Saint Brigid Celtic Goddess Brigid - February 2017
In Celtic Ireland we have two Brigids: the ancient Goddess Brigid and the christian Saint Brigid so at Kildare there are two Brigid's wells.
Brigid, the Celtic goddess offire (the forge and the hearth), poetry, healing, childbirth, and unity, is celebrated in many European countries. She is known by many names, including that of Saint Brigid who is, perhaps, the most powerful religious figure in Irish history.
Brigid's role as an ancient Triple Goddess and the issue of whether or not Saint Brigid was actually a mortal women.
Born at the exact moment of daybreak, Brigid rose into the sky with the sun, rays of fire beaming from her head. She was the daughter of Dagda, the great 'father-god' of Ireland. In Druid mythology, the infant goddess was fed with milk from a sacred cow from the Otherworld. Brigid owned an apple orchard in the Otherworld and her bees would bring their magical nectar back to earth. It is said that wherever she walked, small flowers and shamrocks would appear. As a sun goddess her gifts are light (knowledge), inspiration, and the vital and healing energy of the sun.
Brigid became the wife of Bres, an Irish king. Together they produced three sons, each of them became a famous warrior. Brigid and her husband came from two warring tribes and hoped their marriage would end the enmity between their kin. Unfortunately, it did not. But, as it turns out, the battlefield death of their son Ruadan assured Brigid's role as a goddess of peace and unity. A major battle between the two families was about to begin.
Brigid's eldest son, using the knowledge of metalsmithing that he had learned from his mother, struck the first blow, killing the smith of the opposing army. But as the warrior fell to the ground, he managed one last blow before he died and Ruandan was also killed. Brigid's grief was enormous--for the continual hatred between the two sides of her family and for the death of her son. Her lamentations were so loud they were heard throughout Ireland and so heart-rending that both sides left the battle and forged a peace. The goddess Brigid is said to have originated the practice of "keening".
She is also credited with the invention of whistling, which she used to summon her friends to her side.
Eventually the love and respect for the goddess Brigid brought unity to the Celts who were spread throughout Europe. Regardless of their differences, they all agreed upon her goodness and compassion. One of the most popular tales of the goddess Brigid involved two lepers who appeared at her sacred well at Kildare and asked to be healed. She told them that they were to bathe each other until the skin healed. After the first one was healed, he felt only revulsion for the other and would not touch him to bathe him. Angered, Brigid caused his leprosy to return. Then she gently placed her mantle (cloak) around the other leper who was immediately healed.
Ireland is full of springs and wells named after the goddess Brigid. Symbolically, water is seen as a portal to the Otherworld and as a source of wisdom and healing. There is a saying that Brigid rewards any offering to her, so offerings of coins were often tossed into her wells...the forerunner of the modern custom of throwing a penny into a fountain while you make a wish.
At her most famous shrine Brigid taught humans how to gather and use herbs for their healing properties, how to care for their livestock, and how to forge iron into tools. As a goddess of childbirth and protector of all children, she is the patroness of midwifery. This shrine, near Kildare, was located near an ancient Oak that was considered to be sacred by the Druids, so sacred in fact that no one was allowed to bring a weapon there.
The shrine is believed to have been an ancient college of priestesses who were committed to thirty years of service, after which they were free to leave and marry. During their first ten years they received training, the next ten were spent tending the sacred wells, groves and hills of the goddess Brigid, and the last decade was spent in teaching others. Nineteen priestesses were assigned to tend the perpetual flame of the sacred fire of Brigid. Each was assigned to keep the flames alive for one day. On the twentieth day, the goddess Brigid herself kept the fire burning brightly.
The goddess Brigid was also revered as the Irish goddess of poetry and song. Known for her hospitality to poets, musicians, and scholars, she is known as the Irish muse of poetry.
On the OK In Health Tours to Ireland with Maria O'Farrell Carr in March and September we stop by St. Brigit's well. See photo
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