsh times of winter. It was later Christianized, of course, as Candlemas or Lady Day.
     The household fire or fire of the hearth was considered sacred to the Goddess Brigit.  Each evening the woman of a household would 'smoor' the fire which means cover it over to keep the fire over night. They would ask for the protection of Brigit on the household and all it's occupants.
     As I said before in Scotland she is called Bride. There are rites that has been preserved to this day in the Outer Herbrides off the Scottish coast in her honor. The women would gather at La' Fheill Brighad and make an image of the Goddess as a maiden. Then they would/will dress her in white and place a crystal over her heart and lay her in a cradle-like basket. Then Bride is invited into the house by the female head of the household with sacred songs and chanting.
     In traditions and stories, the Goddess Brigit had kept a shrine at Kildare, Ireland, where a perpetual flame was tended by 19 virgin priestesses who was called the Daughters of the Flame. No men or males were allowed to come near it or visit the shrine. The women never consorted with the male population. Their food and supplies were brought to them by the women of the local village. Traditions held at the shrine of Kildare was that each day a different priestess was in charge of the Sacred Fire, but on the 20th day of each cycle the fire was tended by Brigit herself.
     Of course we see again as we have seen through-out of ancestors history, the Catholics or Christians had to get their hands on to a good thing because they were having problems converting the pagan populations into Christians, so they did what they were good at.... stealing.
     Brigit was canonized by the Catholic Church into St. Brigit. They started spreading legends and traditions that she was the midwife of the Virgin Mary. Another Christian story states that she was the daughter of a Druid named Dubhthact and they lived on the island of Iona, which is off the coast of Scotland and then moved to Ireland. Brigit or Brighid predicted the coming of Christianity. Now I must say here that there maybe some truth to this story. Anyway the story continues to say that she was baptized by St. Patrick, of course, and then she became a nun and later an abbess who founded the Abbey at Kildare.
     Another Christian version of St. Brigid ( another form of her name) was she was born at Faughart in County Louth. Her father was a pagan chieftain and her mother, Brocca, a Pictish christian. Her father named her after the goddess of fire from his religion which was Brigid or Brigit. In 468, she was converted to Christianity because she was a big fan and follower of the preachings of St. Patrick. She wanted to join a convent and pursue her convictions, but her father refused her so he kept her home.
     Brigit became very well known for her kindness, generosity and charity. She never turned away a poor person who came knocking on her father's door. One day a leper came to the door. Brigit couldn't give away any milk or flour because there were short supply of it so instead she gave away her father's jeweled sword.
     It was then that her father caved in and sent her to a convent; probably because he didn't want to go bankrupt. LOL
     She received her veil from Saint Mel and started a career in establishing convents starting in Clara in County Offaly.
     According to Pagan traditions the convent at Kildare was already there and being attended by the 19 priestess of the Goddess of Fire, Brighid, but according to Christian traditions, St. Brigit founded it in 470.
     Even though the original shrine became a convent under the Christian rule and the priestesses became nuns the sacred traditions was still kept. They kept the Sacred Flame lite and tended to. The flame was kept alive for thousands of years under the nuns care, but no one or no records can say how long it was kept before that.
     In 1220 CE, a bishop became very angry because he or any males wasn't allowed in the Abbey of St. Brigit of Kildare. He kept insisting the nuns to become subordinate to the priests and they must open their abbey to the inspections of the priesthood of the Catholic Church. The nuns stood strong and refused the bishop and asked for an abbess to perform any inspections. The bishop then decreed that their keeping of the eternal flame was a pagan tradition. Here we go! He then ordered the Sacred Flame to be put out.
     Now I must say and I can only say very little. The Sisterhood of the Eternal Flame and the flame itself was not totally put out but they left and carried the flame with them. The pagan traditions of Brigit, the Shrine at Kildare and the priestesses were continued else where and still to this day.
     Anyhow, in the 1960s under the modernization of the Vatican, it was declared there wasn't enough proof of there existing a Brigit or her sanctity, so the church gradually pushed St. Brigit out and decannoized her. Most of the post cards, images or traditions of St. Brigit only exist in Ireland, so it's hard to find them anywhere else in the Catholic world.
     There was an individual named Sister Mary Minchin, who was a nun at the Kildare Abbey, who re-light the Sacred Flame on February 2, 1996.  My 'hat' truly goes off to this lady. Goddess bless her!
     Again according to Christian traditions, St. Brigit died in 525 and was buried in a tomb before the high altar of Kildare's Abbey. Later her remains were moved to Downpatrick and laid to rest with other saints. Later, three noble Irishman took her skull and transported it to the Church of St. John the Baptist in Paris, France. It is said that to this day it's still there.
     Rather you see her as Brighid, Brigit or Bride the Goddess of Fire or as St. Brigit, it's still safe to say to remember as the sun starts to shine more and spread it's warmth over us and Gaia, then please also remember life is promise to us. Maybe not as our own individual life, but the promise of new life and the promise of life must go on.  After the harshness of Winter and the season of death, life still continues on. Brigit or Brighid will always keep that Sacred Flame. That Sacred Flame that dances within each and every being and child of Mother Earth the Goddess.  She has kept that Sacred Flame dancing within our hearth, our heart and now brings it out into the open for us to share with all creation of Gaia.
     Blessings to you and yours,
       Grannulus

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