I’m currently teaching a class with the Irish Pagan School on Brigid in Ireland, going back into the lore and seeing what we can and can’t extrapolate from the stories our ancestors told. Last night we were dealing with Brigid as Goddess of Smithcraft and the aspect of Brigid and war came up.
It seems only fair to mention at this point that I have, at best, ambivalent feelings about the idea of war, killing, destruction. However, a fight engaged in righteousness is a holy thing, in my opinion… but this has been used as the excuse for every war, ever, pretty much. So what I’m going to talk about now is war as a destructive force. I’ll leave my rant on the modern military industrial complex for another time and focus on what war might, can and does achieve.
First off, of course, is destruction. Destruction of lives, families, livelihoods, land, buildings, monuments, knowledge, society… War destroys. It’s what it does. And – this is rarely an unadulterated Good Thing. Even World War 2, which many would agree is a good thing to have destroyed the power of the Nazis and their reign of terror, led to millions of deaths, a massive refugee crisis, destruction of economies… There are still scars from that war visible over most of the world and it’s almost 75 years since the ceasefire was declared.
If that war can have such massive effects more than 7 decades later, can we really say it was a good thing? I say no. Yes, finishing the power of the Nazis was a good thing, but a better thing would have been to prevent their policies being implemented at all. And we must remember, they were voted into power by a democratic process. (How they retained that power is another story…)
I cannot look at any war and say, yes that was a worthwhile and good war. It was worth the destruction and loss of life. Even the War of Independence here in Ireland (1921-1922) – yes, it brought us freedom from our oppressors, but I can’t help looking at the attempts to gain such a thing through peaceful means and despair.
So, ultimately, I have to agree there is a time for violence. I may regret it and pray I never need take part in it, but there is a time for violence. Peaceful protest gets us so far… but I’ve not seen peaceful process finish any of the great liberation movements of the last century: civil rights activities in the US, Europe, etc all involved violence, the current (admittedly unstable,with the advent of Brexit) situation in the North of Ireland was only brought about because of a violent campaign and I’m sure you can think of examples in your own community.
So where does this leave us with Brigid? Well, she was there in the army camp in Caith Maighe Tuiread 2 (as is sometimes referred to as The Rebellion 🙂 ) so I think we can say she sees the need for war in some cases. But I don’t think I see her on the front lines unless things get very bad and everyone’s called out to raise weapons. I see her more in the supportive roles: making sure the injured get care and attention, everyone gets fed at regular intervals, damaged or lost weapons are replaced and repaired. I see her standing in from of her home, ready to defend it from invaders, but not taking the fight to the invaders home. I see her in between an attacker and their victim, protecting those who need protecting rather than attacking herself. I see her protecting the land from whoever wishes to destroy it.
She is not a pacifist, no more than I am myself, but she sees fighting as a last resort, as the last defense, as something not to be glorified, but just another job that needs to get done on occasion and a less than pleasant one at that.
Of course, this is UPG. This isn’t verified in any way shape or form. These are my thoughts and how I interpret her stories and actions as I see them. You may differ. I can’t see her as a war goddess. If you think – the smith creates weapons of creation and destruction. No farm could survive without the smith’s arts, yet no war would be fought without them either.
And here we come to the crux of it: the powers of creation and destruction. Sometimes, things must be destroyed so that other things can be created and grow. Sometimes we must take up our weapons and defend our homes against invaders, whether of abhorrent ideology or physical force, no matter how much we despair of the waste.
Sometimes in the forge, when things go wrong, you have to toss the lump back into the fire, remelt it and start again. She’s got experience in the forge. She knows this. It just doesn’t mean she revels in or enjoys it.