This week on the first of February it is the feast day of St. Brigid of Kildare. Brigid, Brigit, Bride, Bridget, Bríd, Brigantia. There is a lot more to the story of Brigid than her being the female equivalent of St. Patrick in Irish history.
Saint Brigid of Kildare was born in the 5th century, a time when Ireland was transitioning from a country that practised ancient earth-based religion, to becoming a Christian one.
This transition between the two faith paths is written out in the traditions surrounding Brigid.
Before Brigid, there was a Celtic goddess with the same name. Part of the tribe of gods Tuath Dé, linked to the Celtic mother goddess Danu.
The two Brigids have become intertwined is because both their stories were mostly recorded by Christian monks. Let’s look at some of the similarities.
Feast day 1 February (Lá Fhéile Bríde):
The goddess Brigid is, amongst other attributes, associated with the spring season and fertility.
In the northern hemisphere the first day of February is commonly known as the first day of spring, in Ireland it is associated with the feast of Imbolc which is the midway point between the winter solstice and spring equinox.
Brigid’s Cross (Crois Bhríde):
Though the cross is known as a Christian symbol, however it well known that the cross symbol existed before Christianity. The cross with 4 bars of equal length is believed to represent the 4 seasons, and the centre of the cross the sun. As life is in constant motion around the sun.
The cross was first used to protect dwellings from fire, though nowadays it protects against all forms of evil.
An old Irish tradition involves a member of the family going around the house three times carrying rushes, knock the door three times, being welcomed in after the third time knocking, having a family meal and then weaving the rushes into a cross.
An eternal flame is kept burning in honour of saint Brigid, a tradition which was already going during her lifetime, only then in honour of the goddess Brigid. According to tradition, Brigid founded her monastery in Kildare on the site of this flame for the goddess Brigid. The site was under a large oak tree. Kildare or Cill Dara means “church of the oak”.
The goddess Brigid was said to be the daughter of a poet as saint Brigid is the patron of poets.
You can read about the rich poetic history surrounding Bridget in the Carmina Gadelica:
‘…When a woman is in labour, the midwife or the woman next her in importance goes to the door of the house, and standing on the ‘fad-buinn,’ sole-sod, doorstep, with her hands on the jambs, softly beseeches Bride to come:
‘Bhride! Bhride! thig a steach,
Tha do bheatha deanta,
Tabhair cobhair dha na bhean,
’S tabh an gein dh’an Triana.’
Bride! Bride! come in,
Thy welcome is truly made,
Give thou relief to the woman,
And give the conception to the Trinity.
In this blog I have highlighted just a few of the similarities between st. Brigid and the goddess Brigid.
I invite you to look into this yourself a bit more, maybe share what you found.
Above all, I wish you a very pleasant feast on Brigid’s day.
Just as a last note, one of the traditions on this day is to make a meal for your family as well for people that are in need. Why not honour this tradition and donate some food to a food bank or make a donation to a soup kitchen?
May Brigid bless the house where you dwell,
every fireside door and every wall;
every heart that beats beneath its roof,
every hand that toils to bring it joy,
every foot that walks its portals through.
may Brigid bless the house that shelters you.