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.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Solas Bhride Centre & Hermitages Officially Opened

Large crowds gathered to celebrate the Official Opening of Solas Bhride Centre and Hermitages, Tully Road, Kildare town on Friday, January 30th, 2015 at 2.30 p.m.
Ann Riordan, chairperson of Science Foundation Ireland was MC for the occasion. Eimear Quinn cut the tape and Bishop Denis Nulty, Kildare & Leighlin, and Rev. John Marsden, Dean of St. Brigid’s Cathedral, bleEimear Quinnssed the Centre. The tape cutting ceremony was followed by a musical celebration which included music, song and dance as guests were entertained by Eimear, Luka Bloom and local musicians and dancers.
Mayor Fiona O’ Loughlin addressed the assembled guests and referred to the rich legacy of St. Brigid and the heritage of Kildare town anMayord went on to say how the Solas Bhride Centre “will undoubtedly help us to remember that heritage, reflecting our place in society and in the world, while considering our future path; both personally and as a community… This new facility will develop not only into a national location for spirituality and reflection, but also internationally giving our local and wider community and visitors to the area a unique experience, particularly in the areas of education, ecology, spirituality and healing”.
Tributes were paid to the Design team which included Members of Solas Bhride, the Design Team and Manley ConstructionBrian O’Brien of Solearth Ecological Architecture who designed the unique ecologically sustainable Spirituality Centre, in the shape of a St. Brigid’s cross, with the centre of the cross featuring an internal garden and circular and semi-circular rooms, Manley Construction Ltd. who built the Centre and have already received two national awards for the building. A special acknowledgement to the Quantity Surveyor, George Fitzpatrick, Gilltown, Kilcullen, for delivering the project within budget.
Rita Minehan csb, Chairperson of the Board of Directors, expressed her gratitude to the Design Team, to the Brigidine Sisters for their huge financial contribution which ultimately made the Centre possible, Kildare Leader Partnership for their generous grant, Kildare County Council, Public Representatives and Kildare Failte for their support with planning and many other issues, and to all who made donations to the Centre, supported the fund raising campaign and organised fund raising events.
“It is truly a magnificent Centre” said Sr. Rita “and it is our hope that all who come to the new Solas Bhride will be facilitated in their search for a meaningful spirituality through the unfolding of the legacy of St. Brigid of Kildare and its relevance for the 21st century.
Members of the BoardEimear and Luka

RTÉ: Biddy Boys, Then and Now

From the archives of RTÉ (Raidió Teilifís Éireann) comes this 1965 clip from Newsbeat on the Biddy Boys tradition, showing a judging of several groups, and featuring discussion of some of the Brídeógs on display. I don't see a way to embed this one so please click on the link below.

On Saint Brigid's Day we take a look back to the customs and traditions surrounding this day as it was celebrated 50 years ago.
In a custom similar to the Wren Boys, reporter Seamus McConville takes a look at the Biddy Boys. The report features a procession of Biddy Boys in South Kerry in honour of Saint Brigid. The Biddy Boys are grown men dressed in costumes, who carry Saint Brigid Dolls called 'Brideogs', traditionally made from their grandmother's hair. The best dressed Biddy Boy wins a prize. 
A local man Mr. O'Siochru outlines the traditions relating to the Biddy Boys, the dolls and the costumes. Saint Brigid's feast day is on 1 February each year, which is also traditionally the first day of Spring.  
The Biddy boys tradition is largely confined to South Kerry, parts of County Cork, County Kildare and County Fermanagh.
This episode of Newsbeat was broadcast on 1 February 1965.

This latest Biddy Boys story was shared on Facebook on 1 February 2015 and doesn't seem to have a presence elsewhere on the web. Here's hoping the link works!

Today marks the beginning of the St Brigid's festival to celebrate spring. Kerry has an ancient tradition known as the Biddy, with roots to an older pagan festival.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Mea Culpa: A Wee Mistake I Need to 'Fess Up To

In my review of novels involving Brigit, I gave a number of reasons for not recommending Heather Terrell's Brigit of Kildare. One small part of this was her representing Brigit as a legitimate daughter of well-to-do Christian parents, when the accepted version is that she was the daughter of a slave and her owner. I had entirely forgotten that in Cogitosus's Life of Saint Brigit, probably the oldest if not the most magical of her Lives, he says, "The holy Brigid...was born in Ireland of noble Christian parents".

Oops. A good reminder to me that the tales are not unified and indeed are often in direct conflict with each other, particularly when their authors are serving different aims. See Lisa Bitel's Landscape with Two Saints for a detailed explanation of the divergent aims of her hagiographers. E. A. D'Alton in The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 4 (1913) points out that he "gives the names of her parents, but is careful to conceal the fact that she was illegitimate, and that her mother was a slave." So even he was not buying what Cogitosus was selling--at least not that bit.

D'Alton also examines the evidence and concludes that Cogitosus must have lived in the ninth and not the seventh century, as is commonly assumed. I would be interested to know if anyone has followed up his thoughts on the matter and where they led.

You can read his comments about Cogitosus and Brigit here, as well as download the De Paor translation of Cogitosus's Vita Sanctae Brigitae, which seems awfully hard to find online.

Vita Sanctae Brigitae: Cogitosus's Life of Brigit

Wearying of the fact that we who are not card-carrying academics cannot easily access this invaluable document, I'm transforming the pdf I have into a multi-page JPEG and hoping I can upload it here. (For some reason I still don't apprehend Blogger doesn't let us upload PDFs.)

This version comes from St Patrick's World, Liam de Paor, Four Courts Press, Dublin, 1993 - chapter 33, Cogitosus's Life of St Brigid the Virgin.

Cogitosus's is generally considered the earliest extant Life of Saint Brigit. He was a monastic at Kildare, often cited as having lived circa 650 CE. (Saint Brigit having lived in the fifth century, a good two hundred years earlier.) The author below gives reasons for thinking Cogitosus lived rather later, thus putting into question whose Life preceded whose.

The Book of Dimma, an 8th-century Irish pocket Gospel Book

by Edward Alfred D'Alton

An Irishman, an author, and a monk of Kildare; the date and place of his birth and of his death are unknown; it is uncertain even in what century he lived.

In the one work which he wrote, his life of St. Brigid, he asks a prayer pro me nepote culpabili, from which both Ware and Ussher conclude that he was a nephew of St. Brigid, and, accordingly, he is put down by them among the writers of the sixth century. But the word nepos may also be applied to one who, like the prodigal, had lived riotously, and it may be, that Cogitosus, recalling some former lapses from virtue, so uses the word of himself. At all events, his editor, Vossius, is quite satisfied that Cogitosus was no nephew of St. Brigid, because in two genealogical menologies which Vossius had, in which were enumerated the names of fourteen holy men of that saint's family the name of Cogitosus is not to be found.

Nor did the latter live in the sixth century because he speaks of a long succession of bishops and abbesses at Kildare, showing that he writes of a period long after the time of St. Brigid, who died in 525, and of St. Conleth, who died a few years earlier. Besides this, the description of the church of Kildare belongs to a much later time; and the author calls St. Conleth an archbishop, a term not usual in the Western church until the opening of the ninth century. On the other hand, he describes Kildare before it was plundered by the Danes, in 835, and before St. Brigid's remains were removed to Down.

The probability therefore is that he lived and wrote the life of St. Brigid about the beginning of the ninth century.

His work is a panegyric rather than a biography. He gives so few details of the saint's life that he omits the date and place of her birth and the date of her death; nor does he make mention of any of her contemporaries if we except St. Conleth, the first Bishop of Kildare, an Macaille from whom she received the veil. He gives the names of her parents, but is careful to conceal the fact that she was illegitimate, and that her mother was a slave.

On the other hand, he dwells with evident satisfaction on her piety, her humility, her charity, her zeal for religion, the esteem in which she was held by all. And he narrates at length the many miracles she wrought, and tells of the numbers who came as pilgrims to Kildare, attracted by her fame. In his anxiety to exalt her he says she had as abbess authority over all the abbesses of Ireland, although as a matter of fact she could govern only those who followed her rule; and his statement that she appointed the Bishop of Kildare could not, of course, mean that she conferred any jurisdiction.

Cogitosus writes in fairly good Latin, much better indeed than might be expected in that age, and his description of the church of Kildare with its interior decorations is specially interesting for the history of early Irish art and architecture.

Here goes. There are ten pages. Feel free to turn them back into pdfs for easier use.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Create a Brigid Prayer Painting in Mixed Media Collage

Lady of the Radiant Flame: Create a Brigid Prayer Painting in Mixed Media Collage

AAAb-icon-full_Fotor800Join me for “Lady of the Radiant Flame,” an online sacred art workshop for lovers of the Divine Feminine, especially those who are drawn to Brigid, the Celtic Goddess of Poetry, Healing, and Transformation.
We’ll go into the virtual studio and I will lead you, step by step, into creating a prayer painting — a unique collage portrait of Brigid and her sacred symbols (especially her sacred fire of creativity).  The sample collage shown here is just one example of what you can create in this workshop.
Artistic experience isn’t required for this project. I’ll be taking you through the process, so even if you think you have no artistic talent (don’t believe it!), you can still create a beautiful icon. You’ll learn mixed media techniques and play with paint, paper, ink, glue, and more. I’ll provide imagery that you can download and incorporate into your piece (including the face of Brigid from my painting “Brigid’s Fire”).
Best of all, the collage prayer painting will become a focus for your heart’s yearnings, hopes, and dreams, all the secret places inside you that need healing or expression. The finished piece itself will be an offering and a talisman, a focus for prayer and transformation.

For every act of creation is an act of magic.

I’d love to have you join me! Together we will create our devotional offerings to Brigid, the Radiant Flame of Gold, the Summoner of Spring.
“Lady of the Radiant Flame” is open for registration now. The workshop materials (videos and PDFs) will be delivered on February 5th.
Register Now   $97.00  ~ EARLY BIRD PRICE through January 28th! ~  $75.00

How it works:

On February 5th, you’ll receive an email with links to the videos and instructional PDFs. The workshop is designed to take place over a couple of weekend afternoons, although you may work more quickly (or more slowly!) than I do.
You’ll also receive an invitation to join a private Facebook group, where you can ask me questions about the process and share your work with others in the class. The Facebook group will be open for three weeks, until February 26th.
Between now and February 5th, you can gather your supplies and get ready to make some magic!

In processWe will cover:

  • Beginning with intention and ceremony.
  • Learning about Brigid, and how you resonate with Her.
  • Gathering imagery and text. (Some of each will be provided.)
  • Working out a composition.
  • Choosing a color scheme.
  • Creating a background with papers, paint, and stencils.
  • Adhering collage elements.
  • Adding visual and symbolic interest with stamps, pastels, paint, ink, fabric, ephemera, and natural elements.
  • Telling the story of your prayer painting.
  • Practicing visio divino with your prayer painting.

You will need these materials (click here for list).

This is the first in a series of Sacred Art Online Workshops I’ll be offering this year. It makes a nice companion to “30 Days of Brigid.”
Register Now   $97.00  ~ EARLY BIRD PRICE through February 28th! ~  $75.00
- See more at:

Thirty Days of Brigit with Joanna Powell Colbert

“30 Days of Brigid” is an ecourse for those who want a daily inspirational touchstone during Brigid’s season of the Prelude-to-Spring (known as Imbolc or Candlemas).
On the surface, it’s about beautiful photos, art, quotes, and journal/photo prompts landing in your inbox every day for 30 days.
But really? It’s about connecting more deeply with the creative fire of the Celtic Goddess Brigid as she begins to awaken the land from its winter sleep.

The course is designed for people who don’t have much time, but still want to take a sacred pause each day to find a fresh breeze of nature, art, and poetry wafting into their inboxes.

It’s for those who want to connect more deeply with Brigid and contemplate the themes of her season — emergence, dedication, cleansing, creative fire, and the first faint hints of Spring.
snowdrops in snowBy the end of the 30 days, you’ll be reconnected to your own creative core, with a daily practice in place for taking in beauty and responding to it in your journal or with your camera or paintbrush.
Best of all, you will have taken a divine pause each day to experience the presence of Brigid and to align yourself with her season.
Sound good? I’d love to have you join us.
30 Days of Brigid is open for registration now. Your daily emails begin on Monday January 26th, one week before the holy-day of Imbolc / Candlemas / Brigid’s Day on February 1st.
Register Now   $19.00

How it works:

Brigid's fire~ You’ll receive an email every day for 30 days, beginning Monday January 26th.
~ You respond, in the privacy of your own journal, or share online. I encourage you to set your timer for 5-10 minutes, and free-write in response to the journal prompt. Some days you won’t have time, and that’s OK. Other days you’ll write more.
You can also pick up your camera or smart phone, and take a photo each day in response to the photo/art prompt. Or you may want to sketch or make art in an art journal.
You’re most welcome to share your writing, art, or photos on social media using the hashtag #30daysofbrigid.
~ At the end of the 30 Days, you’ll receive a PDF with all 30 of the quotes and prompts.
This is one of my new “30 Day” courses that have grown out of the “Gaian Soul Seasonal Practices” courses I offered for several years. Watch for other courses throughout the year.
Register Now   $19.00

If you have found this page after January 26th,
 you can still sign up for this course. But your emails start the day after you sign up, and you won’t receive the ones you’ve missed. At the end of the 30 Days, you will receive a PDF with all 30 of the quotes and prompts.
- See more at:

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Brigit on the Burren: A Snippet from Lady Gregory

A Book of Saints and Wonders – Lady Gregory, 1906.  p8

She Remembers the Poor
But if Brigit belonged to the east, it is not in the west she is forgotten, and the people of Burren and of Corcomruadh and Kinvara go every year to her blessed well that is near the sea, praying and remembering her. And in that well there is a little fish that is seen every seven years, and whoever sees that fish is cured of every disease. And there is a woman living yet that is poor and old and that saw that blessed fish, and this is the way she tells the story:

"I had a pearl in my eye one time, and I went to Saint Brigit's well on the cliffs. Scores of people there were in it, looking for cures, and some got them and some did not get them. And I went down the four steps to the well and I was looking into it, and I saw a little fish no longer than your finger coming from a stone under the water. Three spots it had on the one side and three on the other side, red spots and a little green with the red, and it was very civil coming hither to me and very pleasant wagging its tail. And it stopped and looked up at me and gave three wags of its back, and walked off again and went in under the stone.

"And I said to a woman that was near me that I saw the little fish, and she began to call out and to say there were many coming with cars and with horses for a month past and none of them saw it at all. And she proved me, asking had it spots, and I said it had, three on the one side and three on the other side. "That is it" she said. And within three days I had the sight of my eye again. It was surely Saint Brigit I saw that time; who else would it be? And you would know by the look of it that it was no common fish. Very civil it was, and nice and loughy, and no one else saw it at all. Did I say more prayers than the rest? Not a prayer. I was young in those days. I suppose she took a liking to me, maybe because of my name being Brigit the same as her own."

The Boy that dreamed he would get his Health
There was a beggar boy used to be in Burren, that was very simple like and had no health, and if he would walk as much as a few perches it is likely he would fall on the road. And he dreamed twice that he went to Saint Brigit's blessed well upon the cliffs and that he found his health there. So he set out to go to the well, and when he came to it he fell in and he was drowned. Very simple he was and innocent and without sin. It is likely it is in heaven he is at this time.

The Water of the Well

And there is a woman in Burren now is grateful to Saint Brigit, for "I brought my little girl that was not four years old" she says "to Saint Brigit's well on the cliffs, where she was ailing and pining away. I brought her as far as the doctors in Gort and they could do nothing for her and then I promised to go to Saint Brigit's well, and from the time I made that promise she got better. And I saw the little fish when I brought her there; and she grew to be as strong a girl as ever went to America. I made a promise to go to the well every year after that, and so I do, of a Garlic Sunday, that is the last Sunday in July. And I brought a bottle of water from it last year and it is as cold as amber yet."