I know, beauty and Brigid? it’s not my usual style. But things have come up in recent weeks that has me thinking about this. It stemmed originally from a comment that Brigid has a beautiful energy that can be experienced in many ways. Now, on the surface of it, yeah, sure, energy can be beautiful. But it got me thinking on the nature of beauty and how it’s used by subsections of the population to minimise or control things. Bear with me here.
I practice energy work. A few different kinds and a few things that aren’t really part of any training at all. And yes, it can be beautiful. But it can also be messy, dark, bloody, sweaty and hard. Just because it’s energy, doesn’t mean it’s serene or calm or wise or whatever other word you want to use. Sometimes it’s screaming and yelling and dancing in a storm and forcing sound through your throat so hard you end up hoarse and exhausted. It’s not gentile. It really isn’t.
As well, I see a lot of “spiritual people”, mainly white women, comfortable in themselves and looking for positivity rather than hard work. I jokingly refer to them as the “light and love” crowd when speaking to friends. Not that there’s anything wrong with either light or love, but it can be used to keep people silent and oppressed. Have a look online for toxic positivity for the negative side of it. Essentially, this to me says someone is looking for spirituality which won’t challenge her ways of thinking, won’t change her life too dramatically, won’t cause any hurt or upset. I mean, she’s doing her best, can’t I accept that?
Sure I can – if I think someone is really doing the work. But often they’re not. Often, they’re using the motions, language of spirituality to cocoon themselves in a pleasant world with little challenge or disruption. This is not necessarily the way we grow. And very often, the thought that “Brigid has a beautiful energy that can be experienced in many different ways” comes from here. Why? Ok….
Beauty has been a way to control and oppress women for centuries. While we’re worried about appearing beautiful, we’re also often encouraged to focus our energies on this, looking acceptable and staying that way. Remaining still and stagnant in many ways. Static even. Beauty by itself is not a bad thing, but as a means to tie up energy and time and money and thoughts…. yeah, it can be a great way to keep control over women in particular.
Beauty is by default peaceful, quiet, non-disruptive, accepting… Brigid is not these things. She is fire and water, she is fight and protection, she is law and story and words. She is not peaceful. Even the Christian monks writing her Bethu Brigte couldn’t portray her as the ideal, passive Christian woman, they had to show her fire, her temper, her fight. Don’t diminish her by reducing her to beauty.
She can appear as beautiful, sure, no bother, but she can appear as anything she wants really. If she’s working in a forge, while accepting that deity isn’t subject to the same anatomical rules as humanity, she’s still likely to have strong muscles and a bit of weight behind her to handle the weight she’s dealing with in the metal. If she’s working for equality and rights of the cowless, she’s going to need to be loud and capable of dealing with conflict as it’s presented to her. Any performer, whether the bards of the Iron Age or modern comics, need to be able to deal actively with heckling, judgement, etc. She is no passive beauty, but an active force in this world.
And so, calling her a beautiful energy, to me, is a way to minimise and control her in ways not really suitable to her lore and stories. She is listed among the demons in the Dindshenchas. She is listed as have the king of boars, the king of rams working with her. She is listed as restoring leprosy to the leper who enraged her. She will not be minimised and will not be passive about the things she cares about. Don’t try to make her so.