Endurance, Determination and Pure Stubbornness

I didn’t post on Sunday. I was just pure exhausted and took the weekend off to sleep and read. It was badly needed after an intense audit in work and just general mid-COVID fatigue. And she herself gave me a good slap up the back of the head to remind me about self care.

I was reminded about the need to look after myself in one of the Irish Pagan School groups, when I found myself reassuring someone that there is No One True Way, there is no One Size Fits All when it comes to spirituality and, indeed Irish spirituality in particular. Our individual practices can look extremely different and yet be in right relationship for us.

Why is this titled Endurance, Determination and Stubbornness? Well, because there are times when life itself needs all of the above and the lines and delineations between the three become blurred at best and nonexistent at times. I’m clinging on to my current practice by the skin of my teeth right now. It’s been cut right back because of business at work mostly, but also because of the level of background stress I’m under.

My practice at the minute consists of a book I’m writing on Brigid, a commitment of 2000 words a week. I skipped last weekend, but I’m still ahead of schedule so that’s not too bad. It’s also including some breathing exercises and a daily walk on the treadmill. (If I’m honest, the daily walk on the treadmill is not so daily)It’s also including sleeping habits, eating habits and self care in general. Last weekend it included a ritual bath – which is very similar to a normal relaxing bath for me except instead of reading a book, I lie back and meditate or journey. Or pray. Or sometimes a mix of all three.

I’ve got a break in work coming up in 3 weeks time and I am literally hanging on by my fingernails until that time. I’m hoping for a mental break at that point to be able to reset and recuperate before the Christmas break. And that mental break is also part of a spiritual practice.

It’s really, really easy to think we need to keep going all the time at 110%. It’s really easy, especially with someone like Brigid, to think we have no options but to keep going. But we do – we always have options. 2020 has been a shit year. COVID 19 has had a massive impact on the whole world and there’s this underlying stressor in the zeitgeist about that whole thing. Then we add in the usual day-to-day stressors – work, family, friends, home, money, life…. People are still falling in love, falling out of love, managing kids, not having kids, struggling with a relationship, dealing with abuse, dealing with something they’re not sure is abuse or not, dealing with insecurities, worries… all with the added layers of a global pandemic.

We don’t have to go at 110% all the time. In fact, if we try, our bodies or our minds tend to force us to take that break. So have a look at your life right now and if you, like me, are hanging on by a thread – make some plans. Maybe you can’t take even 5 seconds right now, but plan for when you might be able to.

What can you do to help yourself cope right now? And don’t forget, praying for help is always an option!!!

Brigid, politics and the US presidential election

I will say that Lora O’Brien has done an awful lot of work in this area (Irish spirituality/ Irish paganism and politics) and she sums up a lot of her views here: https://youtu.be/mxPJILQrt8k. My own agree with the views expressed there but given some of the discussions given out on various pagan groups I’m a part of, I wanted to express them here.

I know the common “polite” and “mannerly” custom has been for decades not to discuss politics or religion in polite company. Well, I don’t claim to participate in polite company all that often and this blog is quite definitely religion- or at least spirituality – orientated. I’ll make no pretensions on that score. I will also say clearly (again) that my spirituality informs my politics and vice versa.

Do you remember the post a few months back on how to honour Brigid? And how prominently the causes I believe she supports featured in that post? Brig Ambue is an aspect of Brigid I find very attractive.

I’m a white, cishet, Irish woman who has also the privilege of a bloody good education, decent salary, good health care options, etc, etc, etc. I hold a lot of privilege in this world in general (and frankly, I consider being born on this island and being party to this culture as a privilege as well). I have a lot going for me. That doesn’t mean life hasn’t been hard – it’s been bloody hard at times. Really hard. But most of the time, me, my religious views, my political views, my gender, my sexual preferences, etc, etc have not been the issue (ok gender has been at times, but not most of the time).

Brigid works with me and part of that work is supporting the community and that means supporting some of those causes I mentioned above. Part of it is signal boosting. Part of it is monetary. Part of it is making myself very uncomfortable and using myself as examples of things that need to be made public. Part of it is writing posts like this to explain why politics and spirituality are interlinked. This is not my core skill, just saying, it’s definitely something I have to be pushed to do.

Part of my work is ensuring my political representatives know how I feel and how I want to be represented on particular issues. Part of my work is ensuring that people who are feeling unsafe and oppressed have the means to discuss that. (Fair warning: if you’re rich, white, able-bodied, straight, etc you’re not being oppressed. Trust me. If you disagree with that, I strongly suggest getting yourself some education about systemic privilege. Also – are you in the right place at all?)

That means that sometimes in my facebook groups, I post on US politics, because a lot of our members are US based. And in the last week, it has been a tense time in US politics. I’m not a Trump supporter. I think it a signal that what is meant to be the “greatest” nation on earth could elect such a leader. A bad signal, just in case you were wondering. Aside from his attitude to women (remember the “grab ’em by the pussy” comment????), his attitude to migrants, his attitude to health, his attitude to anyone who isn’t rich is absolutely disgusting. I think Trump has shown how there are many areas in the States that are feeling their rights being stripped from them. Whether these people are imagining this issue or not comes back to politics.

To me, a government’s role is to look after their people. Leaving people in food deserts is not looking after them. Leaving people in work deserts is not looking after them. Leaving people working 2+ jobs just to keep food on the table is not looking after them. Leaving people in such fear for their lives that they riot and face down armed police forces rather suffer for One. More. Minute. is not looking after them. It’s an important job to ensure all citizens and inhabitants have the means to feed, clothe and house themselves according to the standards of the day. ( I once heard a Republican politician state that since 99%+ of homes in the US have fridges, they can’t consider themselves in poverty. It was an interesting theory to say the least….) It’s equally important to enforce the rule of law, but to also ensure the law is fair and just.

Seriously, how could Brigid not be interested in this? How could any deity not care about their people and how they are looked after?

There are many comments coming up in pagan groups lately that they were hoping this was a politics free space. Our religion, our spirituality, cannot be separate from our politics. Politics is what deems which religions are ok to practice and which aren’t. Politics is what decrees what is ok to discriminate against and what isn’t. Not law. Politics. Politics tells us who is ok to punch down and who isn’t. Who is “acceptable” and “respectable” and who isn’t.

So, I will say again for those in the back: I believe Trump was a bad president for the majority of people in the US. I believe Biden isn’t great, but he is at least better than Trump. Mind you, one of the Halloween pumpkins and turnips might be better than Trump. Who you vote for, who you support politically, who you give your time, energy and money to all feed into your spirituality. There is a cognitive dissonance between practicing a spirituality so in tune with the needs of the community, the needs of the tuath, the needs of the people, and voting for a party that ignores all of that.

As I type, it looks like Biden has won the US presidential election, so I’ll be lighting a candle in thanksgiving to herself. I have no doubt that Trump has already started his legal campaign now, he has certainly already started his “election fraud” campaign, so there is still work to be done here. But the US presidential election is only the tip of the iceberg. And this translates to your own locality as well, US or not. Who are you voting for in your local elections? What elected officials are in your area? What are their views? Do you know who these people are who are meant to be working for you? Learn about how politics works in your locality so at least, come election day, you can make an informed choice regarding which box your X goes in.

For those suffering from the election season, there are a couple of threads in the Brigid’s Forge group on facebook to talk about what’s going on. I will say though that the group doesn’t allow bigotry, oppression etc. I run the group and my word is the final word. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you should know the things I support and allow. Here’s a link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/318562765289760 I look forward to welcoming you there.

Brigid and Samhain

Brigid has, of course, no real direct links to Samhain, Imbolc being her gig. But all the same there are some things that link her to Samhain, in a loose, non-specific way.

Brigid was the one who taught us keening (see Caith Maigh Tuired 2), the proper way to mourn our dead. And Samhain is the time for remembering those who have passed on. There are traditions in Ireland kept to this day on this time of year. Laying out the extra place at the table on Halloween night (Oíche Samhna) for any passing departed family member or friend who wants to pop in. The whole month of November (also called Samhain in Irish, or Mí na Samhna as we learnt it in school) is devoted to the dead in the Catholic tradition, with All Saints’ Day being November 1st and All Souls’ Day being November 2nd. There are increased numbers of prayers for the departed throughout the month and it’s a long standing tradition in this country of visiting a graveyard to pray for the inhabitants, if that’s the correct term, during the month of November. Remembering the dead is a big deal at this time of year in this country. And as for those who pass away at this time of year, well it’s not lucky to pass away at all, but it’s generally accepted with all the extra prayers going on, it’s not a bad time of year to go – the prayers can give you a head start on the way out of purgatory, y’see.

It’s important too, to remember the graves of those who have gone before us. While many parishes hold their Cemetery Sundays in the summer, a reason to give the grave a spruce up for the occasion, November is a time when families will bring fresh flowers or ornaments to the graves as well, in remembrance. It’s not precisely that the Irish practice ancestor worship, you understand, it’s more the respect to the dead is strong in this country and particularly in November.

It’s a time too for remembering those who have gone before us. Invariably at this time of year, the story of my Nana as a ghost gets told. It was coming close to the last day in November and Nana hadn’t made it to a graveyard because of one thing and another. So late one afternoon, she hopped on her bike and cycled over. It being November and Ireland, she was well wrapped up in her good coat, which happened to be very pale in colour. And it being November and twilight at best, dark at worst, she didn’t want to go too far into the graveyard for fear of who or what she might meet. So she hopped in over the style and knelt down just inside the wall to say some prayers. As she was finishing up, she saw two neighbours coming towards her and thought, brilliant, we can cycle home together. So she lept up onto the style and called out to them. They, seeing only a pale, wavering figure appear out of nowhere at the edge of a graveyard, took great fright, and took to their heels (well pedals!) with force. Nana, not wanting to be left behind, hopped on the bike to come after them, causing them to pedal with even more intent.

It was only when she arrived home, crossly wondering what in blazes was wrong with the women, that she realised the sight she must have presented.

This story always promotes a great laugh in our family, because while Nana was formidable, she was also four foot nothing, with blonde hair, so you can imagine the image the two women saw on the wall of the graveyard, on a dark night…

There are other stories that are told as well. Have a look at An Scealaí Beag’s Patreon offering for this month for some of the darker tales of this time of year. But I’ll get back to Brigid now.

For me, Samhain marks the last quarter of the year before Imbolc. I see it as November for the dead, honouring them, remembering them, praying for them, hoping they’re well and happy. Nollag (Christmas in Irish, again applying to the whole month of December, but also being used for Yule) is for celebrating in the face of the winter’s darkness, taking joy in the living, in the young, in the future, in the hope. By Christmas Day, the days are, technically, getting longer again, once the winter solstice is over. It’s celebrating almost in defiance of the darkness and holding the strong belief that the light and growth will return. January for me is cleaning up and getting into the final preparations for Imbolc. It’s clearing out the hold, making room for the new to take root and grow. it’s investigating the dark corners of both home and soul, to see what lies stagnant that needs cleaning or removing or dusting or replacing. It’s a time for making things stretch as well, until the first green shoots start to show and depending on the joy from Christmas to last us through this last darkness before the Spring comes again.

These days of course, the darkness of a December night has less effect on us and the difference in days length between December and January is difficult to notice. And yet, we embrace the light in the darkness – look at how many of our Christmas traditions revolve around light – decorations, candles, even brightly coloured wrapping paper. But the notion of a spring clean is a good one, and still prevalent among many people.

Back to Samhain then. And Brigid. This is the time when the harvest is over, first, second and last. No berry or nut should be taken from the plant after this night, since the Devil or the Other Crowd (depending your persuasion) will have taken the goodness from them on Oíche Samhna. What we have now, is what we have to see out the winter. These rhythms don’t worry us as much now, with modern farming and supply chains, but it’s good to remember a time when the apples from the first harvest were safely packed away and brought out on this night as a treat. When the nuts we buy in bushels from the shop now were a real vital filling food to keep things going, calorie wise, for the winter. When the berries were the last sweet treat for a while and when the first green shoots in spring were a craved-for experience.

Brigid cares about us – why wouldn’t she, and we her people. She wants us to do well – as communities, as individuals. She wants us to survive the coming winter while accepting that not all will. And she wants us to have the appropriate way of grieving for those who do leave us. Many people who follow Brigid are not Catholic, have never been Catholic, have no wish to be Catholic. Equally, many people who follow Brigid are not Irish, have never been Irish, have no wish to be Irish. And those people come from different traditions and habits. But I speak here as an Irish pagan Catholic, deeply rooted in those traditions and habits. I view Brigid through that lens, through the lore, through the traditions of my forebears.

November is for the dead. Remembering them. Praying for them. Making sure we’re right with them, making sure we’ve not left them out. It’s not to keep them with us, for surely they have their own journeys to be about, but to know there’s a place for them here if they wish it. Admittedly, everyone has some ancestor they don’t want visiting, and you deal with them as you would any unwanted visitor. But the loved ones, the ones who are welcome, wherever they are, it does us no harm to remember them and wish them well. And Brigid knows and understands grief. She knows and understands loss. She knows the immediate sharp pain and the longer, dull ache of realising someone isn’t there any more. November gives us the chance to grieve.

Mother & Baby Homes

There is yet another scandal rocking my country at the minute. Well, technically, this isn’t a new scandal as such, but it’s a new chapter in an old scandal.

For many years, after the foundation of the modern Irish state, Church and State worked hand in hand to keep women in their place. (Said place was not one I would have chosen to be and I thank deities regularly for not being born in those godforsaken times)

This particular aspect is particularly gruesome – and yes, I know I’m using “particular” and it’s derivatives a lot. It’ll be grand.

Unmarried mothers were seen as a scandal for many decades in modern Ireland. The shame on the family of said unmarried mother was tremendous (the shame on the unmarried father on the other hand was less so…) Where possible, of course, the ideal was to get said woman married off to someone who would accept the baby and raise it themselves. If that was not possible for whatever reason, then step in your usually not-local and usually unfriendly Mother and Baby home. These were places where women, sluts and harlots as they were, were sent to have their babies, out of sight and unable to shock the more respectable members of society. The women in these places, which were run by religious orders (nuns), were treated horribly. They were fallen women. They were worked without regard to their health or well being. They were given new names on entry to the home, not permitted to speak to each other or make friends, forced to labour in laundries, in heavy housework, making money from these women, who were after all, free labour.

Babies were taken from their mothers after a few weeks, to be raised in the homes and later on in industrial schools (another scandal, if you feel like googling it), if they weren’t given up for adoption, with or without the mother’s permission. Many of these women stayed in the homes or in places like them for fallen women, for years after the birth.

The latest chapter in this scandal is that our President, Michael D. Higgins himself, has juts signed into law the Bill that will seal the records from the government investigation for thirty years. https://www.thejournal.ie/president-sign-mother-and-baby-home-bill-5245201-Oct2020/ This news article has a link to a petition to change this bill, please look into it.

The article also has links to previous articles on this topic.

Brigid has a care for mothers, babies and mistreated women – all issues at stake here. Please look into this. Please see what you can do. If you’re not in a position to do anything in Ireland for this issue – look around in your own country. We’re not the only places who have treated unmarried women this badly. Even in the modern day there are people who treat the powerless in society poorly at best and viciously at worst. Please look into it. Do something. Let’s shout out from the rooftops about these injustices, scream at your local government representatives, raise money, don’t let these things be swept under the carpet as they always have been before.

If we’re looking at working for/with Brigid, we need to do the work she asks of us…

Brigid and Sovereignty

I read a really interesting article this morning (What is Sovereignty by Bethany Webster: What is Sovereignty ) And of course, it got me thinking, just for a change.

I don’t usually link Brigid to sovereignty, because to me, she does other stuff. Learning my boundaries, establishing those boundaries, experiencing discomfort… Bethany Webster has 13 elements of sovereignty outlined in that article and looking back over my adult life, I can recognise the times when I was working on each and the times when I really wasn’t. For a variety of reasons, there have been long, hard parts of my life where I wasn’t sovereign. I gave up my personal power for a variety of reasons. And it was a long, hard, bloody journey back to reclaim it.

I’m not unlike a lot of women in the modern world here. It’s almost like we’re taught from a young age to give up that sovereignty, that personal agency in this world. Defer to those who are older, who know better, who are louder, more confident… there are so many reasons and ways we are taught to give up that sovereignty. We are taught to put ourselves second, to care for others first. We are taught that we must make ourselves small to keep ourselves safe.

Brigid didn’t do this. In fact, Brigid – whether saint of deity – did the opposite. As deity, she married Bres, thereby giving him the right to be king (that bit might be UPG). As a saint, she pulled out her own eye rather than marry someone she didn’t want to, despite pressure from her father and brothers. She founded a monastical settlement that grew to rival Armagh (Armagh was Patrick’s power centre). She did what she had to do, and while the later hagiographies outline that she was always in agreement with her (male) superiors, her actions show otherwise. She knew what was right and made sure it got done.

I look back over my journey with personal sovereignty and I think of what I gave up and how difficult it was to claim back. Monetary power was incredibly difficult to reclaim. I had myself convinced I couldn’t live without debt, that I was just shit with money, and that I was probably better off handing over my money to someone else to manage. Just FYI, that was not a good idea. But I’ve reclaimed that now and within weeks will be debt free. That’s a journey over over 20yrs I’ve summed up in a few sentences.

I’m stubborn and looking back over this journey I’ve taken, I’m seeing some patterns. Things have to get really, really, really, bad before I’ll change my mind about me. Like close to but not quite at life threatening stage. I got to the point of feeding myself and my husband for less than €15 a month. Yeah… a month. They were a bad few months of some very limited and boring food. Porridge featured a lot… Thankfully, we had a full freezer when that hit so it wasn’t quite as bad as it could have been, but I could see the end coming.

Once I change my mind, I always think it’s going to be a long hard journey – and so far it has been. But I wonder if this is another belief that I need to tackle and reclaim the easiness of life. Let’s hope this one isn’t as arduous as some of the others.

Where does Brigid come into this? Well, she’s not someone to let you off easy, really. She does want me to work this stuff out for myself. When she knows I have the tools, the abilities, the skills, the resources I need to do something… she lets me get on with it. It’s not up to her to wave a magic wand, no matter how often I ask her!! But then the results are more valuable to me because I’ve done the work myself. And as an added benefit, I now trust myself as well.

I trust my feelings, my thoughts, my intuition… I know that if I sense something about a situation or a person, that I really should pay attention to it and investigate why. I know myself – there are things about me I admit to few other people, but I admit them to myself. And because of that, I know that if I get a bad feeling about something or someone, I should pay attention to that.

This doesn’t mean not listening to experts. I have a sore ear at the minute. I’m almost certain it’s a ruptured ear drum. Experience tells me this will probably heal on its own, unless there’s an infection in there as well. Now, I’m not planning on ringing the doc on a Sunday for this, but if I don’t feel better tomorrow or Tuesday, I’ll give them a shout because 1) I might be wrong and 2) if it is an infection, I’ll probably need antibiotics. It’s a matter of balance and not allowing my own thoughts and feelings to be undermined by people who don’t know me, while still respecting that experts are experts for reasons and I am not an expert on medicine. I am an expert on me though!

It’s a balance. All life is a balance really. And don’t forget, balance doesn’t always mean equal. I don’t go to the doctor for every ache and pain, I don’t give them the authority to manage half my life… But the balance is what works for me – your mileage will most probably be different. Learning when to trust is as important as learning when not to trust.

Knowing ourselves, owning ourselves, acknowledging all the disparate parts of ourselves as one whole thing, is hugely important. And Brigid wants this of her followers – she is a healer as well as a smith, both elements feeding into this. If she can take wood and steel and meld them together to come up with a useful tool like a hammer, then she can look at you, no matter how fractured and broken you think you are, and see what might be. And so can you. And even if you can’t see it, trust she can and start the work. Even admitting to yourself that your sovereignty isn’t where it might be can be a good start.

You’re worth it. And you’ll be a better tool for her at the end of it – even way before the end of it.

It’s well worth reading Bethany Webster’s article and looking at what it means to you and what can you do about sovereignty for yourself. Stand on your own two feet, or two bum cheeks, or two hands, or one of each or none of each, but stand for yourself, take a deep, deep breath, take a good look in the mirror and see what stares back. Sometimes the worst thing we can ever face is ourselves.


I’m going to write today about a topic that I find very sensitive but is also one I find looming more and more on my horizons as part of my practice with/for Brigid. The topic is, as the title of this post suggests, fitness.

Now fitness can be defined in several ways, but two of them are linked here today 1) physical fitness, cardiovascular fitness and 2) appropriateness for a role or job. I will freely admit that due to issues with an ingrown toenail and other foot related pain, my physical fitness has dropped dramatically in recent years. To the point where physical movement is for the most part painful for me now. This is further complicated by a history of eating and exercise disorders, me being fat ( don’t bother, I don’t see it as an insult) and a few decades of trying to explain that yes, both of those things are possible.

But my physical fitness does tie into my fitness to do my job and my work for/with Brigid. As part of my role, I need to be able to walk around, stand for long periods, point, move, stretch, lift, carry, etc. And that’s just the day job. Endurance and strength are also needed for my work with/for Brigid, in terms of continuing work past usual working hours, maintaining health so that illness doesn’t distract me from this work (I had a cold the week before last and I won’t hear the end of it for a while cos it knocked me back on a few projects!)

But when I’m at the point where I am now, it can be really easy to say , “I give up, this is just the way things are now!”. From this point on, I need to underscore all I’m about to write with an understanding of the privilege I have here: I have a position in a company where I didn’t lose my job due to physical infirmity; I have spending money; I have space and room in my home; I have a stable relationship; I am educated and have spent time researching and reading up on the topics that will support what I’m embarking on. Not everyone has these challenges. I’m also a stubborn bitch when it suits me and I think it’s going to suit me on this one.

From this week, I’m starting a journey back to where I feel physically fit. It started with a ten min walk on a treadmill (arrived last week) that I completed in my jammies before starting my day. I felt hot and sweaty and uncomfortable after this walk, but I did it. Now as far as targets go – my goal right now is to make a habit of walking every day Monday to Friday. I know that if I do this, the walking will become more enjoyable and this will make sitting at a desk all day more comfortable/ tolerable.

With regard to Brigid on this, well she’s mainly concerned with me being able to do the work she wants me to do. She also wants to make sure I’m able to keep myself safe, and that includes removing myself from danger if need be. I don’t think it likely that will involve running from an animal predator, but certainly running from a human one (ok, walking quickly) might be something I need to do. Plus, she’s really a “holistic health” person and while emotionally and mentally I’m not doing to badly right now, she knows that physically I’m suffering from a few different things that regular movement will help with.

It’s not impossible to work for/with Brigid if you’re physically unfit, or if you measure fitness differently than I have here. How you measure fitness, how you prioritise this, is entirely up to you. And even working with Brigid, you may decide this is a lower priority than something else – seriously, you know you better than anyone else! This isn’t really about the fitness. It’s just the example of what she might push you to do.

To that end, while I can surmise, suppose, imagine why this is important right now, I don’t really know, but I do trust that she asks this for a reason. It’s not more important than writing my Brigid book, it’s not more important than my day job, but it’s up there. And it will lead to a more enjoyable next summer for me, so y’know, good all round.

Here’s the thing. We may have our own ideas about what makes us fit or not to work with this or that deity, but frankly, they have their ideas as well. And it’s when our ideas and their ideas overlap, that things get very efficient. So, I know that ten mins of walking once off won’t make a huge difference to me, but I also know that starting off with ten mins of walking a day and continuing to do that day after day, will lead to 15mins of walking, maybe even an hour of walking. That will strengthen my body, ease out my muscles stiff from day after day of desk work, improve my thinking, improve my energy levels…. And I know that making this 10mins a devotional act means I’m more likely to continue with it in the longer term.

The sacred and the profane don’t have to be as separate in our lives as we think. Something can be useful to us and also an act of devotion. And fitness isn’t always what we imagine it to be either. What is your deity asking of you right now that will probably make you more “fit” in one way or another? And what are you going to do about it?

The biggest mistakes people make with Brigid (IMO)

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!

How to honour Brigid

One of the topics that came up on my recent request for blog topics was ways to honour Brigid. Now I feel I’ve been fairly clear on this blog that for me, honouring her, working with her, etc comes with my daily life. The best honour I can pay her is to live a life she might be proud of. Or at least not objecting to…

But I appreciate there are people out there that prefer a different type of relationship with their deity. And sometimes it’s nice to do a bit of specific rather than generic honouring.

I suppose one of the issues I have is that I don’t see my relationship with her as needing honouring as such. I mean, we’re not equal partners in this, but I have rights as well as her. And I think that’s important to remember. Honour her first and foremost by knowing yourself. Know your boundaries, your limits, your abilities, your weaknesses. Admit to yourself who you are, what you are, where you are… be clear on all this. Trust me, it makes life in general easier, never mind relationship with deity.

But we’ll go from quick and easy to the more complicated stuff here.

So first off – lighting an auld candle rarely goes astray. I mean, if I was living in California, Oregon, Washington or anywhere else there’s wildfires raging, I wouldn’t be adding fire energy to the conflagration without serious consideration of the consequences. But here in Ireland, we’re unlikely to have those issues, even with the week of fine weather we’re currently having. Lighting a candle and just thinking about herself is a pretty straightforward and easy way to pay her respect.

Meditation is a great to connect with herself as well. I read something long ago that said prayer is when we speak to the gods and meditation is when they speak to us. Meditation is both extremely simple and extremely difficult. I find visualisation helps me a lot with meditation, but also saying the rosary can get me into a meditative state – it’s not one I usually encounter Brigid in though. Mantras can help. Guided meditations can help. You can check out the journeying methods taught at the Irish Pagan School for specific journeys to meet herself (journeying isn’t quite meditation, but it’s linked and well worth learning. But be careful and learn from a decent source. I will recommend https://irishpaganschool.com/ for this – not only cos I have a few classes on there, but I do believe this method is as careful as it can be.)

Now I mentioned praying there in the previous paragraph. Either composing a prayer of your own or using one already in the public domain, it’s up to you and the resources available to you. Prayer doesn’t always mean asking for things, praising deities is an old, old tradition as is the tradition of just reminding them we’re here. No harm in either type of praying.

After that, well she’s never been adverse to a glass of wine in my experience, although she does have history with beer and stronger spirits as well. If alcohol isn’t an option, milk, cream, butter, dairy products in general are no bad idea. For a bit more effort – home baking is a way to go. I mean the Dagda is the big one for food, but Brigid has the links to the hearth fire (and to me this includes the modern gas or electric oven!) so the fruits of said fire are always welcome. I’ve heard people asking how long to leave out offerings like this – honestly, I don’t think it matters and it will depend greatly on your own personal circumstances. If you have small children or animals about the place you may not want to leave out things that would be harmful to them. At the very least, try to remember to through the offering out before it goes off anyway. Not for any deity related reason, but more for hygienic issues. Equally, how you dispose of your offering will depend on what it is and your circumstances. I either throw a glass of wine down the sink or else onto the grass in a particular spot.

If you want to get a bit deeper but still keep this honouring to yourself, have a look around in your local area or community and see what needs doing. Is there a well about the place that needs weeding and clearing up? Is there an abandoned graveyard of a religious tradition you understand that needs upkeep? Is there a playground that’s covered in litter?Have a look around and see how you can do something to make things better.

You can always donate money. I’m a firm believer that energy follows money, so use what money you can to support causes in her name. Environmental issues, women’s and children’s rights, LGBT+ rights… any minority is probably a way to honour her. And this way you choose to support something you care about as well as something she cares about.

If you have the ability and resources, you can join or found a group to help with any of the above issues. Is there a well that continually gets overgrown or littered? Can you gather people together to take care of it? Many hands make light work. And setting up and running a group like this required the help of a deity in my opinion. It’s easier to herd cats than people, but a group of people tend to get more done than one person alone.

If you haven’t the resources to get directly involved yourself, promote those who do. Online activism or armchair activism is almost pejorative these days, but sharing a post to spread awareness of something is valuable as well. Basically – do what you can do. She’s hard on her tools, but she doesn’t usually intentionally break them…

You can create in her name – while she is listed as the goddess of poets, it’s really not just poetry she’s interested in and poets in Ireland were expected to do a lot more than just declaim a few rhyming couplets. So, writing anything at all. Painting, sewing, embroidering, knitting, weaving… there are a load of crafts out there that allow you to be creative and honour her in the doing of it.

I have mentioned before I believe my work as an engineer to be work in her name, with engineering being the descendant in the modern world of blacksmithing. Careers in the law, in the arts, in caring for others, in healing, in looking after the home ,in caring for children, in caring for the oppressed, caring for animals, both wild and domesticated… all these can and will honour her.

You can make her crosses – whether a 4 armed cross, a 3 armed cross, a lozenge or many other kinds.

Best of all – tune in, use your discernment and find out what she needs you to be doing. Honestly, that’s probably best in the end.

The loss of a true file

I woke this morning to find the world has lost Ruth Bader Ginsburg. As a Jewish woman, albeit one that left her faith was not observant for many decades by the accounts I’ve read, I doubt she would appreciate the usual gestures endemic in Irish culture, linked as they are to a Christian view of the world. (I had originally typed “left her faith” in this sentence, but I have been informed by a friend that this is not appropriate for Judaism and saying she was not observant is. Thank you to Sophia for telling me this!!) I will say that wherever she is now, I hope she gains the rest and happiness she deserves after a lifetime of work and perseverance.

Today, there will be many, many tributes paid to the great woman, a legacy she has earned. And many of them will be better worded, more informed, better researched and probably more appropriate than what I am about to write. But I’m crying this morning and mourning the loss of a file, one we sorely needed in the US, especially given the announcement this morning that the Senate in the US is likely to push ahead with a vote on a Trump nominee, even after the debacle in the last year of Obama’s tenure.

I’ve already seen one comment on an Irish group, questioning why we care so much about someone who, after all, had so little influence on Ireland and Irish culture? Well I hope to address that in my words here – or at least partly address it.

First and foremost, RBG was a feminist. She was the second woman appointed to the US Supreme Court – in 1993. That’s within my lifetime. She was compelled to hide her second pregnancy until her teaching contract was renewed (1965). She has dealt with two bouts of concer, continued to work from her hospital bed when she broke some ribs a few years back and was thinking of her country up until her last minutes by all accounts – expressing a wish that her replacement would not be nominated by the current president of the USA. She thought of others. She upheld the law.

She was a file. The word in modern Irish means poet – and anyone who has read or heard some of her judgments will realise that she held and understood the power of words. But in our history, the filí were not just poets. They were the judges, the givers of law, the upholders of the law, the developers of the law. Our own Brigid was deemed deity of the filí, and her namesakes after her ( Brig Ambue -Brigit of the Cowless, Brig Briugu – Brigit of Hospitality, Brig Brethach – Brigit of the Judgments) in the Ulster cycle were the mother, wife and daughter of Senchas (translated as lore or tradition). Brigid cared about the law, cared about right judgement. Brig’s husband, Bres, in Caith Maigh Tuiread was brought down in the first instance by a wrong judgement and lost his kingship over it.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a file in the Irish tradition, of working with the law, changing it, as did the three Brigs of the Ulster cycle, when it was deemed unfair – particularly when it came to women. She was a liberal leader – not so far left or liberal as I’d like her to be, but nevertheless, the senior liberal judge on the Supreme Court in the past few years. She fought for equality for women. And yes, her remarks on the protests of Colin Kapernick and his fellow protestors were not supportive, which is a disappointment, but if even our deities are imperfect, then how can we expect more from our human heroes?

Because Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a hero of mine. A personal hero – she worked and fought in a male dominated profession, as I do. She paved the way for others to come after her – as I hope I do. She spoke out and voted with her conscience – as I hope to always do. She persisted, she persevered, she continued on. She accepted the weight of expectations on her and didn’t retire, but kept going to the end.

She was 87 when she passed away and she is a massive loss to the US, to this world. She showed us a way to fight the inequalities of the system, she showed us a way we might follow if we so choose. Hers is not the only way, but it is a way.

There are Jewish traditions and no doubt family traditions that her nearest and dearest will be following right now. If our grief is hard and long, imagine what those who knew her and loved her personally are feeling?

For those of us who admired her from afar, this is a time when “thoughts and prayers” might actually be appropriate. For myself, I will be lighting a candle in her honour today. And I will reflect on how I can use her example to further my own work in this world.

What can we do to continue her legacy and improve upon it?

How perspectives change

One of the questions that came up in my recent request for topics to write about on this blog was how my perspective and practice on Brigid has changed over time. It’s difficult to answer this one – so naturally, I decide to tackle it on a Sunday afternoon when I’m feeling a bit knackered and miserable. Glutton for punishment, sometimes, me!

In all seriousness though, it does no harm to look back and reflect sometimes, so here we go.

If I look back over my life, Brigid has always been there, certainly since I started school. In primary school, making crosses and hearing stories of her piety, her generosity were all part of St. Brigid’s Day, February 1st. As a teenager, I strayed away from her, and indeed religion in general, as I grew and tried to integrate things I knew to be right and the teachings of the church as I was presented with them. I will also say, I found St. Brigid to be fairly generic at this point anyway. Sure she was a virgin, she was humble, she was pious, she was kind… her stories appeared to me to be typical of the female saints.

In recent years however, I’ve realised those stories are not the same as other saints. Brigid didn’t die a martyr, she founded monastic communities, the first one with a group of women (shock, horror!!). She was ordained a bishop – officially accidentally, but we’ll take it. She wasn’t a meek healer, called to cure any brought before her, she put the onus on the sick many times to do something themselves, or else she made them well by assuming they were so, and such was her power that the world bent to her will. She is a better role model than I would have thought for the modern world.

And then the deity came along. And I’ll admit, it’s only as an adult I realised how different the day to day practices of Irish Catholicism are different to those in other countries. I spent 11 years as a Catholic in England for example and their approach to the religion was far more stringent, strict and less fun all in all. (One parish I was in, encouraged parents to send their children to a Festival of Light to pray for All Saints on Halloween rather than allowing them to dress up and go trick or treating. Very strange to an Irish woman!) I realised that things I had always taken for granted were not Catholic in nature at all, in fact the Church didn’t really support such things in the slightest. Things like the existence of the Otherworld, of lands such as Tír na nÓg, of the stories and the histories that we were taught – not really acknowledged by the Church at all. Our activities at Halloween, May Day, and other holidays were… not Christian?

And even frowned upon? It was disconcerting to say the least.

I started reading and learning. I found out that the Catholicism practiced by my ancestors was at best a thin veneer over older practices. That other Catholic nations didn’t have the traditions of leaving cream and butter by the door. That other Catholic nations didn’t have saints, particularly female ones, that claimed land with a magic cloak. That other Catholic nations viewed what I considered harmless childhood adventures of dressing up and playing as something else…

Anyway, as part of my learning, I came across the goddess. And the goddess I was introduced initially was a triple deity in the classical sense – maiden, mother, crone. This was wrong to me, since no goddess in Irish lore appears like this. I mean, some of them appear as whatever age they happen to choose, but the notion that the triple was the maiden, mother, crone wasn’t part of our stories. So I came to what I call the “Wiccan Brigid” first. (Wiccan Brigid may not be accurate, in fact neopagan is probably more accurate, but it’s what I called that entity when I came to her first). But I could tell, this wasn’t the deity I was sensing and working with.

Then I was guided towards the UCC Celt website (https://celt.ucc.ie//) and discovered the manuscripts where our mythology comes from (well the manuscripts that captured at least part of the oral tradition anyway). I read of the triple deity, daughter(s) of the Dagda. I learned about Brigid being goddess of poets, smithcraft and healing. I found her familial connections. I found people lighting candles to her, saying it was part of an ancient tradition (and it probably is, don’t want to denegrate the flamekeeping tradition!) I found people talking about the “beautiful energy” of the deity, showing ornate, intricate altars, craft work, all things devoted to her.

And some of it chimed with me and some didn’t. The flamekeeping sounded like a great thing to do, but doing it on a regular basis wasn’t something I wanted to do. Not something I felt called to do. Some were called to write poetry and songs to her – not me. Some were called to make and paint and write and create… not me. Not to say I didn’t or don’t do these things – I did and do, sometimes. But it wasn’t the core of what I felt was needed.

Around this time as well, I was introduced to meditation in a way that worked for me. And I started meditating. Then I discovered Lora O’Brien’s work on a native tradition of Irish spirituality and started looking with discernment and consideration with all I had learned and worked on. And I started building my current practice.

It’s pretty simple actually. I am an engineer, which I consider a descendant of smithcraft, so by my daily work, I honour herself. I have a statue where I will light tealight on occasion, sometimes at her request, sometimes of my own volition and sometimes it’s not clear which is which, but sure, I can live with that. I meditate most days, and most days during meditation, I have a bit of a chat with her, sometimes more one-sided than others.

I find myself feeling very close to her by the sea and whenever I’m by the sea, I think of her, talk to her, thank her, and other things. This was a lot easier when I had a job 10 mins from the beach and COVID wasn’t restricting travel. But I’ve managed to go for a swim in the sea this year anyway, so I’m reasonably happy.

I try to do right by people in my daily life. It’s not always easy, but being in right relationship with people has become more and more important to me over time. Living as ethically as I can, working as ethically as I can, spending my money as ethically as I can… all these things are important to her and therefor to me. The energy goes where the money goes is something I try to remember. That means donating to causes I think important to her, writing letters to TDs (Irish politicians) on topics I feel important, taking part in campaigns and activities I think support her areas of concern. I also consider my work on getting more women into engineering as part of my work for her.

In short, I try to make my life my practice. It’s not so simple for me to divide up my life into devotion and non-devotion. I’m also heavily influence by my parents in this regard, who are devout Catholics, but firmly believe that while Mass attendance is important, it doesn’t outweight the duty and requirement to live life properly and in a good way. My mother calls my modern activities a “social conscience” and I suppose it is, but Brigid looks after the voiceless and asks us to help give them our voice when needed, so I try.

It’s not easy, but it’s a lot easier to face a difficult conversation in work knowing I have her backing than doing it on my own…

When I was younger, I thought religion and spirituality were things you did on specific occasions, confined to times and places. The rest of the time, you did the best you could. As an adult, the major change in my practice is that – it’s how I live my life. It means rarely using words like “always” and “never” since I know there are occasions I would break those terms. It means looking at where and how I work and incorporating the ethics distilled into me from childhood as part of my work. It means looking at where and how I spend money and avoiding places and entities who support practices I don’t agree with. It means offering my home as sanctuary to those who need it. It means offering prayers and healing practices (specifically reiki, reflexology and womb blessing) and accepting that these offerings may be refused. It means looking at the land and taking action to heal it. It means looking at our nation and supporting action to heal it. It means looking at the world and seeing what positive difference I can make.

It might be small, but I want to leave this world a better place than I found it. And that, really, is the core of my current practice.

%d bloggers like this: