Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Life of St. Brigid, virgin : first abbess of Kildare, special patroness of Kildare Diocese, and general patroness of Ireland (1877)

Life of Saint Brigid, Virgin, First Abbess of Kildare. The full text of this 1877 book by John Hanlon can be found online at the Internet Archive. Click above for a selection of formats.

Saint Brigit the Austere

A different view of Saint Brigit than is commonly considered today:

Quoted from The Irish Way, edited by F. J. Sheed, 1933.


...The Ireland into which Brendan had been thus ushered
was fraught with great change. War's terrible intoxication
was losing its attraction for the Irish, who were everywhere
accepting the doctrines of Christ. The descendants of
warriors who had harried the Romans to the Alps had
yielded to the pleadings of Patrick and were even then
raising throughout their land the foundations of a Spiritual
Empire that was to last to the end of time.

When Brendan was a year old Ere, complying with custom
and desirous of keeping him within his own jurisdiction, had
him sent to fosterage in Killeedy, County Limerick, There
but a very few years before, Saint Ita the youthful Brigid
[sic] of Munster had founded her convent and gathered a
number of women whose austerities and ministrations won
the esteem of many saints. The nun whose mortifications
inspired St. Cummian's writings naturally exercised a
profound influence over Brendan. Her special interest
in him is perhaps proof of the promise given even by his
earliest years. He returned her affection by a devotedness
that deepened with time and drew him back to her in later
life for sympathy and counsel in all his undertakings...

...Brendan's return about the year 540 is invested with the
mystery that surrounded his departure. From the con-
flicting accounts there emerges, however, one fact : that he
brought with him many disciples, one of whom bore princely
rank. It is stated that Brendan visited Saint Brigid after
his return, but as her death occurred twenty- five years earlier
this chronology is manifestly wrong. Whatever the date
of his visit, its purpose is interesting. During his travels
abroad Brendan had heard Saint Brigid's help invoked
with astonishing success. Greatly edilied [sic], he composed a
hymn in her honour and on returning home he visited the
Saint. Being asked the reason of her great power, she
replied that never for a moment was her attention diverted
from God. Whereupon Brendan, no doubt magnifying
his peccadilloes, confessed his remissness and was sweetly
reproved. The meeting is important because it shews the
great humility which ran as a leit-motif through the lives
of all the Irish Saints, Brendan's life was a prolonged
striving after perfection ; it is not wholly figurative to say
he hid from ecclesiastical honours or knelt in penance
before a nun...

The entire text of the book The Irish Way can be found, scanning errors and all, at the Internet Archive. Further, it can be viewed as a virtual book, downloaded as a pdf, or ordered as print-on-demand. Or you could just buy it from an independent bookseller through ChooseBooks or BookFinder.

The Coming of Angus and Bride

Wonder Tales from Scottish Myth and Legend by Donald Alexander Mackenzie
Illustrations by John Duncan
Frederick A Stokes Co., New York [1917]

An example here of the rewriting of Cailleach tales to include Brigit (Bride) as a part of a fabricated maiden/mother/crone mythos not found before the 1900s. according to Insa Thierling, author of Mistresses of the Land: Supernatural Females Associated with Land and Landscape in Scottish Gaelic Tradition. See previous post.

copied from:

The Internet Sacred Text Archive

Sacred Texts Legends & Sagas Celtic Index Previous Next

p. 33


The Coming of Angus and Bride

All the long winter Beira kept captive a beautiful young princess named Bride. She was jealous of Bride's beauty, and gave her ragged clothing to wear, and put her to work among the servants in the kitchen of her mountain castle, where the girl had to perform the meanest tasks. Beira scolded her continually, finding fault with everything she did, and Bride's life was made very wretched.

One day Beira gave the princess a brown fleece and said: "You must wash this fleece in the running stream until it is pure white."

Bride took the fleece and went outside the castle, and began to wash it in a pool below a waterfall. All day long she laboured at the work, but to no purpose. She found it impossible to wash the brown colour out of the wool.

When evening came on, Beira scolded the girl, and said: "You are a useless hussy. The fleece is as brown as when I gave it to you."

see the Comments section for the remainder of this story or go to the story as posted on the sacred texts website.

More than Winter’s Crone: The Cailleach in Scotland

"During the 19th Century some collectors, especially Donald A. MacKenzie, deliberately rewrote Cailleach tales and gave them a mythological element by adding Brighid as goddess of spring. Yet none of the orally transmitted tales make this conection. Brighid, the goddess of Imbolc is quite independent from the Cailleach. The Cailleach as winter goddess stands alone."

More than Winter’s Crone: The Cailleach in Scotland
sa Thierling

The above link is no longer working. When it was, I saved the article for my own use. 
I provide it in the comments section of this post.

The link between Brighid and the Cailleach is mentioned frequently in modern writings about Brigit in particular. For the whole article on the Cailleach see comments section of this post. (Comments section here includes some debate as well.) SEE ALSO Seren's post at her website Tairis: Bride and the Cailleach

"There’s no clear evidence of a Maiden/Mother/Crone goddess concept in Scottish folklore."

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Brigit, Harbinger of Spring: Audio Interview of Mary Condren

March 15, 2009

Brigit, Harbinger of Spring (click here for link to CBC archive of this interview)

Mary Hynes of Tapestry, CBC Radio One, interviews Mary Condren, Irish Brigit scholar and author of The Serpent and the Goddess.

Tapestry is a thoughtful and often inspiring weekly program on spirituality and religion.


[runs: 54:12]

Statue of Brigit, near Kildare, Ireland (Photo by: Kim Young-Milani)

The spring equinox arrives in a few days. On the pagan calendar, it is already here. The Celtic season of Imbolc began back in February. Its patroness is Brigit; part saint, part myth, ancient symbol of the Divine Feminine, and of a frozen world coming back to life. Mary Hynes speaks with Irish scholar Mary Condren about the renewed interest around the world in Brigit, fifth century saint from Kildare. Mary Condren teaches at the Centre for Gender and Women’s studies, at Trinity College, Dublin. She is also the author of The Serpent and the Goddess: Women, Religion and Power in Celtic Ireland.

A poem by Anne O'Reilly, read by Mary Condren:


These words will never carve your image out of bog oak
But that is what they want to do:
To dig down into the moist wetness,

To touch the layers of centuries that have made you,

Woman, Goddess, Saint
To see your shape emerge in tact from the ancient earth.
The fine coat of resin will preserve your beautiful shape

In tact, and I will call on you, Great Woman
To grace me with a golden branch and tinkling bells.
And I will polish you then with images of
Sun and moon and cows,
Sheep, serpent, vultures,
Bags, bells, bats,
And sacred fires.
So that you become a fiery arrow,
And breath life into the mouth of dead Winter.
As it is in these days in the lives of women, whose
Spirits have ceased to quicken.
Nurture them with your milk,
Be midwife to their birthing,
Release them from all that hinders them.
O! beautiful vessel still in tact, where we have unearthed you,
Remind us of your many manifestations,
And let us smile again in memory.
Your cloak spread in the green field of Kildare;
You who turned back the streams of war;
Whose name invoked stilled monsters in the seas
Whose cross remains a resplendent, golden, sparkling flame.
Come again from the dark bog, and
Forge us anew!

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Brigit's Gift of Plenty

This story appears on the internet in several places. It is taken from the book Tell Me A Story: Timeless Folktales from Around the World, adapted by Amy Friedman and illustrated by Jillian Gilliland.

Brigit's Gift of Plenty (an Irish tale)

March 16, 2003

Now Brigit -- the woman who was to become St. Brigit of Ireland -- was born at sunrise on the first day of spring, and what a lovely day it was, and what a special and generous child she was.
The angels, they say, baptized her, giving her the name Brigit because it means "fiery arrow," and oh, she was a quite a girl, with spirit and a determination to do good. Whenever she saw something she could make better, she set her mind to it, and in that determination, there was a kind of wondrous power.

Brigit's mother was no princess. No, she was a servant girl, and that is what Brigit grew up to be, too, but the angels and the Druids knew she was a special child. As a child, she owned a white cow with red ears. That set her apart from the rest from the very beginning. Like Brigit, her cow was pure and good, and the milk she gave tasted sweeter than any other milk in Ireland. But it was not only Brigit's cow that was special; she had a special way with all animals. Also, everything she touched seemed to grow and increase, and in this way Brigit helped many people in Ireland.

Brigit used her power for good to help others, and many tell the tale of the ways she worked. Brigit is said to have woven the first piece of cloth in Ireland, and her cloth had the power to heal. She helped to increase farmers' crops and flocks, and nurtured the birds and beasts, and helped the poor.

Once, when she had grown to young womanhood, Brigit went to her father's house to stay awhile. She did not often spend her time with him, for he had become annoyed with her years earlier when she tried to give away all his possessions to the poor. But her father was a decent man, and Brigit looked after him well on her visit, as she had looked after so many others.

One evening her father came to her with a sackful of wheat and a basket of bacon. "Take care to cook this well," her father said. "We have an important guest coming to supper tonight, and I want him to share a special meal."

"Of course, father," Brigit said, and peering into the basket, she saw five thick slices of bacon -- quite a treat. "Don't worry, father; I shall fry this bacon till it is sizzling and crisp, and I will serve your friend a meal such as he has never known."

Her father had come to have great faith in his daughter, and leaving her to her work, he set off for an afternoon walk through the woods.

While Brigit was preparing the supper, she heard a sound at the back door. There was scratching, followed by the most pitiful whimpering. She rushed to the door, and there she saw the skinniest, sorriest hound she had ever seen. His coat was rough, and his ribs showed through, and Brigit's heart broke at the sight of him.

"Come in, come in," she said to the poor creature, who, sniffing the air and smelling the aroma of cooking bacon, limped inside.

"Here then," Brigit said, and she handed the hound a thick piece of bacon.

Oh, you can imagine his joy at the taste of such a treat. He swallowed it in a gulp, and Brigit was certain she could see him smile. She patted his back, and feeling the ribs, she cringed. "You must have more," she said, and she handed him another slice, which he gobbled down.

The poor old hound sighed and licked his lips. Brigit could not stop herself and reached into the pan and handed the dog a third slice of bacon. He swallowed this one, too.

Naturally, she fed every piece of that bacon to the starving creature, and fed him other food as well, and when he was full, he licked her hand, slipped outside and fell into a peaceful sleep at the back door. Brigit returned to her tasks.

Just then her father returned from his walk in the woods. "Daughter," he said, "how is the meal?" And he looked into the pan, and sure enough there were five sizzling slices of bacon, as if Brigit had never taken any away. This was her special gift, to create abundance.

"Now we shall sit down to eat," her father said, and went to summon his guest. When they were gathered at the table, the guest turned to Brigit and said, "You did not see me in the yard earlier?"

"No sir," she said.

"Ah, well, I watched you as you fed that poor, starving hound, and I see that you are a special woman. You taught me about generosity as you worked," He looked at his friend, Brigit's father, and lifted the plate of bacon as a salute to Brigit.

"This will be for the hound," he said, and her father agreed, for they could see the miraculous power of a generous heart.

Tell Me A Story was awarded both the 2006 Parents' Choice Honors Award for story telling and the 2008 National Association of Parenting Publications Gold Medal. To search inside the book click here. To purchase the CD. For more on the author and illustrator, click here.

The Festival of Brigit the Holy Woman, by Séamas Ó Catháin

Celtic Studies LogoThere is available to us online a 30 pp paper by Séamas Ó Catháin entitled "The Festival of Brigit the Holy Woman". Below is a tiny taste of it. Please go to Celtica -- Journal of the School of Celtic Studies, for the full text.

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

Celtic Studies Logo

Leagan Gaeilge

English version

Scoil an Léinn Cheiltigh

School of Celtic Studies

Institiúid Ard-Léinn Bhaile Átha Cliath

Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies

Brigit as Triple Goddess, especially the Yellow-Green Enchantress
Here is an offering from the occultist Rory Goff, who writes extensively on his website about his own Rorian Tradition, a synthesis and extension of many mystical traditions. His perspective on Brigit is unique and fascinating.

First, some background on his spiritual thinking:

The Rorian Tradition is a Mystery School encouraging both (interior) Initiation and (exterior) Celebration through a rich calendrical liturgy which I believe may well be a re-creation or re-cognition of a universal Ur-Religion, and even an Ur-civilization.

As both student and teacher of the Mysteries, I believe firmly in experiential spirituality, and in a mystical substrate of divine experience that underlies, feeds and connects the best and most enduring qualities of all the great religions and civilizations. Ever since I was a small child, I have always studied and eclectically absorbed those elements that most inspired, uplifted, and grounded me: be they from the New-Age Movement, Greco-Roman Classicism, Hinduism, Theosophy, Norse-Celtic Druidry, Wicca, Neo-Paganism, Judaism, or Gnostic Christianity -- that is, Mystical Christianity. Much of my early teaching, in my teens and early twenties, was inspired first by Edgar Cayce, then Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, later by Alice Bailey (channeling Djwahl Khul), and then by Sondra Ray and other Immortalist devotees of Babaji. Since my later twenties, though, I have been going directly to Source to uncover the exciting material I offer to you now. Much of this more current Work I believe to be largely the offspring of my relationship with the Avatar of Synthesis, with whom I began consciously working in early 1985.

The Rorian Tradition

Brigit as Triple Goddess, especially the Yellow-Green Enchantress

(I am indebted to Dr. James MacKillop's masterful Oxford Dictionary of Celtic Mythology, 1998, Oxford University Press, for most of the mythological minutia herein.)

The Old Irish goddess Brigit is patroness of so many areas -- fire, smithing, cattle, fertility, poetry, crops -- that we may be justified in considering her a form of Triple Goddess, as Cormac hinted in his tenth-century Glossary. We examine here some arguments for seeing Brigit as a conflation of the Rorian tradition's Demiurges of the three Earth Signs: Blue-Violet Mason (Saturn in Taurus-Equinox Capricorn), Red-Orange Diviner or Abbess (Proserpina in T-E Taurus), and especially the Yellow-Green Enchantress (Isis in T-E Virgo). All three of these earthy Archetypes are both mothers and daughters of their opposite water Archetypes; this may explain Brigit's long-held associations with wells and waters.

Brigit as the Blue-Violet Mason: As patroness of fire and smithing, Brigit might well have originally been lady of the similarly-earthy but older arts of masonry, pottery and stone-cutting. Cooking pots were fired in clay long before they were cast in bronze; before tools and weapons were crafted in metal, they were carved or chipped from stone. As a stonemason Brigit would be equated with the Celtic deity called the Cailleach, the blue-faced Hag of Winter, who gathers up and deposits the giant boulders of the countryside, and thus would have been the builder of the cromlechs and menhirs. In the Rorian tradition the Cailleach is identical to the Indigo Mason, whose trees are the blackthorn and elder, whose animal is the goat, and whose bird is the raven or the crow. Governing Saturn in T-E Capricorn, this form of the Triple Goddess is the Crone, goddess of wisdom, trickery, and death. In her marvelous Pagan Celtic Britain (1996, Academy Chicago Publishers, p. 278), Anne Ross mentions an unidentified squatting deity thought to be the patroness of potters, and beaked like the Irish raven- or crow-goddesses; this would appear to be a form of the Cailleach or Brigit-as-Crone. The Cailleach is also the term for the last sheaf of the harvest, which is saved until spring. This may relate to the straw figure of Brigit placed in "Brigit's Bed" on her Feast Day of February 1; see below, Brigit as the Yellow-Green Enchantress.

Brigit as the Red-Orange Diviner or Abbess: As patroness of cattle and fertility, Brigit is clearly equated with Tara-Anna-Eithne, the Rorian tradition's Abbess, Diviner, and healer of the springtime, whose trees are willow and furze, whose animal is the cow or bull, and whose bird is the crane. Governing Persephone in T-E Taurus, this form of the Goddess is according to some the Mother (springtime is fertile, and her divine centers are the heart, hands, and breasts), or to others the Maiden, as in the springtime is not yet a mother; in the Rorian calendar she does not give birth until September, when she has the Red Hunter and the Turquoise Fowler. Like the Red-Orange Abbess, "Saint" Brigit is the mother of Ruadan ("the Red"), apparently a form of the Red Hunter. Brigit is often compared to Minerva, who in her Greek form of Athena would appear to be cognate with Eithne, wife of Nuada (the Green Priest) and thus the Red-Orange Abbess. In her form of Brigantia, she is equated with victory and Minerva, and even wears the mural crown, as Anne Ross points out in her Pagan Celtic Britain (1996, Academy Chicago Publishers, p. 279). The mural crown is identical to the Rorian tradition's Tower Crown, worn only by the Red-Orange Abbess at her coronation in Taurus.

Brigit as the Yellow-Green Enchantress: As patroness of poetry and crops, Brigit is most clearly equated with Freya as the Rorian tradition's Singer, Enchantress, and harvest-queen of Lammas and August, whose trees are hazel and apple, whose animal is the deer, and whose bird is the swan. The governor of Isis in T-E Virgo, this form of the Goddess is a Virgin and patroness of virgins, but is also the Mother, who in the Rorian calendar has just given birth at Lammas to the Blue Planter and the Violet-Red Forester. Brigit is thus an early form of the Virgin-Mother archetype later used by the Christians for Mary; "Saint" Brigit was revered by Celts as the midwife of Mary. Further, the Feast Day of St. Brigid is February 1; in the Rorian Calendar this is the time of Early Imbolc (ca. January 29-31), when the Yellow-Green Enchantress is reborn. In Celtic tradition this is when "Brigit's Bed" is made of (hazelwood?) basketry and a small figure of straw placed in it. (We can further add that February 14, the Christian "Valentine's Day," is the Rorian calendar's Late Imbolc, the Feast of the Epiphany of Brigit-Freya, when the Yellow-Green Enchanter becomes a woman.) Despite her many roles, Brigit is best known as patron goddess of poets and virgins, and her primary Demiurgic Archetype must thus be the Yellow-Green Enchantress.

© 1997-2001 Rory Goff