Friday, December 12, 2014

The Hymn to Saint Brigid of Brogan-Cloen (Broccan's Hymn)

I like to reread the Lives of Saint Brigit from time to time, and other ancient writings such as prayers dedicated to her. Even more, I like to be read to. So I have recorded a couple and listen to them from time to time, and am always delighted by bits I had forgotten.

To further that end, today I recorded Broccan's Hymn, and in my zeal decided to add a visual aspect (still images of the manuscript and an icon of Saint Brigit) so that I could upload it as a video. I still don't know how to simply upload a sound file to the blog, or I'd do that.

Here is the "video", for those who are interested. Apologies for any fumbling of the Latin and Irish. Most of it is English and I manage that fairly well.

For a writeup on the hymn and the translation that I have used (by Whitley Stokes) please visit the excellent blog Trias Thaumaturga, which is dedicated to the three patron saints of Ireland.

Broccan's Hymn is mostly a poetic summing up of many of the tales from the earliest Life of Saint Brigit, by Cogitosus. If it doesn't make complete sense to you it will if you read that Life.

Well, I'll be darned. I can't find a free download of it online. I do have a pdf, so if you want a copy leave your email address in the comments (I won't publish it) and I'll email it to you.

"We put trust in my Brige — may she be a protection to our host !
May her patronage work with me ! may we all deserve escape !"

Friday, December 05, 2014

Brigit & Beer Baths: Notes on a Tale by Cogitosus from the Perspective of a Beer Historian

"St Brigid's Lake of Beer," Michael O'Neill McGrath*
As often happens, while searching an unrelated topic I stumbled across an interesting article connected to Brigit. It tells a tale from Cogitosus regarding Brigit and beer. No self-respecting Brigit-Beer article should go without the famous poem attributed to her. So let us begin there:

I should like a great lake of beer for the King of Kings.
I should like the angels of Heaven to be drinking it through time eternal.
I should like excellent meats of belief and pure piety.
I should like the men of Heaven at my house.
I should like barrels of peace at their disposal.
I should like for them cellars of mercy.
I should like cheerfulness to be their drinking.
I should like Jesus to be there among them.
I should like the three Marys of illustrious renown to be with us.
I should like the people of Heaven, the poor, to be gathered around from all parts.

excerpt from 
St Brigid and the Bathwater
by Martyn Cornell
...While I was putting together the order of service, I even found a suitably beery quote fromThe Life of St Brigid the Virgin, written by a Kildare monk, Cogitosus Ua hAedha, around AD650, to use as one of the readings:
On another extraordinary occasion, this venerable Brigid was asked by some lepers for beer, but had none. She noticed water that had been prepared for baths. She blessed it, in the goodness of her abiding faith, and transformed it into the best beer, which she drew copiously for the thirsty. It was indeed He Who turned water into wine in Cana of Galilee Who turned water into beer here, through this most blessed woman’s faith.
Cogitosus, of course, was keen to chalk the bathwater-into-beer event up as a miracle, just like the one at the wedding at Cana, but there is, in fact, a possible non-miraculous explanation for how St Brigid was able to make the thirsty lepers happy. A record of a fire at the monastry of Clonard in Ireland around AD787 speaks of grain stored in ballenio, literally “in a bath”, which seems to mean the grain being soaked as part of the initial processes of malting. What St Brigid drew off, I’d suggest, may have been water from the ballenium where the grain was steeping in the first stage of malt-making.
Quite possibly, if the grain had begun to sprout wild yeasts had already started multiplying in the water, and making alcohol. Cogitosus heard the story, already more than a century old, about Brigid giving the lepers water from the ballenium to drink and, presumably because he knew nothing about brewing, thought this ballenium was an ordinary bath for washing in. While water from the grain steep might have made a passable ale substitute if you were a thirsty leper, for “bath water” to taste like ale must have seemed a miracle to the confused Cogitosus.
Ale was an important part of Irish society: the Crith-Gablach, an Irish law book compiled about the middle or end of the 7th century AD, declared that the “seven occupations in the law of a king” were:
Sunday, at ale drinking, for he is not a lawful flaith [lord] who does not distribute ale every Sunday; Monday, at legislation, for the government of the tribe; Tuesday, at fidchell [a popular Iron Age board game]; Wednesday, seeing greyhounds coursing; Thursday, at the pleasures of love; Friday, at horse-racing; Saturday, at judgment.”
Who’d be an Irish king, eh?
For the full article, including an old Irish poem on the best ales of the country, go to Martyn Cornell's Zythophile: Beer Now and Then. Click here for his article "Ancient Irish Ales". Martyn is the author of Amber Gold and Black: The History of Britain's Great Beers.

* "St. Brigid's Lake of Beer" by Bro. Mickey (Michael O'Neill McGrath) an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Making Brigit's Cross with Young Caítlín

Caítlín shows beautifully how to gather your rushes, make, and trim your cross. (All to the tune of a penny whistle.)

There are gadjillions of videos on YouTube demonstrating how to make Brigit's cross, including this silent one by a faceless expert, and this by Una Casey of Faughart. (See previous post.) But despite the odd technical difficulty, I rather like this one.

(Click here to watch on YouTube.)

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Brigit's Birthplace: RTÉ Documentary on Faughart, Ireland

From Geolocation
At St. Brigit's Shrine in Faughart, Co. Louth, pilgrims have long come to pray the stations and tie up offerings of cloth in order to leave their troubles behind them. Blathnaid Ní Chofaigh of RTÉ explores the area to learn more about St. Brigit and her cult.

From Brigit of Faughart Festival
An impressive moment in the film is watching local woman, Una Casey, making a rush cross while chatting with Blathnaid--one strong enough to kick to Dundalk without it coming apart.

Cross Making with Una Casey in the County Library
Una has been making Brigit's crosses since childhood, and gives workshops in the craft, above at the County Library, and also at the Brigit of Faughart Festival.

(Click here to watch on YouTube.)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Brigidine College of St Ives, New South Wales - History & Today

"Fortiter et Suaviter - Strength and Gentleness"

From aMUSine  "The museums, galleries and collections zine by interesting people for interested people:

Kerri Genovese
Archivist, Brigidine College St Ives.
On April 16, 1883 six brave young Brigidine Nuns left their convent in Mountrath, Ireland to travel to Coonamble in New South Wales.  They were chosen from 17 volunteers at the convent to set up a catholic school at the request of Dr Murray the Bishop of the Maitland Diocese which included the Parish of Coonamble.  Their journey took just over 2 months, leaving London on April 20 on a small 5,000 tonnage ship ‘The Chimborazo’. They arrived in Melbourne for a short stay on June 3 after only two stops at Naples and Port Said. The Sisters continued on to Sydney then Newcastle by ship and finally reached their destination of Coonamble on June 21 after many days travelling overland by train and coach.
Coonamble was a small town of some 800 residents many of whom went out many miles to meet the nuns and lead them into town to the welcoming peals of the church bell.  A grand dinner was held and after grateful speeches the nuns could retire to their new home, the small four room presbytery.  The kitchen would serve as the refectory, community room and high school classroom while the primary school would be held in the humble slab church building.
After the warm welcome the nuns set to work opening their school on July 9 and by the end of the year a wooden building was commenced which would house day students and boarders.  The reality of their situation would soon hit home as the long hot summer rolled around, water could only be bought by cask and lighting was by candle or kerosene lamp.  One sister wrote home, ‘the heat ranges from 110 to 117. Violent dust storms rage from 2 to 36 hours at a time….at times the dust clouds look like moving walls’.  The difference between their beloved green Ireland and this harsh brown land would have been enormous.
Despite the tough conditions the sisters led by Mother John Synan would be joined by other young women wanting to be trained as a novice before becoming a Brigidine nun.  Sadly five of these young novices would die in the first few years.  However, after hearing about these courageous women other Catholic communities were asking the Brigidine sisters to establish schools for them.  In 1887 five sisters went to Cooma, seven were sent to Cowra in 1894 and another six to New Zealand in 1898.
As the community grew the Brigidine sisters realised that Sydney offered greater opportunities for the training of the novices.  Therefore, another convent, novitiate and secondary girl’s school were established in Randwick in 1901.  However, within forty years it was decided the novices should be moved to a more peaceful area and so the search began for land in the countryside of St Ives.  In 1949 seven acres of land was purchased on the corner of Mona Vale Road and Woodbury Road with another three acres acquired in 1951. 
The Brigidine sisters established a secondary girl’s school in St Ives and on February 9 1954 classes began with nine students.  Although the new two storey building was for the school, the nuns would also live here until the convent was also built.  Upstairs consisted of four classrooms, however, the last room was partitioned off into four sleeping quarters and a community area for the sisters.  The ground floor had a store room, cloak room, toilets, chemistry lab, kitchen and laundry.  The kitchen of course was used for the students learning home economics but also for the sisters own cooking.  Two sisters taught the secondary girls here and another two taught the primary students at the local Catholic Church, Corpus Christi.
The Convent and Novitiate were completed by the end of 1958 and the Brigidine community steadily grew over the years.  The college added more buildings and took over the novitiate building in 1978 when it closed.  The sisters enjoyed many happy years at St Ives until they too moved out in 1994 relinquishing the convent to the college.  Although the Brigidine order is diminishing their legacy continues through the ethos and teaching of the Brigidine schools throughout the world.
Brigidine College St Ives now has over 900 students but acknowledges and appreciates the heritage given to it by the original Brigidine nuns from Mountrath, then Randwick and the new arrival of students in 1954.  The original students formed strong friendships being a small group and still join together each year for a ‘Pioneer’ lunch and reminisce their fun times.


The Brigidine College of St Ives is still going strong*. From their website:

Brigidine College St Ives is dedicated to the education of girls in the Catholic tradition. Founded by the Congregation of Sisters of St Brigid in 1954, the school models the charism of St Brigid and Bishop Daniel Delany, strength and gentleness.
The College prides itself on providing a holistic education for girls, combining the spiritual, academic, physical and cultural dimensions of learning, creating women of spiritual, moral and ethical strength.
Girls at Brigidine are challenged to think and experience beyond their boundaries, to have the courage to question their world and model Christ’s teachings in their lives.
They are challenged in their learning to see possibilities, grow in understanding and value success.
Browse through our website to gain a deeper understanding of our community or join us onsite for a tour. There is a spirit in this school worth experiencing.

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)