It’s a question that comes up a fair bit, in relation to many deities, but lately, I’ve been getting a fair few questions along these lines myself. And the answer is both extremely simple and extremely complicated.
For me, I didn’t necessarily feel ‘called’, as in, she didn’t appear in a flash of light and thunderous music, saying, “Right, it’s time, come on, get your arse in gear”. I mean, that might be the way she does it for some people but not for me. For me it was more a realisation that I was doing the work she wanted done anyway, so I might as well do it with her help as without it.
Explaining what that realisation was like is a bit more difficult though. If you’ve read the blog, or taken any of my classes over at the Irish Pagan School or are a member of the Brigid’s Forge group on Facebook, you’ll know I grew up Irish Catholic, and still identify as Pagan Catholic (and really, Irish Catholicism in the traditional pre-20th century sense, was really only skin deep with all sorts of pagan practices still trundling along nicely thank you very much. Just try asking most of us if we’d go so far as to disturb a fairy ring….) Growing up Irish Catholic, Brigid (as in St. Brigid) was always there, one of our three patron saints, a strong female holy figure, someone who promoted education, learning, justice…. Plus a decent excuse for at least a day a year of making Brigid’s crosses to take home to the Mammy and Daddy. (usually only in primary school that last bit!)
So, I knew the stories of St. Brigid. I also, I thought, knew the myths and legends fairly well. (As it turned out, I didn’t, those tales are heavily sanitised in schools!) But in my late 30’s, things began to change a bit for me. Now the Catholic Church I’d pretty much given up on as an institution at this point. It has done a lot of good in Ireland and elsewhere over the years, but it’s also done a lot of harm at the same time. Individual members of that church are a different story, but the institution itself… well I could be here for a while typing on that!
So, mid-30’s things began to change. From the time I graduated as an engineer, I got involved in getting more women into engineering (most companies want to use female engineers for promotional purposes anyway tbh, to maximise their image) I had always thought of myself as a feminist, even if I did proudly proclaim for many years that “I wasn’t like those other girls”. I rejected for a long time any pretense of liking or wanting traditional “female” concerns – boyfriends (although I was more than willing to have sex, just not any sort of commitment), looking pretty (my thoughts were that I was fat and ugly, so what was the point?), marriage (tying myself down and actually trusting a man????)… this list could go on for a while. I was pretending I was male while insisting I was female (not trans in any way, just didn’t want to be seen as less and I saw being female as being less). As far as I was concerned I could out-drink, out-shag and out-work any man.
Then I hit my late 20’s and met someone special (ended up marrying him). I started researching different areas of study – hitting the arts and humanities as well as STEM subjects. I saw the value in literature, stories, in creating a better world. I started thinking on a wider scale, not just my own life. It was suddenly not enough that my own life was getting better, I needed to do something about the world.
Sounds fierce grandiose, doesn’t it? This is what I mean about her sneaking up on me….
I started to do work on myself. I realised things were very wrong with me – I was showing all the signs of anorexia, except I was fat (and doctors don’t see fat people as getting eating disorders for some reason), I was desperately unhappy, drinking miles too much… I was not in a good place. The Church, my upbringing was telling me, should by my place of comfort, but frankly, it appeared to think that getting married to a fine, upstanding Catholic would solve all my issues (but I’d met a lot of those fine, upstanding Catholics as young men and frankly, an awful lot of them weren’t and aren’t…) So I started looking into women’s spirituality, menstrual spirituality. I went on some “reclaiming your power” retreats. I went into some dark places.
And then I realised there were “presences” in my life, especially when I was doing this inner work. Now I was still based in the UK at this point, so when they appeared, the old Irish deities were not first on my mind, especially since lot of the inner work practices I was taking part in were drawing on classical Greco-Roman structures and deities. It didn’t fit properly and it was hard to absorb some of what was happening. Plus two of the “presences” were strongly related to both the Virgin Mary and St. Therese of Lisieux. Both strongly Catholic images, rather than pagan.
And then I came home. And I started listening to the land I was born in again. I started listening to Irish podcasts, Irish telly, Irish radio, Irish stories. I realised how cut off I had been from the land of my home. (“Home” is probably worth another post all on it’s own!) I firmly remember going back to England at this point for a self-development weekend and standing in the closing circle, bare feet on the ground and declaring that “this is not my home. This is not my land. I have no deep roots here. My roots are elsewhere.”
Now I’m lucky to have that root system in the land of my birth. Many don’t. But it was part of my call. I started meditating, studying the old lore, seeing what elements of what I was being called towards. And by called, I mean I could read through the entire text of the Caith Maighe Tuireadh and return over and over and over again to that single paragraph that names Brig. I returned to the parts of the various glossaries dealing with Brigid. I found myself learning about how the poet, the smith and the healer operated in the world they inhabited. Most importantly, I learned how the work I was feeling interested in, feeling called to do, linked in to those stories and scriptures.
I found a need in my to do some energy training and specifically training aimed at the womb and menstruality. I found myself writing again, fiction, after years or not doing so. I found myself promoting and forcing myself into various spotlights to highlight engineering as a career for women and speaking out about the barriers to that.
I see many people out there questioning “Is Brigid calling me to do this?” My answer is “Why is it important? Is this work worthwhile and a positive force in the world? Does it lead the world to a better please? Is it making things better?” If the answer to any or all of those is “yes”, then why wait for the bolt of lightening to JFDI?
But the backing of a deity is a comfort, I know that. And if you want a relationship with Brigid, then you need to put some work in as well. Meditate, use guided meditations to meet her, develop your own. Look into her lore (and I’d strongly encourage you to read up on the saint as well as the deity), see what sort of person she is. Light a candle occasionally. Pray – we underestimate this in the modern world. (Prayer for me tends to be extemporaneous now, rather than the formula of my youth, but there is a comfort in repeating prayers as well).
I’m a strong supporter of study and learning for deepening our relationship with deity. Learn about the being your interested in. Learn what others experience with them, learn with tends to be general gnosis and what appears to be more restricted. Learn the lore – we are lucky to have so much of our original lore still intact (ish) in Ireland and there are loads of places out there that allow free access to original texts (virtually I mean!) I’d recommend UCC Celt website for starters and you can move on from there. Spend time meditating and praying on your chosen deity on a regular basis.
Finally, if Brigid does call you, or you think she does – talk to people. Don’t just take one point of confirmation as a definite response, take your time. And for the love of whatever god you currently support, don’t go making lifelong or further promises without really serious care over wording, intent, content etc.
Brigid is a good deity to work for/with. (The very fact that she and I are actually arguing over the preposition there is a sign of this!) She uses tools, she’s not always great at remembering tools need rest and TLC as well as work, but she will listen when you point this out. She can and will also force a rest on you if she feels it’s needed. For me, she has a close link to the Dagda (her Da), as well as links to Airmid (herb healing) and some others in the Irish pantheon. But she is a being with a non-human outlook, non-human perspective, non-human priorities. It’s important to remember that. It’s always important to remember that!