The Goddess Brigit was thought to originally have been a Sun Goddess, who was born at sunrise. It is said that when She was born a tower of flame burst forth from Her forehead from Earth to Heaven. It was likely She who inspired the line in the famous Song of Amergin: "I am a fire in the head." Brigit was one of the great Triple Goddesses of the Celtic people. She appeared as Brigit to the Irish, Brigantia in Northern England, Bride in Scotland, and Brigandu in Brittany. She has many other names and titles including: Brigh which means 'Power', Bride the Beautiful, Brigit of the Green Mantle, Lady of the Shores, Flame of Ireland, Fiery Arrow, and Brigit of the Slim Fairy Folk.
She is the daughter of the Dagda "the good God", one-time druid of the Tuatha Dé Danann and of Ireland, and keeper of the cauldron of plenty and a club which can not only take life, but restore it. Her brothers are Oengus mac ind-Og, god of love and youth, Irish equivalent to Mabon ap Modron/Apollo Maponos, and Bodb Derg, king of the Tuatha de Danann after they are driven underground into the sidhe. Brigit had a son called Raudan who was murdered by Goibnui. She sang the first "Keening" for him. "Bríg came and keened for her son. At first she shrieked, in the end she wept. Then for the first time weeping and shrieking were heard in Ireland.”
Some say that there are three Brigits : one sister in charge of poetry and inspiration who invented the Ogham alphabet, one in charge of healing and midwifery, and the third in charge of the hearth fire, smithies and other crafts. This actually indicates the separate aspects of her Threefold nature. Her penchant for smithcraft led to her association by the Romans with Minerva/Athena. As a warrior Goddess, She favored the use of the spear or the arrow.
As a Goddess of herbalism, midwifery and healing She was in charge of Water as well as Fire. There are vast number of sacred wells and springs named after or dedicated to Brigit. Offerings to the watery Brigit were cast into the well in the form of coins or, even more ancient, brass or gold rings. Other sacrifices were offered where three streams came together. Her cauldron of Inspiration connected her watery healing aspect with her fiery poetic aspect.
Brigit is said to have owned two royal oxen, called Fea and Men, and Torc Triath, the king of boars. Torc Triath is related to the supernatural boar Twrch Trwyth in Welsh mythology. Both swine and oxen are associated with the Otherworld.
The Goddess Brigit had always kept a shrine at Kildare, Ireland, with a perpetual flame tended by nineteen virgin priestesses called Daughters of the Flame. No male was ever allowed to come near it; nor did those women ever consort with men. When Catholicism took over in Ireland, the shrine became a convent and the priestesses became nuns but the same traditions were held and the eternal flame was kept burning. Their tradition was that each day a different priestess/nun was in charge of the sacred fire and on the 20th day of each cycle, the fire was miraculously tended by Brigit Herself.
In 1220 CE, a Bishop became angered by the no-males policy of the Abbey of St. Brigit of Kildare. He insisted that nuns were subordinate to priests and therefore must open their abbey and submit themselves to inspection by a priest. When they refused and asked for another Abbess or other female official to perform any inspections, the Bishop was incensed. He admonished them to obedience and then decreed that the keeping of the eternal flame was a Pagan custom and ordered the sacred flame to be extinguished.
Brigit’s Festival is on Feb 1 or 2 and corresponds to Imbolc which celebrates the birthing and freshening of sheep. Her festival is also called Brigit. Brigit (the Goddess and the Festival) represents the stirring of life again after the dead months of the winter, and her special blessings are called forth at this time.
Here is an ancient rite to invite Brigit into your home at the time of her Holiday:
Clean your hearth thoroughly in the morning and lay a fire without kindling it, then make yourself a "Bed for Brigid" and place it near the hearth. The bed can be a small basket with covers and tiny pillow added as plain or fancy as you like. If you have no hearth, you can use the stove and put the bed behind it. Then at sundown light a candle rubbed with rosemary oil and invite Brigit into your home and into her bed; use the candle to kindle your hearth fire if possible. Create a poem or a chant to invite Her. Let the candle burn all night in a safe place.
Animals Sacred to Brigit –
- Boar - symbol of aggressiveness and battle to the Celts
- Cow - a white cow with red ears (the colors of a fairy cow) provided mile to nourish the young Brigit
- Fish - a small spotted fish is said to appear in her sacred springs as a sign of healing
- Sheep - Imbolc celebrates the season when sheep are giving birth.
- Snake - On Feb. 1 the snake is said to emerge from it's lair and this traditional charm was spoken: "Early on Bride's morn the serpent shall come from the hole,I will not molest the serpent nor will the serpent molest me."
- Wolf, Bear, and Badger - are associated with Brigit because they emerge from hibernation at about the time of Imbolc
- Swan - when wearing gold or silver chains are not ordinary birds but Deity manifested as swan
- Blackberry - represents prosperity and has healing properties (beneficial for stomach complaints)
- Flowers - all early spring flowers
- Grain and Hops - ale and beer were Brigit's beverages of choice
- The Hazel - associated with keening, invented by the Goddess Brigit when she lamented the death of her son Ruadan
- Herbs - rosemary, dill, chamomile and red clover
- The Oak - the site of Brigit's abbey was Cill-dara the "cell of the oak tree" . Brigit was raised by a Druid or oak priest and oaks are also associated with Dagda the goddess's Father or consort
- Rowan - sacred to February and associated with protection against evil magick and disasters. A sprig of rowan is placed near the door for protection
- Willow - sacred to February and associated with female energy and the lunar cycle.
- Brigit's Cross - a sun emblem and may represent the four quarters of the year
- The Flame - all fire is associated with Brigit
- Iron - sacred to Brigit's aspect as Goddess of smithcraft
- The Milky Way - as a baby Brigit was said to have been nourished by the "cosmic cow" or Milky Way
- The Moon - associated with Brigit's aspect of Triple Goddess, the image of the moon behind a silhouetted tree is attributed to her worship
- Nine White Stones - symbolic of nine virgins attending Brigit. They were priestesses of the Goddess, then later nuns tending the eternal flame at Kildare.
- The Number Eight - on the eighth of the month Brigit was born, in the eighty eighth year she went to heaven. With eight virgins was Brigit consecrated.
- Two Crescents - two crescents, back to back symbolize immortality.
- Water - represents both healing and divination
Every day, every night
That I praise the Goddess,
I know I will be safe;
I know I will not be caught
I shall not be harmed.
Fire, sun and moon
Cannot burn me.
Fairy arrow cannot pierce me.
I am safe, safe, safe,
Singing Her praises.
Brigid, gold-red woman,
Brigid, flame and honeycomb,
Brigid, sun of womanhood,
Brigid, lead me home.
You are a branch in blossom.
You are a sheltering dome.
You are my bright precious freedom.
Brigid, lead me home.
Morning Glory Zell from AMARGI Vol I. No.3 Feb. 1st 1989
Order of the WhiteMoon.