Other Names/Spellings: Bride, Bríde, Brigid, Bríg, Bride, Brigit
Associations: “poetry, smithing, medicine, arts and crafts, cattle and other livestock, and Spring.” (Mary Jones) As well as Keening, wells, hearths, and probably more.
Known and Suspected Family: father the Dagda, husband Brés, son Ruadán, brother Bodb Derg, brother Angus mac Og, two sisters also named “Brighid”
Etymology: “The name Brigit probably derives from the older form *Brigantī meaning “Sublime One” or “Exhalted One” ” (Mary Jones)
- Lebor Gabála Érenn / The Book of the Takings of Ireland / The Book of Invasions
- Oidheadh Chlainne Tuireann / The Fate of the Sons of Tuireann/ Eric-Fine of Lugh / First Tragedy of Irish Storytelling
Brighid is a confusing figure of Gaelic Lore. What was written about her as strictly a goddess is very contradictory. Then comes the St. Brighid of Ireland who took on a lot of characteristics of the Goddess Brighid probably deliberately to blur the lines between the pagan Ireland and Christianity. There is another theory that St. Brighid never existed, but is indeed just the Goddess Brighid disguised. Rodney Castleden writes:
“The historical element in St. Brighid is slightly, so it is likely that the “Christian saint” is a disguised transformation of the Celtic goddess. Her cult was legitmized by the prefix “Saint”–the Church could scarcely object to the veneration of a saint. St. Brighid’s feast is February 1, which is the major pre-Christian Celtic festival of Imbolg, the spring festival.” (page 217)
The Story Archaeologists muse that there was a good chance there was someone who sparked the stories of St. Brighid…but there is no definite way to know.
To further add to the confusion, the monastery of Kildare where St. Brighid’s following is centered was probably a pre-Christian sanctuary to a holy well for goddess Brighid. This Holy Well is still kept by the Nuns of Kildare, as well as keeping a fire to Brighid. Flametending is indeed a major way most devotees of Brighid–be the goddess or saint–honor her. Castleden writes:
“There are stories that in the remote past a community of Druidesses lived there and that they were responsible for maintaining the sacred fire that burned there; by virtue of their duty they were known as the Daughters of Fire.” (page 218.)
Brighid is said to rule over the filíocht or “poetry.” Specifically a patroness to the Filidh (pron. Fillee), who were “seers, teachers, advisers of rulers, witness of contracts” and satirical poetry (O’Brien, 52.) Being a patroness over poetry also put her in the realm of divination and seers, as poets and seers were one and the same.
Brighid is also associated with smithwork, which also put her in a great deal of importance since until very recently a local smith was a necessity for a thriving community.
Healing is associated with Brighid, mostly coming to us from the stories around Imbolc and how the holy wells were regarded. At Imbolc, Brighid is said to walk the Earth and will bless clothing left out for her. This clothing is called the brat Bríde and is said to hold healing powers for the year to come. The wells often associated with Brighid are also said to have healing properties.
Childbirth and motherhood is another association. One story has St. Brighid helping a pregnant woman out of wedlock, where she reverses the pregnancy and has the body reabsorb the fetus. St. Brighid is also said to be the foster-mother to Jesus. Goddess Brighid is the inventor of keening after her only son dies in the Second Battle of Moytura.
Brighid is also associated with livestock. On Imbolc, she is said to walk around with a white or red cow. In Lebor Gabála, she is said to have two oxen–Fea and Feimhean–which gave their name to Magh Fea and Magh Feimhin. With these oxen was also the King of Swine, Triath, who gave his name to Treithirne. All of this suggests that Brighid was a protector or caretaker of domestic animals.
Castleden, Rodney. The Element Encyclopedia of the Celts: The Ultimate A-Z of the Symbols, History, and Spirituality of the Legendary Celts. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
Jones, Mary. “Brigit.” Brigit. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Jan. 2016.
O’Brien, Lora. Irish Witchcraft from an Irish Witch. Franklin Lakes, NJ: New Page, 2005. Print.
- “Brigit” by Mary Jones
- “Seeking Brighid” by Lora O’Brien
- “Mythical Women 05: The Search for Brigid” from Story Archaeology