Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Brigit Book Review PDF Now Available as Download

click here!
The PDF of the Brigit book reviews is now available through the Daughters of the Flame website (in case you are wondering where you flashed through when you clicked the caption above), saving you having to leave your email address here and wait for me to send you one. Much simpler.


Wednesday, September 03, 2014

The Druids -- On BBC 4

I have only the slenderest excuse for putting this discussion on a Brigit blog--she is mentioned, very briefly, with regards to her father, Dubhthach--but it is such an interesting look not only at the subject of Druids through the eyes of the scholars who make their livings contemplating them, but also at a few of the scholars who, for most of us, are names in a book, not voices, laughter, and interplay.

The discussion is from BBC Radio 4's excellent In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg. BBC has a habit of chucking podcasts after a while so I downloaded the program and set it into a video format to present on Blogger. Once you have seen the first image you will have seen them all. I'll add the credits and so on here, to spare you searching them out on the screen.


First broadcast: Thursday 20 September 2012, BBC Radio 4.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Druids, the priests of ancient Europe. Active in Ireland, Britain and Gaul, the Druids were first written about by Roman authors including Julius Caesar and Pliny, who described them as wearing white robes and cutting mistletoe with golden sickles. They were suspected of leading resistance to the Romans, a fact which eventually led to their eradication from ancient Britain. In the early modern era, however, interest in the Druids revived, and later writers reinvented and romanticised their activities. Little is known for certain about their rituals and beliefs, but modern archaeological discoveries have shed new light on them.


Barry Cunliffe
Emeritus Professor of Archaeology at the University of Oxford

Miranda Aldhouse-Green
Professor of Archaeology at Cardiff University

Justin Champion
Professor of the History of Early Modern Ideas at Royal Holloway, University of London

Producer: Thomas Morris

Further Reading:

Miranda Aldhouse-Green, ‘Caesar's Druids: Archaeology of an Ancient Priesthood’ (Yale University Press, 2010)

Justin Champion, ‘Republican Learning: John Toland and the Crisis of Christian Culture’ (Manchester, 2009)

Barry Cunliffe, ‘Druids: A Very Short Introduction’ (Oxford University Press, 2010)

Miranda J. Green, ‘Exploring the World of the Druids’ (Thames and Hudson, 1997)

Michael Hunter, ‘John Aubrey and the Realm of Learning’ (Duckworth, 1975)

Ronald Hutton, ‘Blood and Mistletoe: The History of the Druids in Britain’ (Yale University Press, 2009)

Stuart Piggott, ‘Ancient Britons and the Antiquarian Imagination’ (Thames & Hudson, 1989)

Sam Smiles, ‘The Image of Antiquity: Ancient Britain and the Romantic Imagination’ (Yale, 1994)

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Icon by Lewis Williams


 Lewis Williams, SFO, website: eyekonz2u

About Lewis Williams:
Moved to learn to paint icons from Robert Lentz after viewing his Apache Christ, Williams has gone on to paint striking images of his own, including those of Canyons of the Ancients National Monument during a stint as artist-in-residence.

I like the simplicity of his Brigid, a serious young woman with work to do and the power and inspiration to do it. I like also his magnificent Our Mother of Sorrow, depicted below with one suggestion of where her sorrows' sources lie: with the falling of the Twin Towers. The image is available through Bridge Building Images.

Artist's Narrative on St Brigid Icon:
Most revered of all of Ireland’s early female saints, Brigid was born of pagan\Christian parentage, and raised in the fosterage (early Irish practice of youth education) of a druid. She converted to Christianity at age 17. Noted for her prayerfulness, compassion, humility, and generosity, she founded the earliest known Celtic double monastery, housing both men (renowned for a school of art in illuminated manuscripts) and women (expert in wool industry and weaving of cloth).

She professed a profound belief in “anam cara,” or soul friends, unique persons God offers us as companions on our pilgrim road. This extended to the idea that love and intimacy were essential to a sound marriage, also quite unique for her time.

Exceptional in another aspect, St Mel of Ardagh, inebriated by her virtues or by ‘spirits’, ordained her a bishop and she was respected as such. A perpetual fire was kept in her honor from her time till extinguished by King Henry VIII’s order in 1540 of the Dissolution of Monasteries. Recently it has been rekindled.

In this icon she is noted for her beauty, holding the crosier (based on the famous Lismore crosier), symbolic of a Bishops staff and shepherds of men. Her clothing is the fine wool work of her sisters. She also holds a ‘Brigid Cross,’ an ancient solar symbol traditionally made to welcome Spring (Feb.1, in Ireland). Dawn barely touches the sky over her right shoulder, a time when the veil between worlds is very thin, and her perpetual fire burns through the night.

Also known as ‘Brigid of Kildare’ (“Kildare”= church of the oak) and ‘Bride’ (“bright or exalted one”).

Her feast day is February 1.


Saturday, August 30, 2014

"Queering the Flame" by Erynn Rowan Laurie, A Review

        “Queering the Flame” is an as yet unpublished essay that will be released in 2015 in Laurie’s collection of essays, interviews, and reviews.

Herself a keeper of Brigit’s flame, Laurie is an amateur scholar whose work rests on diligent research and thorough citation, combined with a carefully thought out, ethical, and personal Polytheist sensibility. She carefully distinguishes between her own ideas and what can be discerned from the literature (hooray!), allowing the reader to reach informed conclusions of her own.

The impetus for writing this piece was a debate that arose within the Celtic Reconstructionist (NeoPagan) community when a mixed gender Brigidine flame-keeping group was proposed. Laurie asks, “What would make the act of tending a perpetual flame in the name of a particular Goddess problematic or contentious? What are the theological assumptions at work, and why is gender such a central issue within some of those assumptions? More importantly for this essay, what does queerness have to do with it? To address these issues, we need to look at the person and place of Brigit as Goddess and saint, the practice of flamekeeping generally, and the ritual traditions that surround this act. ”

Accordingly, in “Queering the Flame” Laurie examines the ethical and ideological issues as she sees them, and looks at perpetual sacred flames in historical Pagan religions and in medieval Christian Ireland.

“These sacred fires, both in [Pagan] Rome and in Ireland, were considered community hearthfires, regardless of the gender of the flamekeepers. Regional ritual fires were lit from the Irish flames, as were household flames on particular holy days, and if a household’s flame were accidentally extinguished, it also would be relit from the sacred flame. The hearthstone at Inishmurray is specifically cited as a source for the relighting of household flames, even after the church itself was long-deserted and the physical flame extinguished”.

Having shown that in Ireland both men and women tended perpetual sacred flames, and that Irish flame-tending practices may well not have had Pagan origins, she argues that in Celtic Reconstructionist practice the tending of Brigit’s flame ought to be open to both men and women, with women-only groups coexisting with those of mixed genders. “Queering” of gender roles is examined as well, including, for instance, cross-dressing among biddy boys and Bitel’s consideration of nuns as “masculinized” women in the context of their time.

 What separates Laurie’s examination of flame-tending from other works in the Academic category is her stated relationship to Brigit and her concern for the NeoPagan and Polytheist communities: welcome additions, in my opinion. She states, “Flametending has been a rhythmic, almost tidal support to my spiritual and creative life. The regular presence of the flame on the altar near my writing desk is a tangible reminder of Brigit and of her patronage of poets, of the accessibility of inspiration, and of the dedication necessary to nurture a life as a poet and writer. Each time I light the flame, I renew my devotion to creativity as a deep and necessary part of my spiritual path.”

“Queering the Flame: Brigit, Flamekeeping, and Gender in Celtic Reconstructionist Pagan Communities”, by Erynn Rowan Laurie in The Well of Five Streams: Essays on Celtic Paganism (Immanion Press, projected release 2015) 17 pp.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Priestess / Priest of Brighde Training

I just stumbled across Marion van Eupen's site:

Priestess / Priest of Brighde Training, Glastonbury UK

Van Eupen is coming from a Wiccan, Four-Elements, Maiden-Mother-Crone perspective rather than a strictly Celtic based one, and her posting "My Journey With Her" describes her evolving sense of Brighde, arising through personal gnosis. Through that evolution she has come to see Her most clearly as Britannia, "Sovereign Goddess of these lands".

Van Eupen, who offers workshops in Dutch and English, moved to Glastonbury and committed herself deeply to her spiritual path. She is offering a two year Priestess/Priest of Brighde Training 2015/2016, in association with the Glastonbury Goddess Temple. Year one begins on the 14th and 15th of February 2015.

In Glastonbury we recognise Brighde in the landscape as Her Sacred Swan stretching Her long neck along Weary All Hill and spreading Her wings over the Glastonbury town hills. She flows in the waters of the sacred wells and the river Brue, which is called after Her. But foremost She is revered on Bride's Mound (part of The Beckery) where St. Bridget stayed at a little monastery which was then dedicated to Mary Magdalene. Later on a chapel dedicated to St. Bridget was built on Bride's Mound.

Becoming a Priestess or Priest of Brighde is a journey of healing, connecting and walking with Her animals, the Swan, the Snake, the Cow, the Wolf and the magical Unicorn and Phoenix. It is expressing Her energy through poetry, songs and creativity, weaving your soul’s desire into being. It is experiencing Her fire and shining Her light out into the world.

Venue: all training weekends take place in The Camino Centre Glastonbury. The training is non-residential.

When: Saturday and Sunday 10am – 5pm
with breaks for lunch and refreshments.

Fee: The training is set up as a two year training to 
become a Priest/ess of Brighde. It is however possible 
to pay separately for the two training years or to pay 
in installments:

The options are:
£ 950 when paid in full
£ 1000 when paid each year separately
£ 1080 when paid in installments

Britannia by Marion Brigantia Van Eupen

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Saint Brigid’s Night Procession (Poem) by Mark Granier

Night Walk by Elizabeth McClung
Saint Brigid’s Night Procession

No sign of Faughart on the roadmap. Our dark
island kept itself to itself, each high-hedged bóthar
headlit, the same as another. Then, out of nowhere,
it came to us as a long-acre of parked cars
we added to. Nothing for it now but to go
with the cattle-press of the procession, its shuffle
a low-voiced, slow, inevitable river uphill.

Nobody minded us, disbelievers suspended in the flow
of candles and wobbly torch-beams. Our wariness lapsed,
shrinking as the night-eye opened. Through an unhedged
a softly trumpeted, familiar tune doodled
across clouded moonfields. Forgotten, remembered:
Faith of Our Fathers. As if it wasn't “if” but “when”.
And your whisper in my ear: “Were going to Heaven.”

                                       Mark Granier

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Brigit Reviews (Series Six): Nonfiction, Academic/Popular Academic

Finally! The last installment of my promised book reviews. A pleasure it was to acquaint myself with the breadth of writing available on Brigit. I'll pin links to the reviews on the Pages tab (below the title banner of this blog) in order to make them more accessible to later readers, and will also make the whole lot available by request as a pdf. In the meantime you can find the previous reviews and introductory material at these links:

Brigit Reviews (Series Six):
Nonfiction, Academic/Popular Academic

By “academic/popular” I mean books written in a scholarly style but accessible (sometimes with a real effort) to a general audience. They are footnoted, backed up citations, and so on, and so the thinking in them can be more or less traced and verified. These I can only observe as a reader, not criticize as an expert.

The Serpent and the Goddess: Women, Religion, and Power in Celtic Ireland, Mary Condren (1989)

“Fire and the Arts” (etc) in Pagan Past and Christian Present in Early Irish

            Literature, Kim McCone (1990)

The Festival of Brigit, Séamas Ó Catháin (1995)
Celtic Goddesses: Warriors, Virgins and Mothers, Miranda Green (1996)

“Imbolc: A New Interpretation”, Phillip A. Bernhardt-House (pp 57-76) in Cosmos 18 (2002)

The Rites of Brigid, Goddess and Saint, Seán Ó Duinn (2005)

Landscape with Two Saints: How Genovefa of Paris and Brigit of Kildare Built Christianity in Barbarian Europe, Lisa M. Bitel (2009)

“Queering the Flame: Brigit, Flamekeeping, and Gender in Celtic Reconstructionist Pagan Communities”, by Erynn Rowan Laurie in The Well of Five Streams: Essays on Celtic Paganism (Immanion Press, projected release 2015) 17 pp.


There are some delicious writings in here, with lots of obscure references and nimble interpretations; a cornucopia of ideas to mull over in building an understanding of Brigit. Two recommended sources which give abundant info on the world in which St Brigit lived are Early Medieval Ireland 400-1200 by Dáibhí Ó Crónín (1995) (not reviewed here) and Bitel’s Landscape with Two Saints: How Genovefa of Paris and Brigit of Kildare Built Christianity in Barbarian Europe. Placing her in the context of her world allows for a much deeper look into her Lives and mythos, helping us to notice where our assumptions are modern and inappropriate, and allowing us to develop a more balanced perspective.

Though the earliest of these investigations, Condren’s The Serpent and the Goddess is less about Brigit as it is the Christian church in Ireland and its treatment of women. I don’t recommend it for developing an understanding of Brigit.
In The Festival of Brigit, Ó Catháin explores the festival of Imbolc and searches far afield for evidence linking Brigit to, for example, the bear cult and horned deities. Fascinating reading, carefully explored and documented.

McCone’s Pagan Past and Christian Present contains important insights into sacred kingship, the sovereignty goddess, and the three major divisions of Celtic society and convincingly suggests their reflection in Brigit’s various personae.

Green examines the place of women and female deities in Celtic society, and focusses on a number of female-related themes and specific goddesses in Celtic Goddesses: Warriors, Virgins and Mothers. Brigit is looked at in the chapter on the transition from paganism to Christianity.

Bernhardt-House offers a detailed and unique examination of the meaning of the word Imbolc and its possible links to the wolf in ancient times in “Imbolc: A New Interpretation”.

In The Rites of Brigid, Ó Duinn examines a variety of Brigit-related folk customs. He compares in detail the perpetual fires of the Vestal Virgins and Brigit, and describes other sacred and perpetual flames in medieval Ireland.Very useful.

Bitel looks at some important Lives of St Brigit in Landscape with Two Saints, comparing that by Cogitosus of Kildare with those of later writers of Armagh, and putting them into the political context of their times. She examines the legacy of Brigit, and the changing role of women in Ireland.

A rather different perspective is offered in Laurie’s “Queering the Flame: Brigit, Flamekeeping, and Gender in Celtic Reconstructionist Pagan Communities”. This piece, which could have fit well into the Nonfiction, Popular (NeoPagan) section, I place here because of Laurie’s exacting standards of research and presentation. (Footnotes and citations and quotes, oh my!)

You may notice trouble linking to footnotes through their symbols. No worries. Just scroll to the end of the post and they are there.

Read More!