Friday, May 25, 2018

Gail Arthur - Celebrancy and Storytelling

Gail Arthur has tended Brigit’s fire with the Daughters of the Flame for the past seventeen years. Her intelligence, compassion, and deep sensitivity make her a caring and supportive co-religionist. These, added to her brilliant creativity, make her a thoughtful and inspiring dramatist, poet, writer of fiction, storyteller, and dancer.

But there is another side to Gail. She is also a celebrant.

I have recently been contemplating the end of my own life, which I hope is not right around the corner, but which will come at some point, and that is not the moment at which I want to start thinking of what to do.

One of the first thoughts that came to me was that, if it was at all possible, I would like to have Gail involved in the guiding of my presence from this life. I know that she would handle it with ability and love. It then occurred to me that other followers of Brigit might want to have access to someone like Gail at key moments in their life, so I invited her to write a brief self-introduction that I could present to you.

Thanks and blessings on your work, Gail.

Mael Brigde

Celebrancy and Storytelling

I am both storyteller and celebrant. As a storyteller, I weave the elements of a tale, taking audiences on a journey that leads inwards to themselves. As a celebrant, I do much the same thing, taking people into the stories of their lives.

Our lives are a continuing story, and there are important turning points along the way – places where we are propelled – or choose – to move in a new direction, and enter a new stage.

These occasions are momentous, life-altering, and irrevocable: the birth of a child, the transition from childhood to adult, a marriage, the transition to elder, death, the loss of an animal companion or a friend, a divorce, or a decision to leave behind a toxic birth family or other situation. Each of these steps brings its own trials, emotions, joys, fears, sadness and new opportunities. To move in one direction is to leap into the unknown, it is to leave behind the familiar.

My job as a life-cycle celebrant, is to take the strands of an individual life, knitting together a ceremony that addresses the emotions and the reality of a new situation. This could mean acknowledging and helping the grieving process, and well as the celebration of a life lived; acknowledging the responsibility and joy that comes with the birth of a child, the change of situation for a new adult, the changes that come with a new partnership, and with the transition to elderhood.

Often, the transition to elderhood can be difficult in our western society. Taking a look at what this means, and going into this stage of life mindfully can take away the fears and denials involved, giving that stage in life a purpose. This is the strength of ceremony, helping us to look deeply and to reflect, moving consciously through life, and celebrating it as we go.

Bio: Gail Arthur leads ceremonies and tells stories in many places, but especially in Ohio, Ontario and the Vancouver area. She is a Druid with the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids, a Fellowship of Isis Priestess, and a writer. She is a keeper of Brighid's flame through the Daughters of the Flame.

Contact her through at or

Images: Gail Arthur.
Brigid at St Brigid's Centre for the Arts by Denisa Prochazka.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Journey with Brigit, Goddess of Poetry: An Online Course with Mael Brigde

It's open!
After a change of hosts, registration for my course, Journey with Brigit, Goddess of Poetry, is open at last! This is an intensive course that both nourishes the writing (and reading) of poetry and connects the participant to the poet in Ireland, and poetry in our lives.
The classes come out one a day, and you are welcome to move as quickly or slowly as you like through each lesson.
I look forward to connecting with some of you in this forum.
Blessings on your pen!
Mael Brigde

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Review: Picture Book - "The Story of Saint Brigid" by Clarke and Croatto

The Story of Saint Brigid by Caitriona Clarke, illustrated by Barbara Croatto, Veritas (2015), 23 pp..

This small, slender, and well produced picture book in one way resembles adult books about Saint Brigit more than most picture books: rather than telling a single, unfolding tale, it picks a number of items of information about the saint and briefly recounts them, opposite illustrations that highlight one of the items mentioned on each page. My limited experience with reading books to children suggests that this sort of thing is often of less interest than a gripping story line. Nevertheless there are times when this kind of thing is just the ticket, or is at least a pleasant way to learn a lesson—in this case, who is Saint Brigit? In this particular instance the book is aimed at Irish school children who will have heard often about her, perhaps even go to a school named for her, and so will be more inclined to be curious about the answer to that question than a child who hasn’t grown up knowing her name. Published by Veritas Publications, it comes from an unapologetically Catholic perspective.

I like the easy, conversational tone of the book, beginning with the first page, where Clarke addresses the child reading the book (or more likely having it read to them). “Have you ever heard of Saint Brigid? ... Maybe you have made a St Brigid’s Cross out of reeds? Maybe even your school is named after her!” This engages the child him- or herself, letting them know that this story is about their lives, too.

I was startled on the next page of text to learn of Saint Brigit’s mother that, “it is thought she was captured by pirates in Portugal and brought here as a slave—just like St Patrick …” I have never heard this before. I am more familiar with the suggestion that Broicseach was the daughter of Dalbrónach of the Dál Conchobair in County Meath. I am delighted to learn of another folk geneaology and would love to know where the idea started and how common the belief is in Ireland. In the fifteen hundred years since Saint Brigit’s birth there has been ample time for shifts in and additions to her stories, departures from the texts that I largely rely on for things like this.

I was also surprised to read that Brigit’s father, Dubhthach, had chosen to name his daughter after “the goddess of fire, who was thought to be gifted in poetry, healing, and craftsmanship.” Of course, there is no basis for this in any of the texts, but it is a neat way of connecting the two in the mind of the reader without supposing that they are the same person. This of course would get some backs up, but as I am of the opinion myself that they are not the same person, though they have grown together in our modern understanding, it doesn’t bother me at all, and I appreciate the nod to the goddess.

From this point on there are no surprises. We are told the familiar outline of Saint Brigit’s life, pared down drastically for the brevity of a picture book, and learn of the emphasis in her tales of generosity, compassion, and holiness. Her founding of a double monastery which was in time to produce great works like the (now lost) Book of Kildare is an addition which I favour, taking her out of the sweet holy girl category and placing her into the powerful efficient woman category—a good model for young people to be aware of.

We are told of the use of Saint Brigit’s Crosses in Irish homes for protection of people and animals against illness and their homes from fire, and of her holy wells in healing. There are some humorous elements, such as the expression of gobsmacked horror on the king’s face when Brigit’s cloak is spreading out over his land. The book concludes, “In her, Ireland can proudly lay claim to a wise and charitable woman who devoted her long life to the service of others.”

I have mixed feelings about the artwork that accompanies the text. Mostly, I like it. It is has a light touch which works well with the sparse, friendly writing. There are clean lines against colourful washes and a good sense of design, and there is, as mentioned above, a touch of humour in some of the images that appeals. What I don’t like, and this is purely a matter of taste, is how Croatta draws many of the human faces, which feel a bit awkward to me.

On balance, I like this book.