Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Book Giveaway: A Brigit of Ireland Devotional - Sun Among Stars by Mael Brigde


Win a copy of A Brigit of Ireland Devotional - Sun Among Stars by Mael Brigde. (Yes, me! Why do I feel so shy about this?)



* Like my Facebook page, Brigit's Portal - Classes, Gatherings, Poetry, Tools.

* Share this post.

* Comment below the competition post on Brigit's Portal with one thing that drew you to Brigit, Goddess and Saint.


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* Share the contents of this post & the image above on social media.

* Comment below with one thing that drew you to Brigit, Goddess and Saint.

The winning name will be drawn on 15 December 2022.

Good luck!


"I can’t imagine reading this poetry and remaining untouched. I can’t imagine allowing this book to lie, languishing and ignored, at the back of the shelf. I can’t imagine allowing this book to pass you by."

from the foreword by Orlagh Costello, founder of Brigid's Forge.

“Sun Among Stars…is at once contemplative and deeply personal, educational and reflecting the evolution in understanding and belief that we all go through over time. For this alone it is an invaluable addition to the corpus of material on Brigid… Let the goddess or the saint or simply Brigid speak to you through the author’s words as you step into a deeper understanding…”

Morgan Daimler author of Pagan Portals: Brigid - Meeting The Celtic Goddess Of Poetry, Forge, And Healing Well

"It is a unique challenge to bridge the ancient past with the modern, and the Christian with the Pagan, but Mael Brigde does so with ease and grace. She tells the story of Brigid through remarkable poetry that is as much prayer as it is verse. This gorgeous text could be used as a guidebook for a Brigid devotee through different holidays and times of life. A must have for all lovers of Brigid."

Courtney Weber, author of Brigid: History, Mystery, and Magick of the Celtic Goddess

WEBSITE: https://bit.ly/MaelBrigde

IMAGE: a graphic design consisting of the words Book Giveaway going around a photo of the copy of a green book, A Brigit of Ireland Devotional - Sun Among Stars. The face of a red-haired woman (painting) looks out from a circle of Irish knotwork. The book rests on a photo of hawthorn leaves against a background of blue sky.

Wednesday, November 09, 2022

And speaking of books about Brigit! At long last, the sisters at Solas Bhríde are releasing an updated version of Sister Rita Minehan‘s book, Rekindling the Flame -  a Pilgrimage in the Footsteps of Brigid of Kildare.

From their newsletter:

Dear Friends,
The news you've been waiting on...a revised edition of 'Rekindling the Flame' is about to be published and will be available from Solas Bhríde from mid-December. The original book written by Rita Minehan csb has been hugely popular with pilgrims as it offered them a reflective guide to accompany them on their pilgrim journey in Kildare, from St Brigid's Cathedral to St Brigid's Garden and Wayside Wells. Rita's updated edition includes a history of the developments that have occurred in Kildare Town since 1999, in particular the opening of Solas Bhríde Spirituality Centre & Hermitages on Tully Road. The revised edition will appeal to those coming on pilgrimage to Solas Bhríde and Kildare Town but also to the many who have visited and wish to reflect on that journey through the story, legend, poems and meditations the book presents. The book will be officially launched on February 26th 2023, but more on that anon!!

Monday, October 24, 2022

 Just a reminder to those who read books about Brigit that I have a whole slew of reviews of Brigit books which you can find on my this blog, Brigit's Sparkling Flame and at Academia.edu.
I have a store of new books to review over the next year or two, and these come out one at a time on the blog. (A few have already been added, such as Morgan Daimler's Pagan Portals: The Dagda - Meeting the Good God of Ireland.) When I am done reviewing them all I will update the paper, or perhaps just do a Volume Two.
This marks the first time there have been so many books about her that I am picking and chosing which to review, rather than going for every one I can find. If you have some obscure title I might miss and think I should review it, please let me know. Review copies of your own books are welcome, and that includes your poetry book! I confess that I am omitting a couple of books I would like to review because of costs.

Happy reading!

Image: "Libreria ambulante Santiago de Chile" by L'odyssée Belle on Unsplash.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Bríd Libh!


I love how Órlagh Costello signs off her newsletters:

"Bríd libh


It means, simply, "Brigit be with you."

I breathe those words in and they mean so much more to me than the simple five syllables on the page – or two syllables, if we’re sticking with the Irish.

They are a blessing. May she be with you in every moment, in every thing. May you never be without her, without her there to still the angry waves that threaten to drown you, without her helping to guide you to the shore. This blessing illumines the world as I look out at it. It awakens all the good and beautiful, around and in me.

They are a reminder. May you remember that she is with you, that you are not unaccompanied, not left on your own, that she can work through you as much as she can work in you. In this way, the words are a powerful antidote to my sense of isolation, my sense of not being enough.

For so long I have written, "Brigit’s blessings on you." And this is a mighty statement, too. But I think I like Órlagh’s version more. I hope I remember to write it at the end of an email one day. I hope I remember to say it to you.

"Bríd libh, mo chairde."

Brigit be with you, my friends.

Image: By AR in Düsseldorf. Found on Unsplash.

More from Órlagh.

Monday, September 12, 2022

It's Back in Print! Alice Curtayne's Saint Brigid of Ireland


One of my favourite books about Saint Brigit has come back into print after many years, Saint Brigid of Ireland by Alice Curtayne. Cluny Media of Rhode Island is a recent Catholic publisher focussed on reprinting books which are no longer available. In homage to SBI's reprinting, I will repost here my review of the book. (To read the original post with the other reviews included, click here.)

St. Brigid of Ireland, Alice Curtayne, 1954, Sheed and Ward, New York. 162 pp.

 Already in her girlhood the lines of an exceptionally strong character are emerging. Her freedom won, the first use she made of it was to succour her mother, whose health was poor, but who was still engaged in the heavy labours of quern and churn.”

pg 28

Unfortunately long out of print and therefore pricey, you can try bookfinder.com for a second hand copy. Beware of mould. The one I ordered from Ireland was horrific to breathe next to. Try to get it from the library if you can, perhaps on interlibrary loan.

This passionate and beautifully written book took me by surprise. I read it over twenty-five years ago, at a time when I was interested in Brigit the saint only as a lens through which to glimpse the goddess, and the book had little to offer me then. It altered in my mind into a quaint and archaic piece of Catholic introspection, confused with Lady Gregory's “Brigit, the Mary of the Gael”1. I’m happy to have returned to it at a time when I can appreciate it.

Curtayne, a native of Brigit`s Kildare, writes from the perspective of a devoted Irish Catholic. Grounded in Church and Irish history and the stories of Celtic saints, she is aware of the significant role Brigit plays in Ireland: “She stands in the first shaft of light that illuminates our history, literature, topography, art and architecture ... Her contemporaries re-named the landmarks, recast the whole topography of the island, in order that she should be remembered (pg 4-5).” 

She touches on the limits and privileges of free women, then settles into the dark burden of the bond slave2, ending with a dramatic ushering in of St Brigit: “She stood isolated, without prototype, without peer (pg 9).” This reads at first like faith-driven hyperbole, and certainly faith plays a large part in her view of Brigit, but as the book unfolds she argues her case from a variety of materials, and the picture she paints is intriguing, filled with nuance and unexpected detail.

Curtayne clearly and extensively locates Brigit on the historical stage of her time. She explores the political climate of turbulence tempered with unity that then existed, particularly in the region of Ireland where she lived, outlining the struggle for territorial dominance between Leinster and the southern Ui Neill, the contention over the position of High King, and the backlash against a punitive tax levied on Leinster. “In striving to evoke the atmosphere of the fifth century, the reader must hear the clash of arms as the perpetual undertone to all other sounds (pg 16).” Some of her details may be arguable in light of modern research; nevertheless, situating her so clearly in her environment makes this an excellent introduction to and contemplation of Brigit and the world she emerged from.

She offers a glimpse of the lives of early Irish nuns, and knits together Patrick’s picture of Irish religious women with Brigit’s Lives as well as historical and mythic texts. She discusses how Brigit’s community might have looked, how building might have proceeded, what her chariot would have been like and how it would be to travel in it. She examines the Lives to learn of the character of the woman they depict, and finds much that I miss when reading the tales—her physical strength, for instance, as one who works hard in the dairy. The image of robust health and physical power that Curtayne envisions, so different from the assumption of beauty as slim elegance, gives us a homespun Irishwoman with acuity of mind and the confidence of an aristocrat. There is of course a taste of the good Catholic girl so familiar from Saints’ tales. But she is so much more than that here.

When she tells a tale from the Lives, Curtayne couches it in the background of the age: in discussing the ale references tittered at by moderns, she describes the role of ale, made fresh and weak and used as a common daily beverage, not a special drink to make men wobbly. In telling of her refusal of marriage, she lets us know clearly the privileged life—to a poet, that nobleman of the Celtic world—that Brigit was passing up. She ties together disparate bits of information—Brigit born a slave, daughter of a tribal leader: in attempting to wed her to a poet, he has in fact offered her the highest possible social position, and throughout her life she behaves as a woman who retains the power and self-assurance of her father’s class.

In telling Brigit’s stories this way, introducing ideas from ancient Ireland, such as regarding class or attitudes toward lepers, contrasting them with attitudes current in Biblical or modern times (the 1950s), and then personalizing the story, she gives often told and sometimes stilted stories new life. She reconnects them to a world and time other than our own and then imagines a human within them—how Brigit might have felt and why she reacted as she did. Finally, she will hint at, or carefully unfold, the symbolism or spiritual lesson she perceives there. 

In approaching the material as if Brigit was a real and historical figure, and in dramatizing to great effect, she expands our understanding not only of the story and symbol of Brigit, but her place in the story of Ireland. Unique in my reading about Brigit is the revelation of her here as a source of pride and unity for a country whose people had for centuries been oppressed and despised. This message, which comes scattered in various forms throughout the book, is an important reminder. Brigit may be internationally loved and venerated now, but this is a new version of her, added to and subtracted from without our necessarily noticing. Placing her back into this setting is important both for our understanding of Brigit and for our honouring of her origins and the people who introduced us to her.

Curtayne's belief in God doesn't lead her to swallow everything that “pious hagiographers (pg 19)” have written. She seeks rational understanding while at the same time turning over the spiritual lessons found in Brigit's Lives. But she does accept that miracles happen. “The stories (of her generosity) ring true, because for the most part they are at once extraordinary and trivial. If a later biographer were minded to invent miracles for Brigid, he would use rather more imagination and tell of something more impressive than a little food conveyed furtively to a dog (pg 21).” 

At times she struggles to make peace between her rigorous intellect and her faith. She says Patrick, having lived earlier than St Brigit, could not have known her. But in the Book of Armagh it is claimed otherwise. She accomodates this by saying that because of Brigit’s friendship with intimates of Patrick, it “may be taken as essentially true (pg 45).”

A little stretch of the truth is permitted elsewhere, too. “Not the faintest breath of scandal ever touched the double monastery founded by Brigid and Conlaeth (pg 63).” Now, it states clearly in the Liber Hymnorum that “She blessed the pregnant nun, she was whole without poison, without illness”. Perhaps this was some neighbouring nun, not of Kildare ... 3  Or perhaps this was not a scandal in Brigit’s day—it certainly doesn’t read like one in the tale.

Curtayne grounds Brigit to some extent in the mythology of her people. In telling the tale where Brigit gives away her father’s sword, she refers to the heroic sword given by a fairy queen which grew so long it touched the heavens like the curve of a rainbow. And she links Brigit directly to those heroes of old. “This strange creature, in whose veins flowed the blood of Conn of the Hundred Battles ... (pg 26)” This Brigit, though unapologetically Christian, becomes more truly Celtic and Pagan than many versions of the modern, reimagined goddess.

But she stops short of linking St Brigit directly to the goddess whose name she shares. While not denying the connection, she brushes it aside, refering in passing to “fearfully dull books” that suggest St Brigit was not a real woman, but only a product of the goddess (pg 109). 

In so many ways, the Brigit in Curtayne’s book takes on life and character, and in doing so, allows the reader to connect more fully with her meaning in his or her life. To Curtayne, Brigit is not merely a symbol. Her miracles, some though not all, are real. Her envisioning of Brigit’s life surpasses even Kondratiev’s4 imaginings, and is founded on a broad knowledge of the Lives, her times, the Celts, the Bible, and the history of the Church.

We are given Brigit’s presence in Ireland and her effect on it, the building of communities, the hosting of intellectual circles surpassing anything in England or on the Continent of that time. A careful comparison between Celtic Christianity and the Christianity of St Francis5, insight into St Brigit’s reaction to the violence around her, with its parallels to the Troubles yet to come in Ireland, her examination of difficult spiritual truths6—Curtayne approaches her topic from a dizzying multitude of angles. In a rare moment of she writes: “But not to incur a charge of bathos, it would be better, perhaps, not to mention in the same breath with the Brigidine circle Madame Récamier’s salon, or the “intellectual afternoons” of Hannah More and George Eliot (pg 69).” 

A rich offering indeed.

Purchase here.

Saturday, September 10, 2022

The Coracle Live Talks with Erin Aurelia


"Join [the Sisters of Avalon] for Books, Bards, and Ballads as we chat with Erin Aurelia, author, poet, editor, book coach, and creator of Daughters of Brighid Flametending Order.
"Erin Aurelia is the author of The Torch of Brighid: Flametending for Transformation, to be published in 2023 by Moon Books, in which she shares how flametending for the Irish goddess Brighid, when combined with ogham work, becomes a transformative daily practice that facilitates creativity, emotional healing, and spiritual growth. She has been flametending for Brighid for 20 years, and created and managed the Daughters of Brighid flametending order for eight of them. She is also known in the community of Brighidine flametenders and devotees for her annual Imbolc Advent and Celebration blog series, which is now featured in her upcoming book. She can be found and followed on Facebook at www.facebook.com/authorerinaurelia."

Click here top for more information.

Image of a blue background with a small woven boat, superimposed with the smiling face of a white woman.  Courtesy of The Coracle Live Facebook event page.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Daughters of the Flame—30th Anniversary!


It dawned on me that this Imbolc the Daughters of the Flame are celebrating thirty years of tending Brigit's fire together. It has been so amazing connecting with, practicing with, and sharing joy and sorrow with so many women on this path.

I am grateful for all of you, what you have taught me, what you have allowed me to be with you, what you have shown me of yourselves. I had no idea how this decision to do 'one small thing for Brigit' would change my life. No idea how holding space for other women to honour Brigit would challenge me and shape me. No idea of the love and kindness I would meet through her.

I would love to hear from all Daughters, past and present. I'd love to know how you are, where your path has led you, what Brigit has meant in your life, even if you have moved on from her, what our group, Daughters of the Flame, has meant for you.

We are talking, some of us, about how we might celebrate this amazing anniversary. (When I started I hoped we might last three years.) Not the whole group — my computer is kaput and I can't access my email lists. But we have time.

So happy. 🙏🏼🔥💧❤️

Image: Cross-stitch of Brigit holding a sword in one hand and a branch in the other. There are lines of shamrocks and flames below her and two four-armed Brigit's crosses, one on either side of her head. She was designed by Daughter of the Flame Donna Amaral in the 1990s.