Essays and Such

Irish Cultural Society

of San Antonio Texas


Promoting Awareness of Irish Culture

Saint Brigid
by John Willmott
The Brigid Shrine

Who is Brigid?
Brighid, Brigid, Bridget, Bride etc
all names evolved from her ancient name of Breo-saighead
literally translated as "fire with a point", Flame.

No wonder that in winter a fireplace in Ireland is often known as 
Brigid's Hearth, "an Alter of the Flame"

Not so long ago every home in Ireland had some shrine to 
St. Patrick and St. Brigid, Brigid above and around the fire and 
Patrick at or near the door.

A Brigid shrine would not be complete without a cross wove from 
rushes to honour the legend that Brigid's first cross was one 
she woved from rushes that covered the floor of her home. Celtic 
Christians record that the Brigid who became St. Brigid, was born 
around 451 at Faughart, near Dundalk, County Louth, Ireland. She 
is said to have lived until February 1st 525, the year she 
passed from this world from Kildare, Ireland. Her passing was 
peaceful and of natural causes and her body was carried to 
Downpatrick where her remains still share those sacred grounds 
St Patrick and St Columba, except her head. 
Mysteriously, St. Brigid's head was removed and buried beside 
a Jesuit Church in Lisbon, Portugal.
The Christian Brigid
The story of how Brigid became Christian and dedicated herself 
to a live of celibacy and service. Some stories start this 
journey from Faughart. Others say it commenced when she was 
converted from Druid to Christian on Iona, indicating she was 
Scottish. With the Faughert story it is said her father was 
a Scottish Pict who had become a King Of Leinster, Ireland. 
Some stories tell of the same conversion from Derry where her 
father was a Scottish born druid but Brigid became Christian.

The story I like best is her commencement of Christian 
calling at Oughteragh, near Ballinamore in Co. Leitrim. This 
in an area very close to Celtic and Tuatha De Dannan legends 
of Brigid. Its as if this is the place of her incarnations. 
I find visiting this region has a deep effect. It is an area 
rich in the origin of many traditions, much deeper than mere 
legends. From Oughteragh it is said that Brigid learned, 
served and ordained at Abbeylara Monastery. Mysteriously 
there is also a lot of Columcille reference in the Abbeylara 
area including the Columcille GAA sports ground in a very 
low population area.
Arrival at Cill Dara
All of the Christian Brigid stories move into Druin Criadh 
on the plains of Magh Life, where Brigid lit a fire under 
a large oak tree and around this flame led the creation of 
her Convent of Cill-Dara, "the church of the oak" (now 
Kildare). More important, Brigid's small oratory, at Cill- 
Dara, grew to become one of Europe's most important centres 
for learning and wisdom. This was not just a place for nuns, 
for women, because Brigid founded a monastery for men too 
and appointed Conleth as it's spiritual leader. Brigid 
also founded a school of art, that interestingly included 
smithing as an art. Interesting, because the Tuatha De 
Dannan Brighid was a goddess of smithing along with healing 
and poetry.

The Brigid child of Faughart had a royal father but a slave 
mother, according to an early monastic scribe called 
Cogitosus. He wrote that she shared the kitchen and farm 
duties of her slave mother where she learned to care for 
cattle, make butter and cheese and cure pork into bacon. 
Through this writing, Cogitosus excels Brigid into stories 
of miracles of multiplying small amounts of food so that 
it fed many poor people.
Brigid Accepts The Veil
There are even tales of her stealing possessions from her 
father that she melted down and re-smithed into cultivation 
tools for the poor too. Eventually at a royal court the 
king recognized the spirit behind her "crimes". Instead 
of being ensalved to live like her mother Brigid was 
invited to make a vow of chastity and accept the "veil" 
from a bishop.

It is said that after ordaining, though I suspect that 
for being a woman she was never ordained, she travelled 
around Ireland with her own Christian mission through 
the eyes of a woman, maybe with Mary as her guide, but 
more likely as a true goddess. While elevating the 
spirits of women by showing them their true "goddess" 
spirit that flowed through their nurturing, healing, 
nutrition, care and protection she grew a collection 
of lady followers who finally settled with her at 
Cill Dara.
Rekindling Brigid's Flame
It seems very natural and even essential for many women 
still follow Brigid to Kildare, or at least the spirit 
of Cill Dara, especially women who have served their time 
as physical mothers to their children and have evolved to 
become part of the mother spirit of earth. Within the 
flame of Brigid, whether at the site of Kildare or within 
the spirit of Cill Dara women are able to re-kindle their 

This is not exclusive to women because Brigid's flame is 
also there to warm the feminine values within all men. This 
may be why Brigid established a school of art so that men 
could cross the veil that separates their masculinity 
spirit from their femininity spirit.

I feel the time from Samhain to beyond Imbolc is a time 
for men to lay down their swords and explore their art 
and gentleness because during the warmer days of Beltaine 
and Lughnasa are times of swords and blades to manage, 
harvest and even cull the yields from the caring months 
Brigid's Scribes
It is said that the trilogy of leaders of Celtic 
Christianity were Saints Patrick, Columcille and Brigid 
and remains of all three remain at Downpatrick. One 
mystery is that from the three there is no known 
manuscripts handwritten by St. Brigid yet she is said 
to have created schools. Several other saints, such as 
St. Urbana, are claimed to have written what Brigid 
dictated but saints did not have the pens or lettering 
to write quickly like we have today and they certainly 
did not have dictation machines.

Another consideration is the competition there must have 
been between the early universities of Patrick in Armagh, 
Fenian's at Clonard and Brigid's in KIldare. Even the 
ministry of early Celtic Christianity was largely an 
exclusive club for men. It must have been very hard for 
these "wise men" to even recognize Brigid as a priest so 
how could they have venerated her as a saint? We could 
say the same for other early lady saints like Attracta 
and Lazier, both with legends and traditions around the 
Bréifne region of Ireland, just like Brigid.

A wonderful mystery is how the early Christian scribes, 
male monks, wrote about Brigid as having connection to 
pre-Christian faiths. Any other "holy" woman would have 
faced danger if she was linked to any "pagan" connection.

I believe that early Irish became Christian on condition 
that they could hold onto their Brigid traditions instead 
of worshiping the Virgin Mary. Eventually I believe the 
Virgin mother evolved into the early Irish Christian faith 
as long as Brigid was maintained as Jesus' midwife. For 
the early Celtic Irish to accept Christ as a son of God, 
Brigid had to be present at his birth. Brigid was always 
present at the birth of druids.
The Tales Of The Scribes
One thing that is misunderstood about early Christian 
scribes is that they were not historians. They were 
merely script writers. The stories of the pre Christian 
"gods" and "goddesses" had been carried by oral tradition 
by bards for probably 2000 years, and maybe more. The 
scribes seem to have taken these stories, compared them 
to the stories of miracles from "holy" land scriptures 
and then applied the same stories to the folk heros of 
ancient Ireland. In fact is was probably the scribes that 
transformed what were known as wise and educated people 
into a vision of "gods" and "goddesses".

One example could be the "water to wine" miracles. Today, 
if we have a bitter drink our urge is to sweeten it. 
Ireland's water flows through limestone and turf. In later 
summer, when flowing water is reduced, this water can 
taste quite bitter. However, in late summer we are blessed 
with sweet blackberries, raspberries and bilberries that 
if added to water would sweeten it and turn it into a 
burgundy colour. Would it be exciting to tell people that 
story? Some of you reading now may even have already 
rejected it due to your faith in the water to wine 
miracles. Therefore, scribes would, instead, write the 
water to wine drama to capture interest and even faith 
and following.

The writings of these scribes evolved into sacred circle 
miracle plays which then incarnated into the traditions 
of Mummer's Plays and roots of many elements of theatre 
and film we have today. Again, another subject I am 
personally passionate about. In ancient times stories 
would travel with bards and tought to other bards. Stories 
would further mutate to adapt to replace the heros or 
other countries and even other regions of Ireland. Even 
in our Co. Sligo some Brigid traditions shared at Imbolc 
in parts of the county are shared at Samhain in other 
parts of the county.
Was Grainne really Brighid?
One of the most famous bardic tales of Celtic Ireland is 
the story of the romance of Dairmuid and Grainne which 
sounds so real and factual, but was it? The bardic story 
is that Grainne, daughter of King Cormac, was arranged to 
be married to the very elderly Finn McChuill, leader of 
the Fianna, Cormac's warriors. She fell for one of the 
younger warriors, Dairmuid and they ran of together. The 
tales rambles on about the chase by Finn McCuill and the 
final settling of Dairmuid and Grainne in fertile lands 
below Ceis Corroan cave. Years later Dairmuid was killed 
off, Finn McCuill married Grainne but she committed 
suicide by jumping out of a chariot on a very bumpy part 
of Tara Hill.

Here's another version. Cormac, Grainne's father was born 
by Ceis Corroan cave and is said to have spent his first 
year in the cave and raised by wolves. Ceis Corroan Cave 
is the cave of Morrigan, mother of the Tuatha De Dannan 
Brighid. Where Grainne fell out of the chariot on Tara 
Hill is said to have become a site of healing pilgrimage 
for people with headaches. This site is also said to be 
a Brigid site. Another lesser known tale does tell this 
story with the characters of Brigid and Lugh and all 
along it does fit the ancient locations and symbols of 
both of them. Part of the Dairmuid and Grainne Story tells 
of them spending every night at a different ancient dolmen, 
sacred ancient structures probably built by the Tautha 
De Dannan. It would make more sense to tell this story 
using the names of Brigid and Lugh as there visiting 
spirits would be in harmony with re-charging these sites 
with light and fertility. Another story does tell of 
Cormac being a father of triplet daughters all called 
Brig who each grew to be leaders of healing, bardic arts 
and education.
The Sacred Goddesses of Ireland
At the time of the late Tuatha De Dannan and early Mils 
(Celts) it seems each region of Ireland had a goddess 
ruling it. Ulster had Morrighan, Leinster had Boann 
(BUinne), Munster had Beare (BhEirri) and Connaught had 
Maeve. The current region names came later but did 
maintain similar borders set up by the tribes of the 
Firbolgs, a tribe before the De Dannans. Stories tell 
of Brighid being daughter of Morrighan and Boann with 
Morrighan being first, fathered by Daghda, then Boann, 
fathered by one of Daghda's sons, Angeus Og.
Brigid of Leinster, Patrick of the rest
During the Early Christian times it seems Brigid 
eventually became the "goddess" of Leinster. Politics 
that evolved from the growing family clans that were 
becoming tribes tried to be instrumental in steering the 
church. Priests and Abbots were eventually given land, 
territories and influence in treaties and judgements. 
Brigid, being a woman, was not entitled to any of these 
positions. Somehow, in due course, the influence of 
Patrick's mission from Armagh ruled the administration 
of early Christianity throughout Ireland, except for much 
of Leinster that Brigid remained teacher of, if not a kind 
of owner of. Despite Patrick's "spiritual" rulership of 
most of Ireland all of the told miracles connected to 
land and nature were all credited to Brigid. Its as if 
St. Brigid was the spirit of nature just like the Celtic 
and especially the Tuatha De Dannan Brighid was. Lesser 
known was that Brigid's Leinster became a place where 
women were never to be slaves. The region became a 
sanctuary for slaves of men from other regions and the 
men are said to have never entered the region to reclaim 
their slaves.
Brighid Tradition told through ancient symbols
The ancient Goddess of Brigid we think of today is surely 
another incarnation of her based on the stories, 
traditions and wisdoms of the past brought to the present 
and through divine guidance synthesized by nature for our 
time today.

The Astrology tradition was passed onto me by my family 
but rather than use this wisdom for diagnosis, trends 
and even prediction I am fascinated by its mechanics. 
The progression of the Great Year, I find the most 
fascinating. I will not explain it here but it's cycle 
takes about 25,000 years. Many "mystics" claim were are 
now in the early days of Aquarius that followed over 
2000 years of the age of Pisces. Again, I will not write 
many words on this here but see if you can think of how 
the story of Jesus and the symbols of the Christian 
religion fits into the symbols and legends of Pisces and 
its opposite Virgo the virgin.

The most familiar symbol for Aquarius is of flowing water 
and sometimes a man or goat pouring water from a pot, 
known at the "water bearer", but these are modern symbols 
for Aquarius. An ancient symbol is of a lady passing 
water or even breaking water and this has led to legends 
of fertilizing land and life itself. Is this a symbol of 
what we now call Brigid. The day of solar Imbolc, the 
ancient Brighid day, is always at the central point of 
the time of Aquarius during the year. Opposite Aquarius 
is Leo and its lion symbol but, again, this is a modern 
symbol. Leo used to be a man with a spear, like the 
famous Piltdown Man carved in chalk in England. 
Was this Lugh?
Has Brigid now taken the complete vow from Christ?
The alignments of our universe, the symbols linked to 
them and the incarnation of our vision of Brigid today 
may somehow explain how those who once carried what they 
called Christ in their heart now live with Brigid as their 

I now wonder if Moslems, Hindus, Jews and Buddhists can 
identify a shift of identity in the guiding spirit that 
has guided them for over 2000 years.


posted by John of Celtic Ways 
Ramblings and reviews by John Willmott 
from his web page  "Following Celtic Ways"
used with authors kind permission.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007

John Willmott is a prolific writer of the history and 
traditions of Ireland. His web page "Following Celtic Ways" 
is a fantastic source of interesting stories, observations, 
and ramblings.
Visit his site at 
http://www.celticways.com/ and see for yourself.