Brigid and alcohol

Alcohol has a mixed reputation in Ireland. It fills a kinda liminal space, much like the spaces Brigid herself is drawn to. But given the problems that alcohol creates in our society, and has created for generations, how do we reconcile the stories of Brigid as brewer and Brig as societal and communal support?

Alcohol, Orlagh?

This morning I’m reading a really interesting paper on the role of Irish masculinity and alcohol. It discusses some of the history of alcohol and the Irish. It explains that it was the arrival of gin in the 17th century that heralded some really problematic drinking. (I wonder what else happened in 17th century Ireland that might have caused the country to turn to drink?) It also discusses some of the aspects of alcohol that are entwined in masculinity. Pubs being predominantly male spaces, the ascension to manhood on the purchase of the first legal drink, etc. I rarely discuss Brigid in relation to masculinity topics, but I think this is useful!

It also discusses the Temperance movement in Ireland, pointing out that as well as having some of the highest alcohol consumptions in the EU, Ireland also has the highest % of the population that are teetotal, i.e. don’t consume alcohol at all. We have a mixed relationship to the substance in this country, to say the least.

Picture of a beautifully poured pint of Guinness, in a proper "Guinness" glass with the golden harp and the word "Guinness" written in white. along with a shot glass of whiskey
I searched for Irish alcohol… Picture of a beautifully poured pint of Guinness, in a proper “Guinness” glass with the golden harp and the word “Guinness” written in white. along with a shot glass of whiskey

And ok, we can’t completely blame the Brits. Colonialism has a role to play here, but it’s not the only reason. I think…

This report from the Irish Times outlines how the bishop of Christchurch in Dublin granted stonemasons 14 pints of beer a day, while they were working in a quarry. This might be due to the calories contained in the beer (apparently 700-800 per pint!). It might also be a tastier way of quenching the thirst than plain water.

Was Brigid in a quarry in 16th century Dublin?

Well, I can’t say whether she was or she wasn’t, to be honest, but quarrying is the sort of the same type of work that forging is. Creation and destruction all in one.

More interesting, to me at least, are the stories around Brigid and ale/beer in the hagiographies. In Cogitosus, there are 5 mentions of wine and 24 mentions of ale. In Bethu Brigte, 1 wine, 26 ale and 1 beer. So people knew and used ale, wine, beer in 7th century Ireland anyway. Indeed, the hagiographies mention Brigid as performing miracles regarding ale on several occasions.

Then they went to their country, Dubthach and his daughter Brigit, in the province of Offaly; and there did Brigit work a wonderous miracle, to wit, her fostermother was in weakness of disease, and the fostermother sent the holy Birgit and another maiden with her to the house of a certain man named Boethchú, to ask him for a draught of ale. He refused Brigit. Then Brigit filled a vessel out of a certain well, and blessed it, and (the water) was turned into the taste of ale, and she gave it to her fostermother, who straightway became whole thereby. Now when they went to drink the banquet not a drop threof was found.

On the Life of St Brigit,

Low Sunday approached. ‘I do not think it fortunate now’, said Brigit to her maidens, ‘not to have ale on Low Sunday for the bishop who will preach and say Mass.’ As soon as she said that, two maidens went to the water to bring in water and they had a large churn for the purpose, and Brigit was not aware of this. When they came back again, Brigit saw them there. ‘Thanks be to God’, said Brigit. ‘God has given us beer for our bishop.’ The nuns became frightened then. ‘May God help us. O maiden.’ ‘Whatever foolish thing I said, I have not said anything evil, O nuns.’ ‘The water which was brought inside, because you have blessed it, God did what you desired and immediately it was changed into ale with the smell of wine from it, and better ale was never set to brew in the [whole] world.’ The one churn was sufficient [for them] with their guests and the bishop.

Bethu Brigte,

It’s clear to me, from these excerpts, that people at this time recognised ale, beer, wine as “special occasion” drinks, although not overly special. You wouldn’t use a particularly special drink for a slave, would you?

Brig, mythology and alcohol

Now, it’s clear from Caith Maighe Tuireadh 2 that water was definitely seen as healing:

This then is what used to put fire into the warriors who were slain there, so that they were swifter on the morrow. Because Dian-cecht and his two sons, even Octriuil and Miach, and his daughter Airmed were singing spells over the well named Sláine. Now their mortally wounded men were cast into it as they would be slain. They were alive when they would come out. Their mortally wounded became whole through the might of the chant of the four leeches who were about the well.

The Second Battle of Moytura,

Bres was dethroned, at least partially, because however often the chiefs of the TDD visited him, “their breaths did not smell of ale“. There’s no connection with Brig and ale in CMT 2, more of a background “info about the culture” kinda thing.

Part of the chief’s role was to provide food, drink and entertainment to his subjects, tribe, people. Not providing this was grounds for removal. So, this was an important aspect of Irish life, even in the lore.

Problems with alcohol

So, remember earlier, when I mentioned the paradox of the Irish relationship with alcohol? Well, it causes a lot of trouble in our society.

DrinkAware is an Irish website, promoting the awareness of the problems alcohol causes in society, as well as the effects of drinking. In comparison to the world population, Ireland performs way above it’s weight in alcohol consumption. While in general, world-wide, in 2019, adults (deemed 15+ for some reason) would consume approx 5.8L of pure alcohol, in Ireland that number rose to 12.75L. And while the world-wide figure decreased 6% since 2010, the Irish number… did not.

Info from DrinkAware:

  • WHO (World Health Organisation) Global Observatory Data Repository found that the proportion of adults (15+ years) who have consumed any alcohol during the past 12 months was 81.3% in 2016.
  • Healthy Ireland 2022 identified that overall, 67% of the population (sample age 15+) consumed alcohol in the past 6 months.
  • In the 2019–20 National Drugs and Alcohol Survey, 74.2% of survey respondents reported having consumed alcohol in the last 12 months, corresponding to 2,903,000 of the general population in Ireland aged 15 years and older.
  • According to Drinkaware’s Barometer data, 83% of Irish adults drink alcohol at least once in the last 30 days. This question is asked annually and the result for 2021 was 77% and 72% for 2020.
  • This is broadly in line with those reported in the initial CSO (Central Statistics Office) Social Impact of COVID-19 Survey that found 80.6% respondents stating that they consumed alcohol in April 2020.

There are some (kinda!) good things about alcohol in Ireland as well. Alcohol use disorders are roughly in line with the European rates (8.5% in Ireland vs 8.8% in Europe as a whole). Alcohol dependence is at 3.8% in Ireland vs 3.7% in Europe as a whole. Any sort of alcohol dependency or disorder is 3-4 times more likely in men than in women.

Alcohol is a major issue in intimate partner violence, drink driving, mental health, physical health… all sorts of areas that I feel Brigid would be very definitely interested in. Health in general, of course, is well within her bailiwick. But she’s also about the health of a community – and sometimes, alcohol can be a plague in this area. Bringing it back to the masculinity conversation at the start of this meandering post, because much of masculinity in modern Ireland is linked to “being the breadwinner” and “standing your round”, this can lead to some issues with drinking. Particularly if the “being the breadwinner” part is no longer there.

Plus, we tend to view alcohol differently in this country. The news that 3 pints constituted a binge was shocking to the entire country. I mean, my Ma would drink more than that easily and she’s known as a small drinker. 3 pints is more of an after-work “quick one” sort of deal. But then there are lots of us that go long phases without drinking which helps average out over the year… but doesn’t give the full story!

Brigid and alcohol

We can’t judge the past by modern standards. We certainly can’t judge past alcohol by modern standards. And I think, there are far fewer people in Ireland standing up at the bar on a Saturday night, downing 15+ pints of Guinness. (Not unheard of in my youth…)

When Brigid was brewing ale, it was deemed a nutritional drink, a way to get calories into you, a special occasion treat from water. These days, for most of us, alcohol is far easier to obtain and afford. That doesn’t mean she’s adverse to a drink, mind! There’s a prayer attributed to her named “Lake of Beer” after all. But that prayer as well shows the role of beer, in this case, as minor social lubricant rather than sole liquid consumption.

In my own house, Brigid can get offered whiskey, sherry, port, brandy. It’s usually the spirits. If you’re not in a place to offer alcohol though, don’t worry. Clean water is just as appropriate, as is milk. These are all equally relevant to her lore.

And if you are working to help those with alcohol dependencies or dealing with the effects of alcohol in society, you’re also doing Brigid’s work. Whether you look at it from a physical/mental point of view or a societal point of view, alcohol and the abuse of alcohol has changed in recent centuries from what I’ve read. And it’s not for the better.

Socialism vs communism

I notice that there is a tendency to equate socialism with communism in certain parts of the world. But really, there are significant differences between them. Yes, this post is inspired by a podcast I listen to, but won’t link to. It’s one of those I follow to remain engaged with what the talking points are in groups I’m interested in. Purely for the purposes of stopping them gaining any significant power.

There are significant differences between socialism and communism. Seriously. I would happily describe myself a socialist, but not a communism. So let’s dive in.

What is socialism?

Now, the What Am Politics has a great episode on socialism, I’d highly recommend it. (They’ve stopped creating new episodes now, but I’d recommend the podcast anyway!)

But for those who don’t have 48mins to listen to that episode, here we go.

Essentially, socialism promotes social ownership rather than private ownership for public assets. What does this mean? It does not mean, as was said in that podcast this morning, that the government owns everything. What it does mean, is that for particular assets, which are deemed public in nature, the public community own the assets. This doesn’t mean no private property of any type.

What can this look like? Well, when the NHS in the UK was founded in 1946 (check out the history here), this was a socialist enterprise. From the article:

The NHS was born out of the ideal that healthcare should be available to all, regardless of wealth. 


Much of socialism depends on this idea, that there are certain things that we should all have access to regardless of wealth. For me, these include health services, education, housing, food, clothing. OK, people with wealth can afford better quality of each of these. But for me, these basic rights that every human on the planet deserves. And they need to meet a basic standard as well. I don’t count the tents being used in direct provision in Ireland currently as meeting that basic standard.

We are a nation of bad weather and living in tents, no matter how well heated, is no way to live.

What is communism?

A communist society would entail the absence of private property and social classes, and ultimately money and the state (or nation state).


Essentially, communism wants nothing owned privately. That’s the major difference between socialism and communism.

It may not seem like a big one, but it’s pretty huge. Many anti communist texts debate the problems with no free enterprise. I’ll leave you to google your own list.

What about capitalism?

Capitalism, in it’s purest form, is pure private ownership, with market forces determining everything. Profit is king. Class warfare is massive. Production is purely for profit, no element of social benefit or basic needs.

Table reads: Differences between communism, capitalism and socialism. Under Communism column, there is: no private ownership; central government; no class distinction; production for basic needs; Karl Marx. Under the capitalism column reads: total private ownership; market forces; class distinction; production for profit; Adam Smith. Under the socialism column  reads: limited private ownership; government and private entities; limited class distinction; production for societal needs; Charles Fourier
The above table shows the major distinctions between communism, capitalism and socialism
My own thoughts

For me, the difference is between me getting to choose my own career, my own housing situation, my own clothing, without the government dictating what my “needs” are. Because frankly, the Irish government really doesn’t have a good track record in that space!

Free market enterprise can produce fantastic leaps in technology, research etc. The average smart phone has loads more tech than the rocket that took Neil Armstrong and co to the moon, for example. But it also leads to massive wealth inequality, when unchecked by some limits. When I see the social issues rearing their heads in the US, and copied in the Uk, I worry about what’s coming to Ireland.


We have massive wealth inequality in Ireland. In 2021, an Irish Times article declared we had the worst wealth inequality in the EU. However, this was a bit misleading as it didn’t take into account taxes and benefits. We’re close enough to the EU average, once you consider these aspects.

That’s still not good though. There still exists poverty in Ireland at a rate I’m not happy with! A few items from the CSO (Central Statistics Office)

  • An individual is defined as being at risk of poverty if their nominal equivalised disposable income is under the at risk of poverty threshold, i.e. 60% of the median nominal equivalised disposable income.
  • In SILC 2022, the at risk of poverty rate was 13.1%, a 1.5 percentage point increase on the 2021 estimate of 11.6%. This figure is similar to the 2020 estimate of 13.2%, indicating that the decrease in 2021 may have been temporary and linked to the COVID-19 pandemic and associated economic measures.
  • Those most at risk of poverty in SILC 2022 were those individuals who described their Principal Economic Status (PES) as unemployed (35.6%), followed by persons unable to work due to long-standing health problems (35.2%). This compares with an at risk of poverty rate of 5.8% for those that described themselves as employed.
  • By age group, the largest year on year change in the at risk of poverty rate was in persons ages 65 or over, going from 11.9% in 2021 to 19.0% in 2022.
  • By household composition, the at risk of poverty rate was highest amongst single adult households. One in three persons living in households composed of one adult aged 65 years and over (33.6%), or composed of one adult aged less than 65 years (32.0%) were at risk of poverty in SILC 2022. The rate was lowest for those living in households with three or more adults (4.7%).
  • The at risk of poverty rate for individuals in households with one adult and one or more children aged under 18 was 23.8%, compared with 13.1% of persons living in two adult households with 1-3 children.

Basically, the further away from dual income household with no kids (Dinkies) you are, the more at risk from poverty you are. Probably makes sense when you think about it.

But none of this is a reason to abhor socialism. Socialism, or at least some facets of it, can help support removing people from risk of poverty. If you have enough tasty, nutritious, attractive food to eat, warm, dry housing with plenty of space, clothing appropriate for your activities and lifestyle, clean water, some disposable income – how can you be poor?

Connection to Brigid

This isn’t communism. Providing for those who, for whatever reason, don’t earn enough to provide these amenities for themselves isn’t communism. It’s not communism to suggest the government intervene to ensure people can get health care without going bankrupt. It’s not communism to suggest that people be paid a living wage.

Socialism and communism are categorically not the same thing. They’re really not. Stop being afraid of even learning about either of them. If you’re reading this blog, you probably have an interest in Brigid. Building and supporting your community is an important part of that. If we look at the saint, she frequently gave away items to the people with nothing. If you look at Brig Ambue, she took her name from caring for the cowless. Definitely not the rich.

If we choose to live a spiritual life, sometimes that means living up to the standards set by our deity. Or saint. And sometimes that means stepping outside our cultural norms and examining things with a bit more discernment.

Brigid and winter – Irish style!

Brigid, as I have said before, is a well revered deity and saint in Ireland. Some people would suggest she embodies the essence of changing seasons, energy management, and creative renewal. Brigid and winter isn’t the immediate pairing, I know, but bear with me. I know most people have heard me go on about the three main sisters : Brigid the Poet, Brigid the Smith, and Brigid the Healer. As the year turns, Brigid’s influence can sometimes feel particularly pronounced during the transition to winter. This is a time when the world slows down. Energies are redirected for introspection and renewal.

The Poet

Brigid the Poet plays a pivotal role in connecting the changing seasons to the human experience. Her eloquence and artistic inspiration help us survive the dark winter months. In Irish history/ mythology/ lore, poetry was not merely a form of artistic expression. It was a sacred act that connected individuals to the rhythms of nature. (Not to mention a legal act as well!) As autumn wanes and winter sets in, Brigid’s poetic aspect encourages us to slow down, reflect, and find meaning in the changing landscape. The falling leaves and the crisp air become metaphors for the transitions in our own lives. They prompt us to explore the depths of our emotions and experiences. Honestly, I’m not sure what the rain tells us, other than fire is good this time of year!

During the winter months, the land lies dormant, seemingly at rest. Brigid the Poet reminds us that this apparent stillness is not a cessation of life. This is a period of gestation, where ideas and inspirations quietly germinate beneath the surface. This is a time for introspection, for delving into the inner realms of our thoughts and feelings. Brigid’s poetic influence encourages us to embrace the hibernation of winter as an opportunity for personal growth. And possibly creative works that we don’t give time to otherwise. Ye know I feel strongly about the period between Samhain and Imbolc as a time for introspection and planning. This is a time for deep thinking, in my opinion.  Not actively doing.

The Smith

Brigid the Smith is a skilled artisan forging tools and implements. She symbolizes the transformative power of fire and the ability to shape the raw materials of our lives. In the context of changing seasons, Brigid the Smith teaches us the importance of harnessing our energies wisely. Winter, with its shorter days and longer nights, invites us to conserve our resources and focus on what truly matters. The hearth becomes a sacred space where we gather the strength to face the challenges of the cold months ahead. Ok, the hearth is pretty much always a sacred space for Brigid. But particularly in winter, when a warm fire was so vital to survival for much of our history.

As the blacksmith of the gods, Brigid tempers our resolve and refines our goals, much like the metal in the forge. The winter season is a time for honing our skills, whether they be practical or spiritual, and for discarding that which no longer serves us. Brigid the Smith, with her transformative fire, guides us in the process of self-improvement, helping us emerge from the winter months stronger and more resilient.

The Healer

Brigid the Healer, with her nurturing and compassionate nature, brings solace and restoration during the winter’s chill. (And occasionally, the sharp reminder that fresh air is, in fact, good for us!) In the cold months, physical and emotional health may be challenged. Brigid the Healer offers her gentle touch and healing wisdom. Or less than gentle touch. Healers are not always gentle, but then sometimes they very definitely need not to be gentle. Winter illnesses and fatigue are met with the soothing balm of Brigid’s care, reminding us that self-care is an essential aspect of navigating the changing seasons.

In the end…

The slowing down of winter provides an opportunity for healing on multiple levels. Brigid the Healer encourages us to listen to the whispers of our bodies and souls, recognizing the need for rest and rejuvenation. Whether through herbal remedies, therapeutic practices, or simply taking time for quiet reflection, Brigid’s healing energy reminds us that winter is not a time for endless activity but a season for restoration and self-care.

Brigid weaves a tapestry of wisdom that is particularly relevant in the context of changing seasons, slowing down for winter, and managing energy. As the year turns, Brigid’s influence encourages us to embrace the poetic beauty of introspection, to forge our strengths in the fires of self-improvement, and to seek healing and restoration in the quietude of winter. In doing so, we align ourselves with the timeless rhythms of nature and tap into the profound lessons that Brigid imparts as a guide through the ever-changing cycles of life.

Brigid and light

It’s a dreary, miserable, filthy day out today. When I think about how many of our winter festivals are associated with light – it’s really easy to see why this morning. And I know, Brigid’s main festival is associated with the start of spring in Ireland, but Brigid and light are interlinked in our minds.

I pulled over in Bansha this morning so show just how miserable a morning it was! For those who can’t see it so well, the video is a shot of a very dark, wet, rainy, miserable morning, taken just before the pedestrian crossing in Bansha

And I think this has a very direct link to our mental health. There are stories on the internet that the Norwegian government pays for winter holidays for retirees to help with mental health issues. It would make sense! Tromsø in the north of Norway, has about 3.5hrs of sunlight a day right now… For comparison (and from the same website!) Ireland has approx. 8.5hrs. Technically speaking.

All in all, it makes sense that we think about Brigid and light at this time of the year.

Whether the saint or the deity, Brigid has strong associations with light.

An image showing a mannequin wearing a green wreath, with 7 thin white lit candles on it in a head band style
a crown of candles – not something I necessarily recommend!

Plenty of saints have a link to a crown of candles, aside from Brigid. St Lucia is the one most often quoted, in my experience. Brigid herself is mentioned a few times to be distracting people from the Holy Family by this means.

But we also have the links to her birth. The house light up with a pillar of fire as she was born. There are a few legends with her playing about with light and fire throughout her life. She hung her cloak on a sunbeam once, and the sunbeam didn’t have the temerity to tell her it wasn’t a branch!

So we have many, many connections to Brigid and light.

Brigid and mental health

Brigid as healer is fairly well known. I can, and have, spoken for hours on this! And one important element of health is mental health.

Those who have heard me speak about health know that I consider health to be personal. As in – it is up to you to define what health means to you. And especially so with mental health.

But since Brigid is a healer and cares about holistic health. And there are distinct links between light and depression/mental health. Yes, that is Google Scholar. It’s much better for academic articles.

So, it makes sense that there would be a link between light and Brigid and mental health. In my head anyway!

Bringing more light into our lives

It’s no surprise that many of our winter festivals in northern Europe revolve around creating light. How many traditional celebrations across many of the cultures in the region involve fire and light?

Usually, I’m a firm believer in Christmas decorations going up as late as possible. But there’s one area I relinquish this abhorrence. I have fairy lights up all year round. I have candles lighting all year round. But more so in this dark part of the year. I love a stove or an open fire at this time of year. Somehow, a real flame just works better at beating back the damp than a radiator…

I’ve been looking into sunlight lamps for years, but haven’t yet taken the plunge. If anyone has any experience with this, please let me know how you got on?

I make sure to get outside on the days when the sun does appear. It’s usually a day per week and there’s something about being outside in the fresh air that helps my mood anyway. Now, I’m not talking severe mental illnesses here. I mean, with my husband, a daily dose of fresh air helps, but doesn’t replace his medical regime. And I’m the same.

But the point is – it helps. So, if you want to add more light to your Brigid practice right now, go right ahead. Our spiritual practice should support our lives not make them harder!!

Cold vs Flu

This one isn’t really Brigid related, more of a public health announcement. I don’t have flu. Seriously – I made it out of bed.

Those who have had flu, will know it’s not just a bad cold. The best indication I ever had was by a doctor: “you’re in bed and see a €50 note in the garden. Do you force yourself out of bed to pick it up? If yes, it’s a cold. If no, probably flu.”

Now, that isn’t to stay I’m at the top of my health. I feel miserable. I need more fluids in me. I need to keep warm. I’m using home remedies, over the counter remedies. Since COVID, we’re all more aware of how to keep our germs to ourselves.

So, a cold isn’t necessarily something to just shrug off, but equally, a cold isn’t a flu.

And none of this has any impact on my team, extremely directly, telling me to stay the hell away from them until I’ve shaken off the plague…

Brigid, health and hot whiskeys

I’m down with a cold, so Brigid is high on my list of things to think about right now. It’s alright, it’s not covid and it’s not man-flu, so we’re doing ok, but still. Now, St. Brigid has a fair bit of experience with health, particularly with the eyes, but we have little information about Brig herself. So what am I doing to look after myself?

St Brigid in Dúchas

Now, there are 1812 entries in Duchás Schools Collection mentioning St Brigid. That doesn’t include Bríd, Bridget, Bride or any other variations on the name, now mind. I keep saying, Brigid was important to the Irish throughout time. She’s the only home grown patron saint that stayed with us (Paddy being an immigrant and Colmcille being an exile). And they say the issues with immigration and emigration on this island are modern ones…

A picture of Brigid with red hair, green background, holding a flame in her hand!
A picture of Brigid with red hair, green background, holding a flame in her hand!

But, more. One of the big traditions about St Brigid’s Day, and Imbolc as well, is to leave out the brat Bhríde overnight for the saint/ deity to bless as she travels over the land in/around the night of the 31st January. (I’ve written about this before) I will be using my brat this weekend to try and keep myself warm and snuggly.

Traditional cures

Now, look, Brigid has very little to do with a hot whiskey. But seeing as how one of her best (in my opinion) prayers is the Lake of Beer (see it here, item 6 on the CIE website) and has a legend attributed to her for turning bathwater to beer for some lepers, I think she has a decent track record in the whole alcohol space.

Just remember, alcohol played a different role in society before clean drinking water was a given, Brigid related or not… But a hot whiskey is almost a given in this country for a cold. Or a flu. There are warnings about mixing alcohol and paracetamol or any other medication, so bare that in mind alright? But here’s my recipe:

  • A slosh of good Irish whiskey. It’s Slane whiskey in our house at the minute, but that’s just chance. And the fact it’s a Meath whiskey…
  • Hot, not boiling, water.
  • Lemon – fresh lemon is meant to be best, I prefer lemon juice to be honest.
  • If you’re using fresh lemon, stud the lemon slice with cloves. If not, throw the cloves in as well.
  • Honey.

That’s it. Now, the proportions here depend on your taste, your preferences about alcohol, all that sort of thing. I will add in a “please let this work, Brigid” as well, or some alternative to that. It’s not so much a prayer as a request, but there you go. (This is also the kind of small practice that will be covered and discussed in Awakening the Flame over the coming months)

Short post today, but seriously, my brain is full of cotton wool and I’m focused on surviving the day til I get home to my brat and my hot whiskey and a nice relaxing book…

Awaken Brigid’s Flame

In Irish myth and legend, Brigid’s Flame was held lit in Kildare from pre-Christian times up until the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century. (Henry VIII needed some cash, basically). And then it was re-lit by the Brigidine sisters in Kildare in 1993, with the perpetual flame re-lit in 2006. (It’s known as St. Brigid’s Flame as well as Brigid’s Flame, depending on the inclination of the speaker)

Why call a course “Awakening the Flame”?

Because for me, the flame typifies Brigid more than the healing well. There is nothing wrong with the healing well. I use the healing waters of Brigid frequently in my work. But, I also feel like the fire, the flame of Brigid is a more potent force in the world.

A picture of Brigid's Flame in Kildare, an orange flame from a black-ish decorated bowl, with a branch and a vague outline of a stone building in the background.
A picture of St. Brigid’s flame in Kildare

I mean, usually, floods notwithstanding, a fire has a more direct, immediate effect than a flow of water. And fire is generally considered more aggressive than water.

I want people to feel assertive about their practice after this course. I don’t really want people feeling aggressive about it, but I do want people feeling confident, happy and content with their practices, their plans and their future with Brigid. Now most of the course can be applied, with a little tweaking, to any deity. But since Brigid is my main deity and she is the one I work with/for.. she’s who I’m aiming this at.

What does it mean to awaken the flame?

Never let the fire in your heart go out.

Romans 12:11-13, Bible

Yeah, it’s from the Bible. But it’s used elsewhere as well.

For me, awakening the flame is about lighting and feeding Brigid’s fire in our hearts. In our lives. In our souls.

Yeah, I might be going a bit esoterical there. But it’s worth it, I promise. For me, Brigid stands for justice, peace, doing the hard work, women in male-dominated spaces, children, healing, strength, resistance, perseverance…

The list goes on. Social justice features prominently in my practice for Brigid and honestly, self care does too. I can’t help others unless I myself am capable of doing something.

Awakening Brigid’s Flame means to allow her to settle into our lives, just become part of our lives, beyond prayers or candles or whatever. She just is. She can be a guiding light, and I have used her as such. But we need to maintain our practices to ensure she remains in our lives.

I mean, how long would you hang around someone who paid you no attention? Or paid you attention on auto-poilot for no apparent reason? The relationship with deity isn’t always a friendship and is highly unlikely to be equal. We’re talking about deity. But it can be in right relationship. A balance both sides are happy with.

That’s what I want to give people in this course. A selection of practices, journal questions, meditations, and other things to deepen your practice. Yes, this is aimed at preparing for Imbolc and all that celebration. But it’s also providing you with a means to light Brigid’s Flame and keep it lit.

Why sign up?

Sign up if:

  • You want to take your practice beyond lighting a candle
  • You have not much time
  • You are not safe to practice your spirituality publically
  • You have no idea where to start
  • You’ve read the lore and don’t know where to go next
  • You’re drawn to the Irish deity Brigid and the celebration of Imbolc
  • You seek a deeper connection to her, and her festival of Imbolc, in an authentic manner
  • You’re ready for a deeply personal journey to explore Brigid’s Flame and how to awaken it in yourself and keep it lighting…

Brigid, periods and the coil

It’s been ten long years since I last had a coil in, and I have had horrendous periods in that time. I’m not going to lie. I have always had heavy, painful periods. I have had multiple investigations done. And I’ve written about my periods, menstruation practices and the way these link with Brigid many times before! But I want to talk about another aspect today.

What’s the coil, Órlagh?
In the image, a hand cradles a Mirena coil, showcasing its compact, T-shaped design. The coil fits comfortably in the palm of the hand with room to spare, highlighting its small size and flexible frame, making it a discreet and effective form of contraception.
A picture of the Mirena coil shown in a hand to show scale.

The coil, in this case I’m referring to the Mirena coil, is a small, T-shaped plastic device that’s put into your womb (uterus) by a doctor or nurse. It contains a low dose of the hormone progesterone. For more information on the coil, other forms of contraception and what to think about when choosing contraception, check out the HSE website. The HSE is the Health and Safety Executive and is the governing body for all things health related in Ireland.

Now, while the coil is used for contraception, that’s not why I’m using it. And, there are other options, see the link above, for both contraception and heavy periods. Research is needed for what is best suited to you, your circumstances, your lifestyle etc.

Why did I get the coil back after a decade?

The one and only reason I got the coil taken out in the first place was to try and have a family. That didn’t happen. The family, I mean. So, after ten years and after my health scare a few weeks ago (I don’t think I wrote about that on the blog, but I did to my email list. Sign up here if you want to hear all about my life and practice!) I decided enough was enough.

Now, I am someone who was taken to the doctor at 15 to go on the pill so I’d have some chance of surviving the Junior Cert. Seriously. My mother was not impressed by said doctor telling me to have a few babies and I’d be fine. I’m not talking a minor cramping issue, now mind. I’m talking about throwing up, days in bed, inability to walk…

So, essentially, from the time I was 16 to the time I was 33(ish), I was on contraception. Now, several times during that time I changed types, mostly due to me complaining to various medical personnel about the pain I was suffering and about how the drugs just didn’t work anymore. Periods suck sometimes, y’know?

But the husband and I also wanted to try for a family. And we gave it a good go, did a lot of investigations, did a lot of work, practical and spiritual, spent an amount of money…. but no joy. So, we decided to get it back in.

How will this affect my practices around menstruation, periods and Brigid?

Well, here we go. The last time I was on the coil, my periods stopped. Completely. But then I was much younger than I am now and my body has changed a lot. So the insertion was a touch more difficult than usual, but no worse than my normal cramps. There may be a difference in the effects as well.

One thing that will change is my usual practices around menstruation. As in, if my periods stop again (please, Brigid, please!!) I will no longer be returning my menstrual blood to the land, because (please, please, please, Brigid) I will no longer be producing any. On the other hand, I will have more energy throughout the month and my iron levels will probably shoot up. (Yes, I loose that much blood every month).

So, I will be thinking about alternative ways to honour my body’s cycles and feed the land I live on. I haven’t got it all sorted out, but I think that monthly rest is going to become an essential part of my life, driven by my need not to burn out rather than by simply being forced to rest.

What does Brigid think about contraception in general?

Honestly? I’ve never had a problem with Brigid and contraception. The “ban-leighis” or “woman physician” mentioned in the Lebor Gabála Érenn is discussed as being a midwife or a physician of women in some texts. (Can I hell find the citation for this now, but I’m reasonably certain it was in Fergus Kelly’s Brehon Law book). (Yes, it’s also gendered language, but remember the time frame’s we’re talking about…)

A midwife has to know about things like preventing pregnancy as well as helping people through pregnancy and birth. What kills can often cure in smaller doses after all. And by understanding, in the context of the science available at the time, what’s going on inside a person’s body, the midwife can help the person bleeding a lot better. Now I have two courses where you can find out more about Brigid the Healer. The one over at IPS and the one on Brig in the LGE here in the Forge. Yes, there is a price difference. That’s the difference between a 5 week deep dive and a 2ish hour class!

Thus far in our multi-decade long relationship, Brigid has never had an issue with contraception, particularly when it’s for health reasons as well. And, I’ll be honest, I’ll be using the three months between Samhain and Imbolc to figure out what my new practices will be like. Click here if you want to join me on that journey! (or just check it out, find out more etc!)

This was a big move. And it meant giving up a dream both my husband and I had for a decade. But honestly, it was time to move on. The pain, the monthly retreat to the couch, most of the time in tears, with zero energy and less enthusiasm… none of it was worth it on an ongoing basis. And Brigid has work for me to do. So, I need to get on now and do it!!

What gets scheduled, gets done

This phrase (“what gets scheduled, gets done”) is often mentioned in time management courses. I may have been to a few time management courses in the last 2 decades and honestly,all of the instructors mentioned scheduling. People often complain about over-full diaries, schedule conflicts, that sort of thing. But it’s not often we consider our diaries and our ability to complete specific tasks given our current schedule.

I can hear you asking already – what the hell has this got to do with Brigid, Orlagh? Well…

An image of an empy daily schedule planner, with "Daily Schedule planner" written in black at the top, followed by a spreadsheet with 4 columns. Top row is in a green background with headings of Time (a.m.), task, time (p.m.) task. The rest of the spreadsheet is grey background with times written in green underneath the "times" columns split into 30min slots
An image of a lovely empty daily schedule planner!
Ritual preparation

I consider preparing for ritual to be as important, if not more so, than the ritual itself. And that means, I have to schedule the tasks I want to complete beforehand. Which means, I need to plan and schedule…

Now, I know, it’s Samhain coming up, not Imbolc, but really, how well my Imbolc ritual goes depends – partially – how well I manage my Samhain activities. My schedule this time of year is heavy. I have both parental birthdays in November, along with a few other key dates to remember. My maternal Grandad died on the 3rd November, many years ago, with the paternal Grandad following on the 9th December in the same year.

And that’s before I consider work, home, study, life…

OK fine, I need to schedule stuff, but come on

I’ve written before about my most basic Samhain activities, just so people are aware. But I think people underestimate just how much organisation even that much takes. Even a visit to a graveyard, which is an important part of my November activities, needs planning, scheduling and then JFDI-ing. (I mentally tie this to Samhain, although it’s not technically part of the festival)

If I want to do a more in-depth ritual, I need to take other things into account. For Samhain, I go through a more in-depth consideration in this class, but for a brief overview? Well, decide what you want to do, what resources you need to do that, assemble the resources, schedule out the time for the preparation and the ritual and the clean up… It’s like a mini project.

And I know – I have an unholy attraction to project plans and scheduling. My team at work often tells me so. But I also know that planning and scheduling makes success 100 times more likely.

Why are you bothered with this right now?

Well mainly because Samhain is getting closer. It’s already 9 days into October. Besides attending a party on the October bank holiday, I have no plans for Samhain yet. And I know that a good Samhain sets my dreaming and idea work in motion so when Imbolc comes round, I have plenty of seeds to plant for myself.

It might seem like a lot of work, but pursuing this cycle of festivals really helps me get shit done throughout the year. And I’m aware that for the last six months or so, I’ve been lurching from festival to festival, crisis to crisis, etc, etc. So, Samhain is a good time, in my opinion, to reset and restart again. I think any of the festivals are good times to do this, but Samhain is the one that close so…

So, this weekend, I will lay out what needs to get done and when I will do it. And I’ll have a chat with Al to make sure I’m not massively overestimating my own energy levels!!

Here’s a challenge: what do you need to site down and schedule or plan? What are you leaving til the last minute for whatever reason? What needs to change and can you use Samhain as a vehicle for that change?

UPG, AI and the links to spiritual practice

I have previously written about UPG here, but I feel it’s time to revisit this issue. Especially in the light of the current tsunami of AI related content being produced as well in the world. (No, I’m not linking to anything – I won’t give them the traffic!)

Now, I get it. It may not be obvious why these things would be linked, but let’s delve into it ok?

What is UPG?

Unverified personal gnosis (UPG), sometimes referred to as subjective personal gnosis, is spiritual belief gained through personal experience or intuition that cannot be attributed to or corroborated by received tradition, professional scholarship, or direct citation in an accepted religious text.

Basically, UPG is personal gnosis, or that knowledge acquired through personal experience of the divine. (We’re not limiting who/what is included in “divine” here, ok?)

We all have some elements of UPG in our practice. I’m fairly certain my ongoing playful debate with Brigid regarding whether I work “with” or “for” her is pretty much UPG. I have some personal thoughts about who her mother is (not a debate I’m willing to get into in public, or indeed, in private!) that can only be based on my own experiences and a lot of extrapolation from the texts we have. There’s no problem with UPG.

If there’s no problem with UPG, then what’s the problem?

Well… the problem comes when people aren’t careful about labelling UPG as such. So for example, if I was teaching about Brigid, in a position of authority, and I gave a piece of seemingly solid information (let’s use the mother example again).

Just say, I was teaching and I said Fionnuala was Brigid’s mother (I picked Fionnuala cos it’s not a name in the Caith Maigh Tuireadh story… please, for the love of all you hold holy, don’t go saying Brigid’s mother was Fionnuala!!) People would pick that up and take it as fact. But we just don’t know who Brigid’s mother is. No where in the texts we have available to us does it outline who her mother is.

Now, I can say with certainty, Brigid’s mother is s a woman the Dagda had sex with. Which narrows it down slightly. But, y’know, he got about a bit… But we don’t know which woman. So, anyone saying X is Brigid’s Ma with certainty – is leading people down a false path.

Now, you may not see a major issue with this, but this is deity we’re dealing with. And there’s a common approach in certain areas of the internet that really, anything goes when it comes to spirituality – we’re building off partial texts and records at best. But here’s the thing. This isn’t something we all just decided to make up. There are traditions and practices, authentic traditions and practices, in Irish lore and Irish history about Brigid (and the other deities of the island). So just “making something up” isn’t going to help people create a real connection to the deity in question.

If we believe in the power of the gods, then surely we don’t want to piss them off too much by giving their rightful due and respect the runaround?

OK, but where does AI come into this?

AI, or artificial intelligence, is the simulation of human intelligence by machines. It’s not real intelligence. Machines can’t create, they can only re-create. Trust me – we’ve been chasing machine learning and AI in the engineering field for decades at this point. And where there’s an element of creative thinking or extrapolation, humans beat the machines every time.

Now, AI is useful in some respects. A lot of chatting tools on major websites use them. For example, you get in touch with customer services and type in your question. The chatbot or AI can come back with suggestions of helpful links in response to the keywords in your query. Sometimes that works, sometimes it’s more complicated and – again – you need an actual human to help you.

Blue backgroun with black text reading Artificial Intelligence: The simulation of human intelligence by software-coded heuristic. Picture also has an outline of a human brain in a kind of join-the-dots image with random other dots around it.
Again, where’s the problem?

Well… all these data bases that are churning out art or writing or poetry or whatever using AI, are doing so off the labour of artists. The unpaid labour of artists, writers, etc. Essentially, the AI is copying work that has previously been created and presenting it as new.

When someone is learning to write or draw or whatever, it is useful to do this – to copy a painting to see how to produce that effect. To use a similar turn of phrase or to look at the effect of certain words in a piece. But that isn’t then presented as something new and original. A copy of the Mona Lisa may be awesome, but it’s still a copy.

Presenting this work as original or new is unethical at least. To my mind, this is stealing someone else’s labour without adding any of your own.

Now, I do use AI myself. If I have a difficult conversation coming up, I will use AI to generate a potential list of questions to ask or to help drive the conversation. I would then heavily edit those questions to make them mine and to help me feel comfortable in using them. But I don’t present those questions as my own, original, creative work.

So you use AI as well?

Yes I do, in certain situations. But I don’t then present that work as my own or use that work to generate benefit for me. Benefit in this sense can mean social capital, actual earnings, obtaining resources in return for this work.

AI is hugely useful in automating regular, repetitive, consistent tasks. For example, a machine learning that this particular condition is a precursor to this particular failure and raising an alarm. Great use of AI there. It’s consistent, repetitive and the inputs and outputs are the same every time.

AI is not useful in producing new artistic or creative endeavors. AI can produce the same or similar results are what has gone before. It can’t create something new. So, all the AI bots out there producing art, writing etc – not creating something new, just copying things that have gone before and generating profit from the labour of others, without crediting them at all.

Who cares? Especially if it’s only for myself?

To a certain extent – no one. If you want to use AI to produce a new prayer to Brigid or a new piece of artwork, well, no one will stop you. If you then present that as new art or a new prayer in a public setting or in a setting that then gives you profit or social capital or other benefits – well it’s dishonest at best and stealing at worst.

This isn’t something created from thin air, it’s something stolen from others. The people who produced the work this “creation” is based on are getting no credit at all and their work has been stolen to feel into the AI bot’s database.

It’s benefitting from a crime.

They both come back to honesty, for me. Presenting AI results as creative personal endeavour and presenting UPG as fact are both dishonest.

I can say as a fact that “I had this experience with Brigid”. But I can’t say “this will be your experience with Brigid, because it was mine”. I can say, “I used AI to come up with the base list of questions for this quiz”. But I can’t say “I generated this list of questions myself”.

I, and many others in the Irish spirutal community, base my practice around right relationship. This doens’t mean I never lie – anyone who asks me how I am on a Monday morning will usually get a short “grand thanks” regardless of how I feel! But it does mean that when I’m dealing with others, there is a level of honesty I require of myself.

That means being very clear on the lore I base my practice on and where I deviate from the lore to veer into personal gnosis. It means being honest about the writing I do – honestly, I’m not sure AI could replicate my way of writing, cos it’s mainly the way I speak! But even if it could, I’d have to spend as long writing the prompts for AI as I would just writing it myself. What’s the point?

There’s nothing inherently wrong with having UPG or using AI. But there is something inherently wrong with passing either off as something they aren’t!