One of the topics suggested in a recent request I put out was to highlight the biggest mistakes I see people make when looking to work with/for Brigid. Now, it should be said, at the start of this, that this is my opinion. I say it out straight when I feel something is based on the lore, but please… it’s opinion and your mileage may vary. OK?
The first mistake I see people make is assuming because she’s listed as a Catholic saint, she’s a meek and mild martyr, a woman the Catholic Church could be proud of. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Even as a slave, in her various Lives, she was notorious for not doing as she was told. She repeatedly and repentantly gave away her owner’s goods to the poor. She pulled out her own eye rather than be forced to marry someone she didn’t care for. She went her own way and did her own thing – all examples of remarkable strong will for someone who is a slave. As well, she surely wasn’t a martyr, and died in her old age. (Well, relative old age…)
Then I see people focusing on only the “nice” aspects of Brigid. As in, she’s a healer, she’s a positive force, she’s a “nice” goddess. She really isn’t. In the lore, her main activity is mourning her son. She bring keening to the Irish and the whistle to guide us at night. She’s at home in the dark and she deals with things that are not pleasant to say the least. She works on the darker emotions – just ask any mother who has lost a child just how dark those emotions get. “light and love” she ain’t. Trust me.
There are a lot of people who practice flametending or flamekeeping as their primary source of spiritual practice. Now there’s nothing wrong with this, but Lora O’Brien (of
www.irishpaganschool.com ) and I had a chat about this recently which is well worth listening to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G5s_dUqeU2E. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with flame keeping, but there’s also a lot more you can be doing as part of your spiritual practice.
Now as a follow on from the above, there’s an awful lot of people who don’t realise just how practical a deity Brigid is. I mean, one of her areas of interest is smithcraft, which I consider a predecessor of engineering and if there was ever a more frighteningly practical group of people than engineering, I’ve not met them (and I am one, so I’m allowed to say that!) If you’re working with Brigid, I’d highly recommend looking at practical aspects to worship as well as the more esoteric options.
Learn about the lore. Yes, yes, ok, there’s little enough about Brigid (or Brig) in the Irish lore, but dammit, there’s more than nothing. And “little” just means it’s easier to get your head around what’s in there. There’s very few excuses here for not doing this. Know who you’re working with, surely this would be sensible anyway? I mean, you’d not go out on a date with a complete stranger without doing some checking up right? Asking round, having a look on Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn or whatever? So use your common sense and do a bit of scouting around before doing something drastic here. Even if you decide she’s not for you, honestly, it’s grand. Better to learn that before you dedicate your life and lives to her than afterwards right?
And another thing. I understand the need for ritual and ceremony at times. It not something I spend much time at, but even I feel the need to do something special sometimes. And that’s grand. But have a think about what you’re committing to before you start. Have you the resources to complete a full on, ceremonial ritual once a day, week, month? If yes, grand, but be aware those resources may change, so be careful of the promises you make. If no, then don’t commit to it. A once off ritual is just grand for some things, and even if it is a daily ritual, it doesn’t need to be ceremonial. One of my rituals is to say hello to her most days. Yup, there’s a statue on my windowsill that I say hello to most days. And I say “most” here because it’s not absolutely every single day of my life and I don’t promise her that. So, you know, be careful of the rituals you promise, cos once you promise, she will expect them.
Actually the above paragraph goes for any promise you make, not just about rituals and ceremonies. I know in some corners of the internet, having a geas is a really cool thing to have, but seriously, before you commit to that, accept it, or decide you want to go down that road, read up on the lore and figure out what the usual trail of woe is in the stories. I’ll save you some time here: usually it’s a case of multiple geis, then something happens so you have to break one of them, then you die or suffer horribly. So, you know, think twice and twice again before accepting or looking for a geas. And I’m happy to stay I’ve managed to steer clear of them for the most part.
Brigid has a mother. We’re just not sure who she is. And frankly, given the way her Da got around back in the day, we can probably limit the options to “the women of Ireland”, although there are one or two front runners. You may have your favourite. That’s grand, you’re entitled to that opinion. Just remember, it is your opinion, not fact and in this case, live and let live.
There are people who claim the saint came first and the deity second and vice versa. I think it’s more likely there was a deity called Brigid and a saint called Brigid, as well as a few other Brigids in the lore, and they have overlapping areas of interest, but not identical areas of interest. There’s a grand interest for example in cattle, cos frankly, they were bloody important, but the saint is probably more interested in Jesus and the deity more interested in the Dagda. (I’m not equating Jesus and the Dagda here, mind, just showing an area where the interest probably doesn’t overlap). Also, the deity was probably more likely to be having sex than the saint.
There are a lot of folk customs about Brigid in Ireland. Don’t discount them. Brigid’s cloak, Brigid’s crosses, customs around fire, the Brídeog, etc… these are all passed down from our ancestors, and frankly, Christianity in Ireland was mostly skin deep over a deep rooted pagan tradition. So even if the traditions come from generations of Christian practice, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a pagan root to them.
Some of the folk tales, we have no written lore from time immemorial. This is no reason to discount them necessarily. Because story telling in Ireland was an oral tradition, with the great traditions of the Filidh, coming through the bards of the early days of English occupation, to the senachaí of more recent times. For an example of a modern seanchaí, look up Eddie Lenihan. He has fantastic stories, several books and pre-COVID, was still doing in person performances. He’s wonderful to see live if you can at all, but if you can catch a recording or buy his books, you’ll see the living tradition of story telling in Ireland. Not necessarily Brigid related, but it will help you understand the means of passing stories.
So there’s 11 things to watch out for. If something strikes a chord with you, or causes you to feel uncomfortable – well you are quite free to contact me to tell me how I’m wrong, but I’d also invite you to figure out why it makes you feel uncomfortable. Seriously. This isn’t intended as a personal attack, it’s more about highlighting things I see people doing that don’t site right with me. And if there’s things you think I’ve left off the list, let me know as well!