Lora O’Brien of the Irish Pagan School (www.irishpaganschool.com) discussed the notion of devotionals with me some time ago and I started writing them. The structure is simple – take a piece of scripture (in our case, a piece of our lore), discuss/ meditate on what it means, end with a prayer. It’s a way of dissecting and interrogating our lore and our stories for the meanings within, both from the times they come from and our own modern world. Grief might seem like a strange one at this time of year, but there are a lot of people, myself included, dealing with grief. And Brigid gave us a way to cope with it. I hope you don’t need to read about grief today, but if you do – you’re not along.
Cath Maige Tuired: The Second Battle of Mag Tuired (Author:[unknown])
But after the spear had been given to him, Rúadán turned and wounded Goibniu. He pulled out the spear and hurled it at Rúadán so that it went through him; and he died in his father’s presence in the Fomorian assembly. Bríg came and keened for her son. At first she shrieked, in the end she wept. Then for the first time weeping and shrieking were heard in Ireland. (Now she is the Bríg who invented a whistle for signalling at night.)
In either battle of Moytura (Caith Maighe Tuired), Brig only appears as someone’s mother – Rúadán’s in this case. She has no role in the fighting, nor is she one of the movers-and-shakers. She does grant us something we may not value enough – she grants us a means to deal with grief.
We all suffer with grief at some point in our lives and, particularly in modern society, the pressure can be there to bury the grief deeply and above all don’t let society at large see how deeply the grief goes. It doesn’t matter if the loss is of a parent, child, pet, friend… Grief is not something to be measured or allowed. Grief simply is. No matter what our beliefs, the nature of our relationship with the loved one is changed irrevocably.
Brig offers us a way to externalise these feelings that feel so big and powerful. She literally grants our grief a voice. She understands. There is no magic club, no magic cauldron, no magic herbs to bring her son back – he is gone and in a most violent fashion.
My husband & I have been trying to have a baby for four years. One year into our journey, we had a miscarriage. I had a week off work to ‘recover’. It wasn’t enough time. It wasn’t nearly enough time. I felt like I was moving in a different world to that around me. Our baby might have been the size of a pea when we lost them, but to us, to me, they were as real as if I had fed them at my breast. The world kept turning, even as I felt frozen, unable to keep up.
A year later, I went through an initiation. Not a Brig related initiation, but nevertheless a profound and powerful experience. And during that time, the floodgates opened. On my way home from the weekend, I had a night alone in a hotel and a four hour ferry journey. During this time alone, I cried. I wailed. I sobbed. Even in my sleep, I had tears rolling down my cheeks. I keened. I keened hard.
It was like releasing pus from a boil. Painful, unpleasant, petrifying with the force of it, but cleansing, clearing and calming in its own way. I released the pent up force of my grief. I unleashed those feelings on the world. I gave voice, oh ye gods, did I give voice. And while my grief, my loss is still there and nothing will ever replace the hopes and dreams we had for that little pea, it’s a clean, healing grief now, not something to hold me back, but something that is just part of me.
In my time of grief, Brig, grant me the strength to use your precious gift and give voice to my pain that I mourn fully and completely those I have lost. May I never forget them, but may I also continue with my life, my grief a part of me, but not controlling me.