I asked for topics to write about in the Brigid’s Forge Facebook group there a few days ago and one that struck my interest almost immediately was Kerry’s comment about seeing Brigid as a warrior. I found this interesting, because I think, while Brigid does most certainly fight, I don’t see her as a warrior. Hear me out…
If we look at her three primary aspects, Poet, Smith and Healer, all these people would be engaging in battles, involved in battles and probably able to fight in battles in ancient Ireland. (I’m going for very definitive time periods this morning obviously!!) We don’t have very many stories of Brigid full stop and the only one I know of directly linking her to a battle pre-Christianity is the bit in Caith Maighe Tuireadh 2, where Ruadhán dies. There’s no mention of Brig as a female warrior in that story, she is Ruadhán’s mother.
We have, of course, examples of female warriors in the tales. We have Scáthach from Cúchulainn’s training, we have the Neasa who was Conchubar Mac Neasa’s mother (and gave her name to her son in an unusual turn of events!), we have Queen Medb (although here we’re looking at a war leader rather than a warrior herself, maybe). Regardless, we have examples of women known as warriors, in our lore. It’s not unheard.
But Brigid isn’t listed among them, not anywhere I can find.
I suppose at this point it would be useful to explain what I mean by the word “warrior”. I mean an experienced fighter, something different to a soldier, one who acts off their own bat so to speak rather than under orders or as part of a group. (This is my own definition now mind!!) If we translate “warrior” into Irish, one of the words we get is laoch which also means hero – this is closer to the imagery I get when I think of warrior. (Another word I found, gaiscíoch has similar links to hero) A warrior or a laoch is someone fighting in a cause in my head, or someone who has surpassed themselves on the battlefield (and a battlefield can be very small or very big!) But there is an inherent use of physical violence for the word “warrior” in my head.
For Brigid, I see her as different. Let’s go back to her three parts: Poet, Smith, Healer. All three would have tied to battle and fighting, while not necessarily taking part in fighting themselves. The Poet – well check out this post (and associated merchandise) from EelandOtter.com on the important of the poet in battles. The deity mentioned as the poet for that battle is the Morrigan, but it still shows the power held by poets over battles and wars. Poets could incite, fuel and end battle and wars. And Brigid is the Goddess of Poets (according to Cormac’s Glossary anyway!!) so she has that power as well.
The Smith is equally as essential during times of war and of peace to the community. Where else do the weapons come from? And from making weapons, you’d surely get an understanding of how to use them? I don’t think weaponry is alien or foreign to Brigid, but the end use isn’t her major focus. And the Smith creates items for creation as well as destruction – the plough as well as the spear, so to speak. Supporting warriors, certainly, but also supporting the farmers, the weavers, the producers of society. Certainly, working at the forge would build muscles and endurance and the ability to pick up a weapon in times of need would be important, but a smith isn’t a frontline troop and if they are picking up weapons, something has gone very wrong…
Finally the Healer. One of the recurring lines I see in my fantasy books is that healers are dangerous, because the ones that know how to put you back together are the ones that can take you apart very easily as well. It certainly puts my GP in a new light! But it’s true. Healers could and did heal terrible wounds and to do so, they needed to understand how the body was put together, to understand how to take it apart, to understand how to put it back together again. It’s still similar to the way surgeons are trained today (from my very limited understanding of things!) Now I think the time required to learn enough to be a good healer might preclude also being an excellent fighter, but, similar to the Smith, Healers are essential at a battlefield or fight, and equally similarly, things have gone very wrong if a Healer needs to pick up a weapon…
Of course not all warriors are physical fighters, and in this aspect of the Warrior, I feel Brigid comes into her own. In the modern world, while I know there are armed. physical conflicts going on all over the world, for most of us, physical altercations are not a way of life. But we do have our battles. This is where the power of Brigid comes in. The Poet can persuade, cajole, teach, educate, etc etc etc to change minds and hearts. The Smith can create the tools and methods society needs. The Healer still heals, but not necessarily battle wounds, or not necessarily physical wounds.
Brigid is inherently involved in many battles, in my UPG. She was active during the Repeal the 8th campaign in Ireland a few years ago. She is active in women’s rights, equality campaigns. She can and will fight injustice where she finds it. She will pick up a weapon when needed, but it’s not her first port of call. Hope this helps!