Forms of address for Brigid

It’s hard when starting out on a new path or transferring from one path to another to come to grips with how to address beings. I mean, people, we can usually figure out, but deities and such like – well, they don’t always bloody answer do they? And few people actively want to be disrespectful to a deity, no matter whether they have a relationship with them or not.

Add to that, many of Brigid’s followers have some form of Christianity in their backgrounds, so we’re used to addressing Our Father, which doesn’t work on all sorts of levels for Brigid. Just for info, I wouldn’t be risking Our Mother either… just to be on the safe side.

Starting off with her name is no bad thing. Except for non-Irish speakers, the name is a bit of an issue. I mean we have Brig in Caith Maighe Tuireadh; Brigit in the Lives, Brighid in later Irish, Brigid in even later Irish and Bríd in modern Irish. Not to mention those of us (ahem, point at myself here!) that use Brigid when speaking English and Bríd when speaking Irish. Now, the way I’d pronounce any and all of these words has little enough variation, but I’d say find a video on YouTube (I know Lora O’Brien of the Irish Pagan School has done at least one video on pronunciations of Irish deities) preferably from someone who speaks some level of Irish – hell, there’s even some videos up on Lora’s channel that she has me speaking on, I’m sure I say Brigid’s name a few times… The thing is – whether it’s Brigit, Brighid, Brigid or Bríd – it’s the same name, the spelling differences reflect changes in the language rather than the name. The reasons we pronounce them differently are to do with colonialism and the attempted eradication of the Irish language. But we won’t go into that here. Needless to say, addressing her in a respectful manner by name, you won’t go far.

The main thing to remember is, you’re addressing a deity here. So think of how you’d addressed any deity and work out from there. I’d not be calling her “Lady” or “Missus”, not unless she explicitly tells you you can – even Lady is a fair big step down for a deity. Calling her “Goddess” probably won’t land you in hot water, but it seems like a lot of syllables… (the lot of syllables bit is my own opinion now mind!) Brigid, Bríd, Brighid – all of these will be fine. In certain circumstances, “Daughter of the Dagda” might be appropriate, if you’re working on her relationship with her aul fella. “Mother of Ruadhán” might also be good. Personal gnosis here, but I think “Wife of Bres” might be touchy, because of the politics involved. I mean, Bres was not a good king and she was married to him, so she had to put up with him…

You will see me refer to her as “herself”. This is an Irish thing. It’s not a mark of disrespect, only someone who is worthy of respect might be referred to as “himself” or “herself”. (There are those who think using the capital H here is more respectful, so “Herself” rather than “herself”, I don’t subscribe to that idea, but I respect those who do.) There’s something important to realise about the Irish approach to people of respect. There’s people you respect and know well – an outsider might never realise just how respected someone is in a community, since as a race, we have a grand tradition of pulling the piss. And really, there’s a tendency to show our respect by the lack thereof in certain circumstances. Not all circumstances, mind, but certain ones.

For example, I had a manager when I was a baby engineer, who was amazingly helpful and supportive to me throughout the 4 yrs I worked for him, to the point that not only did he attend my wedding with his wife, but he was mentioned in my Dad’s speech as being a surrogate father to me while I was in England. I refer to this man as “boss” to this day and he hates it. But it’s how I show how high in my esteem he sits. If I stated calling him by his given name, he’d think I was angry at him. His wife, I will always call by her given name, not because of a lack of respect, but because of a lack of familiarity.

There are elements of Irish culture, such as the apparent lack of respect shown above, that is difficult to explain to outsiders, or people who have not lived in the culture for an extended period. As in decades. There’s nuance here and honestly, until you see it in action, you may struggle with it. In fact, you probably will. So stay on the safe side and stick with what you know until you learn it 🙂

We can always address Brigid by her professions or associations of course. Poet, Healer or Smith are all appellations I feel she connects with. The three titles come from Sanas Cormac (Cormac’s Glossary) and I suppose she could be addressed as a queen, seeing as how she was married to Bres and he was king. I’ve never addressed her as Majesty or anything like that, but it’s usually the Smith or the Healer I deal with, neither profession much given to rank or status beyond skill.

I would steer very far away from addressing her as maiden/mother/crone. It’s not Irish Brigid to be in that mould and I think it could be dangerous. She has a temper after all! I’ve heard of people addressing her as “Mistress” as well – again not something I understand, mistress being a fair long step below deity. “Holy One” might suit your spiritual beliefs and be safe enough as well, “Skilled One” is probably better, in my opinion. You could try “Great One”, but she’d probably be looking for the kick in the tail. She is an Irish deity after all – too much plámásery is suspect. (From teanglann: plámás, m. (gs. -áis). (Act of) flattering, flattery; soft talk, cajolery. ~ a dhéanamh le duine, to flatter, wheedle, s.o. Níl tú ach ag ~ liom, you are only trying to soft-sawder me. Cuir uait an ~! None of your palaver!)

It is, of course, highly respectful to learn how to address her as Gaeilge (in Irish). Bríd is Brigid in Irish (kinda pronounced “breedj”). Goddess is “bandia” (literally, female god – in Irish when you see the word “ban” at the beginning of the word it means it’s someone female). Duine Mór (literally big person) or Duine Uasail (person of respect) are two other phrases although both are very formal and would rarely be used in normal conversation. In fact, duine mór would rarely be used as an address, but more as a description of something.

Now, if you’re speaking Irish, you don’t just start off by saying “Bríd“. You say “A Bhríd“. The “A” denotes the fact that you’re talking to the person, a way of getting attention or directing the conversation. In a similar manner if you were using “bandia” as a form of address, you would say “A bhandia“. Now, it would be equally right to say “A dhia”, seeing as how the use of “ban” to indicate female gender is falling out of use in modern Ireland. And yeah – changing culture does change the langauge!

The Irish for Healer would be something like lia (and you wouldn’t add the “h” after an “l”, so you would say “A Lia”) The Irish for Smith is “Gabha”, so “A Ghabha” and of course, poet would be “File” or “A Fhile“. For anyone working with the saint, we say “Naomh Bhríd” and you don’t say “A Naomh Bhríd”, just “Naomh Bhríd”. Irish is a very simple language, with clear rules – until it isn’t 🙂

Addressing a deity in their own language would be a basic sign of respect, I’d say, no matter what deity you’re dealing with. Very few of them worked in English… certainly far fewer than the widespread use of English in dealing with matters spiritual would indicate.

As a summary then: calling her Brigid/Brighid/ Brigit is sensible, seeing as how that’s her name. Using her titles – Goddess, Poet, Healer, Smith, Queen / Your Majesty (although I have very ambivalent feelings about Queen to be honest). Remember titles like “Lady” might seem fine to us in the modern world, but it’s a fair steep step down from Deity. Those titles in Irish would be even better as outlined in the paragraphs directly above this one. And again, teanglann has great pronunciation help, and there’s also Abair (literally means “say” in Irish) which shows the three major dialects (or canúintí as Gaeilge – I was older than I want to admit before I realised there was an English word for canúintí!!)

Hope that helps people who are coming to Brigid or Irish deity from other traditions. I mean, if you make an honest mistake, Brigid isn’t recorded as blasting someone from the face of the planet. Yet. So be careful, little bit fearful but not necessarily terrified. Healthy respect, with a little tinge of fear – kind of like how I view the Other Crowd, but that’s another post!!

UPG, Sources and the importance of differentiating

I hope everyone likes the new look of the blog. Please let me know what you think!

Over the last few months, I’ve had some debates, rows, discussions and plain fights with people online over the importance of citing sources when making a declaration with regard to spirituality or deity. Here’s the thing. I don’t mean going back through papers from 30 yrs ago, when you might first have read something, I mean saying things like “Oh I read this paper by such and such that linked this aspect to that aspect and came up with this”. For most people, that’s about all that’s needed. Or indeed, “it was a story in the Lives, the one that isn’t Cogistosus or Bethu”. And then someone else can come and suggest the Prima, and the original person says, “That’s the one, thanks!” I don’t expect people with no research training to do much more than that.

Now if you’re writing something for publication, either a research paper, a book, or a blog you know will be widely read, or if you’re known as a scholar of the subject, I expect more. I expect a proper research citation really at that point. Or at least a very clear indication where the information came from. It doesn’t need to be Harvard referencing or anything like that for blogs (although for books and papers, if your editor isn’t asking for some sort of official citation scheme, question what sort of publication it is!) but something like “In Bethu Brigte,…..” or “In X’s paper, The Red Book, …” things like that really help when trying to separate facts or primary/ secondary sources of gnosis from personal gnosis.

I’m always amazed I’m not pulled up more often when I go back over older things I’ve written because of the lack of references or at least a nod to where this is coming from.

Why is this important?

Well. There’s a few reasons. The first one is “paper never refused ink”. Anyone can write anything, particularly in these days of free blogs on the internet (ahem, look at what you’re reading!) and really, we have no idea what their credentials are or what experience they have or whether they’re speaking truth or lies. I’d advise reading anything, including anything on this blog, with a pinch of salt until you can determine for yourself the legitimacy of the author. And sometimes that’s harder than others.

I’ll give an example. Every Imbolc, I see things going round the internet about how “golden round foods” are the way to celebrate Brigid’s festival. This is then linked to the “fact” that Brigid is a “sun deity” and Imbolc is celebrating the return of the sun. These people have never been to Ireland in February. Seriously. Let’s attack this a bit at a time. From the variety of Lives of the saint we have, Brigid is strongly connected with the dairy, so butter, milk, cream, anything that can be made in the dairy is a good way to start with offerings, if you want to go down that road. But pancakes in Ireland are associated with Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, when Lent will start. The date of Ash Wednesday can vary from 4th Feb to 10th March every year because Easter Sunday is calculated by a combination of the spring equinox and the moon cycle. From https://www.rmg.co.uk/stories/topics/when-easter

The simple standard definition of Easter is that it is the first Sunday after the full Moon that occurs on or after the spring equinox. If the full Moon falls on a Sunday then Easter is the next Sunday.

So it could be easy to say in Ireland, they use pancakes to celebrate Imbolc – except we don’t. When I was a child, pancakes were only served on Shrove Tuesday, because eggs and rich foods were not eaten during length traditionally, and pancakes were a handy and tasty way of using up such foods. It has nothing to do with Brigid or Imbolc at all. But someone somewhere didn’t really understand what was going on, linked some ideas about Brigid being a sun deity (which she isn’t, more on this later) with pancakes being round and golden like the sun and came up with pancakes being a great way to celebrate.

I mean, pancakes are a great way to celebrate anything, but it’s cos they’re so tasty and nice. There is no symbolism here linking them to Imbolc.

And then we come to the bit about celebrating the return of the sun at Imbolc. Not in Ireland. Imbolc is officially the start of spring in Ireland, but it’s more the beginning of spring, when we first see green shoots coming out of the ground. The weather is still, usually, miserable. It’s raining. It’s cold, it’s heavy, it’s unrelenting. It’s one of the prices we pay for those lovely green fields and for me, it’s worth it, but a celebration of sun return, it is not. We do sun celebrations at solstices. Kinda.

But the thing is, because this post saying Brigid is a sun deity and so anything round and golden , like eggs and pancakes and other foods, represent the sun, these are all good things to make for Imbolc, goes around every year and is celebrated across the internet every year, a lot of people are picking up some very inaccurate information. We don’t really have a sun deity as such in Ireland. If we did, the Dagda would be a much more likely candidate, but honestly, our deities are more to do with arts, crafts, and trades. They’re doing things. Brigid (from Sanas Cormac, or Cormac’s Glossary) is associated with poets, healing and smithcraft. There’s a list of animals as well – although it’s important to realise Cormac’s Glossary is not a modern dictionary, but that could be a whole other post! There’s definitely no mention of sun goddess in there or in the Leabhar Gabála Éireann (the Book of the Invasions of Ireland, essentially, our creation myth) or in Caith Maighe Tuireadh (Battle of Moytura).

But definitely not sun deities.

And I can already hear people asking, why this is important? Sure what harm can it do? Well, if you don’t believe that dealing with deity in the right manner is important, frankly, I’m wondering why you’re reading this blog at all? Every religion in the world has its ways of dealing with deity and observances around them. And yes, these things change over time and Brigid herself has shown herself very willing to change with the times – she supported the people of Ireland as a saint when paganism wasn’t really an option any more (although if you’ve read previous posts here, you’ll know of my belief that Christianity in Ireland was more of a thin veneer over deep roots of paganism anyway). So worship can change and what a deity does can change. Sure, I’ll accept that. But such changes happen gradually over generations, not overnight (relatively speaking) because someone got things wrong.

Now, Irish Brigid is not the only Brigid, I know that. But this all serves equally well for any other Brigid. I have yet to come across non-modern lore regarding Brigid as a sun deity. And yet, outside of certain circles, people accept this as true. It’s the same with the triple deity – triple deities in Ireland don’t fit the maiden/mother/crone mould – trust me!! – and yet, there’s a plethora of people out these insisting Brigid is a maiden, mother, crone. That’s a Wiccan process as far as I can figure out (and it was difficult to even narrow it down that far) but I’d strongly advise against telling Irish Brigid she fits that mould. Seriously. Or, if you’re going to have that conversation with her – let me watch? 😀

I can hear people screaming all over the place, “But that’s not my gnosis!!” Yeah, personal gnosis has a role to play in any spirituality. It’s really important and vital to your spiritual growth to develop your own gnosis. (Gnosis is the word used in many spiritual circles to cover knowledge and belief about a certain topic, comes from the Greek word for knowledge anyway). UPG, unverified personal gnosis, is such a common term around the place that it has it’s own acronym. It’s hugely important that you develop your own practices and beliefs, otherwise we end up with dogma and that’s not good. But it’s also crucial, absolutely crucial, to outline to others where something is based on your own experiences and where something is based on lore or writings or common knowledge. For example, Brigid to me is a friend, a support, a manager, a leader, a powerful force in this world. She is strong and capable and gets shit done. This is my personal gnosis. She appears this way to others as well. She also appears as a beautiful energy to others. She appears as a loving relation to others. She is more than one thing – deity is not simple. But it would be wrong of me to say she is only a support or only a capable doer of things. Because that leads others to doubt where their experiences have taken them. Now I do get annoyed at people who only see the beautiful energy thing, because that to me is a waste of energy. Energy is there to be used and useful – maybe it’s my engineering background, but I have a strong belief that deity needs to be useful as well, because, well why else would we do all of this? And even the belief that deity needs to be useful is personal gnosis as well.

It’s important to delineate between knowledge stemming from the lore and personal gnosis, because of the danger of leading others down an incorrect path. We’re not all called to do the same work, and why should we be? But the core of the lore concerning Brigid is quite brief, there’s not mounds of writing there (Irish Brigid again here!) so it’s worth being familiar with it and basing your practice on it. Working out from there is extremely useful. The Mary Jones website has a handy list of the lore concerning Brigid here, although I should note, I don’t necessarily agree with the links to Welsh mythology. I’m not familiar enough with Welsh mythology to comment more than that though. Clann Bhríde have a more complete list of lore here. They’ve also kindly provided a little commentary on each bit as well as links to where the originals can be found online.

There’s no reason not to look at the ancient lore we have, because it tells us what our ancestors deemed important to be recorded. We can work out our own practices from there. But it is work – it’s not enough to just decide something is right and go do it, you have to prove it to yourself and look for indications from herself that it is right. And, it’s really important to remember that while something might be fine and dandy for you to do, it might not be for someone else. Brigid doesn’t treat us all the same. That’s not in the old Irish ways. People were given their due, but their due was not constant. So, what is right and proper for me do to in relation to Brigid, might not be right or even safe for someone else to do.

We have a lot of commonalities for Brigid – fire, lighting candles, praying, writing – whether creative writing or otherwise, healing work, smithcraft… there’s a lot in it. And I go into it a lot in my courses in the Irish Pagan School as to how we can extrapolate from the lore and directions we might go in.

But just remember – the lore is there for a reason. It’s all we have. And “experiences may vary” is a valid warning no matter what we’re talking about! So label your UPG as such. You may find others have a similar UPG and that’s great. But they might not and that’s ok too – just as long as the experience is being labelled as UPG and nothing generally accepted practice.

Brigid and others in the Irish pantheon

A question that gets asked a lot in the various forums I’m in regarding Brigid is her relationship with the other deities in the Irish pantheon. As ever with Brigid, the answer is not straightforward.

Her father is really straightforward. The Dagda is outlined several times as her da and in my experience, both of them are happy with this situation. Well, most of the time. Who’s happy with their Da 100% of the time?

Brigid’s mother I’ve addressed in several places. We don’t know is the short answer. The longer answer is, most people working with Brigid have their own ideas, but it’s not based in lore as such. “Any woman the Dagda slept with” is basically how limited this is….

In saying that, there are a few that come up reasonably regularly. There are no stories in the lore that I’m aware of where Brigid interacts with any of the other deities outside of the lines in Caith Maighe Tuireadh (Battle of Moytura, round 2 to be precise). We tend to piece together relationships after this on the basis of common areas of interest and personal experience. I don’t think Brigid has a feud going on with any other deity, despite what some modern fiction would suggest (looking at you here, Kevin Hearne!)

So for example, since the Dagda and the Morrigan are linked in the stories, there’s a feeling that Brigid must have a relationship with the Morrigan just by virtue of hanging around her Da. People often ask are the Morrigan and Brigid ok to have on the same altar. To my mind, there’s no difficulty here, but your personal experience may vary. If it does vary, have a look inside to see why you might feel uncomfortable with the two deities being together. I mean, they’re two powerful beings, no more than any other two people in the world they might not get on all the time, but I’ve not experienced any reticence here at all. Other than Brigid wants me for herself, of course, but that’s just the way she is at the minute.

Now the three gods of skill, Credne the brazier, Luchtae the wright, and Goibniu the smith, would have a fair overlap with Brigid, with herself being so connected to smiths in particular. (If you want to learn more about the 3 of them, Jon O’Sullivan has a great course on them over at the Irish Pagan School: https://irishpaganschool.com/p/the-three-gods-of-skill well worth the money) I can see the four of them settling around a fire and comparing stories on the divilment of apprentices (divilment is an Anglo-Irish/ Hiberno-English word indicating pranks, tricks etc.), new techniques, allocation of resources etc. There’s nothing in the lore to suggest this happens, it comes from my knowledge of the 4 of them and the overlap of their areas of interest.

As well, Airmid, Dian Cecht and Miadh would fall into a similar bunch, but this time with healing. I feel like Brigid and Airmid would get on well (again, based on nothing but my own experience of them) and can see them swopping recipes for healing brews and potions and lotions. I’m not a fan of Dian Cecht myself (much that he cares whether I am or not!) and I always feel sorry for Miadh, seeing how he ended, but I’m very sorry there isn’t more in the lore about Airmid. I’d love to know more about her.

Someone like Manannán Mac Lir would be comfy having a chat as well, although once or twice in a journey I’ve experienced herself getting sea sick – that’s pure personal gnosis now, no basis in lore or general experience whatsoever – but not all the time. Cordial relations here maybe?

People like Boann or Áine I don’t see much overlap with Brigid, although there is the link with Boann and cattle. With Áine, there might be a bit of commonality with them both being linked to provinces – Áine with Munster and Brigid with Leinster and both being known to help out here and there with sovereignty issues. Or maybe I’m misremembering some of Áine’s stories there.

That’s a selection of the better known Irish deities, I think, and how I imagine they all get on together. I’ve no doubt they have their rows at times, sure doesn’t every family have those, but this notion that Brigid would be going around having long standing feuds with members of her tuath just doesn’t seem right. It would distract too much from the work to be done to support the community. And that’s it really in the end. The Irish deities come from a time when the tuath really was all-important. The survival of the community was paramount and if you had to work with someone you weren’t overly fond of to get the work done, well do it.

Now, this doesn’t mean you must get on with everyone, forgive abuse in the name of the community, forgive gross transgressions, not at all. That’s what justice is for and the Irish deities were pretty big on that as well. They had no problems with driving people out of the tuath or indeed killing them, if such retribution was justified. But I’m talking about people that maybe just rub you up the wrong way. Or have that funny conversational tick that drives you up the wall. or always wears a black hat that you feel looks ridiculous… you know the type of thing I mean? I don’t think our deities get on like a house on fire all the time, but I kinda feel like most of the time, they’ll pull together to get the damn job done!

If you’d like to learn more about the Irish gods in general, or Brigid in particular, the Irish Pagan School has plenty courses to keep you occupied, there’s even some of my own teaching up there! If not, Morgan Daimler has a good book on the deities of Ireland (Pagan Portals – Gods and Goddesses of Ireland: A Guide to Irish Deities) that has a sound basis for anyone she has listed in there.

But seriously, if you’re looking to add another deity to the altar alongside Brigid, first person to ask is herself. A bit of meditation, quiet your mind, see what she’s actually saying and away you go!

10 things about Brigid

I asked in the Brigid’s Forge group on Facebook for people to list out their top peeves about Brigid and I’d do a “top 10” type post. Well here it is! (in no particular order now, to be fair!) I will, as usual, try to point out specifically the UPG aspects here as I go, but if there’s anything you’re unsure of, ask!

  1. All Brigids and Brigid related beings are one (this could also be part of the hard vs soft polytheism thing as well to be fair!) I mention on this blog often that it’s Irish Brigid I deal with, while acknowledging that there are other Brigids out there: Scottish, Welsh, Manx for a start, a potential (potential I said!) link with Brigantia as well. And in Irish Brigid, I include both deity and saint. To some people the division between deity and saint is important and I respect that, for me, moving between the two is reasonably straightforward and easy, and she tends not to be overly bothered who I’m talking to, it’s whoever is best suited to deal with me at the time will answer. I believe that the lore and practice in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Isle of Man are different and therefor the Brigids in each area is different as well. There is overlap, of course, areas of common interest, that sort of thing, but in my experience, they’re not the same. (And this is before we get into the Irish druid, nun, lawyer etc….) So if you’re a soft polytheist and believe that all deity is one (gross over simplification here) I fundamentally disagree with you.
  2. Ignoring the saint completely. Yeah this. So, in Ireland, it must be recognised that our ancestors were not converted to Christianity at the point of a sword and many of our pagan practices made it into Catholicism anyway. Just look at our history of well visiting, candle lighting, fairy rings, fairy forts, fairy trees… The pagan practices didn’t go away precisely, just got buried under a thin (extremely thin in some cases!) layer of Christianity. You don’t believe me? Look at this news article in our paper of record from 1999: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/fairy-bush-survives-the-motorway-planners-1.190053 Plus, a lot of our knowledge about the saint feeds into what we understand about the deity as well. The actual lore about Brigid in our myths and legends is not voluminous. It’s scanty in fact. And at least the hagiographies, especially the two later ones (Bethu Brigte is my favourite for many reasons!) give us a few more stories to be going on it. Further complicating the fact is there were up to 15 St Brigids in Ireland at one time of another, so stories and legends may related to one or more of them. Either way, the saint is a powerful force in her own right, with relations to the deity at the very least, so I wouldn’t be ruling her out. Now there are people with trauma from Christianity who can and do find it difficult to deal with anything related to that religion. That’s grand. But remember Christianity in Ireland was not forced on our ancestors, didn’t steal from paganism, but was syncretised and absorbed into the basic belief system.
  3. Over sexualisation of deity. Yeah this comes up a lot. There are many depictions of the deity out there, and this is true for many female presenting deities, not just Brigid, where they’re depicted as a teenage boys wet dream. Now there’s nothing wrong with sex, I’m a fan of it myself, great fun altogether. But reducing a powerful woman/ goddess to just a sex object is demeaning to them and a way to reducing them to a “manageable” level. Brigid is a smith, remember, and anyone who has ever seen a smith working will know formidable muscles are part of the job. Also, scanty clothing doesn’t really work in a forge. To be fair, it doesn’t work in healing either, you want to be not touching people too much if they’re infectious or infected… Safety, people, safety! But surely our deities deserve more respect than being represented as a sex object anyway? I know I often speak about Brigid in ways people are surprised by, since they don’t think I respect her enough, but I do. And one of the ways I respect her is to accord her the right to be whatever she chooses, not just a sex object. (I mean, my own UPG is she is fairly sex positive anyway, so she won’t mind a bit of dressing up or down as the case may be, but it’s at her choice, not ours)
  4. The triple goddess. Oh this one…. ok look, yes Brigid is a triple goddess in the Irish tradition but that does not mean she fits the maiden, mother, crone structure. That structure just isn’t there in the Irish stories. The triple goddess here is the healer, the smith and the poet. Not, not ever, no, no, no, not the maiden, mother, crone (I mean that structure is problematic in its own right, and yeah I know, it’s not purely on the function of the womb but it’s a fairly big part of it, but let’s not try and trap a powerful goddess into what her womb is doing alright? In fact, let’s not do that to anyone. Not every woman has a womb, not everyone with a womb is a woman, etc) So yeah. Triple goddess for Brigid means healer, smith, poet. It’s something different for the Morrigan. Ireland is different in many ways and this is one of them.
  5. Brigid’s mother. Anyone who works with Brigid, or indeed the Irish pantheon, has their own theories about who Brigid’s mother was/is. So far, we’ve reduced the list to any woman the Dagda had sex with or might have had sex with. There is nothing in the lore to indicate one way or the other who her mother was and frankly, (UPG alert!) she’s told me it’s none of my business and not to worry about it. If Brigid wanted her mother known or if her mother wanted to be known, I have no doubt she would be. But anyone who says for definite it’s X goddess or Y goddess is wrong. There’s nothing that absolute about it.
  6. That she’s a fluffy goddess who only wants to help. Maybe you’ve come across healers that are that fluffy and nice all the time and continuously helpful etc. Most of the true healers I’ve come across are fairly strident – they have to be, to get their patients to do as their told. Not to mention, a true healer, whether modern doctor or bean feasa or energy healer, can and will stand up for the good of their patient in the face of adversity. Fluffy won’t cut it. Equally, she’s a smith. Go back up to point 3 and reread the bit about the forge. She makes tools and uses them. If you are, we’ll say lucky, enough to be one of her tools, she will use you hard. People who work with Brigid mention being put on the anvil cos we don’t sort shit out quickly enough or effectively enough to suit her. That’s not a pleasant experience. She can and will use brute force if it’s needed. I mean for this point, also see the idea that she is meek and mild cos she’s a Christian saint – go read the hagiographies on that one. She pulled out her own eye to avoid marriage and in some stories, she pulls out her brother’s eye to replace it cos he was pressuring her into the marriage. She’s a fighter when needed.
  7. The name Brigid means “Fiery Arrow”. OK this comes from Cormac’s Glossary, from the Book of Leinster. It wasn’t written by an etymologist, but a bishop looking to get some fame for his diocese (seriously, looking into the aggro between diocese and monastries and churches in the medieval church in Ireland is better than any modern action thriller – modern politicians could learn a lot from the propoganda). The best I can do here is point to http://dil.ie/search?q=brig&search_in=headword The eDIL is the electronic Dictionary of the Irish Language and is the best resource I’ve got for Old Irish. (Yeah the language changed over the millennia, bloody inconsiderate really!) The meanings given for Brig are: power, strength, force, authority; vigour, virtue OR value, worth; advantage; validity, virtue, efficacy. It appears to be linked to respect as well, as in the respect accorded someone, but it’s definitely not “fiery arrow” from the information we have available to us now. But yeah, Cormac’s Glossary is not a dictionary to say the least. Wonderful source of information, but not a dictionary, nor an encyclopedia, as we would understand it today.
  8. “Correspondences”. I’m grouping all this in one go – too tedious otherwise. So, around Imbolc in particular, you see a lot a articles with “crystals for Brigid”, “colours for Brigid” that sort of thing. And I get it, these lists are fierce handy when you’re starting out and wanting to do things right. The thing is – they’re not based in lore. Crystals and colours not really mentioned in relation to Brigid at all (In the Irish lore this is, I won’t speak for other lore) Now food – well for food, anything food wise is good, but dairy, poultry, beef, pork/ham, those sorts of things. Domesticated animals and the dairy is where she’s strong. Spuds – not so much. Spuds were brought to Ireland 1589 by Sir Walter Raleigh apparently, so a bit after the Tuatha De Danann were walking the land. They’re so synonymous with Ireland now, it’s hard to remember, but they’re not a native plant. But to get back to the original point – there are no real correspondences such as crystals, colours, etc with the Irish Brigid, or indeed the Irish deities in general. Our lore doesn’t work that way. Now, there is a correspondence between red and the Otherworld – as in a red and white animal is almost certainly from the Otherworld, including the cow that fed the saint as a baby. But that’s separate from Brigid.
  9. Celtic goddess. This is a hard one, but really, “Celtic” is like saying “European”. And let’s face it, if the EU has taught us anything it’s that getting even 3 countries in Europre to agree on something is well nigh impossible, never mind having a homogenous culture across the whole continent. Celtic is used to describe a group of languages, Brythonic (Welsh, Cornish and Breton) and non-Brythonic or Gaelic (Irish, Scottish Gaelic and Manx) Irish culture, even 2 millenia ago, was different from the continent. The lore is different. The stories are different. It’s not the same. And lumping such disparate cultures together like this is disrespectful when dealing with deity at least. (I mean, it’s disrespectful when dealing with people as well, but let’s not get into that right now). So, when talking about ancient Irish culture, say ancient Irish culture. When talking about an Irish deity or Irish goddess – say Irish. As I said above, there are overlaps and connections with other Brigids, but they aren’t the same, so don’t lump them all together. Now of course, this is further complicated by the fact that up until about 100yrs ago, Gaelic was used for the Irish language as well. You won’t find that in modern Ireland. We use Irish for our language when speaking English, Gaeilge when speaking Irish. If we’re talking about Gaelic, we’re either talking about the Gaelic chieftains/ culture of the pre- and post- Norman period (up until the Flight of the Earls in 1609 anyway) or we’re talking about football. Yeah, we have a type of football that isn’t anything to do with soccer other than the ball is roughly the same shape. Google Gaelic football. Actually, while you’re educating yourself, google “hurling” as well. National sports, great craic, etc, etc. But don’t be lump separate cultures, separate deities, separate lore into one lump as Celtic.
  10. Red hair, green dress. It’s most likely the saint was blonde from descriptions and art we have around the place. And yeah, I know, red hair is almost synonymous with Irish people as well, we have the highest % of red haired people in the world at about 10% (according to Wikipedia, who I wouldn’t usually recommend as a resource, but this isn’t overly worrying). But there was a 90% chance Brigid wasn’t a red head. I know, it’s hard to take, but really, think about why it’s so important to you that she was a red head? As for the green dress – green is only a very recent addition to being Irish, y’know. It was St. Patrick’s blue for centuries. (although that was based on Henry II having a blue flag, so not exactly Irish either). Green came about as a way to unite disparate groups across the country and showing a different colour to the British. And if you look at the Union Jack, Ireland is represented on there (yes, even now) with St. Patrick’s saltire, which is a red X on a white field. Our currently green, white and orange flag is meant to represent nationalists (green), unionists (orange) with peace between them (white). Also, some of the green comes from the green colour of our land. This again is problematic, since the reason we have such green fields is that the forests of the past were stripped from us by colonisation. To bring it back to Brigid – fundamentally, I think she can appear however she wishes, wearing what she wants, looking how she wants. But trying to contain her in a red haired, green dress is tying into problematic stereotypes of the “Irish colleen” rather than based in reality.

So there you have it. Ten pet peeves addressed, as best I can in a single blog post. Have you any others? Are there things you want to point out?

Building a daily practice

A frequent question that comes up in relation to Brigid, but indeed with many other deities, is how to build a daily practice or what does a daily practice look like. It can be confusing at first, particularly for those of us coming from either a secular background or a very formulaic spiritual background. I mean as a Catholic, the Catechism tell us (or used to anyway!) that we should pray “every morning, and every night, and in all dangers, temptations and afflictions”.  Interestingly, I found this story, from www.duchas.ie outlining how often this phrase is used: One day a priest went in to a school and asked a little girl when should she pray? The little girl did not know. Then he said, “When does your mother milk the cow?” She said, “every morning, and every night, and in all dangers, temptations, and afflictions.” (From School: Tuaim Gréine, Lúbán Díge Location: Tomgraney, Co. Clare Teacher: Pádraig Ó Cadhla)

In fact that phrase is a catch all answer in Ireland for when something should be done in general – although dying out now as the Catechism is no longer rote learned. Although there are signs it might be returning, I hope not!

But back to a daily practice. First things first – start small. While it’s grand to imagine a wonderful daily ritual with all sorts of bells and whistles, chances are, you won’t keep that up for long. I don’t care if you feel you have 5 free hours in the day, trust me, as soon as you put something long and arduous into place, it’s easy to find things to fill that space. So, start small. In a recent chat I had with Lora O’Brien over at the Irish Pagan School (the chat’s on youtube, so have a look for it) she mentions a time in her life when her daily practice was 3 deep breaths. Because that was the time she had to deal with with three kids needing attention. So, when I say “start small” I really mean small. Three deep breaths is as good a way as any to start really. But make them intentional. Three random breaths probably won’t have the effect you want. But a conscious thought of “right, I’m going to take my three deep breaths now, here we go” will make all the difference.

Now with Brigid, she’s never adverse to a candle being lit or a fire being lit. This might be a wax candle or an LED candle, it’s up to you. The point is to light it with intention. (I know, here we go with intention again!) These days, I work from home about half the week. When I’m working at home, I light a candle to start off the working day, as a way to both demarcate between “home” and “work” and also to get some help with the broadband. But it’s an intention that I’m about to start work and since I’m an engineer, that’s part of my daily practice. But more generally, lighting a candle is an act, a physical act, to take the time to breath, maybe do a bit of meditation or prayer, acknowledge the existence of herself.

A daily practice of meditation is a good habit to get into (she says, as someone who needs to get back into regular meditation after a few weeks hiatus!) It’s good for mind and spirituality, in my opinion. Now the physical and mental benefits of meditation are well documented at this point. Go have a look at Google Scholar or something similar if you want to read up on it. But it’s also allowing time and space to let Brigid in, creating room for her to get in touch or at least make her aware you’re paying attention. In most of my courses, I have a meditation element involved because of this. They are useful. And because I, myself, prefer a visualisation element to my meditation, I use those meditations regularly. And building up that habit is like building a muscle – it becomes easier over time.

For me as well, I use my daily movement practice as part of my devotion – cos frankly, otherwise I’d never feckin move! I’m generally not a fan. But by making it a devotional act to help my body working as best it can for as long as it can, I’m taking care of her tools. It’s important to me to do this. You may find cooking, baking for your family is a devotional practice. You may find knitting or sewing something for yourself or a loved one or a complete stranger is a devotional practice. You may find lots of things you can do that might be part of a daily practice. And look, some days my movement might be 5 mins so I can technically say I moved. That’s ok too. Sometimes even just going through the motions is enough. Not every practice will involve deep inspiration or divine contact. But going through the motions is just as important.

Alongside this I will mention offerings. This is not something I usually feel called to do, because she has a lot of other things for me to do. However, I do know people like the idea of leaving offerings out for Brigid. And this can be part of your daily practice. Make her a nice cuppa in the morning when you’re making your own. Give her the first or the best bits of meals. If you bake a loaf of bread, trust me, she’d love a bit of it, warm from the oven, covered in butter. Or, y’know, whatever you want. As to how long to leave things out, that’s up to your own personal circumstances. Liquids can usually be left out for a few hours or overnight, unless you have animals or kids that might get their hands on them. I mean, Brigid is a mother too, she knows what kids are like, but make an effort to make sure they don’t get hold of it. Won’t do them any harm, but it’s my belief that some essence of the food is gone once we offer it to deity. And dispose of the food carefully as well. We’re lucky to have a compost heap on which most waste things food related get chucked. But putting them in the bin is just as alright, if you can’t throw them out for animals etc. Also, if you are throwing things out for animals, just be careful you won’t poison said animals with the food you’re throwing out. I’ll not give any advice here, since you’ll know your local area better than I will.

My work, as I have mentioned on numerous occasions before, is part of my devotion to her. Part of that is to be a visible female engineer, to allow myself be used as a role model and sometimes, an example of what not to do… But it is part of my work with Brigid. Not everyone can say their career is an act of devotion and frankly, you might not want to! But you might do things on a regular if not daily basis that might be acts of devotion. You might create poetry or prayers for her. You might help out in a soup kitchen. You might be active in community groups, be a mentor, be there for a friend in need. There are all sorts of things that can add up as part of a regular, if not daily, practice. To me, ultimately, the best daily practice we can have, is to live lives as ethically and morally as we can. Note I didn’t outline what either “ethical” or “moral” mean. That’s up for each person to figure out. But once you do, living up to your own standards is the way to go. Live a congruous life – in harmony with your beliefs and values. It’s easier that working in a role that directly opposes what your core beliefs are (Trust me – personal experience!) Be a force for good in this world. Support the community in which you live. Support the communities of which you’re a part. Ultimately that’s the best place to end up

Brigid, menstruation and inclusivity

I’ll have to be more careful than usual in this post about highlighting the bits that are based in lore and the bits that are based in my own gnosis. Fundamentally, we don’t have much relating to menstruating in the Irish lore. I lie – there’s shag all, if you don’t count the numerous weird and wonderful ways people managed to get pregnant and give birth in the lore. Even duchas.ie, usually a wonderful trove of treasure to look at the practices and spells and folklore of our ancestors, is bereft of such things. Now there’s a good reason for that, particularly in the duchas case – it was primary school children sent out to gather these stories and while people wouldn’t mind telling kids the stories that might scare the bejasus from them, there were some topics not suitable for children at all.

Manchán Magan, in his recent book “Thirty-Two Words for Field” (2020, Gill Books), explains why some of this is so: “Some of the most renowned female seanchaithe (storytellers) were known for their bawdy humour and they shared this openly with the folklorists who sought their knowledge in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. However, when speaking into the wax cylinder recorder they tended to be more circumspect, censoring certain things“. In the following passage, he recalls how these same seanchaithe, when settled into the chair by the fire and relaxed in themselves, would revert to the earthier version. The transcribed tales would be sanitised though. As well, the author recounts a story from Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, celebrated Irish poet, where although she grew up in a Gaeltacht (Irish speaking) area from the age of six, it was only after her marriage that she was inducted into the realm of the back kitchen and learned a whole new vocabulary.

Given these words couldn’t be shared with an unmarried woman, it’s no wonder strangers in the 19th century wouldn’t be told of them, particularly if, as was sometimes the case, the local priest had come along to smooth the stranger way into the community. So, a history of sending strange and sometimes foreign men, of different class and history, as well as children, to collect these words and stories, means many of them have been lost.

Even though we have lost much of our language and folklore, particularly in the area of women’s lives, including menstruation, these memories may not tell us the exact words use, they do tell us there were rich vocabulary surrounding these elements and menstruation, sex, intercourse, were spoken about! Mangan’s book has improved my vocabulary around my menstrual cycle immeasurably, even if I’m still struggling to remember some of the words off the top of my head!

So, sex, menstruation, the workings of the body were definitely spoken of in Ireland. Sex wasn’t invented in the 80s and 90s, with the advent of Gay Byrne and the Late Late Show on a Friday night (yes, Gaybo was once an avant garde presenter on both radio and television, speaking of issues that had hitherto been hidden – not saying he did a brilliant job at all times, but he was willing to speak and discuss issues like women’s rights, domestic abuse, sex outside marriage…)

On then to Brigid and her links to menstruation. She is listed in Cormac’s Glossary as goddess of healing and we know from Fergus Kelly’s A Guide to Early Irish Law (1988, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies) that a woman-physician as one of the women that could be not dependent on a husband according to the law. He does add however, that in his sources, there is an indication that the term used, banliaih tuaithe, might refer to a midwife or a women who attends a woman at childbirth. So we have at least a loose link between Brigid and one end of the menstruation cycle!

Added to which, I can’t imagine that she would have an interest in healing and not have an interest in her own body…

Now all along here, I’ve been mentioning women, women’s bodies, Brigid as female, etc. It’s important to note that despite what modern menstruation spirituality tends to outline, not all women menstruate and not all who menstruate are women. That leads towards a very binary, static and outmoded vision of what gender is. While I have nothing in the lore that outright states Brigid would be accepting of someone who is a different gender to that which they were assigned at birth, I can’t help looking at her relationship with me, her work in healing and in the forge, her work with people who were maybe not valued as much in society as they should have been, the work with Brig Ambue and the cowless, and think she would not support those who are, due to the previously described outmoded understandings of gender, struggling to be accepted as they are in this world.

I’m not an expert in gender issues, it must be said, and I won’t conflate my experiences as a white, straight cis woman with those who are not any or some of those things. But I will say, I know something of what’s it’s like (a small part of what’s it’s like) to not be accepted as you are – I’m a woman in engineering and even to this day, I tend to have to prove myself over and over and over as an engineer purely because I don’t fit the stereotypical image of either woman or engineer. I can only imagine how much worse it might be when it’s not only your profession, but your sense of self that’s being challenged/ignored/scorned. And that’s before the abuse, the harassment, the oppression, etc, etc, etc.

If you’re struggling with menstruating or looking to gain a better understanding of your body and how it works, it’s easy to drop into menstruation spirituality or menstruation teachings in the modern world. But there are some serious issues there. There is an assumption that every woman moves through, or wants to move through, the great triple cycles of maiden, mother, crone (there’s been a fourth phase added in recent years of queen or enchantress, but let’s not go there for now, that’s a whole other blog post. And I do like the extra stage, I just don’t want to have to write three blog posts in one!)

Now there are huge issues in forcing all women into these boxes of maiden, mother, crone. And yes, I know, modern paganism has said it’s not about biological changes or stages, but more about appreciation, learning and development of self. The fact remains that these words are very gendered, very restricting and plain don’t work for all women, never mind the gender spectrum (I’m not even sure if gender spectrum is the correct way of putting it, but I’m damned sure we don’t have a gender binary so it’s the best I can do right now. Open to learning better though)

I’m a woman who can’t have children, for no apparent reason according to science – now, I’m not looking for advice, trust me that I’ve tried everything out there from acupuncture, meditation, visualisation, foods, movement… if you’ve heard of it, I’ve tried it. Not interested in hearing what worked for your friend or your cousin or this woman you know 🙂

It’s not a sore topic at all, right?

Anyway, back to the point. I’m a woman who can’t have children. While many people tell me the mother phase is one of creativity, of nurturing, of growing and doesn’t necessarily mean parenting a child, still when I hear “mother”, I think of the family I don’t have. And that’s just women with fertility issues. That doesn’t help women who don’t want children, or can’t have them for other reasons – financial, physical, emotional reasons, for a start.

Using maiden/mother/crone is limiting and exclusionary, in my opinion.

But where do we go from here? Well I’m working on a structure and outline that might help people deal with, come to terms with, work with their menstrual cycles or lack thereof without using gendered language or traditional gendered roles to work through it. It’s not easy cos it means examining everything I’ve learned and known about menstruation and body cycles and assessing it from an inclusionary point of view. Testosterone driven bodies have cycles just like oestrogen driven bodies do.

Plus, pretty much every body is different anyway. So, how do we inclusively group certain phases of different cycles to work for everyone? I’m not entirely sure this is possible. I think what is possible, though, is for everyone to have a better understanding and knowledge of their body and have a loose framework to hang that knowledge off. I know that understanding myself the times of my cycles when I’m more prone to tiredness, more prone to certain activities, more prone to anger, more prone to sleeping, more prone to reading certain things, eating certain things, etc, etc, etc, helps me live life a bit better and not get taken aback by my reactions or needs during any given phase. And I’d like more people to gain that awareness of their body, without having to trawl through information that’s abhorrently presented to them in the first place.

Brigid, Imbolc, Imbolg, etc

It’s that time of year again, when I’m picking up my brait Bhríde (the extra i in “brat” is cos it’s plural there, yup, I do multiples!), making sure the house is visitor-tidy and maybe even Mammy-tidy, seeing about walking the bounds and grounds and generally doing an energetical tidy up as well.

I’ll be celebrating Imbolc on Sunday this year, mainly cos Monday is a very busy work day. These things have to be adaptable as well. I’m seeing a lot of people asking about food to eat, rituals in a COVID world, offerings to leave, etc, etc. So here is a bit of what I’ll be doing, although there isn’t really a set piece I do.

I’m a solitary practitioner, although my husband does get dragged into things at times. I mean, he’ll definitely partake of whatever meal I cook on Sunday anyway 🙂 But for me, a group ritual is not something I’ve ever engaged in really. However, I know for many in the COVID world, this might be their first time celebrating Imbolc alone. And it’s a bit scary for some, concerning, different, that sort of thing. It’s fairly impossible to recreate a multi-person ritual with one person, especially one that was designed and written for public spectacle. But, you know what? This is an opportunity for you to make the most of your own ritual – or even not have one at all.

As an idea, here’s a format I sometimes use:

  • Plan what you want to do.
  • Do any cooking and baking beforehand – trust me on this one! Ditto with shopping for special items. Have everything handy when you start. Including any favourite prayers or songs.
  • Make a sacred space. this might be a clear space on the floor. It might ordinarily be called your kitchen table. It might be the couch. Really, what makes a space sacred, is that we make it so. Clean this area as best you can – physically as well as energetically, now mind. (If you can – herself can and will take into account physical limitations or realities)
  • Mark out, even if only mentally, what space you are counting sacred.
  • Lay out some candles or some lamps or some wool or thread or something to mark the boundaries of the sacred space.
  • Dress in the clothes you want to wear for the ritual – this can be as dressed up or dressed down as you like.
  • Take a minute to gather yourself, some deep breaths, quick meditation or prayer, bit of music, whatever takes your fancy.
  • Formally step into the ritual space with intention.
  • Start with lighting the candles or turn on the lights.
  • Say a prayer or sing a song.
  • Spend some time in meditation.
  • Share food with herself. Share a drink as well – doesn’t have to be alcoholic, milk is good, tea, coffee, minerals – give the best you can, she will appreciate it. Dairy is always associated with Brigid, cattle were so important in Ireland that beef is grand, lamb is a delicacy in Ireland, home baking is always appreciated, but shop bought is grand if that’s what you have. The important bit here is sharing with her the best you have.
  • After eating, or even before it, maybe throw on some music and have a bit of a dance. Have some time for joy and happiness in the ritual. It doesn’t have to all formal and serious and portentous. I’ve been known to throw on anything from Shakira to Metallica to Clannad to Enya.
  • Spend some time in silence as well. Allow time for her to talk to you, as well as the other way around.
  • Close out with another prayer or song or dance.
  • Formally leave the sacred space with intention.
  • Tidy up 🙂

Now, the above is a rough outline, it might or might not suit you. I’ve spoken above of also walking the bounds and grounds – this is an act of formally claiming our home and garden as ours and declaring our intention of it being our sanctuary. The important thing is the walking with intention (it takes ten mins going slowly!) but I also mix up a jug of water, salt and blood if I’m bleeding, as well as some incense or a candle and pour out the water as I go to physically encircle the bounds and grounds as well. That’s a me thing, not a general thing though.

There’s a whole lot on the web about food for Brigid. I’ve gone into a bit up above there and there are elements of Scottish and Welsh lore that I know of that call out specific plants that would be associated with Brigid. I don’t buy into the whole “sun goddess” thing, so yellow isn’t a big deal with me. Dairy, home baking, good meat and a special meal are generally the way I go. In saying that, I’m not the ultimate guide here. You are. What feels right to you, what you are capable of, what you want to do is important.

There’s whole essays and youtube videos on how to make Brigid’s crosses of varying designs so I won’t bother here, as well as brideógs and brait Bhríde and leaba Bhríde and all the rest. These are fun, as well as being ways to include younger members of the family in all the drama.

Fertility rituals abound in this time of year as well – Seán Ó Dúinn’s book on Brigid outlines a lot of them. From fisherfolk leaving shells in the corner of the house to farmers leaving sheaves of oats outside the door, to ask Brigid’s blessing on the prosperity of the family for the year, there’s plenty of scope to make this suitable for your own livelihood. A pen for writers, a bit of cloth for tailors, something to indicate your way(s) of making a living for her to bless.

Another option is to have a younger member of the family (or indeed, you yourself if you don’t have people around) to go outside on Brigid’s Eve (31st January for me) and be welcomed inside in the guise of the saint or deity, thus welcoming Brigid in for the year. Just be warned, when you welcome her in, her leaving isn’t always easy!

This is obviously a short enough post to cover what is an important day for me. Candles lighting, cakes baking, food prep… It’s a pretty domestic day for me really, which is in total contrast to my usual days. That works for me – you may need to look at something different. But maybe there’s some ideas you can take and use from here. Either way, celebrate the day somehow and enjoy it. It is a celebration remember!

Brigid and grief

But after the spear had been given to him, Rúadán turned and wounded Goibniu. He pulled out the spear and hurled it at Rúadán so that it went through him; and he died in his father’s presence in the Fomorian assembly. Bríg came and keened for her son. At first she shrieked, in the end she wept. Then for the first time weeping and shrieking were heard in Ireland. (Now she is the Bríg who invented a whistle for signalling at night.)

The above is an excerpt from Caith Maige Tuired, gthe Second Battle of Moytura. And I’ve written about this excerpt before. I’ve even written a devotional on the lines. But it’s hitting me hard this week. I lost my godfather last week and because of COVID couldn’t attend the funeral. All the usual rituals of grief are lost to me. I watched his funeral on YouTube, which, while better than nothing is still not the same as the usual rites.

There was no final visit to him. There was no rosaries over the coffin. There were few stories exchanged, and those only with my parents, rather than the wider group of his family and friends. (These things happened, of course, with his wife and children and grandchildren, those family and friends who lived close enough to be able to visit and mourn together, but not for those of us further away).

Usually at a time of grief, those who can’t attend are few in number and so attention can be spared to help them, talk them through all the bits and bobs that happen in an Irish funeral. The jokes about how he’d be very happy with the way he looked in the coffin and how, yes, he still has the earrings in. The accidental references to him as if he were still alive. The plans for who stays with the body so he’s not left alone. The small ways we reach out to include people in a time of grief.

But with so many not able to attend, all that becomes impossible. And here we are, a year on, with a vaccine in sight, but still with months at best left before any sort of normal life can continue. And we grieve in private, as we always did, but also alone, which we did not always do.

Brigid knows grief. Her loss of a son is keener than my loss this week. She knows. Her Da knows as well. As does the Virgin Mary. All three have been around me this week to help, to support, to be here with me. I’ve sheltered under both the blue cloak and the green for peace and sanctuary, for heart’s ease. I’m almost certain the Dagda carried me to bed one night cos I know I didn’t get there by myself. They’ve reminded me to eat, to wash, to drink water, to move, to allow myself tears. To accept that ok, my eyes are not going to work properly for a while after that much crying.

And now, they are all reminding me that life does indeed go on. This doesn’t mean an end to grief, of course, but an end to the first, immediate, gut wrenching pain of separation. For me, right now, it’s an end to that stage of grief. It’s time to re-don the mantle of semi normal every day living. It’s time to light the candles and say the prayers. It’s time to drink water to ease the headache, get dressed and face the world. It’s time to get going again basically.

They’re right of course. I am sure his immediate family will be in that first stage for a while longer, they have the immediate reminders of him not being there all around them, on a minute by minute, hour by hour basis, in ways I don’t. It doesn’t make my grief less, or theirs more worthy, but it is different and will be dealt with in different ways.

So, today, I’m back on my usual schedule. I’m writing a blog post. I’m taking care of myself. I’m preparing for the week in work. I’m sorting out clothes and food and schedules. I will, no doubt, cry again because he’s moved on to the next life. But I will also start living again, rather than remain in a sort of limbo as I have been doing for almost a week now.

Brigid (and the Dagda and Mary and others) will be here with me for support and help, and the odd clip up the back of the head, as I need it. And I have tools and ability to mark this loss for myself, to make it less bad for me. They’ve helped with that too. And I have a community of friends who will and have been helping as well.

There are many things this pandemic has changed forever and possibly for the better – my attitude to working from home for a start – but I don’t think our grieving rituals are included there. Our grieving rituals are so intrinsic to the rhythm of life, to how we say goodbye to people, I can’t imagine them changing overnight like this. As soon as we can, we’ll be back to the rounds of handshakes and “sorry for your troubles”, the crowds of people lining up outside the funeral home or the home place, the endless cups of tea and the sandwiches and the cakes and the buns, the stories after a few drinks and the reminders at about 11pm or midnight that “we have something important to do in the morning”. We’ll be back to the communal support, the escorting of the coffin, the silence and the black. Because it’s written into our ancestral memories now, that this is what grief looks like and this is how we cope with grief. We have all this to do in that horrible, horrible first 3 day period so we can get through it all. We just keep going and if we keep going that long, we can still keep going past it.

Brigid’s relationships with other deities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Native vs Non-Native Brigid

I had planned a post on the animals related to Brigid, but after a discussion on Brigid’s Forge Facebook group, I’m going to leave that alone for a bit. The discussion did bring forward to me the need to discuss native Irish vs non-native Irish Brigid.

I don’t believe I have kept quiet that it is Irish Brigid I work for/with. I am aware there are other Brigids out there, but it is the Irish Brigid I deal with. So what I write here today is coming from that perspective. It doesn’t necessarily mean your practice is wrong if you feel a connection with one of the other Brigids. Hell, it might not even mean your practice is wrong if you connect with Irish Brigid – UPG is a valid concept, as long as it is highlighted as such and not passed off as general lore. (I do try to highlight all the areas where my beliefs and practices are UPG or at least how I link it back to the lore, but everyone slips up on this sometimes. If you do, deal and move on. It’s what I try to do!)

With that in mind, here we go.

The Brigid I work with is the daughter of the Dagda and her mother is not named. I mean the list of her possible mothers is anyone the Dagda is ever linked to in either a sexual or co-parental relationship. I have my favourite options, same as anyone else, but this is definitely an area that is personal gnosis. It’s highly unlikely to be unique, it may be unverified, but it will be personal. Do your reading, see who you favour. And remember, who you favour may change over time as you learn and work more.

Irish Brigid is a triple deity (see Cormac’s glossary) but she is NOT a maiden, mother, crone archetype. I feel very strongly about this. I think in Wicca practices, she is considered under the maiden, mother, crone shape, but there isn’t an equivalent in Irish lore. In Irish lore, the triple deity for Brigid is under the goddess of poets, the goddess of smiths and the goddess of healing. There’s a lot to explore there, in terms of what poets, smiths and healing meant in the Iron Age in Ireland and even unto the present day. In fact, in the book I’m writing, I extrapolate from these three to most professions, activities, work in the modern world. There’s very few areas Brigid isn’t interested in when it comes to community.

There is a strong link for me between the Irish deity and the Irish saint. St. Brigid is one of the three patron saints in Ireland. St. Patrick is the most famous, mainly because of our exportation of the celebrations, although it should be noted that as recently as my parents’ generation the drinking culture just wasn’t there that is today. Also – dying stuff green is grand, but if you want to explore Irish roots go beyond both dying stuff green and St. Patrick. St. Colmcille is the third patron saint – an exile from the land himself.

But St. Brigid is our homegrown saint who stayed. She’s ours, through and through. And through the saint, we have a lot of links to dairy, cattle, food, drink – in one of my classes I reference the poem about the lake of beer in heaven. While Jesus transformed water into wine, Brigid turns water into beer. Support your local products people!

There is still, I believe, a huge devotion to St. Bride in Scotland, with different lore there to support the actions there taken. For example, in Ireland, while the saint’s day is 1st Feb, one potential date for Imbolc, there is no tradition of Brigid ruling over summer, as there is in Scotland. There is a tradition in Wales of an Irish nun called Ffraid, feeding the poor, as well as turning various things to food. There is also the tale in Welsh lore of Brigid plucking her eye from her head to get out of marrying a suitor her father picked out.

There is a possibility that Brigantia in England is a fore-runner of Brigid in Ireland, brought by the settlements of Brigantes in Leinster. I know nothing about the lore of Brigantia though, although I understand the Romans, those loveable scamps, syncretised her with Minerva and Victoria. There is also a link to healing wells as well.

There’s nothing wrong with working with Brigid from different lands. There’s a St. Brigitte in Sweden, who is one of six patron saints of Europe (who knew??), a Maman Brigitte in vodou (please someone who know better correct me here!) who is associated with death, and doubtless many more I don’t know about. I’ve previously said there’s probably as many Brigids as there are people who work with her, and that’s grand.

But if you’re putting out information on Brigid, be clear about which one you’re talking about. Because each of these aspects or beings has a clear and distinct traditional practice behind them. Each of these aspects or beings has things they do, things they look for, things they work best with…

When it comes to Irish Brigid, well, I find it simple, but I focus almost exclusively on Irish Brigid, so I may be over simplifying it. The records in our lore, even including the saint’s lives, are few, so it’s reasonable easy read them, learn from them etc. We have Brigid as mother, Brigid as healer (saint), Brigid associated with cattle, oxen, sheep, boars. We have the hearth fire, the smith fire, the muse fire. We have our healing wells. We have our crafts and our arts. We have our rushes-based weaving and our dairy based miracles. We have the three Brigs in the Ulster cycle, the hospitaller, the judge and the cowless. We have strong women, doing what needs doing.

Lighting a candle is so ubiquitous in Irish culture (The Mammy had a candle lighting for me for a difficult meeting last week!) it’s impossible to rule out flame tending as a native practice, not to mention the Brigidine sisters in Kildare re-igniting the sacred flame there. Weaving a cross or whatever symbol you wish on Imbolc. Leaving out the brat Bhríde on Imbolc to give us healing, particularly for headaches, for the rest of the year. Leaving out the sheaf of oats (or something that represents your coming prosperity and fertility in the coming year) to ask for a blessing from her and making sure there’s enough food and other resources for the coming year.

All of these are actions taken by generations in Ireland, and probably elsewhere as well, given how long emigration from this island has been occurring, and still happening today. But the most important part of Irish Brigid? Living up to her standards. What are you doing for the community, the people, those around you? How do you support that community, virtual or physical, that you are a part of? How do you develop your skills and knowledge to make the world a better place? Honestly, that’s the best thing you can do to work with her.