Yesterday I commented on the fact that when I work with Horses, particurlarly since I’ve started to consider Farrier/ Blacksmithing as a trade I often think of Epona and Brighid.
I’ve been reading about Brighid ( Bride, Brigid, Bhride, Brigit or Brighit) this morning and it still amazes me how she (and many other Celtic Deities) continue to transcend time, religion/spiritual practice, history and culture.
Fire in the cauldron that heals and nourishes.
Fire in the forge that shapes and tempers.
Fire in the head that incites and inspires.
“Brighid was associated with perpetual, sacred flames, such as the one maintained by 19 nuns at her sanctuary in Kildare, Ireland. It is widely believed, though not conclusively proven, that the tradition of women tending her sacred flame is far older than Christianity, and that before the nuns the flame was maintained by priestesses….
As one of the most popular goddesses worshipped by the Celtic peoples, including the druids, many of her stories and symbology survived in the persona of Saint Brigid. She was the goddess of all things perceived to be of relatively high dimensions such as high-rising flames, highlands, hill-forts and upland areas; and of activities and states conceived as psychologically lofty and elevated, such as wisdom, excellence, perfection, high intelligence, poetic eloquence, craftsmanship (especially blacksmithing), healing ability, druidic knowledge and skill in warfare. In the living traditions, whether seen as goddess or saint, she is largely associated with the home and hearth and is a favorite of both Pagans and Christians. A number of these associations are attested in Cormac’s Glossary. ” from wikipedia
“Brigid was the goddess of fire, whose manifestations were song and poetry, which the Irish considered the flame of knowledge. Brigid supposedly became a virgin in service to the Goddess Brigid and eventually ascended to high priestess at the Cill Dara (“Kildare”, the temple of the oak), a pagan sanctuary built from the wood of the tree sacred to the Druids. In 468, she converted to Christianity and she followed St. Mel of Armagh to Meath.
Her first monastery, and the first headed by a woman, became the hub around which the cathedral city of Kildare eventually grew. A college where language and literacy were treated as a gift from God. St. Bridget of Kildare, Abbess – Bridget (Brigid, Bride, Bridey) was born around 450-525) at Faughart, two miles northwest of Dundalk into a Druid family, being the daughter of Dubhthach, court poet to King Loeghaire Kildare had formerly been a pagan shrine where a sacred fire was kept perpetually burning, and Bridget and her nuns, instead of stamping out the fire, kept it going but gave it a Christian interpretation.
Described by Giraldus Cambrensis in the 12th century, as having been tended by twenty “servants of the Lord”, at the time of St Brigid; Brigid herself being the twentieth. When Brigid died the number stayed at nineteen. Each of the nineteen nuns took their turns at night and on the twentieth night the nineteenth nun puts the logs on the fire and St. Brigid miraculously tends the fire, which never goes out. Although the fire had been burning for some 600 years, by the time of Giraldus, the ashes had never had to be cleaned out and had never increased.
…In the 1200s when Henry of London, Norman arch-bishop of Dublin, ordered it to be extinguished as he considered the tending of the fire to be a pagan practice. It was soon re-lit, by the locals, but was finally extinguished at the Reformation.
Some historians record that a few attempts were made to have the fire extinguished but without success. It survived possibly up to the suppression of the monasteries in the sixteenth century. The sacred fire/flame was re-lit in 1993, in the Market Square, Kildare, by Sister Mary Teresa Cullen, the then leader of the Brigidine Sisters, at the opening of a justice and peace conference. The conference, entitled “Brigid: Prophetess, Earth woman, Peacemaker” was organized by Afri, (Action from Ireland), a justice, peace and human rights organization, to celebrate the tenth anniversary of its St. Brigid’s Peace Cross Project. ” from edu-cyberpg
I know that’s a lot to read. It just really seemed to strike a deep cord with me this morning ( maybe too much sinus meds). Many of the Irish deities have been taken into the Christian Family and survived for the most part, intact with their pagan identity. I see no wrong in this, in fact much gratitude is to be given to those early monk and nuns who recorded the pagan lore and to those incredible “Storytellers” ( historians) who refused to let the practice of oral history die.
Many have tended the Flame of Culture before us and at the risk of sounding preachy, it’s important for us to keep it going. However we can… for me it’s doing my best to learn and speak Irish Gaelic, celebrating the old holidays and deities, living with the land and doing my best to perserve the Celtic Spirit of passion for knowledge and Truth.
There was a recent story about the renaming of the Isle of Skye off the scottish coast to a Gaelic name, “Eilean a’ Cheò” meaning Isle of Mist. Many of the comments on the news story where very hostile towards perserving ” A dead language/ a minority language” in the way of changing the name of the island itself.
Many people said “Why should we change the name of the island to a language only 40% of the people speak.” and too many people said “it will destroy the tourist industry”…well people still visit Ceylon even though it’s now Sri Lanka, Siam is now Thailand, Constantinople is now Istanbul (*hums the song ny They Might be Giants*), Bombay is Mumbai and Czechoslovakia separated into the Czech Republic and Slovakia… My point is people will soon know if you refere to Skye as “Eilean a’ Cheò” what you are talking about. In the Article it says that changing the name puts the island’s Gaelic identity to the forfront. It gives people the opportunity to ask about the language and the meaning of the name. Why is that wrong?
The marriage of culture/tradition and modern life can and will do very well, Our dear Bridgid is just one example of that. In a way what is meant to remain will remain and what has served it’s purpose will not. But we can not neglect these things. It’s like tending a garden, it does not grow without cultivation.