In Irish mythology, Brigit or Brighid ("exalted one"[1]) was the daughter of the Dagda and one of the Tuatha Dé Danann. She was the wife of Bres of the Fomorians, with whom she had a son, Ruadán. She had two sisters, also named Brighid, and is considered a classic Celtic Triple Goddess.[2]

Familial relations

She is identified in Lebor Gabála Érenn as a daughter of the Dagda and a poet. The same passage mentions that she has two oxen, Fe and Men, that graze on a plain named after them, Femen. She also possessed the "king of boars", Torc Triath, and Cirb, king of wethers (sheep), from whom Mag Cirb is named.[3] As the daughter of Dagda, she is also the half sister of Cermait, Aengus, Midir and Bodb Derg.

Associations

In Cath Maige Tuireadh, Bríg (sic) invents keening while mourning for her son Ruadán, after he is slain while fighting for the Fomorians. She is credited in the same passage with inventing a whistle used for night travel.[4]

Divine responsibilities

In her English translation of Irish myth, Lady Augusta Gregory (Gods and Fighting Men, 1904), describes Brigit as "a woman of poetry, and poets worshipped her, for her sway was very great and very noble. And she was a woman of healing along with that, and a woman of smith's work, and it was she first made the whistle for calling one to another through the night. And the one side of her face was ugly, but the other side was very comely. And the meaning of her name was Breo-saighit, a fiery arrow."

Her British and continental counterpart Brigantia seems to have been the Celtic equivalent of the Roman Minerva and the Greek Athena (Encyclopedia Britannica: Celtic Religion), goddesses with very similar functions and apparently embodying the same concept of 'elevated state', whether physical or psychological.

She is the goddess of all things perceived to be of relatively high dimensions such as high-rising flames, highlands, hill-forts and upland areas; and of activities and states conceived as psychologically lofty and elevated, such as wisdom, excellence, perfection, high intelligence, poetic eloquence, craftsmanship (especially blacksmithing), healing ability, druidic knowledge and skill in warfare. In the living traditions, whether seen as goddess or saint, she is largely associated with the home and hearth and is a favorite of both Pagans and Christians. A number of these associations are attested in Cormac's Glossary.

Maman Brigitte, one of the Lwa of Haitian Voodoo, may be a form of Brigid. It is likely that the concept came to the New World through the Irish who were kidnapped, enslaved and forced to labor in the Caribbean alongside the enslaved Africans.[5] Because of the intermarriage and cultural blending between the Irish and Africans, it is possible that Haitian Voodo is partially influenced by survivals of Celtic polytheism.[6] Maman Brigitte is worshipped as the Lady of the Cemetery; her colors are purple, violet and black. She is the wife of Baron Samedi, and characterised as a hard working, hard cursing woman who can swear a blue streak and enjoys a special drink made of rum laced with 21 hot peppers. People suspected of faking a possession by her may be asked to drink her special rum or rub hot peppers on their genitals, which she occasionally does. Those who are not truly possessed are soon identified.

Brigid and Saint Brigid

Stories and symbology that survive in the persona of Saint Brigid may be related. St. Brigid was associated with perpetual, sacred flames, such as the one maintained by 19 nuns at her sanctuary in Kildare, Ireland. The sacred flame at Kildare was said by Giraldus Cambrensis and other chroniclers to have been surrounded by a hedge, which no man could cross. Men who attempted to cross the hedge were said to have been cursed to go insane, die, and/or to have had their penis ("lower leg") wither.

The tradition of female priestesses tending sacred, naturally-occurring "eternal flames" is a feature of ancient Indo-European pre-Christian spirituality. Other examples include the Roman goddess Vesta, and other hearth-goddesses, such as Hestia.

Brighid was also connected to holy wells, at Kildare and many other sites in the Celtic lands. Well dressing, the tying of clooties to the trees next to healing wells, and other methods of petitioning or honoring Brighid still take place in some of the Celtic lands and the diaspora.

Festivals

On February 1 or February 2, Brigid is celebrated at the Gaelic festival of Imbolc, when she brings the first stirrings of spring to the land. Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Christians, and some Anglicans mark the day as the Feast of Saint Brigid; the festival is also known as Candlemas and Purification of the Virgin.

Other names and etymology

Old Irish Brigit [ˈbrɪʝɪdʲ] came to be spelled Brighid by the modern Irish period. Since the spelling reform of 1948, this has been spelled Bríd [ˈbriːdʲ]. The earlier form gave rise to the Anglicization Bridget, now commonly seen as Brigid.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Name Cognates: Breo Saighead, Brid, Brighid [Eriu], Brigindo, Brigandu [Gaul], Brigan, Brigantia, Brigantis [Briton], Bride [Alba]. Breo Saighead, or the "Fiery Arrow or Power," is a Celtic three-fold goddess, the daughter of The Dagda, and the wife of Bres. Known by many names, Brighid's three aspects are (1) Fire of Inspiration as patroness of poetry, (2) Fire of the Hearth, as patroness of healing and fertility, and (3) Fire of the Forge, as patroness of smithcraft and martial arts. She is mother to the craftsmen. Sons of Tuireann: Creidhne, Luchtaine and Giobhniu. Excalibur, King Arthur's sword, was forged by the Lady of the Lake, a figure sometimes associated with Brighid because of her fire and forgery aspect.

Like the Arthurian Avalon, or "Isle of Apples," Brigid possessed an apple orchard in the Otherworld to which bees traveled to obtain it's magickal nectar. Brigid, which means "one who exaults herself," is Goddess of the Sacred Flame of Kildare (derived from "Cill Dara," which means "church of the oak") and often is considered to be the White Maiden aspect of the Triple Goddess.

She was Christianized as the "foster-mother" of Jesus Christ, and called St. Brigit, the daughter of the Druid Dougal the Brown. She sometimes also is associated with the Romano-Celtic goddess Aquae-Sulis in Bathe. Brighid's festival is Imbolc, celebrated on or around February 1 when she ushers Spring to the land after The Cailleach's Winter reign. This mid-Winter feast commences as the ewes begin to lactate and is the start of the new agricultural cycle. During this time Brigid personifies a bride, virgin or maiden aspect and is the protectoress of women in childbirth.

Imbolc also is known as Oimelc, Brigid, Candlemas, or even in America as Groundhog Day. As the foundation for the American Groundhog Day, Brigid's snake comes out of its mound in which it hibernates and its behavior is said to determine the length of the remaining Winter. An ancient Irish story tells of how on the eve of this day, The Cailleach, or White Lady, drank from the ancient Well of Youth at dawn. In that instant, she was transformed into her Maiden aspect, the young goddess called Brigid. Wells were considered to be sacred because they arose from oimbelc (literally "in the belly"), or womb of Mother Earth. Because of her Fire of Inspiration and her connection to the apple and oak trees, Brighid often is considered the patroness of the Druids.

by Lisa Spindler