"Daimler has an instinctive and obvious understanding of Irish heritage which is rare for someone not born of this land. Combined with exceptional scholarship and sensible practice, this makes her work invaluable."
by Morgan Daimler (Pagan Portals release, March 2016)
There is a huge amount of literature and lore on our Irish St. Brigid - indeed, she's more our island's Patron Saint really than Patrick ever was, though of course doesn't he get all the credit?
But there's relatively little beyond the faff and fluff of New Age nicety on working with the old Goddess, and anything I've come across from folk who follow her today... well, let's just say it wouldn't be tying in well with my own experiences of her.
See? I can do diplomacy! I didn't even say once that most of the modern Brighid followers are full of fluffy shite. Go me :-)
I like Morgan's writing, I really appreciate her original translations from Old Irish (seriously, check out her blog for the good stuff), and I very much relate to her common sense, psychologically sound attitude towards the Work. Her Brighid book lays a solid academic foundation for anyone looking for this Goddess.
As we're coming to Imbolg though, I wanted to get some of the Brighid stuff that's roiling in my mind out for a good oul airing.
Cards on the table, in case you don't know me yet (hi, nice to meet ya, btw), I'm a Priestess of a different Irish Goddess, and She doesn't like me to play with others, for the most part. So, I don't. For the most part. She gives me plenty to be getting on with.
So when I've come across Brighid it's been sorta by accident, usually when I'm Guiding or Working at an ancient site associated with the Tuatha Dé Danaan. And she's far from fucking fluffy, let me tell ya.
Maybe I should dial this back a bit, and go into my take on deity. For clarity.
I work a LOT with Archetypes, as per Carl Jung's theories on spirituality and such. For more on this, I recommend Vivianne Crowley's excellent book "Jungian Spirituality: The Only Introduction You'll Ever Need". I teach workshops that go into this in depth, to give a practical toolkit and skillset for "Journeys in the Irish Otherworld" - there's a HUGE amount of crossover there, trust me.
My 'Theory of Stuff'(tm) runs something like this:
First off, I’d probably better explain a wee bit about how I view this deity business. My personal theory runs as follows. It’s like the universe is made up of many teeny tiny almost imperceptible particles that behave in ways we may not understand yet. Whatever you want to call said particles is grand; I usually settle on ‘Universal Energy’. Actually, that’s only when I’m being all posh, truly, I usually refer to it as Universe Stuff. So, anyway, this Universe Stuff… right, I’ve noticed I’m still being a wee bit posh, and I’ll be talking about it as just plain old Stuff from here on. I’ll do you the courtesy of capitalisation, so that I don’t have you confusing it with my kids' socks and toys, or my partner’s tools – all that will remain just plain old stuff. See the difference? Great!
So, this Stuff is all around us. In everything, of everything, a part of us and rocks and trees and stars and water and humans and eggs and insects and dolphins and yes, even politicians. A lot of it is free floating though, out there in the Universe. Humans can move it around a bit, but it’s quite hard to influence it directly, but the Universe (Powers that Be, Higher Consciousness, Greater Good, God, Gods, Greater God, David Bowie… whatever) can shape or mould or send it as suits the Big Picture. Feel free to agree or disagree with any of this folks, it is an essentially un-provable theory that, if it does nothing else, helps me sleep a little better at night. I’m good with that, but I encourage you to adapt or come up with your own theory/theories, according to your personal nightly sleep needs.
For thousands of years, humans have been thinking. Thinking about stuff. And probably, thinking about Stuff. Noticing how it moves, how it behaves, how we can play with it and make it gather in certain ways (for some humans), or noticing when it gathers in certain ways naturally, and what that forms into (for most humans). Because I think that our human concepts, our more abstract theories, emotions and perceptions (love, hate, war, happiness, inspiration, art forms, and all that jazz), have all been anthropomorphised, along with archetypes of humanity, natural phenomena and features of our natural world – they have all been explained or imagined in human shaped terms at some point way back in our history.
When they are imagined in human shaped terms, and talked about, and stories told about them, and other people begin to think about them, and explain them and talk about them in the same ways, and their stories grow as energy is fed into them, and Stuff gathers round them, and they become a little more real in this people world than they had been before. So more people begin to think about them, and talk about them, and feed them... and this, I believe, is how you grow a God.
Wolfpack Publishers, 2012
When I started studying the Irish Gods from a Pagan perspective, rather than just being aware and familiar as the stories I grew up with, I started with Tuatha Dé Danaan Brighid. 'Exalted One', daughter of the Dagda - a powerful TDD princess or queen (married to the half Fomorian King Bres) who was in charge of poetry, healing, and smithcraft. My early explorations led me to the understanding of her fire connection in this context:
- Poet - the spark of inspiration, the passion of creation
- Healer - the fever that burns away illness, the cleansing flame
- Smith - the deep forge furnace that controls iron magic, the melting pot of change
I followed the thread through to christian times, with the coming of St Brigid, daughter of a Druid priest; she who was born on a threshold between worlds, she who was a leader and a healer and a powerful worker of magical 'miracles'.
We can still see today the 19 nuns who tend Her 'eternal flame' in County Kildare, a sanctuary described by Giraldus Cambrensis and other chroniclers as surrounded by a hedge, which no man could cross, lest they be cursed to go insane, die or be crippled. They're christian nuns these days, but it's fairly obviously the continuation of a tradition WAY older than the Jesus stuff.
And the Pagans now who call her the 'Celtic Goddess of Inspiration and Healing', she who will keep your animals safe and kiss your brow if you've got the sniffles and are feeling miserable, may her sacred light shine on us all for ever and ever amen. No, not amen. Blessed Be, that's the one.
That's lovely though.
I mean, we do need that sort of gentle energy in our lives, like, most of us do, and somebody 'safe' to go to in times of trouble and strife. It's important dammit.
That's pretty much where I left it with her. She seemed so... nice. Working with Her would be easy enough, but even then (we're talking 20 year ago now, way before the other oul wagon got her hooks in me), I knew Brighid wasn't for me to work with.
Then I met Her.
She laughed at me, thinking I had Her pegged, a nice linear development. She full on taunted me with my own naivety.
Brighid showed me Her sisters, Herself. I had to come to think of Her as 'Source Brighid', the one closest to the Archetypal energy, coz it all got real confusing real fast.
Her sisters exist, are real and independent Beings in their own right. Each is a carefully maintained Persona, interacting with those humans who see Her that particular way. Forming relationships, accepting the worship, the devotion...
She called it "Gettin' the Feed".
Because they all link back to Her, Source Brighid. And She is a different thing altogether. She is... something Else. She can be fluid, less formed, as She gets her energy without having to maintain a specific structure. She is of the land, in the land, and VERY much connected to the Tuatha De Danaan sites in the North West of Ireland. Her Sisters take care of the well water, and the protective woven crosses (they are lucrative energy sources), but She keeps clear of all that.
The Brighid I meet is a very interesting creature, and her Archetypal source energy, unsurprisingly I suppose, is Fire made form. So. Fucking. Powerful. Awesome and terrifying and playful and tricksy and dangerous and delightful and downright incomprehensible for these paltry human brains She doesn't usually deign to interact with.
I think I get to stop writing now. And sidle away carefully, respectfully.
Along with so many of my country folk, on the land and across the world, I'll be making a Cros Bhríde (Brigid's Cross) this Imbolg as a household protection for the year to come. I'll keep the local Brigid's Well observances and traditions.
But I will side-eye the fuck out of anyone who presumes that's all there is to Her, whilst I acknowledge Her in silent honour at the heart of every flame I kindle, sacred or mundane.
For She is the essence of Fire, made manifest through Her will, enshrined in our relationship through the ages with its useful, dangerous glory.
Or, maybe I'm just a weirdo nut-job, making shit up. But hey - at least it helps me sleep a little better at night. With my little candle flame, burning bright...