Monday, December 31, 2012

Pre-Order Discount on Brigit: Sun of Womanhood

Brigit: Sun of Womanhood

An anthology edited by Michael McDermott and Patricia Monaghan, scholars and followers of Brigit, featuring writers from Ireland,  Scotland, Canada, and the US.

Publishing date: Imbolc 2013

If you pre-order Brigit: Sun of Womanhood you will receive a special advance purchase price ($15) and free shipping in February 2013.

This of course is the last work of Patricia Monaghan, who died last month.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Anne Ross, Celtic Scholar

I'm a bit late learning of this, but Dr. Anne Ross, who introduced so many of us to Celtic studies and a world very different than our present one, has died. I am grateful to her for her clear, readable style and engaging approach to a subject that was to become a mainstay of my life, partly as a result of her books. She was the author of The Pagan Celts, Pagan Celtic Britain, Everyday Life of the Pagan Celts, Druids: Preachers of Immortality, The Folklore of the Scottish Highlands, and so on.

I will give you some of what I have gleaned from the web, as finding info on her isn't easy online.


This is what had to say, in its note for The Folklore of the Scottish Highlands:

The folklore of the Scottish Highlands is unique and very much alive. Dr Anne Ross is a Gaelic-speaking scholar and archaeologist who has lived and worked in crofting communities. This has enabled her to collect information at first hand and to assess the veracity of material already published. In this substantially revised edition of a classic work first published 30 years ago, she portrays the beliefs and customs of Scottish Gaelic society, including: seasonal customs deriving from Celtic festivals; the famous waulking songs; the Highland tradition of seers and second sight; omens and taboos, both good and bad; and, chilling experiences of witchcraft and the Evil Eye Rituals associated with birth and death. Having taken her MA, MA Hons and PhD at the University of Edinburgh, Anne Ross became Research Fellow in the School of Scottish Studies, Edinburgh. She then rapidly established herself as one of Britain's leading Celtic scholars. Her seminal work is "Pagan Celtic Britain" and she has also published "Druids - Preachers of Immortality" with Tempus Publishing.

From her obituary:

Published in the Media Wales Group on 1st September 2012 (Distributed in Wales)
This notice has had 794 visitors and has one message and 12 candles.

FEACHEM Dr Anne Ross (Celtic Scholar) Peacefully on Aug 29 at her home, Dr Anne Ross of Felin Gyffin, Llandre, Aberystwyth; beloved wife of the late Richard, dear mother of Charles and the late Berenice. Public funeral service at Aberystwyth Crem-atorium on Tuesday Sept 4 at 11.15am. Further inquiries to C Trefor Evans, Brongenau, Llandre, Aberystwyth. Tel 01970 820013


I did find a more personal tribute to Anne from the director of the documentary Heads! (I'm afraid a quick search doesn't bring me any info on the documentary, nor does the blogger/filmaker give either his name or a website, so you're on your own for now.) Follow the first link here to see the original post, with photos:

Anne Ross 1925-2012

It has recently come to my attention that Dr. Anne Ross, one of the central figures of the film Heads!, has died.

I never met Anne. By the time I started making my film, she was sadly suffering from dementia. She appears in archive footage, including a clip of her famous appearance on Nationwide where she spoke of her family’s terrifying experiences after receiving the purportedly cursed “Hexham Heads”. According to her son she could not remember her academic career by this stage. For many British archaeologists, however, it will be unforgettable.

Anne Ross will be best remembered for her book Pagan Celtic Britain, first published in 1967. I have a copy from the 1970s on my shelves, with this gorgeous cover:

It’s a hefty, academic work, and it became a key book in the field of Romano-British studies. But it was also widely read by hippies and freethinkers in the Sixties, who found its portrait of a wild, free, polytheistic Britain resisting the imperial rule of Rome heady despite its measured prose.

Ross was closer in spirit to her unexpected fan base than some of her academic supporters may have liked. She had a firm belief in psychic phenomena, and in her later life she often collaborated with Dr. Don Robins, an inorganic chemist who rose to prominence in the field of earth mysteries. The books she wrote with Robins were criticised by some of her former admirers,

A voluble, erudite woman with a Joanna Lumley-ish accent and a shock of appropriately Celtic red hair, Ross was a natural for television. Here she is in the 1980s BBC documentary series The Celts:

Anne settled down with her husband Richard and their children Richard and Berenice in Wales, where she was living at the time of her passing. She is survived by the junior Richard and, of course, her books, whose impact on the field of Celtic studies is matched only by the fondness with which modern students of the field talk of them.


Sincere condolences to her family and friends. Blessings on your journey, Anne.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Prayer Responses to Massacre of Children

The Daughters of the Flame, as many others, were very shaken by the attack on the teachers and children at school in Newtown. We organized a prayer vigil, and members reached out in many ways to others who were affected by the tragedy. I would like to share two prayers here, one which I wrote for our vigil, and one written by Kathryn Price NicDhàna. Kathryn's prayer is accompanied by a photo taken by her.

Prayer for the Grieving

Dear Mother Goddess Brigit
whose own son turned
in murderous treachery
against his mother’s people
and died

You know the grieving of our hearts

Bless us Brigit
in our anger and our shock
in our broken hearted sorrow
Bring healing to those who live
and peace to those who died

Build us whole again
Sing our rebirth
that we may live
in awareness and compassion
on this beautiful
troubled Earth

Mael Brigde

Prayer for Grieving Mothers

Kathryn Price NicDhàna

Monday, December 17, 2012

Moving Out from Under the Oak (& Brigida Thaumaturga)

A very interesting blog on Irish saints has recently been deleted: Under the Oak, by Brigit, "an Irishwoman interested in the history of the early Irish church and the lives of our native saints". It is not findable by the Internet Archive Way Back Machine. It is gone.

Brigid has begun two new blogs, where some of the old material will be revised and represented, and new material will arrive as well. The new blogs are: Omnium Sanctorum Hiberniae, where she will "carry on blogging about the Irish saints", and Trias Thaumaturga, "dedicated to the three patron saints of Ireland. There you will find most of the posts on Saint Patrick, Saint Brigid and Saint Colum Cille which were published" at Under the Oak.

Shortly before the deletion, I happened to do a search of the site and kept a few of her Brigit posts open in a tab to eventually share with you. Here is a little of what she had there: (Note: if you read the comment section below you'll see that the Brigit posts have been largely reposted. The link on the title of the article will take you to its position on the new site.)

A 17th-Century View of Saint Brigid: Brigida Thaumaturga

Brigida Thaumaturga, Brigid the Wonderworker, is the title of a 17th-century treatise on Saint Brigid written by David Rothe, Bishop of Ossory (1568-1650) and published in Paris in 1620. The full title is Brigida Thaumaturga sive Dissertatio partim encomiastica in laudem ipsius sanctae, partim archaica, ex sacra et antiqua historia ecclesiastica, partim etiam parenetica ad alumnos Collegiorum, in qua elucidatur prodigium ligni aridi reviriscantis ex attractu B. Brigidae Virginis, et symbolico sensu accommodatur ad antiquam quod intercesserat commercium inter Galliam et Hiberniam in rebus sacris, literariis, et civilibus, habita in Collegio Hibernorum Parisiense, Kalendis Februarii, die festo ejusdem sanctae. Parisiis apud Sebastianum Cramois sub ciconiis, via Jacobaea. M.D.C.XX.', Brigid the wonder-worker; or a dissertation partly laudatory, in praise of the Saint, partly archaeological drawn from sacred and from ecclesiastical history, and partly also hortatory, addressed to the students of the (Irish) Colleges. In it the miracle of the wood growing green again at the touch of the Virgin Brigid is explained; and symbolically applied to the ancient inter-course between France and Ireland, in things sacred, literary and civil. Delivered in the Irish College in Paris on February I, Feast of the Saint. Published by Sebastian Cramois, under the Sign of the Storks. Rue Saint-Jacques, 1620.' Now, that's what I call a title! Jason Harris of the Centre for Neo-Latin Studies, University College Cork, has made an online edition of the Latin text available here. I don't know of any English translation, but the 1911 paper below, written by Father Patrick Boyle (1849-1933), offers a summary of its contents and a biography of its author. Note that the title contains a reference to the miracle of the wood growing green again at Saint Brigid's touch, this miracle is noted in one of the lessons for the saint's office in the Roman Breviary as well in the Sarum-rite office. Also worth looking out for in the paper is the hymn which Bishop Rothe wrote in praise of Saint Brigid when her intercession delivered him from shipwreck. I have transferred the translation of this from the footnotes into the main text beneath the Latin original. It is most interesting to read of this 17th-century view of Saint Brigid, one which appears to be grounded in hagiographical tradition, for the Bishop sees his patroness as the wonderworking head of Irish nuns, distinguished for her faith and charity, a figure far removed from the goddess, social worker or environmental activist of our own times.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Charm for difficulty in breathing

Charm for difficulty in breathing

“A person who had difficulty breathing might be relieved by ortha an tachtaidh: ‘Seven of the prayers of the Son of God. And seven of the prayers of the two holy women and the angel. And the creed in honour of holy Brighid. O Brighid, come to the help of this poor person!’ At these last words the person saying the charm breathed into the mouth of the sufferer and then said seven Paters, seven Aves and the Credo.”

from Irish Country People by Kevin Danaher, 1966.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Listening Once More to "Welcome Brigid"

Welcome Brigid: mystical and celtic chant and song to the divine feminine, by Katy Taylor, with Amy Fradon and Lynn Margileth.

I mentioned this CD three years ago, with a link to the CD Baby site where you can preview it. But I have just spent a quiet hour listening to it, not as background music as I bop through my day, but really listening to every word. (Though not understanding all--Taylor sings in Irish and Latin as well as in English.)

I just want to tell you again--it is beautiful, prayerful, joyful, wonderful. Both Mary and Brigid are honoured here, with a mixture of traditional and original lyrics, rhythmic chant and high voice. If you haven't encountered it, please follow this link and you will soon learn more.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Patricia Monaghan

I have been hanging on to announce the upcoming release of Brigit: Sun of Womanhood, a Brigit anthology edited by Patricia Monaghan and husband Michael McDermott.

Very sadly, I must announce Patricia's death instead. I will reprint her husband's words here, copied from Agora

I am devastated by the loss of my beloved wife and partner in all things, Patricia.  I am also filled with gratitude and love for all the wonderful things said about Patricia.  She has left our lives and yet she will live long.  There is a huge hollow in me and in the life and all the things that Patricia and I did and will do.
She traveled a journey with cancer these last 2 years.  It was a journey of hope and disappointment. It was a journey that included her work, whether it was finishing the paperback version of Goddesses and Heroines, how to strengthen the Black Earth Institute, the decorating scheme for the Wisconsin house after we moved from Chicago, or how to control the temperature in the new root cellar. She was concerned that we had not yet put away the dried beans from the garden. On Friday evening, we were working on editing a manuscript until 11:30 at night.  She died at home in my arms on Sunday morning at 3:45AM.
She didn’t like to be called brave, though she was.  She didn’t at all like being called a force of nature, but she was. She didn’t like it when people said, “How can you do so much?”, but she “did” from morn ’till night.  We would work hard all day on many things and then say, “Well, at least we got a little bit done.”
Patricia was a scholar, artist, spiritual practitioner, and leader and political activist.  She was a gardener and literally a path creator. One of my favorite memories is of her pulling our large honeysuckle bushes in the wet spring soil to create a path in our woods.  This creation she carried into all things, whether leading us to the goddess, to a land ethic, or to the struggle for a more just society.
There will be an informal get together at Brigit Rest (in southwestern Wisconsin) this Saturday, November 17, from 2PM to 7PM.  More like a potluck where in addition to covered dishes, bring memories or mementos of Patricia.  (Bring the covered dish, deserts and libations as well).
A formal ceremony will be held on Saturday, December 1 at Brigit Rest as well.  There will be a service at the Madison meeting hall of the Society of Friends (Quakers), likely the same day.
Let us all honor Patricia for all the things she was and will be.
You may wish to visit Patricia's obituary at Wild Hunt. For memorial information, go here
Brigit's blessings on your journey, Patricia.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The following post is reprinted from 
Woman Spirit Ireland, the site belonging to The Institute of Feminism and Religion. I reprint it here because it is rare to find instructions on how to actually gather the rushes you use to make Brigit's Cross. See below for the skinny!

Brigit(The Institute for Feminism and Religion aims to explore a prophetic approach to feminism and religion, inclusive of many traditions and emerging consciousness in Ireland. We do this by providing opportunities for women to reclaim religion by engaging theoretically and experientially with the issues or feminist theology, ethics, spirituality and ritual.)

Making Brigit’s Crosses 

Merovee Guerin

Tiny Crosses

The traditional cross is made from either field or lake rushes. Made from field rushes, it loses its freshness as it dries. The lake rushes are more sturdy, and the cross a bit bigger. I also found a way to make a cross which looks from the front exactly like the traditional cross but has the advantage to keep its shape when finished. It comes from the Maori tradition. 

Field Rushes

For the Brigit celebrations the rushes are pulled (not cut). One does not need a lot of rushes never more than 40).  So I think it is worth pulling them with awareness.

Place your hand very low on the stem of the rush and pull steadily.  When the rush does not break it has a beautiful white/cream/yellow part which contrasts nicely with the deep green.  I often use this for effect in a cross.
Field rushes are the rushes one can see in any field.  But in February it is difficult to find beautiful rushes as they are often burnt by the gales.
Sometimes one might be lucky and find rushes tucked in the hedge at the edge of a field, or in a low part away from the wind.

In general I go to the forest.  It needs to be low lands forestry.  There are often big ditches in the forestry and there, are the lush rushes which will be pliable.

Wear wellies and gloves.


Harvesting Lake

Lake rushes must be harvested in June or July.  Do not leave too late as they lose their pliability and get spotted.Find a lake with shallow water.  The rushes grow in 2 feet the water.  Cut the rush as low as possible.

I usually bring a rope which floats on the water and keep the cut rushes together. Dry rushes in a well aired area. Turn them from time to time.  Keep away from direct sun.

Store in a dry place.

Before using the rushes I usually lay them in water for a few minutes and wrap them in  plastic to allow the water to soften the outside fibres and make the rush more pliable.

Go with someone.  Someone stays on the shore.

Wear some kind of foot protection.

Have fun.
Traditional Brigit's Cross
Maori Cross

Friday, November 16, 2012

St. Bridget Spirituality Centre

St. Bridget Spirituality Centre of Sherwood, Wisconsin, is an Anglican ministry inspired by Bridget of Ireland, Celtic Christianity, Hildegarde of Bingen, and other sources. Rev. Dr. Ann Barker and Rev. Chrystal J. Reichard offer weddings, religious education, faith formation, and retreat services. With an emphasis on soul companioning and the mind, body, spirit connection, the reverends have much to offer Protestant seekers of a deep spirituality.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

"The Brídeog" by Casey Wolf

If you peer up at the top of this page you will see, next to the Home button, a link to a second page where you can read the short story "The Brídeog"  by Casey June Wolf. It tells the tale of an Imbolc visitation to a house with one believing, and one very disbelieving, woman.

This story was first published in  Escape Clause: A Speculative Fiction Anthology, edited by Clelie Rich (2009) and is reprinted by permission. To make it simpler to find I will add the link here.

The drawing used with the story is by E.E. Evans, and appeared on the cover of his book Irish Folk Ways (1957).

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Brat Brigid Festival in Armagh (2010)

I'm wondering how often the Archdiocese of Armagh's Office of Pastoral Renewal and Family Ministry might offer a Brigit festival. This was the roster of events for the one in 2010. Sounds as if it was amazing. (They are hiring, by the way: SMA are looking for a Laity Coordinator. If you are interested in this post, click here for more details.)

Brat Bhríde - St Brigid's Festival

Brat Bhríde welcomes you to this festival which celebrates Brigid of Faughart and the Celtic festival of Imbolc in myth, landscape, folklore, spiritual customs, music poetry and dance. The emphasis of this festival is to revisit and reclaim the richness of the traditions associated with Brigid of Faughart, in ways which are relevant to our lives in the 21st century.
The lectures and workshops will offer opportunities for expanding and deepening our knowledge of Brigid for tasting the Wisdom that she was and still is, for integrating feminine consciousness more surely to contemporary culture.

The music and the time honoured rituals associated with Brigid and Imbolc will nourish our hearts and souls, and give us confidence in these uncertain times.

Brat Bhríde (Maura Lennon, Mairéad Heaney, Dolores Whelan, MariAnne Gosling, Maura Matthews, Catherine Pepper and Noreen Townsend ) is a voluntary group who have come together to organise this event.
The festival is supported by County Louth Tourism; Louth Heritage; Create Louth; Louth County Library; An Tain Theatre and DKIT.

Wednesday, 27th Jan:

Healing Circle 7.30 p.m
Facilitator: Fr. Tom Hamill

Venue: St. Brigid's Special School, Ard Easmuinn Cost: €10

Thursday 28th Jan:

Cross making workshop for school children 11.00 am
Facilitators: Maura Lennon and Una Casey

Venue: County Library Roden Place Dundalk Free event

RECEPTION of Sacred Flame & Healing Water 4.30pm

Venue: Town Centre (opposite Courthouse)

This ceremony brings together two symbols associated with Brigid, the Sacred Flame from Kildare and the Healing Water from Faughart Well.

Invitations have been extended to representatives from all the traditions.
We hope you will join us in this special celebration.

St. Brigid, Glassdrumman, Co. Armagh

Brigid and the Cosmic Landscape 8.00pm
Speaker: Anthony Murphy

Venue: County Museum, Jocelyn Street, Dundalk Cost €5
Anthony Murphy is an author and editor of the Dundalk Democrat.
He is co-author with Richard Moore of Island of the Setting Sun.

Friday Jan 29th

“Exploring the magic and the mystery of Water” 1.00pm
Speaker: Dolores Whelan

Venue: Dundalk County Library

In this talk Dolores draws on the work of Dr Emoto, a Japanese researcher, whose work shows the amazing effect of thinking and music on the crystalline structure of water. Dolores explores what this might mean in our lives especially the healing aspect of water. Free Event

Dolores Whelan is author of Ever Ancient Ever New Celtic Spirituality in the 21st Century. She facilitates retreats and workshops which bring together insights from science and spirituality.

Friday Jan 29th:

Brigid brings new life to today's Ireland
Rekindling the fire of Brigid
Facilitator: Padraigín Clancy 7.30pm
Venue: Armagh Diocesan Pastoral Centre, The Magnet, Dundalk Cost: €15

Padraigín Clancy is an Irish Folklorist and historian with a special interest on Celtic Spirituality. She facilitates retreats that embrace Celtic spirituality, in Ireland USA and Australia .She is editor and co-author of Celtic Threads Exploring the wisdom of our Heritage (1999)


Saturday Jan 30th :

Registration for events in Armagh Diocesan Pastoral Centre, 9.30am

The Rites of Brigid Goddess and Saint 10.00, 11.30am
Speaker: Fr. Sean O'Duinn

Venue: Aramagh Diocesan Pastoral Centre, The Magnet, Dundalk Cost €10

Fr Sean O'Duinn is a monk in Glenstal Abbey and author of Where three streams meet and The Rites of Brigid Goddess and Saint. For many years he has lectured in Celtic Mythology and Folklore in Mary Immaculate College in the University of Limerick.


Turas an Chroí - Journey of the Heart (Workshop 1)
Music and movement take us closer to what language cannot reach. It is a journey into stillness, mystery and our own creativity, the journey of the heart. This is an invitation to explore chant, meditation and movement through the depth, beauty and richness of our Celtic heritage.
12.00 - 1.30pm
Facilitator: Deirdre Ní Chinnéide
Venue: Armagh Diocesan Pastoral Centre, The Magnet, Dundalk Cost: €15

Deirdre Ní Chinnéide has sung extensively in both Irish and English for many years. She explores the healing potential of sound and song with particular connection to the Spirit and Shadow of Celtic Consciousness.


Does Brigid keep us right around here? (Workshop 2)
3.00pm -5.30pm
Facilitator: Tom Hamill
Venue: Armagh Diocesan Pastoral Centre, The Magnet, Dundalk Cost €25
Tom Hamill is deeply committed to, and experienced in offering opportunities to adults whereby they can grow in self-knowledge, compassion and a sense of interconnectedness.

St Brigid's Church, Belleek, Co. Armagh

Booking through Library phone 042 9353190

© All material on this website is copyright of the Office of Pastoral Renewal and Family Ministry, Archdiocese of Armagh

Designed and developed by GetOnline

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Brigit and Blindness

Votive offering representing eyes.

Musée Archéologique de Dijon

On hearing that a friend and follower of Brigit is developing cataracts, I remembered reading a number of tales of Saint Brigit that concern blindness. I wanted to look back through those stories to see if there was anything that might be of use for her. I often find some subtle insight offered if not in the tale’s intended message, then in some detail within it. This is a personal thing, and I doubt we would all find the same meanings, or any at all, necessarily. I have not offered all of these to her—it is probably not the time—but I will offer a few to you in case they are of use.


Brigit is no stranger to blindness. In a gruesome story from the 8th century "Irish Life of Brigid", the Bethu Brigte, Brigit blinds herself in order to block her forced marriage. She is miraculously healed with the aid of a stream created by her own staff, but all attempts to marry her against her will are ended. (She takes violent eye-related revenge on one of her brothers for his malicious part in all of this.)

There are many references in her Lives to Brigit healing the blind. In Faughart, her supposed birthplace, one of her bullaun stones has the power to heal spiritual blindness.

But she didn't always cure the affliction. In the Leabhar Breac (Speckled Book) of the 15th century, it says,She bettered the sheep: she tended the blind: she fed the poor.” Tended does not necessarily mean cured. If caring for, and not curing, is what is meant here, this suggests to me that there are times when she finds it preferrable to leave things as they are. In looking at my own life, I know that, painful as it is, sometimes we don’t gain the outcome we want and pray for—yet sometimes another outcome, very much unwanted, leads to a different blessing altogether.

A couple of her tales hint at this.

Once, Brigit relied on a blind man to assist her when no one else was able1. Inspired by a vision, Brigit wished to have the whole Roman ritual and liturgy brought to her. Three times she sent disciples to Rome to fetch it. Twice they returned having forgotten everything they learned. The third time she included with the disciples a “certain blind protégé” of hers who was blessed with the ability to remember everything perfectly. En route the pilgrims met with a storm and dropped anchor; they were afterwards unable to retrieve it. Drawing lots, the blind man was given the job of diving deep to recover the anchor, but although the ship was freed, he did not return. He was lost until the crew met the same difficulty on another day, being forced to drop anchor in the same place. When they hauled the anchor aboard he climbed up with it, carrying the Roman Rite and a bell that came to be known as the “bell of the blind son.” This story was meant to show Brigit’s support for the Roman versus the Irish Christian traditions,which I suspect wasn’t a big interest of Brigit’s, given when she lived. What I find interesting, though, is that the only person with the wisdom and vision to perform her miracle is the one man without sight.

Colgan, in his Trias Thaumaturga, Vita Quarta S. Brigidæ, tells a particularly moving story about blindness (also related in O’Hanlon’s Life of St Brigid):

One evening, she sat with Sister Dara, or Daria, a holy nun, who was blind2, as the sun went down; and they talked of the love of Jesus Christ, and the joys of Paradise. Now, their hearts were so full, the night fled away whilst they spoke together, and neither knew that so many hours had sped. Then the sun came up from the Wicklow mountains, and the pure white light made the face of earth bright and gay. Bridget sighed, when she saw how lovely were earth and sky, and while she knew that Dara s eyes were closed to all this beauty. So she bowed her head and prayed. She extended her hand and signed the dark orbs of the gentle sister. Then the darkness passed away from them, and Dara saw the golden ball in the east, while all the trees and flowers glittered with dew in the morning light. She looked a little while, and then, turning to the abbess, said: “Close my eyes again, dear mother, for when the world is so visible to the eyes, God is seen less clearly to the soul.” So Bridget prayed once more, and Dara’s eyes grew dark again.

1Life Of St. Brigid, First Abbess Of Kildare, Special Patroness Of Kildare Diocese, And General Patroness Of Ireland by the Rev. John O'Hanlon, M.R.I.A. (1877)

2Apparently she was blind from birth.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Animated Brigit!

AwesomeeHappyChappy posted this bouncy celebration of Brigit's acquisition of land for her monastery:

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Brigit's Cloak & An Ancient Yew Forest

Jo at Celtic Memory Yarns wrote a year and a half ago about putting out a brat bhride for the first time, and also about her visit to an ancient yew forest in Killarney. (Also a lot of other things. For the full post, or to subscribe to her blog, go here.)
Monday, April 04, 2011

Of Brigit's Cloak, An Ancient Yew Forest, Bee Judgements and Bould Actors (excerpt)

I should have thought of it sooner, of course. Isn't it always the way, that you have studied something for years, and yet you never apply its practicalities to your own life? That back of mine wasn't getting any better, and I was still unable to sit at the computer - or anywhere else for that matter - for more than two minutes at a time without discomfort.

With time to think (a rare commodity), I remembered that the morrow was Feb 1, Brigit's Day, Candlemas, Imbolc, whatever you call it in your corner of the world. And that very day, a friendly woman who runs a great coffee house in Macroom town square, had said her family had always put out the 'Brat Bride' on the eve of her festival. I'd been checking for old customs and traditions as usual, for De Next Book, and noted this down carefully as evidence of the old ways still continuing in West Cork. Somewhere between twilight and dark, the rusty penny dropped in my own brain.

Why not put out the Brat Bride myself, and see would it help the back any? (It's pronounced 'brah breed-eh' by the way.) This is a length of ribbon or cloth placed on a friendly bush on Brigit's Eve where the dew or rain can fall on it, and Brigit herself can confer power upon it as she passes. Next day it is brought back into the house, dried, and kept carefully for the year ahead, to apply to anyone suffering from pain or injury. What better to use than the Advent Lace Shawl I'd knitted along on with Zemy during December? Just the right sort of thing to appeal to Brigit, I felt.

Outside the front door it went, to be carefully draped around the bay tree which stands there in a pot. Didn't dare to place it any further afield, as the wild winds would certainly blow it to Tir na n'Og and I'd never see it again. Brought it in duly on February 1, dried it, and laid it across my bed that night. Possibly it was going to happen anyway, especially with the physiotherapy I'd been getting, but my back started to improve right away.

Now it's in a place of honour on the spinning chair, ready for the next emergency. Old ways are good.

So much recovered did I feel that we headed down to Killarney in search of a very ancient yew forest, the only one remaining in Ireland, and one of just three in Europe overall. It has all kinds of official protective status now, but for me the important thing was that it had been there back in the mists of time, when trees were highly valued and believed to be the holders of considerable magical powers. Oh of course we know better these days. How could a tree be stronger or better for us than a computer chip, for heaven's sake? What benefit could a bush possibly bestow that modern technology cannot?

Here's just a glimpse of the edge of that ancient wood, which was old when the Tuatha de Danann walked this land. You'll get more when we go back in brighter spring weather to do a serious photoshoot. But let me share with you a very very venerable quotation which I discovered recently while researching De Next Book. The speaker is Fintan the seer, who claims to his hearers that he survived the Deluge and has lived in Ireland ever since, seeing kings come and go, landscapes change, while he lives ever on.

‘One day I passed through a wood of West Munster in the west. I took away with me a red yew berry and I planted it in the garden of my court and it grew up…’ Now you can't get more west Munster than Killarney, and I think that Fintan is surely speaking here of this selfsame ancient yew wood of Reenadinna, now within Killarney National Park. It gives you a strange feeling to stand silently amid those trees and moss-covered rocks, and think how long this forest has been here. Of course the individual trees grow and die (though yew has a very long life, sometimes a thousand years), but new ones spring up from their roots or their fruit, and the forest continues in an unbroken tradition.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Song and Image: A Beautiful Rendition of "Song to Brighid"

Shaman Light by Amanda Clark

A lovely circumambulation:

I was doing a "Brigit" search a few minutes ago and found a YouTube video of Lisa Thiel's "Song to Brighid", from her album Invocation of the Graces. I wasn't mad about the video portion but I wanted to add the video to Brigit's Sparkling Flame, realizing I had listed it before but never shown it. So I went searching for a version I liked better.

Before I tell you what I found, a bit about Lisa from her

Brighid by Lisa Thiel
"Lisa is a priestess of Brighid and Kuan Yin in the Fellowship of Isis and honors the old Celtic Wheel of the year. She is also an accomplished astrologer, tarot reader and interpreter of dreams. 'My work is inspired by my dreams and visions that come from my spirit, my sacred dreams. My music and art are the gifts of the encounters with my soul.'"

I am happy to share her Brighid song with you.

To my delight Boudicca17368 had put together the song with some amazing imagery, all by the same woman: one Amanda Clark.

I must see more of this Amanda's art, said I! A quick search (Brigit bless the internet), and I was at her blog: earth angels art. (See also her website.)

According to her Fine Art America profile, "Amanda Clark lives in a country village in England UK. She is mainly a self-taught artist and comes from an artist family. She...gained a National Diploma in ceramics and surface pattern in the early 1990's...and is inspired by folklore and myths and the peacefulness of beautiful landscapes with a twist of fairytale and magic. She paints in acrylic and watercolour creating depth and pattern to the beautiful colours in her creations. She has also illustrated four books and is currently painting and line drawing for her 5th book about magical herbs."

There is a little surprise in all of this, though.

When I found Amanda's blog and went to see her pictures there, I discovered that an hour previously she had listed Brigit's Sparkling Flame, specifically the post "Goddess of Smithcraft (with emphasis on Blacksmithing)", on her own blog! Round and round the garden with our teddy bears! And she had done this only moments after I posted it.

A little more digging around revealed that Amanda is a follower of this blog. (Hi, Amanda!) And interestingly, when doing my Amanda search, I discovered another Amanda Clark in my own country of Canada who is...a metalsmith. (I'm getting a little dizzy now.)

So! On to the video.

Goddess of Smithcraft (with emphasis on Blacksmithing)

Blacksmith Woman

For the smiths among us, and those Brigidines interested in knowing more about the smith side of the goddess, there is available online BLACKSMITH PRACTICE: EM 862 (War Department Education Manual).

Metal Web News provides the manual with links to the various chapter. Or you can download it from scribd, sans links.
I draw your attention to this one piece, but in fact Metal Web News has a host of other articles branching out from their Blacksmithing page, as well as a Forge-Foundry-Casting page with lots of pictures and how-to information.

For chat about blacksmithing, go to the John C. Campbell Folk School Blog's "Blacksmith Shop" and get in on the conversation.

Wander over to, the website of Lorelei Sims (Artist and Blacksmith) for a look at her work, her farm (Pasture Prime Commune!), her book (The Backyard Blacksmith), her dogs...Heck, she even has blacksmithing t-shirts, including my favourite, the Fire Goddess T-Shirt:

For those who like video, go to (a rich site and host of three smith-related blog rings) and check out their in-depth review of the Forge and Anvil TV series and books hosted by Alan Rogers in 1995. Good news! The series is now available on DVD.. You can catch lots of blacksmithing videos on YouTube as well, from the amateur, like christopher5361's homemade forge video, to the professional, such as the previews of Bob Rupert's TV shows (Blacksmithing with Bob Rupert). Check out "Let's Make a Nail." If you like what you see you can buy the DVDs from the makers here.

Maybe you are really interested and want to take a course. There are lots of places to do that now, though the craft nearly died out at one point in North America. How about rounding your knowledge out nicely at the John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina? Besides basic blacksmithing the school "provides experiences in non-competitive learning and community life that are joyful and enlivening. Located in scenic Brasstown, North Carolina, the Folk School offers year-round weeklong and weekend classes for adults in craft, art, music, dance, cooking, gardening, nature studies, photography and writing."

Renaissance Lady Blacksmith by Francesa Miller
You have to snoop around a bit to get a lead on all the smithing courses, depending on where you live. There are a couple of lists online (eg here) but they aren't exhaustive. You might do best to search "blacksmith" "school" and the name of your area, or you may miss something small but good nearby, as all the larger ones crowd to the top of the search results. If you love horses, you can get a diploma as a farrier at Olds College in Olds, Alberta (a really lovely area to squirrel away for two years, I should think). Another is the Maritime Farrier School in Truro, Nova Scotia, which also is a beautiful spot to be. Or if you want something that will take you from basic blacksmithing to wildly creative art- and armour-making, try Thak Ironworks in Floradale, Ontario.

And once you've got a start on your craft, you may want to join a blacksmithing association, such as the Vancouver Island Blacksmith Association. ("VIBA a non-profit society formed for the sole purpose of keeping blacksmithing alive in British Columbia. Members demonstrate at various local events including major annual events at the Fairgrounds, and at other local country fairs, Heritage Festivals, and schools. VIBA also hosts workshops featuring professional smiths.")

Of course, Brigit is not only a goddess of blacksmiths. There are whitesmiths, bronzesmiths, silversmiths, and so on. I leave it to you to search out some good contacts (and perhaps provide us with links).

Finally, you may just want to admire or purchase metalcraft, new or antique. Or how about new but modelled on antiques? Mark Shier of Gaukler Medieval Wares is one smith who delights in talking about his wares, and who takes great care in creating copies of ancient handicrafts, as well as selling antiques--coins, belt buckles, and so on. And yes, you could afford a lot of them. Why, I bought a handmade (and perfect!) bronze sewing needle from him for 7$.

Mark's creations
In his words, "Gaukler Medieval Wares makes jewellery and metalwork in ancient and medieval styles, using the methods and materials of the past. I do custom work, as long as the design is medieval or earlier. We also sell authentic ancient and medieval antiquities. All antiquities pictures have a white background, and all of my work has a black background."