Ok – I know that it’s a little late in the day, but I’ve got a little job for you. Grab a hanky or a scarf and your coat, because my mother just sent me this image:
And followed it up with
Information: Hannah your Cork grandmother always left out a clean piece of white cloth on St. Brigids Eve to be blessed and after that day it was used to ward off sore throats.My Mum
(Nope, I was not expecting the formality of the ‘Information’ note either and yes, I did know which geographical grandmother was being referenced, but it’s always good to be thorough. And clearly my attention to detail is an inherited trait.)
So – who is Brigid and why? Thankfully, my father had watched the same TG4 special – which I strongly suspect is this one Brighid – and had – about 30 seconds later, sent me my next clue*
Brid/Brigid/Brigit was a member of the Tuatha Dé Danann. They were ‘the tribe of the gods’ – a group of magical people who settled on the island of Ireland and created a pantheon and mythology that is intricate and inventive. Over time, the Tuath Dé legend faded, but their importance meant that they never disappeared. Instead they became part of the Aos Sí – the faery folk of the Celtic World.
Brigid was one of the most revered and powerful of the gods. She was the daughter of the Dagda and the Goddess Danu. The flame haired Brigid was a poet, healer and smith – and thus a triple deity. She was occasionally known as the Goddess of the Wells and is also linked to light, fire and sunlight. If I’m honest with you, I think she was a bit of a swot – possibly quite a contradictory character.
Brigid was a goddess full of contradiction. She was a goddess of healing, fertility, and motherhood, but also of passion and fire. Further complicating matters, Brigid was a goddess of serenity and water as well. Evidence of her worship has been found throughout Ireland, reflecting her importance as a powerful, yet personal deity. When she was not protecting mothers and newborn children, Brigid inspired many of the writers and poets for which Ireland is internationally renowned.HERE
One of my favourite aspects of Brigid is that she didn’t believe in giving something for nothing. There are reports of many strangers approaching her for her wisdom, power and healing. To those that were pure of heart and intention, who had wit and intelligence – she was open and receptive. To all the rest of us, she would instead extract a price – a lesson to give them what they needed to learn to be better.
So how did one of Ireland’s most potent fertility Goddesses become a saint?
Well, given that this blog post is clearly a family affair – let’s turn to my dad:
She was never canonised or made into a saint by the church. She was made a saint by the people. It’s unlikely there was such a person during the Christian Era. She’s more a folk memory from ancient times – the Goddess of Spring. As a triple goddess – maiden – mother and crone or hag, she was a perfect figure for appropriation by the Christian church. Father Son Holy Spirit was easy for the Irish to get, given their mythology.My Dad
Basically, she was too big a deal to be erased (despite my country’s sad history of it we even have a name for it – eirebrushing). And so was born the legend of Saint Brigid of Kildare – a nun with some uncanny familiarities with the ancient deity whose name she shares.
So I mentioned this to the chap, whose mother pulled up a book to send on some additional details. The Catholic Church picked the 2nd of February to celebrate Candlemas to directly tap into the festival of Imbolc – Brigid’s fest day, making the beginning of the lambing season. The fires and lights of Imbolc were translated into symbols for the Purification of Mary.
I was even sent the traditional recipe for Boxty! Thanks X and RM.
So, grab your scarf, throw your coat on over your PJ’s and pop outside. By morning, you’ll have a cold, wet magically imbued sore throat and headache remover!!
*I’m being coy. Ireland has three saints – and I am very aware of them. Patrick, Brigid and Colmcille. So, my father, my aunt and my brother. I was named for a deity not recognised by the Catholic Church and the loss is theirs!