Brigid’s relationships with other deities

Hello everyone! For me, I’m back at work tomorrow after 4 full days off, so as far as I’m concerned, normal service is resuming. As part of this, I checked back with the list of topics on Brigid that people wanted me to visit and came up with this one. Ok it’s a kind of cheat, since I’ve written in far more detail than this about Brigid’s relationships with other deities in the book on her I’m writing, but still. Here’s a taste. Now for this, I’m limiting myself to the deity rather than the saint or the other appearances of Brigid in the lore. Here we go…

First off, Brigid’s Da is fairly well recognised as the Dagda. No one else is claiming that role (and I can almost hear the mutter from him of “who’d want to” – he’s being very Irish Dad and proud here, not putting her down!)

Her Ma on the other hand… well it’s just never clearly stated. It’s limited to anyone woman in Ireland the Dagda is known to have had relations with. Which, really, limits it to any woman in Ireland in some ways… There are a few front runners though. First off is the Morrigan, since that’s who the Dagda is most clearly linked with. However, the Morrigan, in my experience, is not backwards about claiming her own, and nowhere in the lore is it stated she’s Brigid’s Ma. Boann is another option.

Now I have a bit of an attraction towards Bóann myself. I have been told that this is probably cos I grew up in close proximity to the Boyne, and it’s certainly no more substantiated than the links to the Morrigan. It’s possibly also because I see Bóann as a bit more motherly than the Morrigan. (yeah, I can feel the “Hey, I can be motherly” glare as well here) but it’s entirely UPG, with very little other than Boann having other kids with the Dagda as well.

Danú is a bit more complicated. I believe the thought that Danú is the mother of Brigid stems from the notion that Danú is the “mother-goddess” of the Tuatha Dé Danann – with Danann being assumed to be a grammatical form of Danú. Just to keep things interesting, there is a recension of Leabhar Gabhala Eireann conflating Brigid with Danú as the mother of the TDD… Anyone ever trying to make out a proper family tree of the Irish deities has their work cut out for them!

They’re the three front runners for her Ma anyway. Her siblings are bit more straightforward. There is a suggestion of the daughter of Indech, the Formorian king as Brigid’s mother, but I don’t rate this one even as much as the others above, since the timelines are all off. Of course, the Dagda was able to stop the sun in its course to allow Boann to conceive and bear Aonghus in one day so maybe time isn’t an issue here…

Back to the siblings so… First off, we have Oengus or Aonghus, or Mac Óg, the son of Bóann that the Dagda stopped the passage of the sun so that Bóann could get through the nine months of pregnancy without her husband Elcmar noticing anything wrong. (He’s not the Good God because of any moral leanings, mainly because the notion of Christian morality, good and evil etc didn’t really exist during his time).

Cermait is the son that plays a major role in the story of how the Dagda got his famous club. Apparently, Cermait slept with Lugh’s wife Briach and Lugh killed him for it. The Dagda, understandably, wasn’t too happy about this so took himself off on a round the world tour to engage in all sorts of adventures and ended up with the life and death club.

A third son of the Dagda, was Aed or Aodh in modern Irish (Anglicised as Hugh). Not as detailed a story about this son, although he does appear and sleeps with the wife of Corrgrend of Cruarch, who then kills him (anyone seeing a theme here?) This time the Dagda doesn’t manage to revive his son, but there’s a curse involved and it’s still a riveting tale.

Bodhb Dearg is named as a son of the Dagda, although it’s possible this was a later device to try and put some order on the pantheon (I don’t know why they bothered, any such ordering appears to have made things more complicated!) However, in Aonghus’ story about finding the beautiful woman of his dreams, the Dagda consults with the King of the Sí in Munster, also a son of his, Bodhb Dearg, who manages to find the woman in question, to ease Aonghus’ way. Here we enter into a bit of a conundrum since an later spelling of “Bodhbh” is “Badhbh” who is generally considered to be one of the Morrigna or an aspect of the Morrigan. So, was Bodhbh Dearg a daughter of the Dagda he slept with (as aspect of the Morrigan) or a son who ended up being King of the Sí in Munster?

There is a brief mention in the Banshechas of another sister, Echtgi, who is described as the “loathsome daughter of the Dagda” and her story described as a spiteful one. Not much detail other than this…

On to children so… And yeah, there’s about as much linearity here as well.

Ruadhán was Brig and Bres’ son in Caith Maighe Tuired 2. That bit is well outlined, given it’s pretty much all of the 3 lines poor Brig gets in the story by name. Fairly solid ground here.

Then we move on to… sons of Tuireann. I know – where did they come from? Well… There is a suggestion in some places (ok more than a suggestion) that Brigid is the mother of Brian, Iucharba, Iuchair, the sons of Tuireann, that Lugh sends off to to collect these items as a fine for murder: three apples, and the skin of a pig, and a spear,and two horses, and a chariot, and seven pigs, and a dog’s whelp, and a cooking-spit, and three shouts on a hill. (It’s all more complicated than that of course, but I’ll leave ye to read the story for yourselves for now, or wait for the book to come out if ye want – don’t be holding yere breath though!) of course the other suggestion is that Danand is the mother of the three sons in question – as ever, things are clear and straightforward in the family tree.

Isn’t that all fun? And we haven’t even gotten into the suggestions of incest and other skullduggery either.

3 thoughts on “Brigid’s relationships with other deities”

  1. If the Ancient Irish deities are related to the old gods of India/Persia as some scholars maintain, then Brigid would be a self existent deity. Her Indian equivalent would be Sarasvati. Sarasvati as a goddess has no parents. I won’t go into this because of space. I think the need to have some point of origin as to parentage is linked to the way the old Greek/Roman deities are portrayed. It seems to be a part of the Western need for duality. But the Celtic people came out the Asian world and there is the ancient idea of non-dualism influence of Hinduism. Sarasvati is credited for the creation of the sacred texts. Sarasvati or Brigid does not need to be subservient to male generation. She is power of creation on her own.

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    1. I’m not sure what you’re saying here Peggy. The notion that the Irish deities are related to Indian/Persian deities is not one I’ve come across before. The Dagda is very clearly stated as Brigid’s father in different places. Family is and was important in Ireland, why would our deities be any different? I wouldn’t see this as Brigid being subservient – anyone working with her knows that isn’t true 🙂

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  2. I did some study of Saint Bride/Brigit, etc many years ago and ran across an article comparing old Irish/Gaeilc/Welsh philologically to ancient Indo Aryan languages such as Sanskrit and Persian. The simularites were remarkable. The old Irish also had a caste system similar to what was in India with Rulers, Priests, Warriors, Artisans, Slaves. The Celts have an Asian origin. Sarasvasti if you want to know has all the attributes ascribed to Brigid including a bird companion. Sarasvasti is portrayed with a swan, Brigid with a goose. Sarasvasti has no lineage…she just IS. She is another manifestation of Brahma, universal consciousness. While the Dagda is listed as Brigid’s “father” and she has no real connection to any other female generator, I would guess that the Dagda over the centuries lost connection between the universal consciousness of the old Celtic beliets and became influenced by later other tribal beliefs..
    The Sarasvati River of northern India vanished millenia ago and it’s ancient bed has been discovered through sateliite mapping. Water is linked to consciousness/spirit. I think that the interest in Brigid and Sarasvasti is serendipitous because art is what makes us truly human and it’s likely the highest form of consciousness and that is what these two deities are manifesting to and in us today.

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