Friday, May 15, 2015

Video: Lá Fhéile Bríde — The Festival Day of Bríd by Gaol Naofa

Gaol Naofa is a Gaelic Polytheist organization of which the excellent Celtic Reconstructionist blogger Tairis is current head. Best if I let them describe themselves. (They say a heck of a lot more than this; if you want to know more, check them out.)

From their website:

'Gaol Naofa is an Irish phrase that roughly translates to “sacred kinship” ... The purpose of Gaol Naofa is to take an active role in the preservation and revitalisation of the pre-Christian and other-than-Christian, earth-based spiritual traditions of our Gaelic ancestors. We do this by gathering people together and creating an environment for the exchange of resources, information, research and ideas, and by providing a medium for the propagation of knowledge.

Among their festival videos is this one,

Lá Fhéile Bríde — The Festival Day of Bríd

Leap here for info on the song used in this video.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

For Bealtaine: Highland Quarter Cakes

In honour of Bealtaine, just around the corner now, here is an excerpt from F. Marian McNeill's wonderful book on Scottish food and related lore. She mentions the now lost bannock made for Imbolc as well--how I wish we had the rituals related to that.

Blessings of the season! 

Oatcakes, prepared in a special way were used from time immemorial, in the rites of Beltane (May 1st, O.S.). Pennant (1769) writes: ‘Everyone takes a cake of oatmeal, upon which are raised nine square knobs, each dedicated to some particular being, the supposed preserver of their flocks and herds, or to some particular animal, the real destroyer of them. Each person turns his face to the fire, breaks off a knob, and flinging it over his shoulder, says: “This I give to thee, preserve thou my horses; this to thee, preserve thou my sheep,” and so on. After that, they use the same ceremony to the noxious animals: “This I give to thee, O Fox, spare thou my lambs; this to thee, O Hooded Crow, this to thee O Eagle!”

 ...In Badenoch, until recently, oatcakes marked on one side with a cross and on the other with a circle were rolled down the hillside on Beltane morning. (See The Silver Bough, Vol. II.)...

The Beltane bannock appears to be the last survivor of the old Highland Quarter Cakes; the bonnach Bride, St. Bride’s bannock, baked for the first day of spring; the bonnach Bealltain, Beltane bannock, baked for the first day of summer; the bonnach Lunastain, Lammas bannock, baked for the first day of autumn; and the bonnach Samhthain, Hallowmas bannock, baked for the first day of winter.

– F. Marian McNeill, The Scot’s Kitchen: Its Traditions and Lore with Old-Time Recipes, Mayflower Granada (1979) pg 232-233.
(First published 1929)

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Pilgrim Walks, Ireland, 4 April 2015--Get Ready to Commune!

Thanks to RTÉ The History Show for giving me the headsup on the upcoming Pilgrim Walks that will be taking place around Ireland this Easter weekend. They traditionally went from monastery to monastery but things have changed a tad from the middle ages. Featured below is the St Brigid Walk.

Brigid’s Way – Pilgrim Paths Day Event – Saturday April 4th 2015

Pollardstown Fen
St. Brigid in Kildare  – Brigid’s Way Celtic Pilgrimage’s final day route.

Overview: Brigid’s Way Celtic Pilgrimage has recently become the 13th National Pilgrim Path in Ireland, the first female Irish Saint to be so honoured. On Pilgrim Paths’ Day, we walk the route of the final day of this 9 day pilgrimage (which charts St Brigid’s journey from her birthplace & Shrine in Faughart, County Louth to her Abbey, Healing & Garden Wells in Kildare). We will start at Pollardstown Fen (pictured) in Kildare along the boardwalk of this picturesque hidden local treasure, then continue through country lanes to the magnificent Curragh & into the heart of Kildare Town to St. Brigid’s sacred sites including her Fire Temple in the grounds of the Cathedral, both her wells and finally new Solas Bhríde Centre (pictured below) for their welcome hospitality. Come to walk in the glorious Kildare countryside, meet new people and honour and receive the blessings of St. Brigid.
Suitability: This easy walk follows the wooden boardwalk of Pollardstown Fen, small country lanes (paved minor roads), the grassy Curragh terrain, footpaths around Kildare Town and St Brigid’s Fire Temple and Wells, which also have grassy sections. Please bring suitable walking shoes or boots, water, snacks/lunch, sun screen or weather gear (please check the local forecast).
  •     Pollardstown Fen
  •     The Curragh
  •     Kildare Town
  •     Solas Bhride Centre and Hermitages
There will be (optional) opportunities for guided or private prayer at:
  •     Rathbride, St Brigid’s Healing Stone at the edge of The Curragh
  •     St Brigid’s Fire Temple, in the grounds of her cathedral in Kildare Town
  •     St Brigid’s Healing Well, close to the National Stud
  •     St Brigid’s Healing Stream
Distance: 13 kms, 8 miles.  Approx 3 hours.
Time:    Meeting at 9:30am for bus to start point.Solas Bhride Kildare
Meeting Place: Park & meet at the Solas Bhríde Centre car park, Tully Road, Kildare at  9.30am sharp (for more information about the start/end point see We’ll take a hired bus to the start point together. Note: You must register in advance for a place on the bus by emailing
Cost: €5.   We also invite you to make a donation to the new Solas Bhríde Centre & Hermitages during your visit.
Organised By: The Brigid’s Way Celtic Pilgrimage team and Solas Bhríde team, Kildare.
For more information and to book a place on the bus, please email:


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Monday, March 30, 2015

Cover Art: St Brigit and Her Ale by Anna Pierlot

The cover art here is from the February 2013 issue of Catholic Insight, depicting St Brigit pouring ale from a barrel into a pitcher, with a straw cross swinging from her belt. The artist, Anna Pierlot, is a student at Campion College in NSW, Australia.

She says, about her painting,

"This piece depicts St. Brigid, patron of Ireland (along with St. Patrick). She is often shown holding a reed cross, a crozier of the sort used by abbots, along with some source of fire or light. Fire is a central image connected with St. Brigid; nuns at her monastery are said to have kept burning a sacred eternal flame. She is said to have had the power to multiply such things as butter, bacon, and milk; she is shown here brewing beer."

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Remember Marcella

When looking for well researched and illustrated posts on Irish saints, particularly the three primary saints of Ireland, Columba, Patrick, and Brigid, you could do a lot worse than to turn to Marcella, who describes herself thus:

"I am an Irishwoman interested in the lives of our native saints. I am not a professional scholar in this field but attempt to keep up with the work of those who are. I am particularly interested in the many obscure Irish saints whose names fill the pages of our Martyrologies."

Once the force behind Under the Oak, Marcella now maintains Trias Thaumaturga and Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae. To get a sense of her interest in Brigid, have a look at the posts about her in February 2012:

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Review by Peter Crawley: "Brigit" -- a Play by Tom Murphy

Review: Brigit

by Peter Crawley for the Irish Times

A prequel to his masterful Bailegangaire, Brigit fleshes out a complex family history, but Tom Murphy’s new play is a more vivid portrait of the artist

Brigit ‘is a sparing and episodic piece, fleshing out a complex family history,
but serving far more as a personal statement’
Brigit: Town Hall Theatre, Galway until Sep 21, then The Olympia Theatre Oct 1-5 2014.
It’s tempting to think that Brigit, a deeply personal new play from Tom Murphy, represents unfinished business for its writer. Written 30 years after Bailegangaire, and set 30 years earlier in 1950s Ireland, it is a sparing and episodic piece, fleshing out a complex family history, but serving far more as a personal statement. It could almost be a self-portrait.
When Seamus (Bosco Hogan), a temperamental handyman, reluctantly accepts a commission from the local church to carve a new statue of St Brigid, he takes his work home with him, engrossed in the pursuit to the exclusion of all else. His marriage to Mommo (Marie Mullen) is a war of attrition, measured in silences and pettiness: in the production’s opening moments he whips a pillow out from under her, a wickedly defining gesture in director Garry Hynes’ supple handling: quick as a blink, comic and heart-breaking.
“I’d like it to be perfect,” Seamus says of his statue, attempting to reconcile the earthy figure of Irish myth with prim demands for another plaster saint. “I’d like it to be what I feel. And I don’t know what that is.” This is a modest craftsman, not a sculptor, but Seamus’s absorption, frustration, callousness and vulnerability mark him out as a portrait of the artist as a driven obsessive. The casting of Hogan in the role – attractively weathered and spry, cerebral and dry – suggests that any resemblance to Murphy himself is entirely intentional.
A remarkably unembellished, absorbing work, Brigit progresses in a sequence of short episodes that Hynes allows to melt into one another, aided by the merging spaces of Francis O’Connor’s set and Rick Fisher’s gently ushering lights. It makes for an almost ritualistic rhythm. Where Bailegangaire folds folktale into reality, Brigit seems to chisel these lives into something mythic: the text is full of mantra-like repetitions (“Can you trust them?”; “You can’t tell me what she looked like.”), threaded through with Mommo’s recitation of Brigid’s legend, a goddess named Brigit demoted to a saint named Brigid.
Like the statue, ingeniously designed by O’Connor (and realised by Marcus Molloy) to emerge slowly from a rich piece of bog oak, the play is unvarnished in its depiction of creativity and its consequence. Like Brecht’s Galileo, Seamus conducts unintimidated business with the church, sparring with Marty Rea’s excellent priest, a puff-cheeked conciliator, and negotiating matters aesthetic and financial with Jane Brennan’s amusingly frowning Reverend Mother, whose haggling concludes, wonderfully: “But don’t expect to be remembered in our prayers.”
In the background, you see Mullen’s Mommo humiliated and hardening, the children adored and admonished, while lines echo from one play to the other. Yet it is the artistic pursuit that dominates. “Is nothing sacred to you?” shouts Seamus, when asked for adjustments, and the sentiment slyly holds up art as another kind of religion: a practice of belief and devotion, desire and suffering, to reflect of the world not as we would like it to be, but as it truly is.
Tom Murphy latest play, Brigit, was staged by Druid at the Dublin Theatre Festival with his earlier work Bailegangaire.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Father Monica & Saint Brigid's, Calgary

I was invited today to a small gathering at the Listening Post in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, a drop-in centre where the people of Canada's poorest (and one of its most drug-riddled) neighbourhoods may walk in and sit in quiet, pray if that is what they want to do, meditate, sleep, or find a willing ear if they want to talk. I have used the facility myself and been very grateful to have it.

Today's gathering was different. I was there with about ten other people for a Roman Catholic Womanpriest led mass, officiated by Rev. Dr. Victoria (Vikki) Marie for the Our Lady of Guadalupe Tonantzin Community.

I was impressed. I am no longer a Christian myself, but I was raised Catholic and anyone who has read this blog can see that I retain an emotional attachment to elements of that faith and community. The people I met today were warm and welcoming, the service utterly inclusive and though focussed on the spirit, had a firm foundation in social justice for everyone.

Of course, I have heard of the ordained Roman Catholic women priests who endure excommunication to follow their calling, but this was the first chance I had to see one in action, and if I still swung that way I would certainly become a regular attendee.

I was pleased therefore to come home and learn from their website that in Calgary, a few mountain chains away from Vancouver at the edge of the Canadian prairie, another RCWP community has claimed St Brigit as their patron. Here is a little about them. Er, I should mention that Father is not actually what you call Monica. It's just the word that pops still to mind when I consider a Catholic priest.

Mea culpa.

Our Ministry Statement

The Saint Brigid of Kildare Catholic Faith Community provides Christian ministry to individuals, families and society in solidarity with the guidance and prophetic vision of the international Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement. We are rooted in the the life-giving aspects of the Roman Catholic sacramental tradition, while maintaining a commitment to ecumenical sharing, spiritual openness and interfaith dialogue.