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In Celtic religion and Irish mythology, Brigit, Brigid or Brighid (exalted one) is the daughter of the Dagda and one of the Tuatha Dé Danann. She was the wife of Bres of the Fomorians, with whom she had a son, Ruadán.
She is identified in Lebor Gabála Érenn as a daughter of the Dagda and a poet. The same passage mentions that she has two oxen, Fe and Men, that graze on a plain named after them, Femen. She also possessed the king of boars, Torc Triath, and Cirb, king of wethers (sheep), from whom Mag Cirb is named. As the daughter of Dagda, she is also the half sister of Cermait, Aengus, Midir and Bodb Derg.
In Cath Maige Tuireadh, Bríg invents keening, a combination weeping and singing, while mourning for her son Ruadán, after he is slain while fighting for the Fomorians. She is credited in the same passage with inventing a whistle used for night travel.
Brigid is considered the patroness of poetry, smithing, medicine, arts and crafts, cattle and other livestock, sacred wells, serpents (in Scotland) and the arrival of early spring. In the Christian era, nineteen nuns at Kildare tended a perpetual flame for the Saint, which is widely believed to be a continuation of a pre-Christian practice of women tending a flame in her honour. Her festival day, Imbolc is traditionally a time for weather prognostication:
- Thig an nathair as an toll
- Là donn Brìde,
- Ged robh trì troighean dhen t-sneachd
- Air leac an làir.
- The serpent will come from the hole
- On the brown Day of Bríde,
- Though there should be three feet of snow
- On the flat surface of the ground.
In her English retellings of Irish myth, Lady Augusta Gregory (Gods and Fighting Men, 1904), describes Brigit as "a woman of poetry, and poets worshipped her, for her sway was very great and very noble. And she was a woman of healing along with that, and a woman of smith's work, and it was she first made the whistle for calling one to another through the night. And the one side of her face was ugly, but the other side was very comely. And the meaning of her name was Breo-saighit, a fiery arrow."
Her British and continental counterpart Brigantia seems to have been the Celtic equivalent of the Roman Minerva and the Greek Athena (Encyclopædia Britannica: Celtic Religion), goddesses with very similar functions and apparently embodying the same concept of elevated state, whether physical or psychological.
She is 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 Polytheists and Catholics. A number of these associations are attested in Cormac's Glossary.
In the Middle Ages, the goddess Brigid was syncretized with the Christian saint of the same name. According to medievalist Pamela Berger, Christian "monks took the ancient figure of the mother goddess and grafted her name and functions onto her Christian counterpart," St. Brigid of Kildare.
St. Brigid is associated with perpetual, sacred flames, such as the one maintained by 19 nuns at her sanctuary in Kildare, Ireland. The sacred flame at Kildare was said by Giraldus Cambrensis and other chroniclers to have been surrounded by a hedge, which no man could cross. Men who attempted to cross the hedge were said to have been cursed to go insane, die or be crippled.
The tradition of female priestesses tending sacred, naturally-occurring eternal flames is a feature of ancient Indo-European pre-Christian spirituality. Other examples include the Roman goddess Vesta, and other hearth-goddesses, such as Hestia.
Both the goddess and saint are associated with holy wells, at Kildare and many other sites in the Celtic lands. Well dressing, the tying of clooties to the trees next to healing wells, and other methods of petitioning or honoring Brigid still take place in some of the Celtic lands and the diaspora.
Saint Brigid's feast day is on 1 February celebrated as St Brigid's Day in the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church and by some Anglicans. The Gaelic festival coincides with Imbolc, which is a pagan festival associated with the goddess Brigid.
Old Irish Brigit [ˈbrɪʝɪdʲ] came to be spelled Brighid by the modern Irish period. Since the spelling reform of 1948, this has been spelled Bríd [ˈbriːdʲ]. The earlier form gave rise to the Anglicization Bridget, now commonly seen as Brigid.
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