Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Review: Legacy of Druids - Conversations with Druid leaders of Britain, the USA and Canada, past and present by Ellen Evert Hopman

Review of Legacy ofDruids: Conversations with Druid leaders of Britain, the USA and Canada, pastand present by Ellen Evert Hopman (2016) Moon Books.

  • Paperback £14.99 || $25.95Apr 29, 2016

  • e-book £6.99 || $9.99Apr 29, 2016

Full disclosure: I was, to my amazement then and now, interviewed for this book. That is not why I like it, though I confess it is why I wanted to read it in the first place.

Why Review Legacy of Druids on Brigit’s Sparkling Flame?
I wouldn’t normally review a book like this on BSF as it isn’t actually about Brigit. However, there are two reasons to:

1) it contains an early interview of me (September 3, 1996) which discusses my own spiritual path, and of course that involves the origin of the Daughters of the Flame in 1993 and its workings till 1996 (pp 29-39).

2) More generally, it is fascinating from a historical perspective for Neo-Pagans generally, particularly but not exclusively those who identify as Druids or follow a Celtic-based path. Many Brigidines of course are in that number.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Cartimandua and Brigit

The key paragraph here, where Koch and Carey suggest that Brigit and Briganti are correspondents, and that Brigit arose from Brigantes in the Kildare area, and even that she had a "mortal high priestess" there is all speculation, unproven and as far as I know unsupported, but this does help explain why so many people assume it to be true.

from The Celtic Heroic Age by Koch and Carey, 4th edition, 2003.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Three Loaves of Bread

This is lovely.

4 Then eight other virgins also received
the veil together with saint Brigit and the
virgins with their parents said, 'Don't leave
us. Instead stay with us and make your
home in these parts.'

5 Thereafter saint Brigit stayed with them.
 One day there came to Brigit
and her nuns three devout men who were
pilgrims and she regaled them with bread
and cooked bacon. The men ate the bread
but hid the three portions of bacon as they
did not want to eat it.

2 The following day Brigit greeted them
and said, 'See how much bread you have
left over!' When they looked they saw that
the three portions of bacon were three
loaves of bread.

From "Vita Prima Sanctae Brigitae Background and Historical Value", by Sean Connolly. The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, Vol. 119 (1989), pp. 5-49.

Image: By L.Kenzel (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Art: Lorenzo Lotto, The Legend of St. Brigid

From the Web Museum at Christian Iconography Info, Lorenzo Lotto's mural, The Legend of St. Brigid:

Suardi Chapel, Trescore, Italy

The panel on the left portrays St. Brigid's taking the veil – that is, her consecration as a nun. The bishop is identified in one source as St. Mel and in another as a St. Maccaille"1 On the floor at Brigid's left are her former clothes; on the step above them is the white veil she will be wearing. White is traditionally St. Brigid's color, so the yellow habit she wears throughout the fresco scenes is a bit puzzling.2

Above the group of women on the right of this panel we see painted a scene of Brigid distributing milk to the poor. Her veil is not white but gray, a reference to the fact that this episode in her life occurred before her consecration.3

The middle panel gives us three scenes with four episodes from the life of St. Brigid. In the lower foreground, she blesses food and water, turning the water into beer.4 Behind her is a further episode in which she cures a blind man. The figure in rags behind the blind man is the "leprosus" who guided him to the saint.5 (The texts use leprosus indiscriminately for any poor person who is also ailing in some way.)

In the upper left of the middle panel, Brigid blesses a wild boar who was about to attack a flock (of pigs in the story, here a flock of sheep). Above her is a further scene in which the boar, having been blessed, grazes peacefully among the other animals.6

In the panel's upper right scene, the saint calms a storm that was threatening to ruin the harvest.7 In a nice touch of Renaissance perspective, Lotto places a well-satisfied harvester in the foreground with a big sheaf on his shoulder.

The episodes in the right panel are most likely drawn from some specific text. In the Suardi Chapel frescoes Lotto tends to follow his written source faithfully.8 However, I have yet to find a Life that corresponds to the scenes shown. In the foreground of the street scene, the saint takes a glass pitcher of milk from someone at a window. At her feet, two poor men have taken the pitcher, which is now empty (and perhaps broken – it is hard to tell from the photograph). 

Behind her, a number of what seem to be officials or soldiers are hustling a poor man off-stage.  There is one episode in the Latin vitae in which a poor man is condemned to death for breaking a precious vase and Brigid saves him by restoring the vase.9 Conjecturally, that could be what she is doing as she sits above the crowd scene on the second floor of the building.

Lotto's source for these episodes is most likely a work based on Cogitosus' Vita Sanctae Brigidae and partly on the Saint-Omer Vita in the Acta Sanctorum.10 Of the five vitae presented in the Acta Sanctorum, only Cogitosus has all five of the episodes in the left and middle panels, though Lotto departs from Cogitosus in a few details. Like Cogitosus, Lotto ignores or suppresses the references to fire signs in most other vitae. (Mysteriously prophetic fires are seen while Brigid is still in the womb, after she is born, and when she is consecrated as a nun.11) In Cogitus, this suppression is just one aspect of a persistent  de-mythologizing of earlier tales. In the miracle episodes, for example, the narrator continually attributes these wonders to God.12  {See my note below regarding this last statement.}

Detail of the right panel
Detail of the boar scene
Detail of the storm scene
More of St. Brigid

I take exception to the last statement, that Cogitosus is suppressing and demythologizing earlier stories. The evidence points toward Cogitosus's vita being the earliest, and as various authors have argued, much is added in later tales for a variety of reasons: each author from Cogitosus onward has had reasons for portraying Saint Brigit in the way they have chosen. (See Lisa Bitel, Landscape with Two Saints and Isolde Carmody and Chris Thompson "Revisiting Mythical Women 05: The Search for Brigid", for example.)

Christian Iconography Info, by the way, is quite a neat website. It endeavours to help viewers of Christian art unpack what is going on. Attend:
(formerly at

Learn how to identify the saints in medieval and renaissance art. 

Read the stories that the paintings refer to. 

Find out the "why" behind traditional elements in paintings of scriptural events. 

Use this search engine....  {HINT: You'll have to go to their actual page to use their search engine.}

Example: if you're curious about a picture of a saint shown with a tower, just enter "tower" into the search field (without the quotation marks). You'll learn she is St. Barbara, and you can read about her, view similar images, and follow a link to the medieval legend about her. 

.....or learn how artists have portrayed specific saints, topics, or scriptural events by clicking on any one of these links: 

Aaron     Abel     Abraham     Acisclus and Victoria ... {Have a look! There are saints galore.}

Friday, July 15, 2016

Book Review: Pagan Portals - Brigid by Morgan Daimler

Daimler, Morgan. Pagan Portals—Brigid: Meeting the Celtic Goddess of Poetry, Forge, and Healing Well, Moon Book (2016). 112 pages.

  • Paperback £4.99 || $9.95Mar 25, 2016
  • e-book £2.99 || $3.99Mar 25, 2016

AVAILABLE ONLINE FROM: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Hive, Indiebound.


An excellent primer, and the best available for getting a a handle on the sources, ancient and modern, for our understanding of Brigit. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Morgan Daimler is the author of a number of books and shorter works of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, and is gaining a reputation for clearly written, well researched, and extremely useful handbooks such as this one on Brigit.

Brigit is the spiritual being to whom I have devoted decades of my life, in study and devotion and in supporting others in their journeys on Brigit’s path. I discovered in Pagan Portals—Brigid, to my joy, a book that wastes no words—it is a slim volume indeed—but packs into those pages more clear and illusion-lifting information than I have ever seen set out about Brigit.

The reason is this: Daimler has gone straight to the medieval texts, finding references to Brigit and explaining them lucidly—indeed, clarifying for the reader which text treats her in which way, rather than allowing them to blur together in our minds; she tackles the early geography of goddesses-who-may-be-Brigit; she takes the complex blend of ancient, folk, and modern conceptions of Brigit and sorts them deftly out so the reader can see where commonly heard assertions come from and make up her own mind about where to follow and where not.

Daimler explores animal and plant associations and symbols commonly associated with Brigit, such as triplicity, touches on her holidays, prayers, chants, and charms, and looks at the rise of  modern Brigidine myths and flame-tending, as well as providing hints for honouring Brigit today and supplying a diverse resource list and bibliography.

She ends each chapter with a short essay on her personal connection to Brigit, thus grounding the theory in personal practice. Indeed, although emphasis is put on making assertions supported by solid academic material and distinguishing these from our personal beliefs, she is careful to point out that she does not believe that “the religious framework we use to connect to the Gods matters as much as the effort to honor the old Gods itself. I think we can all do this respectfully and with an appreciation for history without the need for any particular religion. Whether we are Reconstructionists, Wiccans, or Celtic pagans all that really matter is that we are approaching our faith with sincerity and a genuine intention.” I would add that this book would be useful to anyone interested in Brigit, goddess or saint, be they NeoPagan, Christian, or secular scholar, for the information is so well laid out that any further studies or devotions would only be enhanced by the reading of this book.


From the publisher's website:

Pagan Portals - Brigid is a basic introduction to the Goddess Brigid focusing on her history and myth as well as her modern devotion and worship. Primarily looking at the Irish Goddess but including a discussion of her Pan-Celtic appearances, particularly in Scotland. Her different appearances in mythology are discussed along with the conflation of the pagan Goddess with Catholic saint. Modern methods for neopagans to connect to and honor this popular Goddess include offerings and meditation, and personal anecdotes from the author's experiences are included as well.

Who was Brigid to the pre-Christian pagans? Who is she today to neopagans? How do we re-weave the threads of the old pagan Goddess and the new? Learn about Brigid's myths among the pagan Irish, the stories of Bride in Scotland, and the way that people today are finding and honoring this powerful and important deity to find the answer.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Saint Brigid Press

Well, you can see why this item caught my eye. Apart from the name, unexplained on the website, I see nothing directly referring to Brigit. BUT, I can easily see the associations.

Saint Brigit's monastery was said to have produced fine books; a not uncommon feature of Irish monasteries was the scriptorium. The goddess Brigit was said to be patron of poets, and although they were not then scribbling down their words, we scribble as much as possible now. What finer way to present words than in finely crafted books and broadsheets?

Saint Brigid Press creates these the old-fashioned way. No, not by quill and squinting, but by setting gorgeous typefaces on gorgeous paper and then gluing and sewing and making splendid.

In their own words:

St Brigid Press is a letterpress print shop in the Blue Ridge Mountains of central Virginia. Emily Hancock is proprietor and printer.
We are dedicated to learning, practicing, and passing-on the art and craft of letterpress printing with hand-set type, hand-carved illustrations, foot-powered presses, and hand-sewn books...

Working with language on an intimate level, from the first ephemeral thoughts of a poem, to the physical sculpture of the letters themselves —
all collaborating to render beauty from experience to expression.”

— Emily Hancock

Monday, June 06, 2016

Brat agus teagasc Bhríde - Seán Ó Colláin

A tale of Brigit, in Irish, with English translation, by Seán Ó Colláin. "Saint Brigit's mantle and teaching" was recorded in 1930 in Co. Galway by Karl Tempel. You can download a copy of the file at the site.

The time when Saint Bridget was in this life, she was the daughter of a poor person. She had spent all of her father's wealth on God's poor. The father did not know what he would do with her. He brought her to the province of Leinster to sell her to (...). He left her outside at the gate. He had a sword and scabbard. He left it with her to keep until he came out...

From the website:

The Doegen Records Web Project

Irish Dialect Sound Recordings 1928-31
Welcome! This archive of Irish dialect sound recordings made during 1928-31 contains folktales, songs and other material recited by native Irish speakers from 17 counties. Crucially, it includes examples of dialects that are now extinct. The collection also includes a speech in English by W.T. Cosgrave, who was head of the Irish government that funded the recording scheme.
  • Browse by countyspeaker or title using the links on the left, or by clicking a county on the map.
  • Information on the speakers’ background, together with a Google Map link, may be found by clicking on the ‘Speakers’ link on the left.
  • You can also enter keywords in the search field on the left, e.g. ‘Fionn’, ‘Róisín Dubh’.
We hope that you will enjoy engaging with these songs, stories and speakers and that you will find the experience an enriching one. We welcome further information from you on the speakers or on the data. To send further information for the site please use the feedback facility.
This multi-media archive is a project of the Royal Irish Academy Library in collaboration with the Digital Humanities Observatory.