One of the two important Línasa sites linking `the old goddess' and the harvest
festival, to which Mac Neill refers, is Brideswell or Tobar Bhríde in Co. Roscommon.
Like Daigh Bhríde (St Brigid's Well) at Liscannor, Co. Clare and the St
Brigid's Well in the parish of Ballinakill, Co. Galway, it is a Línasa site which
bears the name of the saint whose feast day is celebrated, not in harvest time, but
on the first of February, traditionally the first day of spring in Ireland. In common
with a number of other wells dedicated to St Brigit, Brideswell also exhibits some
highly significant connections with what may be broadly described as `fertility', as
is made clear by the following:
In 1604 Randal MacDonnell, son of Sorley Boy, and afterwards first Earl of
Antrim (1620), married Ailis, daughter of the great Hugh O'Neill, and they
were for a while childless. They made the pilgrimage to Tobar Bhríde and
later, in gratitude, for answered prayer, Randal, now Earl of Antrim, erected a
gateway leading to the well, bearing his arms and date 1625.
Kilbride (Cill Bhríde) near Ballycastle, Co. Mayo also boasts a `St Bridget's
Well' which `is supposed to possess a cure for sterility' and which also happens
to lie in close proximity to yet another major Línasa site. The potential to `cure
sterility' was a feature of the healing powers of a number of holy wells here and there throughout the country. Devotion to St Brigit was, indeed, widespread among
the ordinary people, Finding in later years its most elaborate surviving expression
in the Irish-speaking or recently Irish-speaking parts.
from the paper: Ó Catháin, Séamus. 'The festival of Brigit the Holy Woman'. Celtica, 23 (1999), 231-60. ISSN 0069-1399.
Séamas Ó Catháin is the author of The Festival of Bright: Celtic Goddess and Holy Woman.
Dublin: DBA Publications, 1995. 194pp. Illus. 14.95 [pounds sterling]. ISBN (pbk) O 9519692 2 6; (hbk) O 9519692 3 4