Vision: Not So Frigid Brighid by Howard Hanger

January 31, 2019 |

Brigid was a Celtic goddess. Brigid was a 5th century Christian Saint. Some say one is mythical and the other, historical. Some say one is imaginary, the other legendary. Some say neither one existed. Some say, “Who cares!  Let’s have another Guinness.”

One thing is sure: Stories of Brigid abound. In the stories, Brigid (also called Brighide, Brigan or Brigantia) was a Celtic goddess of fire and the poetic arts: music, dance, verse. Likewise, she was goddess of nature, prophecy and divination. In some areas of Britain, she was connected with water and referred to as the “nymph goddess” but fire was her strong suit. In Druid mythology, she was said to have been born at daybreak and fed with the milk from a sacred cow from the Otherworld. She was the Celtic equivalent of the Roman Minerva or the Greek Athena. She was highly revered, honored and worshipped in the ancient Celtic world.

In the 5th century, there was an actual woman named Brigid. Daughter of an Irish chieftain and Christian-convert slave, Brigid became a nun, abbess and eventually, saint. Goddess Brigit became St. Brigid but she retained her essential nature. She was still worshipped and revered.  She was still a poetic and pastoral saint.  But now, her legendary reputation included being the midwife of the Virgin Mary. Her Christian feast day became February 1-2, Celtic Imbolc, which originally celebrated ewes coming into milk. A large monastery was established in her name at Kildare, Ireland, where her sacred fire burned continually.  Brigid became a delightful mythical blend of two very diverse religions. So, rather than losing Brigid from their tradition, the Celts gained an even more expansive Brigid in the process and the Christians got a new saint.

Be that as it may, all the stories are quite clear that, whether goddess or saint or both, the girl made the world around her a much better place.  Wherever Goddess Brigid walked, small flowers and shamrocks would appear. Saint Brigid was always healing and teaching folks to heal each other. Brigid’s healing wells puddle the Irish landscape.

The Feast of St. Brigid, aka Imbolc, Candlemas or Groundhog Day (Feb 1-2) marks the Celtic beginning of Spring, the return of growth, the reemerging light of the sun and the milk of ewes coming in for their lambs. It’s a joyous, kick-up-your-frozen-heels and clap-your-mittened-hands celebration.

The very fact that Brigid is associated with this Here-Come-De-Warmth Whoopdedoo says volumes about who she was and is in Celtic lore.  She was a lover. A lover of life. A lover of love. A lover of earth and sky and sun and water. A lover of birth and growth and cattle and sheep. A lover of gift and giving and peace and poetry. When it came to offering and expressing love, she was anything but a frigid, rigid Brigid.

Brigid’s Way is a way of peace. Of delight in the earth. Of fire and the music of all creation. Of adaptability. Our culture, religion and world might just need a little more Brigid in our britches.