Variously known as: Brigid, Brighid, Brigit, Bride…
Goddess of healers, poets, smiths, childbirth and inspiration, fire and hearth. Goddess of healing, smithcraft and poetry, useful and inspired wisdom. Goddess of the land and the wheel, sun and moon; green cloak spread across the land.
“Brighid’s fire is the fire at the heart of creation.”
Brigid is a goddess, described as a goddess of healers, poets, smiths, childbirth, inspiration, fire, hearth, wisdom, the land, the wheel, the sun, the moon (brighid.org.uk); triple fire goddess (orderwhitemoon.org); ‘a feminine concept of the divine in the broadest sense’, energy of light and fire, of love and healing, of artistic inspiration and of peace and justice (C.S. Thompson); is represented by awen /|\, created Ogham (Anna Franklin). Brigid is also associated with many animals: cow, ewe, snake, wolf, swan, lark, linnet and oyster catcher. (Brighid.org.uk)
I haven’t seen Franklin’s assertion that Brigid created Ogham shared by any other pagans [EDIT: but there are others who associate her with Ogham]. I also haven’t seen the link between Brigid and the moon repeated very often, as she is mostly associated with the sun (because of her existing link with fire). However, both are included here to give an idea of the breadth of inspiration and symbols associated with Brigid.
The name of the goddess is frequently mixed with that of an Irish Saint, Brigid of Kildare (link, link), who was a keeper of the flame, associated with a cross made of rushes and with a mantle or cloak. It is sometimes stated that goddess Brigid is not a triple goddess, but three sisters all named Brigid, all of whom are goddesses with different specialisations.
Brigid is best known as a goddess of the fire and hearth. I live in modern house so I don’t have a hearth, and I am not allowed to have fires because I am
clumsy dyspraxic and nearly set myself on fire once. There’s a burn in the carpet to attest to this incident, and my partner gently (but firmly) took my lighter away. So how does one venerate a fire goddess when not allowed to replicate her element?
Brigid is the goddess of creativity, of inspiration, of poets and wisdom. When I feel inspired and creative (like now, when writing words in her honour!) I am venerating Brigid. When I paint, draw, write, knit, sing, play instruments – I am inspired by Brigid.
I painted a truly terrible piece for her earlier this week, complete with flame imagery (that looked more like
a vulva Sauron), a swan (that looked like a sausage with a wine gum stuck to its face; apparently I cannot draw beaks), and some splodgy triangle thing that was supposed to be a large cloak. It had all the skill of a – well, very unskilled person – and could not in any respect be considered an adequate gift for Brigid. I’d hoped it could go on my altar, but it would have looked preposterous. However! I like to think that it was the effort that counted. She is the inspiration, not the arbiter of style. 😉 After drawing it I went outside, and saw four white Bewick swans flying overhead. I will take that as a sign.
Brigid and the Cailleach
In some stories, Brigid – in her association with the sun, perhaps – rules over the lighter six months of the year, while the Cailleach rules the darker months. Sometimes they are two faces of the same goddess; sometimes Brigid is imprisoned by the Cailleach; sometimes it is a battle, and other times more of a graceful dance between two different deities. I like to think of the wheel of the year as a peaceful, gradual event, not fighting and battles. That’s because I’m a fluffy bunny, or at least a fluffy hare.
I like this metaphor because it reminds me of my depression. When I treated it as a battle, it did me no good. I couldn’t fight against something that was as powerful as me; it fed off the power I gave it. You cannot force summer to appear in the midst of winter, no matter how hard you wish. All you can do is accept. I accepted its existence and stopped fighting, which meant it got a lot easier. So, as metaphors go, this is one I have made for myself – the summer and winter – both with positives and negatives, fitting around each other. Neither can ever triumph, and nor would we want them to: they exist with each other.
I also have seasonal affective disorder, so in the depths of winter it is very encouraging to have a strong part of my own faith given to a deity of fire and light. I’m also learning to appreciate the winter, the Cailleach, though that’s for another blog post.
I was out walking and called to her, and felt a presence walking beside me – a woman of light. (Oh, my goodness. Four years ago, in the summer, I was feeling very low and I was comforted by a figure made of light – that was where my faith all began. I wonder if that was Brigid, too.) The figure from a week ago was gentle, bright, bare-footed, and had her hair covered, at least at the top. I think the rest fell down her back, loose. It was a really comforting, warming experience.
I have felt the urge to cover my hair since around the time of my first faith-based experience back in 2009, but – again! – that’s probably for another blog post. It might turn out to be linked to Brigid, or maybe the Cailleach: ‘veiled one’.
Oddly enough, as well as the call to cover my hair, I’ve also been really strongly prodded to take better care of my hair, specifically by brushing it every night. (I have curls, so I was a once-a-week brusher before.) And you know what? It’s looking and feeling great, and it’s easier to manage, and the act of brushing it making my life easier. It’s really nice to do this thing specifically for her. I think she’s reminding me to take better care of myself.
I think Brigid meshes with me so well because I strongly associate with all her symbols, especially “the fire at the heart of creation.” She is fire, passion and inspiration, but not just the more creative, introspective arts. She’s also active: she’s smithing and healing, getting out and looking after people. As a care worker, that’s precisely what I do: actively getting out there and trying to make people’s lives a little easier and better. She’s also associated with childbirth, fertility, and the fire at the heart of the home. My home is where my partner is, and has been ever since we’ve been together. We plan to try for a child within three years, so fertility and homes play quite heavily on my mind at the moment. I look forward to working with Brigid as I move into this new sector of my life.
The coming of spring, the Imbolc festival on February 1st, is Brigid’s festival. She is associated with plants that bloom at this time of the year (snowdrops, crocuses), and animals that emerge from hibernation at this time (snakes, hedgehogs) and cattle (maybe because of the lambing season). As I no longer live in a city, I’m better placed to observe nature first hand, to go on walks in the countryside, and – hopefully – to see wildlife.
It’ll be Imbolc soon – my first since following Brigid – and I’m really looking forward to it. February is a month of grief and loss for me and my family, so to have something positive and joyful in amongst the sorrow will be really wonderful.