Brigid: The Irish Goddess Who Is Also A Saint

More on the Goddess of Purification to draw inspiration from her

By Hana O.
Brigid: The Irish Goddess Who Is Also A Saint

I am She

that is the natural

mother of all things,

mistress and governess

of all the elements,

the initial progeny of worlds,

chief of the powers divine,

Queen of all that is in the otherworld,

the principal of them

that dwell above,

manifested alone

and under one form

of all the Gods and Goddesses.

- Lucius Apuleius

Who is Brigid?

The Celtic goddess Brigid, or Brigit/Bride/Brighid, is one of the most venerated deities in the Pagan Irish pantheon, tied in an intricate knot of myth and miracle. She is perhaps one of the most complex and contradictory goddesses of the Celtic pantheon and the most influential religious figure in Irish history.

 

It is because of her complex story and intricate intertwinement to traditions that her presence moved across and down through the centuries. Brigid, whose name means “the exalted one” embodies the element of fire and is typically illustrated with rays of light or fire emanating from her head or symbolized with her fiery red hair.

According to Irish mythology, Brigid was born at sunrise to the earth god Dagda and Boann, the goddess of fertility. They came from an ancient tribe of gods called Tuatha Dé Danann (People of the Goddess Danu). These deities who practiced magic were pushed out of their lands in the west and later settled in the misty areas of Ireland.

 

Commonly called the “Triple Goddess,” Brigid draws fire from the hearth, inspiration, and the forge. Through her flames, she is the patroness of healing arts, fertility, prophecy, agriculture, smithcraft, music, and poetry. Worshippers call on the Brigid for guidance on these aspects.

 

Brigid is also known as the goddess of the Well, as she is tied to the water element. This well is considered to be sacred because its source is the womb of the earth. Worshippers believe Brigid to be Mother Earth or the Mother Goddess who provides sustenance such as milk (a symbolism from Brigid’s early childhood where she drank from a sacred cow) during the cold winter months.

 

As religion spread across the lands and Christianity became people’s priority, Brigid adapted to the change instead of being wiped out like other beliefs. Many regions in the Celtic lands were Christianized, and because Brigid was a vital part of the Celtic life, a new and fitting version of the goddess was created.

How did Brigid become a Saint?

St. Brigid, with her new story, was quickly accepted by the Catholic religion. She was Brigid of Kildare, born around 450 AD to a pagan family. Through the help of St. Patrick (another famous saint in Ireland), Brigid and her family converted to Christianity.

 

It is believed that the Lord inspired Brigid from a young age, and she showed great compassion, generosity, and virtue. The child had no problems giving to the poor that her own father, Dubhthach, a chieftain of Leinster, wished to give Brigid away because the child had presented the impoverished with his prized possessions.

 

The king eventually became aware of Brigid’s particular virtue and holiness and gave her a plot of land which Brigid used to build a church under an oak tree. The church was called Kill-Dara (cill Dara) “church of the oak tree.” The area is now called Kildare.

 

Seven girls followed Brigid, and together, they started a convent under the tree.

6 Facts About Brigid

Brigid’s story merges with other cultures and traditions. She had a sacred cow that suckled a king and relied on the milk for sustenance – much like what Queen Hatshepsut of Egypt did and how India and many other cultures revere the cow as a symbol of nurturing.

 

The concept lasted quite a long time, and children in Ireland were baptized in milk until the 12th century.


Other versions of St. Brigid’s story involves more action. It is said that she even had a battle of wit with the king when he gave her the land. He said that he could have as much land as she wanted, but only that which her cloak could cover. St. Brigid was able to acquire enough land for a monastery because as she laid down her cloak on the ground, it magically spread to several hundred acres.

 

To further commemorate St. Brigid in history, there are three rivers named after her: Brigit, Brain, and Brent in Ireland, Wales, and England, respectively.

Other animals that symbolize St. Brigid are the snake and cockerel. She is associated with the cockerel as a sign of the new day and the snake, which is known for regeneration. This is how the goddess joined the club of fertility goddesses, where many are depicted holding snakes or the shield, spear, and crown of Minerva (the Roman goddess of wisdom and strategic warfare).

 

The serpent is also often weaved into the design of Celtic jewelry, with many torcs boasting of the power and divinity that the sinuous snake symbolizes. 

 

In Celtic tradition, the mother’s line was considered to be more important than the male ancestry, meaning the most valued male in someone’s life was the oldest male kin to his or her mother (often an uncle). All blood relationships that were considered important came solely from the mother’s line. This tradition was so intricately molded in familial bonds that the children of sisters were treated as siblings instead of cousins.

 

Because of this belief, motherhood was revered, and rape was considered as a crime of the highest severity, deserving of the greatest punishment and with no leeway for pardon or leniency. The later evolved form of Brigid stayed true to these traditions, and she ensured to uphold women’s rights even after she became St. Brigid. 

The story of Brigid even got intertwined into Christianity and had involvement in the life of Jesus to ensure her survival. According to Irish stories, Brigid was the midwife of Mary when she gave birth to baby Jesus. She placed three drops of water on the baby’s forehead, which is a Christianized version of Celtic legend where the Sun of Light had three drops of water on the forehead to grant wisdom.

 

Brigid also served as the foster-mother of Jesus, another common practice in Celtic culture. It was believed that King Herod of that time ordered all male infants to be slaughtered, but Brigid saved the baby. True to her character, she wore a headdress of candles to help them get to safety. Being skilled and symbolized with smithcraft, Brigid wove a web of wool from her ewes to protect the infant from harm.

 

St. Brigid was worshipped until the early 20th century and amassed a cult nearly as large as that of Mary. St. Brigid is venerated in Ireland and the islands of Scotland.

Draw Inspiration from Goddess Brigid For...

Way before women looked to and idolized Wonder Woman, there was St. Brigid. Beyond the goddess turned saint’s abilities such as making river waters rise and healing people, Brigid symbolizes the general idea of feminism. Beyond Irish politics, history, and religion, she had established herself an unlikely role model for women at a time when they had no voice.

 

She could even be considered as a superhero, going against the norm and making her ambitions such as the church of Kildare (and its undying flame) cool. Women look to St. Brigid as an advocate and protector who could defend them from troubles such as harassment. And because she is a goddess of fertility, expecting mums draw power and strength from her throughout their pregnancy.

 

People need an icon to look up to, and before the time of comics and animated superheroes, there were beacons like St. Brigid who served as inspiration for women at a time when they couldn’t be considered as equals with the opposite gender. In fact, in modern Britain today, St. Brigid is known as the warrior-maiden Brigantia. She not only upholds justice and authority in the country but is personified in the coin of the realm.

 

Whether you need some guidance, healing, some inspiration for music and poetry, and some motivation to be badass, why not give the OG Wonder Woman a call.

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Summary

The ability of St. Brigid’s to move between categories and across changes in history was the secret to her success. Regardless of the new laws imposed on culture, religion, politics, and the like, St. Brigid adapted and continued.

 

It is said that Brigid protects us all as we walk through the labyrinth called life and uses her fire to guide us along the way. It is also that same fire that acts as the spark and fuel of our passions to continue on the journey.

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