Fiction and research about Brigid, Irish deity, saint, and so much more
I've been working with Brigid for many years now and looking to share my experience and knowledge with those who wish to learn. Check out my links here:
I’ve written before about Brigid and her anvil, but since at that time I was focused mostly on what it isn’t, I thought it time to revisit the idea. Just to reconfirm, the anvil isn’t and never will be:
something that someone else has done, i.e. not a robbery or not an attack
I don’t subscribe to the idea that these things are sent to us to have us learn a lesson and I doubt I ever will.
What is an anvil?
An anvil is a tool for making other tools. There is a chance that at times you might be serving as such for other people! Delivering the messages or guidance that others might need to hear. I wouldn’t go about saying that mind, or indeed offering to be one for someone else. If you do serve in such a role, it’s doubtful you’d be fully aware of it at the time, in my experience.
An anvil is a rock solid, dense piece of metal. It has to be, to stand up to the blows and tempering done on it. So, to be an anvil is tough to say the least. You withstand blows that shatter other pieces. You also, to a certain extent, protect other pieces. It might seem like a passive role, but only in that resistant can be passive.
How do I know I’m on the Anvil?
Well, try asking Brigid for a start. Let’s face it, she’s usually pretty good at letting us know what she wants us to know. But also, it’s not always good for us to know when we’re on the anvil. It can be easier to focus on getting through rather than worrying about the process. Think about the effort required to train in martial arts, or medicine, or engineering – none of it is painless. But a lot of the time, we have to trust that process and focus on getting the next box ticker.
Now, we all know stories of people asking Brigid for help and finding their lives turned upside-down. From my own stories of feeding two people on a tenner a month (yes, seriously!) to others describing break-ups, abrupt evictions, job losses… it’s not always easy when Brigid (or indeed any deity) gives you assistance. They have this insistence that they know better how to get you what you need…
So bear in mind, that even the act of asking Brigid for help can be perilous at times. On the other hand, sometimes she decides we need time on the anvil. So there is an aspect here of “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger” (even if I don’t fully agree with that). A better way of looking at it might be of tempering a metal to make it more useful.
And it fits better with the whole Anvil theme as well.
OK, but seriously, how do I know I’m on the bloody Anvil?
Well, how are you feeling? Are you going through a tough time that’s forcing you to develop new resilience, new skills, new habits? Is your life being turned upside down, but it appears it might work out better than it was?
Is it tough, with no end in sight, but you feel optimistic? Do you know this is a process you need to go through to attain a goal?
Have you asked her? Have you spoken to her? Remember your basics. For me, these are: sleep, food, fresh air, water, walking. These are the foundation blocks, the basics for my life working. Regardless of whether I’m on the anvil, being the anvil or just living normally, these are the things that help everything else work.
Surviving the Anvil
Really, for me, it is about those basics. The Anvil is a time of pressure, of tempering, whether the soul, the mind or the body. So, there needs to be a certain quality of metal involved to help survival in the first place. I wouldn’t worry too much about that, mind you. If Brigid decides you’re hitting the Anvil, chances are, you have been tested a bit before this already. Whether you realise it or not.
And this advice can help with all the tough times. Decide on your basics and make sure they’re in place. Sleep, food, fresh air, water and walking are mine, but yours may differ. To be honest, reading is a basic as well, but it’s like breathing for me, so I don’t bother putting it on the list. What are the foundation pillars for you life and how do you ensure they get done?
Then think about the next level – how do you ensure income, shelter, etc during tough periods. Money is a great buffer against problems, but unfortunately not available to everyone. What supports in the community can you access?
Is there someone close to you who can help you in a spiritual way? Is there a counsellor, priest/ess/ex, therapist, whatever you can talk to about this time? It’s not easy, I know it’s really not. But if you’re going through the Anvil, the outcome is nearly always worth it!
I was listening to a podcast from the Irish Pagan School on the way to work this morning. Jon was discussing whether the Dagda and Lugh get on… And of course it got me thinking, as Jon’s thoughts tend to do. Yes, I was thinking of Brigid! And how I built a relationship with the deities that appear in my home at times.
Now, I’ve never had an issue with the various deities that appear in my home. I’ve had a few circling through over the last few years because of the various courses I’ve been doing for the IPS. So, there’s been the Morrigan, the Dagda, Lugh and of course Brigid. There’s also been Crom Dubh and Tailtiu, and I have a feeling Crom Cruach will be making an appearance shortly. There’s also St. Therese and the Mother Mary hanging around as well. Although to be fair, they tend to be a bit busier than others. But how do you manage a relationship with multiple deities? How do you start a relationship with a deity at all?
Well, ye know from previous postson this topic, I’m a strong believer in reading the lore and learning from it. How to start a relationship with a deity, in my opinion, is to get to know what you can about them, from reputable source. I highly recommend UCC Celt to find either original manuscripts and translations of them as a starter. Now, to be honest, the CODECS site is far better for sourcing academic work. But the UCC Celt one is easier to search and find things on, so if you’re starting out – try there first!
How to build a relationship with deity can move on from there, once you know the basics. Start a daily check in. A few mins every day, or even a single minute of less every day, is a good way to start. A lot of my practice with Brigid right now is a pause on my way to the car in the morning. I stop, take a breath, thank her for the weather or something, then move about my day.
How to manage multiple deities at once?
Well, it’s more of the same really. Build the relationship with the deity gradually. Start with the basics. Learn what you can about whoever you want to welcome to your home. But here’s the important bit. And Jon highlighted this in his podcast as well – your home, your altar, it’s your space. You get to decide who is invited in and who isn’t. Youcan create your altar as a space for you, as you need it to be. If a deity chooses to come visit, that’s up to them. To my mind, the usual guest responsibilities apply.
Deities don’t have the same relationships as humans. So, just because, for example, Tailtiu and the Dagda were on opposite sides in the first battle of Moytura, doesn’t mean they have any issues visiting my home at the same time. For a start, it was a long time ago. For a second, I’ve built my relationship with them in different ways. And they’re deities – they don’t think like humans. We have a habit of anthropomorphising them at times, but they aren’t human. Building a relationship with multiple deities is harder work – and I’d advise doing it one at a time. But it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
I focus on Brigid for the most part, because she is my main relationship. But I burned frankincense and myrrh incense for over a year, accidentally, because of the influence of the Dagda (the sneaky fecker!) I picked flowers last year for Crom Dubh. I gave blood to the Morrigan – again, not entirely voluntarily, but it wasn’t a massive wound, so, grand. It is entirely possible to work with multiple deities and have multiple deities on your altar.
Altars and sharing space
Now, your altar doesn’t have to be something grand and big like the one pictures above. It can be a statue. A mug of coffee and a slice of bread. A flower. Your altar is your sacred space, it’s for you to maintain and keep up, so it must suit you and your lifestyle. If it needs to be hidden – shoebox! (Also works for not much space as well) If you need multiple deities represented there – no problem. Maybe having separate places in your home works better for you, in which case, grand as well. But don’t think you can’t put two deities together on an altar just because of one story from two millennia ago!
As I said above, a deity’s relationship with deities is different from ours. They’re not human. So, naturally, our relationship with deities will vary as well. There are very few hard and fast lines I adhere to with deity. (Unless you’re trying to argue that Brigid is meek and mild – that’s a hill I will die on!) So, if you have multiple deities calling you, don’t panic. Build it up as you normally would with each individual. Maybe ask one if it’s ok to wait while you deal with another one. Don’t commit to more than you can manage. And then move forward, as it works in your life.
It’s not often we discuss Brigid, or indeed any Irish deity, and political power, but here we go. In researching for the upcoming Brigid in Cormac’s Glossary class (and you can get a $15/€15 discount if you sign up to the mailing list and buy the class before 6:30pm Irish time on Saturday), I’ve been diving deep into the political power of the church/religion in Ireland in the 10th century. It’s wild – like the Cormac of Cormac’s Glossary? Described as a king-bishop. No separation of Church and State here!! He was off on war campaigns and all sorts. And his chief advisor? An abbot…
So, really it’s no wonder our own Brigid was used for various purposes over the generations as well. Now at some point, I want to look at the political power she herself would have wielded as an abbess of a major religious institution in her own right. Today, I want to look at how she was used and the way women deemed as “powerful women in politics” have operated in this country throughout the ages.
Irish history time…
In the mid-7th century, there was a bit of a disagreement (or potentially all-out ecclesiastical war, depending on what source you’re reading) between Armagh and Kildare for the Primacy of Ireland. It’s down to money really, money and political power. The winner (ended up with St. Patrick’s home patch of Armagh) would essentially rule the clerical portions of Ireland and be in direct contact with the Holy See. We’re heading for a lot of power and control through religion here. But sure, that’s no strange thought to any of us.
Religion is a great way to wield political power – just look at all the bishops in the House of Lords in England! So, this is when Cogitosus started writing his Vitae. It’s propoganda to increase the visibility of Brigid of Kildare and to show how awesome and wonderful the place was. Talk about power politics? Basically, no more than some of the writers we’ll mention later, Cogitosus was running a PR campaign for Kildare and promoting the life of St. Brigid as such a great holy woman, and an awesome leader, even after her death, was all part of the gig.
Now, don’t worry – the lot in Armagh were doing the same for St. Patrick (I still think it was pure patriarchy that got him the win in the end, but that’s only my own opinion). But Brigid wasn’t 2 centuries dead and her followers were using her legend for alternative purposes.
Just after the Norman’s arrived in the 12th century, they sent a lad call Giraldus of Wales or Giraldus of Monmouth (which is in Waltes) around Ireland to present some more propaganda back home. This time – the goal was to paint the Irish as barbarians of the worst sort. He goes through a whole list of ways the Irish are less than human, setting the tone for centuries later. It’s ridiculous how often this text is quoted in following centuries.
In saying that though, we remember this man in his descriptions of the sacred fire in Kildare. He wrote of the priestesses tending the holy flame in Kildare. He also wrote of the punishments facing men who tried to enter. So, he probably wasn’t all bad. He was definitely a Norman though. And he strongly encouraged his audience to pop over to take advantage of the natural resources of the island to their west. (#nevernotatit)
The fact that women appeared to hold political power was another problem. St. Brigit wielded much power as an abbess. Her successors in the abbey were also women who wielded a lot of power. This continued until the attack on the abbey in the 13th century, when the attackers raped the abbess to strip her power from her. And then, the local ruler appointed his niece as abbess. Somehow, after that, the abbess was just another abbess… Wonder how that happened? This was definitely not one of the powerful women in politics!
In medieval Ireland, no more than in the rest of Europe, women didn’t hold political power, or much other power either. There are lots of tales of the convoluted marriages, with first, second and third or higher wives fighting for precedence, inheritance for children etc. Powerful women in politics worked more behind the scenes than in public. Brigid and her successors really stood out in this sense, and had to be removed. No woman could be seen to wield political power as a norm.
More modern times
Brigid really started to come to prominence again in Ireland during the #Repealthe8th campaign. Ireland’s move from the 1983 referendum to ban abortion to removing said amendment in 2018. Grainne Griffin, Orla O’Connor, Ailbhe Smyth, Co-Directors of Together for Yes campaign showed a new mode of leadership during this campaign. All three were joint leaders, wielding power in a new way. This grassroots campaign worked very differently from previous political campaigns in Ireland. From the start, the focus was on individual conversations, people talking to each other, sharing stories… This was not a campaign won with posters, with traditional political power, with power politics.
This campaign, much like Brigid herself, worked differently. It wasn’t the behind-the-scenes “powerful women in politics” seen in the 10th century and later. It wasn’t the traditional domination type of politics either. The political power wielded here was the power of the people. Brigid was invoked as the first abortionist in Ireland, even if there are at least 2-3 other saints that have similar miracles attributed to them. She has remained as a feminist icon since then as well. The move to gain 1st February as a bank holiday is a further sign of Brigid’s growing popularity. Although there were complaints from all types of religion at that as well!
In the end, St Brigid had political power as the abbess of a major religious establishment. Her legacy has been used in power politics to support or belittle according to the whims of the person telling the story. And they’re all stories – even what I’ve said here is a story, of sorts. So what do you think? Of Brigid, of power, of the story I’ve told here?
Yup, this is the second time in 6 weeks or so I’ve written about Brigid and Hope. But I feel it’s worth exploring from another perspective as well.
I’ve felt hope. I’ve felt desperation so deep, I thought life was over. And I’ve moved from one to the other almost in a heartbeat. And of course, Brigid was there all along. Now, ye know, my bent is fairly firmly towards the practical, so hope to me needs to come with an action plan, or a purpose or something to support it. I’m not great on hope for hope’s sake.
What does desperation look like for me?
Desperation for me is when I see no way out. It’s happened with abuse, it’s happened with a horrible work situation, it’s happened when I’ve been so broke I was struggling to feed myself and the husband. In all those situations, there was no way out, hope was non existent.
Life was tough in all those situations and it was harder to get myself out of those situations (to be fair the abuse situation was one of the easiest for me. He left. Three months later, hope arrived… The usual experience, as we all know, is very very different.) And I won’t be one of those people who say they dragged themselves put by their bootstraps. That’s not how life works.
I had friends who helped me. Resources, education, language skills, professional skills… I had a lot to support me. And I still struggled.
What does hope look like?
Hope to me looks like having a plan. Now, it’s not always the best plan (at the time my ex left, my plan was essentially “curl in a ball and cry”). If I have a route to escape, a route to fix the problem, that’s what brings hope to me. But sometimes, when I’m so deep in the mire, even a plan can’t bring me to that level of expectation, that hope of a positive outcome.
Brigid plays a role here though. Aside from the general hope associated with spring, Imbolc, new growth, etc, it’s not like she has any particular connections with hope. So, this can probably be termed UPG.
For me – the goal is to have a plan to escape the current situation. Brigid, being the practice deity she is, is big on plans. She doesn’t always understand the level of plan I need to feel that hope in my chest, but she’s willing to work with me! After my last post and emails, I got a lot of emails saying “Orlagh, I don’t have the funds to even spend on healing my abundance“. And you know something – I get you. I have been there. At one point, even buying a book was beyond me… So I’m not underestimating what seem unachievable.
So what the hell can I do???
But, to a certain extent, there are times when we need to generate hope for ourselves. So, while, I totally understand that not everyone has $44 dollars for a course or $20 for a book (I have no idea how much books in the US are, but that would cover everything but a brand new hardcover for me… most of the time), there are always routes available to us. There are libraries. There are free blogs and podcasts associated with both Ramit Sethi and Tori Dunlap.
Huge amount of information there and one of the best things as far as I’m concerned? A lot of it is about how to manage on very little money. OK some of it is about how to cope when you’re dealing with $25k+ a month… I live in hope that might one day be my problem! But there is help there. I’m not throwing a “spend money to make money” at ye.
And, you know there’s always prayer. I don’t usually count prayer as a concrete plan, but there are times when prayer is what we have. Just be very careful about what precisely you’re praying for… Brigid can take things very literally!
I’m trying something new today and getting vulnerable about sharing something I honestly have not had the courage or the will to do before. So bear with me. Attracting abundance is probably one of the most searched items on the internet (oh yes, I went there, over 11 million results in 0.34 seconds according to Google). Living an abundant life is apparently a big deal for a lot of us! And it crosses communities as well – you can get people searching (and providing information) from a spiritual context, pure cash money, wealth, food, water…
It’s one of those things that everyone has a different definition for and a different mindset about. And of course, Brigid, while not anti-abundance per se, isn’t usually associated with the concept, which I think is a real oversight. So today, I’m going to talk about how I link herself with being abundant, what strategies I use from different places and the next steps I’m taking to make another step change.
Brigid and Abundance
Then baskets were brought to her to be filled from the wife of the druid. She had only the butter of one and a half churnings. The baskets were filled with that and the guests, namely the druid and his wife, were satisfied. The druid said to Brigit: ‘The cows shall be yours and let you distribute the butter among the poor, and your mother shall not be in service from today and it shall not be necessary to buy her, and I shall be baptized and I shall never part from you.’ ‘Thanks be to God’, said Brigit.
This is one of the many miracles associated with food and Brigid. Mostly they’re like this one – what I term the “loaves and fishes” type,. The original of course, coming from here (Matthew 14:17-19) and here (John 6:1-14) in the Bible. It’s amazing how many saints come up with this sort of miracle. But I suppose food, for most of human history, has been a major concern. Being able to feed the multitudes, having that abundance of food, was a serious sign of wealth.
However, our Brigid, was the daughter of a slave and not in possession of much in terms of wealth. She still gave away quite a lot to those in need.
On a certain day a guest came to Dubthach’s house. Her father entrusted her with a flitch of bacon to be boiled for the guest. A hungry dog came up to which she gave a fifth part of the bacon. When this had been consumed she gave another [fifth]. The guest, who was looking on, remained silent as though he was overcome by sleep. On returning home again the father finds his daughter. ‘Have you boiled the food well?’, said her father. ‘Yes’, said she. And he himself counted [them] and found [them intact]. Then the guest tells Dubthach what the girl had done. ‘After this’, said Dubthach, ‘she has performed more miracles than can be recounted.’ This is what was done then: that portion of food was distributed among the poor.
This time the saint is giving away bacon. It’s amazing to me that the stories never mention her getting into trouble. She always has enough to feed the people she’s meant to feed. I know – these are fairly standard in the saints’ lives, hagiographies, etc, but still. You think someonesomewhere would have taken umbrage – especially in this case, where the not-spare food is going to a stray dog.
Once at Eastertide: ‘What shall we do?’, said Brigit to her maidens. ‘We have one sack of malt. It were well for us to prepare it that we might not be without ale over Easter. There area moreover seventeen churches in Mag Tailach. Would that I might keep Easter for them in the matter of ale on account of the Lord whose feast it is, that they might have drink although they should not have food. It is unfortunate for us only that we have no vessels.’ That was true. There was one vat in the house and two tubs. ‘They are good; let it be prepared(?).’
This is what was done: the mashing in one of the tubs, in the other it was put to ferment; and that which was put to ferment in the second tub, the vat used to be filled from it and taken to each church in turn, so that the vat kept on coming back, but though it came back quickly that which was in the tub was ale. Eighteen vatfuls had come from the one sack, and what sufficed for herself over Easter. And there was no lack of feasting in every single church from Easter Sunday to Low Sunday as a result of that preparation by Brigit.
This is one of my favourite stories. Now, the history of alcohol in Ireland is not really a good one. I know we have a history of enjoying ourselves, and drinking a lot, and being able to hold out drink. But alcoholism is a blight on this country. If you are interested, Drink Aware, HRB National Drugs Library and our national health organisation, the HSE, all have further information if you want to explore. Hell, even wikipedia has a decent enough article about it.
That said, this is another miracle related to an abundant good that Brigid is recorded as performing, so I’ve included it here. I love that it at the end: “what sufficed for herself over Easter”. It’s one of the few times that Brigid herself benefits from the abundance she creates.
What do I mean by abundance?
Alright, so I’ve been talking about abundance, but what do I actually mean by it? Explanations range from “a very large quantity of something” (dictionary.com) to “having more than enough of something (Cambridge University Press). For me, I hold abundance as feeling like I have enough and some to spare.
Except books. I don’t think I will ever have enough books. But that’s another story!
Now we come to “an abundance of what?” Food? Money? Wealth? Clothes? This is a personal question, definitely. And defining what “abundance” or “being abundant” means to you is a really important first step. 6 years ago, I put “being able to buy any book I want without thinking too hard” as my “abundance” sign. Part of the reason I’m writing this is because I need to redefine that now, because, as my husband will tell you, I can now buy any book I want. This is proven by the amount of book deliveries our poor postwoman delivers weekly!
Now this definition of abundance is highly promoted by one of the resources I’m going to talk about.
A Rich Life
(In this section, please read “rich life” to mean “abundant life” as far as I’m concerned!)
A man called Ramit Sethi wrote a book called I will teach you to be rich back in 2020 I think. The first thing he asks you to do as a reader? Define your rich life. This is a huge acknowledgement: not everyone has the same idea of what “rich” means. For me, it meant at one point, to be able to buy any book I wanted. My rich life still includes this, but it also includes more. Sethi guides you through a means to really imagine what your life would be like for you to feel truly rich. He includes things like: the restaurants you’d eat at, the clothes you’d buy, the house you’d live in, the car you’d drive, the place you’d live in… the list goes on.
And I like this approach, as I’ve said above. I won’t go into the full detail of this, because he says it way better on his blog and in his book (both linked above). But I will say the components of my rich life now include: owning our own home without a mortgage, working part time, giving away money to people I love and who need it, hiring someone to take over household management and food management. I mean, very little of this is within my reach right now. But that’s ok. 6 years ago, I couldn’t imagine a time when I bought a book on a whim without having a crisis of conscience when it arrived in the post! This approach to money really caused a step change in the way I viewed the abundance in my life.
A Feminist Rich Life
Tori Dunlap made her first $100k by the time she was 25. This was a goal of hers and she made it. I actually think she had $100k in savings and investments by the time she was 25. Now, this is not possible for me – I’m long past 25 at this point. But reading about her story and then reading her book again brought me a step change in thinking how I can attract abundance and live my abundant life.
She also looks at finances through a feminist lens, which lies close to my own ethics and principles, and frequently discusses topics related to this in her podcast. The first exercise in Dunlap’s book? What is your first money memory?
I found this enlightening. Maybe you will too.
My First Money Memory
My first money memory involves losing money. I lost a little purse of French francs in our local supermarket because I was too caught up in reading the book I wanted to buy. This was just before we went on holidays to France as well, and I was so proud of my little purse with all of, approx. 5 Francs in it (very approx. €5/ $5). I was reading and then when my parents called me, I was so shocked out of the world I was in, I forgot all about my purse and when I went back it was gone.
So, money has been heavily linked with “distress” to me. And of course, I then got the name of being “bad” with money in the family. (These are self fulfilling prophecies people!) So whenever I attracted abundance in my life, it seemed to slip through my fingers. I never felt abundant. Even when I started earning money, I didn’t feel like I had enough.
(This fed into clothes, books, food, and all sorts of other things as well, but let’s focus on money for now as a symbol of abundance. If we go into food, that’s a whole other blog!)
I had to sit with that memory for a long, long time. I have lots of good memories, by the way, this is just the earliest memory I have that has to do with money. And it coloured a lot of my relationship with money and abundance since.
It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle…
… than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
Now, I know that preaching of the prosperity gospels is a big thing in some Protestant arenas, but as a child growing up, this was sold to us as a good reason to not be rich. In fact, poverty was as a virtue, since it was seen as having fewer temptations than richness. Or abundance. And if you had an abundance of something, as a good Catholic, you should be giving it away to those less well off anyway. Way to promote an abundant life, there!
How this was equated with the richness in with the church hierarchy lived and still lives, I don’t know.
But essentially, I had a lot of abundance issues to overcome and truth be told, I’m still overcoming some. My life is abundant in many ways, but there’s still a way to go!
Then, a few years ago, I came across Joanna Hunter. And she was running an experiment called “Heal Your Abundance“. The experiment asked the question:
Can ancient metaphysical knowledge create a significant change in YOUR abundance in just 4 weeks?
Now, from my last time around, it can! This option is more “woo” than the others I’ve put up above and I will admit, I thought hard before committing $44 for a 4-week course. I mean, can abundance really be healed? But then I thought that it was <€50 and a few minutes a day commitment to making a potentially big change in my life. And it did. I didn’t even finish the damn course!
But by working through the exercises that I did manage to get to, I adjusted my mindset enough to get a new job with a 33%+ payrise. This was massive to me at the time. Hell, it would be massive to me now! I felt abundance pouring out of my pores! I was so excited.
And here’s where I get really vulnerable. Part of the course that I didn’t sign up for last time was the affiliate program. I didn’t feel like I was an affiliate type of person. I didn’t feel it was ethical to want to make money for basically – sharing a link. This time, I’ve signed up for the affiliates program and I’m sharing the link here. There is zero difference for anyone who wants to sign up using my link instead of the website link. In fact, in the spirit of abundance, they aim to give away $1,000,000 (yeah that’s a million) in affiliate fees this time round. And if you have a business paypal account, you can sign up for an affiliate link as well.
But I’m at a stage again, in my abundant life, where I’m stalling. I can feel my energy around abundance stagnating. And I want another step change. I have the practical things in place: standing orders and direct debits for savings and bills. I’m clear in my mind about my guilt-free money. I’m happy with the % I’m putting in my pension. It’s time to upgrade my mind again.
Are you not asking Brigid for help here, Órlagh?
And you can bet I’m asking Brigid for help here! She understands my need for a home of my own, owned outright, with not mortgage. She gets the need for stability and putting down roots. Some of the things she is asking me for will be massively easier to complete with that foundation beneath me.
So I know she’s behind me in this. She did not come from a culture where poverty was glorified. She was, and in my experience still is, well able to both gather wealth, abundance, riches and give them away as well. I said to a friend of mine a few years ago that I’d consider myself wealthy when I can imitate a Victorian nobleman and replace a relation’s wardrobe at need. I’m not there yet (unless they’re very into Penneys!) but I’m getting there. And opening myself up to critique about sharing an affiliate link is part of that.
So, check out Joanna Hunter’s work and if you like the look of it, use this link to sign up. I’m really looking forward to it!
And in the mean time, think about what you mean by abundance? Do you consider your life abundant? Have you enough of all you need and a bit to spare? Are you heavily abundant in some areas but extremely tight in others? We are really not encouraged to think this way, but we deserve abundance in our lives. If you don’t believe me, ask her!
This tends to be the first thing that comes to my mind when I think of “transformation” – the typical caterpillar – to – butterfly. It’s obvious, it’s clear, there is a process involved. But what the hell does it have to do with Brigid? Well, ye know it’s coming!
Transformation is change. Now, I have changed significantly in the last, say, 20 years. It’s not all entirely down to Brigid of course. Some of it is just the generally changes that come in life between your 20’s and your 40’s. There are very few people I know living the same life at 40 that they did at 20.
And so from hour to hour we ripe and ripe, And then from hour to hour we rot and rot;
Shakespeare’s “As You Like It”
I love that quote, you know. It sums up the changes and transformations we go through as we move through life. And ok, it might seem a bit miserable, but it’s true. There are natural changes our bodies go through as we age (not to sound all primary school teacher-ish!)
But… what does Brigid have to do with transformation?
Fair question. And it’s not something we consider very often with Brigid. But, think about her links with liminality. That’s where the transformation, the change, happens. It’s not usually in the core of things, our comfort zones, the things we do, same old, same old. It’s in the differences. Transformation happens when we push ourselves a little bit. Or indeed, when Brigid pushes us a little. Or maybe a lot.
Take me as an example. I am far more comfortable in my own skin than I was 20yrs ago. Now part of that is, as I said above, just getting older. But part of it is the transformation that Brigid has helped me achieve. When I talk about shadow work, I’m talking about transformation. When I talk about pushing myself to teach, I’m talking bout transformation. Even the simple act of lighting candles, consciously and with intent, has helped me change and grow.
Part of the work that I do is to know myself. Be able to look myself in the eyes. To not be ashamed of myself. And I like helping other people, women in particular, to achieve this as well. That is a massive transformation for me. Both knowing myself and being willing to put myself out there to help other people. Because for a long time, the thought I had was “who the hell would listen to me?” As it turns out – a fair few people. And I’m very happy about that, even if I still get those doubts sometimes.
Alright, so what kinds of transformation are we talking about?
Well, first and foremost – honesty. I spent a lot of my youth lying. Lying to myself, to those around me, strangers, friends… it didn’t really matter. Lies came as easily to me as truth, and in some cases, easier. It took a lot of work to get to the point where the truth comes first now. Sometimes it comes a bit quickly or bluntly, but I can live with that. It saves me so much energy and emotional output to just – be honest. I don’t have to remember who knows what about what. I don’t have to consider what stories I’ve told where. It’s just easier.
Now this doesn’t mean I reveal all to everyone of course. I took the warnings in the book The Circleto heart! (Great book by the way, raised some very interesting questions) But I don’t lie much at all anymore.
Another major transformation is to accept myself as I am. This doesn’t mean I won’t work to change things I don’t like. But the first step in any meaningful, long term change, in my experience, is that acceptance. The ability to say “This is who I am, today”. You wouldn’t believe the hassles I had with this. Even accepting that I used to be a certain way that I really don’t approve of anymore – major work involved there. But…
Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.
What did the work of transformation look like?
As I said above – shadow work. Looking myself in the mirror. A lot of navel gazing. Writing. Remembering. Accepting there are some things I don’t remember and probably never will. That was hard. I had to give up the image I had of myself. I had some very long talks with Brigid about this. Crying, begging forgiveness.
But, I have to live with the fact that I did things I am very definitely not proud of when I was younger. I probably will do things I’m not proud of in the future. They’ll be different things I’m not proud of – there’s that transformation again. But it will happen.
Y’see, no matter how much I change and transform – Brigid isn’t one for forgiveness as such. As in, she was fairly blunt about the fact that her forgiveness for these things wasn’t going to be worth much at all. And some of the people I’ve wronged can’t be tracked down or aren’t alive anymore. Forgiveness is something I have to live without. What I can do, is to make sure I don’t make the same mistakes again.
Any journey will lead to transformation
There is a school of thought that any journey will lead to transformation. And I kinda agree with that, to an extent. I think any journey with Brigid will definitely lead to transformation. Change happens in the margins, in pushing the envelope. Changes happens when we’re forced to view things differently.
Think of the different aspects of Brigid – deity, saint, druid, nun, healer, smith, poet. She’s not too keen on being put into boxes, so she’s really a great guide for a transformative journey. With her, I have found a day job that fulfils me and pays the bills with a little bit spare. I have found a side gig that brings in some extra, allows me to speak to some amazing people and develops my skills and talents in ways that I can then use in the day job. I got married to a man who is a brilliant support and counterpart for me. (And, I hope, I to him!) I live in a place I can find peace.
A journey with Brigid, over days, months or years, will bring transformations, whether it’s something as small as a new 5 min daily practice you can commit to, or, in a more extreme case, asking her for help and finding your life completely turned upside down overnight. I mean, be careful what you ask for with Brigid – sometimes the transformation can be a bit extreme. Or a lot extreme.
She can and will help, whether is the slow and gradual work of years, or the overnight option. I mean, I’ve suffered the overnight option once or twice. Life was definitely better afterwards, once the dust settles, but slow and gradual was definitely easier. So, y’know, be careful what you wish for.
I had intended to run another “30 Days of Brigid” course in April, but March kinda ran away from me. I’m going with it though. Brigid can be a bit elusive at times and I think helping people with concrete examples of what they can do is useful. But there are always a few questions that come up for this course.
Why 30 days?
Well, first off, 30 days fits into a month (unless it’s February, and I won’t be running this in February, since it makes miles more sense to run it in January). 30 days is long enough to be a real commitment. It’s also short enough to not be a “forever” commitment.
It’s also long enough to experience a range of different activities, or indeed different versions of those activities. But again, not throwing so much at people that they become overwhelmed. This is important, because it’s the relationship that’s important. Only those activities that will help develop that daily practice, that spiritual muscle, are the ones that people will end up keeping.
Of course, with Brigid being the way she is, the specific activities that work for individuals will vary. Considerably.
Why so many ways to connect?
Well, I’ve found that different people want to engage with the material in different ways. With that in mind, there are 4 different ways to engage with the material:
The daily email sent approx 3pm Irish time
The lesson plans in the school
The Facebook group specifically for the students on this course
The Youtube videos
The idea is that however you want to consume the lesson on a given day, you have a suitable option. Also, if you want feedback or interaction on any given activity – or indeed all of them – there is the possibility for that as well. I can’t guarantee I will respond to Facebook comments immediately. I will be responding at least once per day during the 30 days!
How did I choose the activities included in the 30 days?
Well, Brigid herself had a hand in them. These are practices that I use myself in my own practice. Activities that have stood me in good stead over the years. And, ok, I’ve chosen some purely cos I enjoy them. There’s a whole lesson on how Shakira’s Hips Don’t Lie plays a role in my practice. And yes, I use Shakira’s music regularly, even though it has nothing to do with Irish Brigid on the surface.
There are activities that Brigid almost forced me to include. It took me a long time to change my attitudes on prayer, for example. But I find including prayer as well as meditation in my practice is spiritually rewarding. So, I try to have a balance throughout the 30 days. And every time I run the course, there will be something for everyone to love and something for everyone to feel really reluctant to try. That’s ok. It’s really up to you how you engage with the activities, what you choose to do or not do.
What support is there during the course?
Well, as I said above, there is the Facebook group specifically set up for this course. You get the link to the group when you sign up. And I am active in the group over the 30 days. I can and will also answer emails or comments on the course files in the school. So, however you choose to reach out, I will respond within the day. Most of the time, it’s quicker, but sometimes it can take a day.
Any other questions?
They are the main questions I tend to get asked about the course. But, if you have a question that I’ve not answered, reply to the post on here, or email me. Or reach out on the Facebook group. You can try psychic communication but I’m not 100% at receiving… And remember – all information will be here regarding price and dates etc. So take a look and sign up if it appeals!
I’ve always loved the story about how God sent the rainbow as a message to humanity that He’d never again send a flood. Mind you, in Ireland, we have tested the “40 days and 40 nights” thing to it’s limit. Like to “40days and 39.5 nights” type thing. Be that as it may, I’ve always associated the rainbow with hope. But I don’t often see Brigid being related to hope.
I know, I keep going down rabbit holes with Brigid and associating her with different things, but really, truly, I mean this. Now, I’m not talking about the annual listing of Brigid as a “Spring Maiden Goddess” – there are associations with Brigid and spring, in both Ireland and Scotland, but the whole yellow, cheerful, sun associations I’m less keen on.
But, hope, now, I do link to herself. It became clear to me a few years ago, when I was taking part in a shadow work group. All around the group, women were saying “I can’t…” as if that put a stop to it. As if “I can’t” indicates a position that meant it could never be changed. And it’s not the case for me – mainly because of work. As an engineer, pretty much anything is possible, given enough resources. And by resources, I usually mean time and money! When I said this in that group, there was incredulity. Because what came out then was that people assumed things weren’t available for them to do whatever it was that they were claiming they couldn’t.
I took the notion that with the right resources, anything is possible, as a sign of hope. They took it as further proof the thing couldn’t be done, because obviously the resources weren’t available. For me, it’s hope. This came up again during my impromptu shadow work sessions a few weeks ago. Brigid asked me to do certain things and my response was “I can’t”. What I meant was “Are you fucking joking right now? Can you not see what I’m doing here?” And her response was “What resources do you need to do this?”
From previous experience, I knew not to say that I needed time. I did point out the conditions required for me to achieve what I was being asked to do. And I felt the hope rising. Because, at her heart, Brigid is an engineer – I firmly believe this! (Although I should note, is it UPG. As in there is no mentioned of engineers in any of the lore regarding Brigid. In saying that, the word engineer only came about in 1325. The lore is based on oral traditions going back well before then, so…)
But seeing a bad situation as a temporary thing, only continuing until certain conditions are met, is a hopeful way of looking at things, in my opinion. Now, we also have to work towards those conditions being met of course. The good old engineering approach of getting your hands dirty!
But in other ways, I find Brigid hopeful. I associate her with childbirth – an incredibly hopeful time. Her connection with grieving – ok, not hopeful in and of itself, but the notion that life goes on, even with grieving, is hopeful. Her work with healing and poetry and social justice – all give me hope. All ways in which there is light at the end of tunnel for us poor humans. Brigid works hard with us, to ensure we have the ways, the means and the resources to work out our issues.
Even when you look at the big things: the environment, poverty, homelessness, hunger. We have the means to solve these issues. It would mean certain people giving up wealth and status, maybe, but still possible. Have you ever heard of golden rice? This product solves a lot of food related issues in deprived parts of the world. It doesn’t suit many large corporations to have people growing it though. That led to a lot of publicity about the horrors of genetic engineering. Humans have been engineering food for millennia. Do you know what an original banana looked like?
Genetic engineering didn’t start in the 20th century. As humans, we have been at it for pretty much all of our existence. If you don’t believe me – go check out a google on ancient cattle, horses. Hell, go look at the types of horses medieval knights were riding.
But back to Brigid. And hope. She’s not going to solve our problems for us. That’s not what any of the Irish deities are about really. They’re big on giving you the tools to do the job yourself, most of the time. But. Brigid will help. She will coach and assist. You can reach out to her and ask for help. Why would we work with her otherwise?
Brigid can be many things to many people. I often say there are as many Brigids as there are people who work with/for her. (Yes, I’m still not fully sold on the preposition there) And yes, I’ve written before about why to bother with deity, and why deity bothers with us. I could probably write entire volumes on what I’ve heard called “god-bothering” as well.
But today, I want to talk about herself specifically and the good and bad she can bring into our lives.
The good of Brigid
Yeah, I’m following the age-old structure of the good, the bad and the ugly. But we’ll start with the good anyway.
Brigid is a powerful deity in my experience. She can and will bring change to your life, as long as you do your part as well. She will open your mind and heart to possibilities you never suspected existed. You don’t believe me?
Ten years ago, I had just married, in a hell of a lot of debt, feeling fairly unhappy with myself, the world, but having no idea how to change things. I felt prompted, by something I didn’t fully understand to sign up to the waitlist of a women’s transformational retreat. It took me three years from the time I was first offered a place on this retreat to the time I actually turned up.
One my first night there, I spent the entire time planning how I could escape if I needed to. Car keys, and other items had been taken away since we “didn’t need them”. I felt some relief when I heard the following morning that someone had left and had been allowed to leave. When I voiced this, the woman leading that session was a bit shocked. I had thought I was trapped, but we moved through it.
I won’t go into the details of what happens in the retreat, in case anyone ever wants to attend. But it was indeed transformational. And at one point, I called on Brigid, along with some other Irish deities. Not expecting a return answer, but I called nonetheless. I remember standing in the final circle and saying outright “These lands are not my lands. These gods are not my gods. But I have land and gods to go home to.” It was a powerful reclamation of myself.
Now, ok, on the one hand, the almost-immediate answer came from the Dagda rather than Brigid, but he came and then kinda pointed me in the direction of Brigid herself. This was as I was sitting in a Travelodge, bawling my eyes out crying, just allowing a lot of emotion to leave my body.
Since then, my journey has continued through up and down, but always with herself beside me. That’s the good. Brigid commits when needed.
The bad of Brigid
I mean, it’s not really horrendous, but she does have a tendency to forget sometimes that we are human rather than inanimate tools. And, even with her inanimate tools, she’s not always too careful to mind them when she’s deep in the work. Check out the Scealaí Beag’s take on that here! It’s a story that rings true for me, because she is like most engineers of my experience. When you’re deep in the work, the work consumes you and the details like looking after your tools, whether your body or your mind or your actual tools, kinda slips.
But with Brigid, we are not powerless. You can, and should, shout out to her to get the support and rest you need. It’s easy to forget – most of what she asks is eminently practical and useful. But there are times when we need to say no. There might be consequences for saying no. We have to accept that and live with it. But prioritising ourselves is important!
She asks a lot. And this isn’t a Christian “you won’t be asked more than you can give”. Brigid can and will drive you to the edge of your abilities and beyond, when she chooses to push. “Comfort zones” mean nothing, really. Now, you still have to consent, but remember a deity has different ideas of consent than a human court would.
On the other hand, she helps you develop your abilities. She pushes you to achieve things you never thought possible. Brigid will stand behind you and push you to improve. For some of us, that looks like forcing ourselves through physio exercises, even if we don’t want to. For others, it looks like founding a school to talk about Brigid. Still others, she will push to publish a book. She is a deity of skill and craft, and if she sees a need for it. she will pester you until you give in.
How does Brigid get ugly?
I’ll be honest, starting this post, I was mostly thinking about how many times I’ve ugly cried in her service. That’s a lot of the ugly. But there have been ugly conversations. Ugly confrontations – even with myself.
I mentioned shadow work in my last post. You think that was pretty? Aside from the vomiting and diarrhoea, I mean. Looking into the parts of myself that I had suppressed led me down some very dark paths at times. Confronting those parts of myself that I was most ashamed of or embarrassed by – it’s not easy. None of it is easy.
But it helps things improve. Seriously. And yes, it’s hard and it’s difficult, and yes, ugly. We like to think of ourselves as good people, usually. But inside all of us is the capacity for positive and negative actions. We all have the capacity to be ugly in and of ourselves.
That work isn’t pretty. Whether it’s personal or group work, we end up exposing ourselves, making ourselves vulnerable and risking judgement and displeasure from others. Sometimes it can lead to friendships or other relationships breaking.
Brigid can, and does in my experience, insist on you knowing yourself though. She asks us to read to lore, fair enough, there’s little enough of it. But learning about ourselves, the ugly, dark, shameful parts of ourselves? That’s tough. And of course, you can have a good row with Brigid as well. I’ve done it and survived.
Not being disrespectful you understand, but a definite airing of views on different items. That rarely looks pretty either.
With all of this, why bother with Brigid?
Long time followers of Brigid, or those who have with/for her for a long time, often joke about the time on the Anvil. The time when Brigid shapes and hammers her tools into what she needs and wants. And it is hard, really hard going through those times.
Ultimately, it comes back to something I said in a previous post.
But when we work in line with our deities priorities and desires, things happen.
Yes, I realise quoting myself in my own blog post is a bit strange, but it’s true. Brigid has a need to get things done, and get things done in the most efficient way possible. There are times this feels like a steamroller passing over you. Time on the Anvil is not comfortable. But in my experience, I come out of those periods with my life being better.
When I’ve been sick, or needed to change a job, or needed a major change in my life – it has been really painful at times, but she has come through for me. For my last three job changes, I’ve only gone to one company’s interviews to get the job I wanted. That’s almost unheard of! But that’s her power.
Brigid can be comforting. She can be motherly, warm, helpful. But she won’t coddle you unnecessarily – and it’s her opinion, not yours that counts there. She will heal, shape and form you in ways you probably can’t even imagine at the start of your journey. She will push you into liminal spaces so uncertain, you’re not entirely sure where you are or what you’re doing there. But always, always, she is there at your back.
Why bother with Brigid? She is a force for necessary change in this world and by all the gods, do we need it!
Shadow work and tummy bugs. Yes, that’s me… If you have been receiving my emails recently, you’ll know that a couple of weeks ago, I was completely wiped out with a tummy bug that my darling niece shared with me. I mean, it’s not her fault, she’s just turned one, and she’s bound to catch every bug going. That bit was grand. The bit that really bothered me was the “opportunity” given to me.
That opportunity was the chance to work through some shadow work type things while simultaneously throwing up and emitting things at force from the other end as well. Thankfully, our en-suite is small enough to sit on the toilet and reach the sink at the same time. TMI? Sorry. But this is bringing the “brutal honesty” part of me to the fore.
What is shadow work?
For those who who don’t know, the term “shadow work” refers to dealing with the parts of ourselves that we try to hide from ourselves or otherwise repress. (Carl Jung was the one who came up with this I think, but it developed from work that Sigmund Freud had done. IIRC) This isn’t a conscious act, of course, cos why would it be that simple?
A picture explaining what shadow work is…
But realistically speaking, what does shadow work really involve. It’s all very well saying to look at the parts of you that you have repressed or disowned, but how do you know what you have repressed or disowned?
Well for many of us, shadow work looks like examining our childhood. Yeah, I know, the joys… but really, revisiting what was and wasn’t allowable for ourselves in childhood can lead us to the parts of ourselves that we’ve repressed. For example, I have a problem with anger. For many years, I swore I never felt angry. This is because – at an extremely simplistic level – the first people I was angry at, the first people I remember being angry at, were my parents. And showing or displaying anger towards my parents just was not acceptable in my family. So I learned to repress. I learned to shove down my anger, to the point where I was sure and certain I never felt any.
I did, of course, but that’s another story.
How to do shadow work?
The shadow work involved in me addressing that anger was messy, and painful, and long, and arduous. It involved journaling, screaming, crying, raging, punching… It was not pretty to say the least.
And, if I’m honest, I did a lot of the work before I realised it was shadow work, before I’d even heard of the term! For me, it involved looking at the lessons taught to me throughout my life with a critical gaze and determining what was still relevant. More importantly, what wasn’t still relevant. Shadow work sounds more complicated than that right?
But it’s not really.
I mean, most often, deep personal spiritual work is presented as the above picture: calm, serene, peaceful.
Well, not in my experience.
My experience reads much more like the woman in the picture above, except, I wasn’t fully clothes, nor did I look nearly that healthy. It’s well-nigh impossible to feel sexy while simultaneously throwing up and releasing things from the other end as well. It certainly wasn’t possible for me. But in the darkness – because of course this was in the middle of the night – I had to face myself. I could hear the sounds of my husband sleeping peacefully away. The odd random car along the road. I could hear the neighbours’ dogs sharing “all’s well” barks, or occasionally slightly more frantic “what’s that noise” barks.
Ultimately though, all there was… was me. And while my body was miserable, my mind was active and desperate for anything to distract it from what was physically going on. Plus, the vomiting was partially metaphorically. I mean, mostly physical, but partially metaphorical.
What shadows did I face?
I looked at myself in the mirror, and I really did not look good. Facing myself, I was questioning life choices. I questioned why my husband wasn’t just up and walking away from me – all throughout that week he was there, when he could, to help, to get 7-Up, to try and tempt me with anything I could face.
I questioned why he stuck around – in my experience, men usually walk away from illness or a less-than-perfect partner. This is the man who has stuck by me through a miscarriage, depression, anxiety… And I thought he would leave me alone through a tummy bug? After 10yrs of marriage, we have seen each other at our best and our worst. And I still wondered when he kept on coming back.
This is shadow work.
It’s shadow work when he told me I’m beautiful, as I dragged myself from the bathroom for the umpteenth time that day and I tried to believe him. It’s shadow work when he supported me in staying home from work all week, cos I really wasn’t able to the drive. I looked at myself in the mirror each night and tried to see what he saw – I couldn’t, but I have to accept he does.
It wasn’t just my appearance, of course. There were other things happening in the dark of the night. But the appearance stuff is the stuff I’m most comfortable sharing in public. There were other things happening that I can’t share, or don’t want to share, not yet. They’ll come out soon again.
Where does this leave us?
Or leave me rather? Shadow work isn’t clean and simple and straightforward. It’s messy and ugly and goes round in spirals. I revisited lessons I thought I had learned already. My trust for my husband was reinforced at least, if not regenerated. I saw other things in the dark of my soul that I partially addressed, but know there is more work to be done.
Yeah, if this is so messy, and so horrible at times, why bother? For me? It’s so I don’t have blind spots about myself. With the work I do for Brigid, it’s kinda important to at least recognise I have blind spots. And to work to eliminate them. It’s a life long calling to do this. It’s not over in a weekend, or a short course. There are tools to learn and help ourselves to do this. And I’m not an expert, I’m just an expert in what works for me.
But I will say this – I’ve not met anyone I consider authentic and real about shadow work that hasn’t gone through the anvil, or their version of it. The Anvil isn’t a place any of us want to be, but it’s where Brigid tempers and shapes her tools. She needs tools that won’t break. Tools that know what they can do and under what circumstances. Shadow work is addressing the parts of ourselves that we subconsciously choose to hide – from ourselves. These are not the parts of ourselves that we are proud of. These are not the parts of ourselves we necessarily share in public. We hide these parts, in part because of shame.
Our spiritual journey and shadow work
Shame is not a useful emotion in my opinion. And accepting that something embarrasses me or that I’m ashamed of something I did in the past – well that’s an invitation to do something about it. Can I fix it? If not, can I make sure it doesn’t happen again? I’m not one much for the esoteric, but I do believe we have a responsibility to learn from our mistakes and to know ourselves. Being honest with oneself is the first step on any real spiritual journey.
The problem is, this shit doesn’t just come up once. It keeps on coming up, as we spiral through life. And we are different people every time we address it. I’m not the same person I was 10, 20, 30 yrs ago. Neither are you. And so, the elements of the shadow work we need to engage in change as well. This is a life long process, not a one-and-done thing.
And sometimes… it’s a 3am while puking your guts up and just wanting it all to end…