It makes me sad to acknowledge it has been over a year since I have updated this site. To those who have continued to follow and await more posts – my sincere apologies. I have been absent due to several complicated issues, including dislocation and illness. 

In fact, I have a few half-written posts that I have yet to publish, and photos from my trip to Scotland to upload. I will do my best to get to these soon. 

I have been considering broadening the scope of this blog to incorporate other related subjects such as practical and theoretical polytheism, issues surrounding syncretism, Gaelic inspired folk magic and general thoughts on religious experience. 

While this blog was founded initially to share research and experience regarding Bride herself, due to the limited nature of sources I often feel restricted as to what I can legitimately post. Likewise, my personal experiences are often too private to share here.

Alternatively I could start a secondary blog for mixed musings, and leave this one solely devoted to Bride. Any opinions or comments are appreciated.

Kilmeny

I have been working on some new articles for this blog, and researching the animals in Brigidine lore but have been unable to do a great deal of typing lately due to an injury. Today I just want to share something emotional, rather than academic.

In our culture we often expect instant gratification. We expect to see immediate results, and I think one of the hardest things to adjust to when approaching a new faith or a new spirit is that it takes time for you to really develop a connection with them, just as a friendship or relationship with another human takes time, or at least it should.

When I first found myself called to Bride, it was through a story. I am a writer, so stories are my bread and butter. Once I made this discovery and found myself fascinated with Her, I immediately set out to learn as much as I could, and to set up the most beautiful shrine I could make. I gave offerings and made Her central to my daily rituals. I currently say four to six prayers a day to Bride. Some mornings I wake up and the silly little part of me wants to turn on my computer and check my emails first, rather than taking the time to light Her candle and say my morning prayers, but I still do it, before anything else, even opening the curtains.

Gradually, over the past year and a quarter, I have been able to sense Her presence more and more. Certain things become clear to me, that no book could have told me, like the way she seems to prefer me to sing her praise than speak it. That I should invite her to bless my food whenever I light the stove, and thank her when I turn it off. That when I don’t bring her fresh flowers, or go a long time between offerings – it is noticed.

Around the beginning of February I joined a flame keeping order. It took me a year to get to that point, partially because I needed to find an order with a CR/Gaelic Polytheist focus, and partially because I take such a commitment very seriously. I did not intend to promise to do this, dedicate one day in twenty to Her, if didn’t feel I could keep it up. I’m glad I did because it has been amazingly rewarding and I’ve met some lovely dedicated people, but I’m also glad I waited because if I’d jumped right in and then failed, I would have felt the consequences.

Now, when I stand in front of my little hearth shrine, light the candle, say the words I’ve memorised from repetition, I do feel something. I feel a light and a warmth that can bring tears to my eyes if I am particularly sensitive that day. I stand in darkness, in the little circle of brightness cast by her flame and feel as if a mantle of pure light is wrapped around me. I’m not meditating or visualising this, It is a presence that I feel because I am there, and I have invited Bride in to my home with the best hospitality I can offer, and it is real. It has taken me a year to get to this point, and I know I still have so much to learn.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is; don’t jump in and expect to suddenly have miracles occur. Don’t lose heart when you try to connect with a Deity or your Ancestors and feel nothing. Don’t give up flame keeping because you had a dull shift or didn’t get what you’d hoped for from it. The most precious things in our spiritual life are those we work for, not those which are handed to us with an instruction booklet. You do not need to make big gestures or dedication rituals or buy expensive shrines to prove yourself to the Gods. What you need to do is turn up, again and again. Offer what you can, over and over. Say your prayers when you’re tired. Do your rituals when you can’t be bothered. Make your offerings when it feels pointless. Pay attention, and in time you will begin to really understand and experience their presence in your life. It takes time, but it’s worth it.

To-day is the Day of Bride,
The serpent shall come from his hole,
I will not molest the serpent,
And the serpent will not molest me.

The serpent will come from the hole
On the brown day of Bride,
Though there should be three feet of snow
On the flat surface of the ground.

Moonlight shining on the Quickening Tree, the heat and wax of sacred candles, the milk of ewes, Brigid’s blackberry, the sting of keening wind, and the last flutter of the Cailleach’s winter snow.

Black Pheonix Alchemy Lab, makers of esoteric perfumes, have released a special perfume oil in honour of Bride. Although I have no affiliation with the company, I can recommend their products from experience, and mention also that as they are all natural oils, can be burnt in a diffuser as an offering or a room scent.

It is always interesting to decipher their descriptions for the notes used. The Quickening tree is Rowan, popularly held to be Bride’s wood (although I’ve not found any original sources) and certainly sacred to the Gaelic Scots. Beeswax candles were blessed for Candlemas, and ewes milk is the possible origin of the term ‘Imbolc.’ Blackberry though? I wonder where they got that one from. I have never heard of Bride being associated with Blackberries, even in neo-pagan sources. The wind and snow sounds lovely, and almost hinting at Latha na Caillich.

Artwork belongs to Julie Dillon. You can find the perfume oil here.

To those in the Northern hemisphere, I hope you had a wonderful Lá Fhéile Bríde, Imbolc or St Bride’s Day, however you chose to celebrate. I too decided to celebrate on this day, although I am in the Southern hemisphere in a part of the world where the seasons are out of alignment with all of the Gaelic festivals. It is an issue I’ve been struggling with for many years, for celebrating Lá Lúnasa at the moment seems just as out of place, given that Summer is only just beginning. So, I asked Bride to give me some sign if she wished me to honour her feast on the eve of February 1st, and she obliged by unexpectedly getting everyone out of the house so I was free to honour her in privacy.

It was too hot to bake, so I gave offerings of milk and some very nice shortbread, as well as a new beeswax candle. I sained the house, each corner of each room with silvered water, inviting the blessings of Bride on our house, and made a simple bed for the small wooden doll of Bride that resides on my hearth-shrine year round. Next year I would like to weave a proper bed for her and perhaps a cros too, if I can get a hold of some decent material.

I have an open fireplace, but do not burn wood in it so in place of ashes I sieved some flour on the black hearth for divination in the morning. Last thing before bed I went to the front door and invited Bride in, whispering in to the night with my hands on the door jambs.

When I woke in the morning I took the offerings outside, bathed my hands and feet in the tiny amount of dew that had collected on the lawn, and returned to the hearth to look for signs of Bride’s visit. Sadly, there were no marks from her staff or feet, by I did find a single, golden hair curled in a perfect ringlet on top of the flour. Perhaps she did visit after all?

How did you celebrate Bride’s feast?

** When I wrote this I forgot to mention that I celebrated not on February 1st/2nd but a week before on the Gaelic New Moon (first crescent) which is tied, in my tradition, with the beginning of a new month.

I am older than Brigit of the Mantle,
I put songs and music on the wind
Before ever the bells of the chapels
Were rung in the West
Or heard in the East.
I am Brighid-nam-Bratta:
Brigit of the Mantle,

I am also Brighid-Muirghin-na-tuinne:
Brigit, Conception of the Waves,

And Brighid-sluagh,
Brigit of the Faery Host,

Brighid-nan-sitheachseang,
Brigit of the Slim Faery Folk,

Brigid-Binne-Bheule-
Ihuchd-nan-trusganan-uaine,
Brigit the Melodious Mouthed
Of the Tribe of the Green Mantles.

And I am older than Aone (Friday)
And as old as Luan (Monday)

And in Tir-na-h’oige my name is
Suibhal: Mountain Traveler,

And in Tir-fo-thuinn, Country of the Waves,
It is Cu-gorm: Gray Hound,

And in Tir-na-h’oise,
Country of Ancient Years,
It is Sireadh-thall: Seek Beyond.

And I have been a breath in your heart,
And the day has its feet to it
That will see me coming
Into the hearts of men and women
Like a flame upon dry grass,
Like a flame of wind in a great wood.

Fiona MacLeod / William Sharp

 

I have a rather strange relationship with music. I don’t listen to it for leisure very often and tend to feel that, like tobacco, it is overused in our culture to a point where it’s significance is lost. In the not too distant past, music was not something you could acquire in abundance or carry in your pocket. It was something that required skill and learning and was always live. It drew communities together, preserved ancient lore and had a powerful emotional, physical and spiritual effect on people. I realise there were plenty of rowdy bar songs too! Yet still I feel that by overexposure to music we become insensitive to it these days, and that is a great loss. Of course I’m probably in the minority with this opinion.

This song is an adaptation of  Gabhain Molta Bhride, which I have posted previously, and includes lyrics sung in both Irish and English by the group Triniti. I think it is a beautiful and moving adaptation and I even appreciate the new English lyrics which complement the Gaelic ones.

While I don’t agree with a lot of this slideshow information (or the appropriation of other’s artwork without credit) I’m posting this particular version because of a quote by the poster of the video:

“On the 19th of May 2011 Queen Elizabeth II visited Kildare.
Locals were shocked when the Royal party stopped at the
Shrine to Saint Brighid (Brigid), and THE
QUEEN STOOD IN REVERENCE BEFORE BRIGHIDS
STATUE AND BOWED HER HEAD TO BRIGHID!
Big thank you to Breda Murphy (native of Kildare) for the information.”

I would dearly love to find more reports of the Queen’s visit to the Cathedral, but while I can confirm she was in Kildare at that time, I can’t find anything about her visiting the Cathedral or paying homage to Bride. Please share if you can confirm this information!

Interestingly, while trying to find out about the Queen’s visit, I discovered that the Dalai Lama visited Kildare this year as well. I wonder if he visited her Cathedral too?

Georges de La Tour 049 Many who honour Bride choose do so by burning a flame in her name; whether it is the fire on the hearth, the cooking stove or a candle on the shrine or altar. There are many Brigidines who are part of flame keeping orders, and this means burning a flame continually on a day set aside for reverence and prayer.

We often choose candles for our devotions, as they create less mess and smoke than a wood fire or brazier, and are easy to light and incorporate in to simple daily practices. However I think it is important to consider the type of candle you’re using, and whether it is really the best one for honouring Bride and for your own health.

Most of the candles we buy in shops are made from paraffin wax, a toxic bi-product of the petroleum industry that is then bleached with further chemicals and gives off harmful fumes when burnt.

A recent alternative to this are the popular Soy or Palm oil candles, which are cheap and burn for longer than paraffin. Unfortunately, they are not so good for the environment, as land all over south east Asia is currently being cleared to grow the plants that produce these oils.

From a Re-constructionist perspective, neither Paraffin nor Soy candles are historically accurate. The oil most commonly burned in European history would have been tallow, or animal fat, with Beeswax reserved for those who could afford it. Now, Beeswax candles, while still the most expensive on the market, are much more affordable to most of us and I believe they are the best choice in any spiritual practise, and as an offering to Bride are ideal.

Why?

  • Beeswax candles actually help purify the air in the rooms they are burnt through ionisation
  • Beeswax burns with a slight honey scent, surely a better offering than burnt petrol?
  • Beeswax burns longer than any other wax and is ideal for flamekeeping and vigils
  • Beeswax burns with a more golden flame than other waxes
  • Beeswax candles were traditionally brought to church to be blessed on Candlemas day
  • The higher cost of Beeswax makes it a more valuable offering than cheap paraffin
  • By buying locally made Beeswax you are incorporating something of the land in to your offering
  • You can safely make Beeswax candles yourself and show your devotion through crafting them especially for this purpose
  • While Bride herself may or may not be associated with Bees, she is associated with the flowers they make the wax from, the process of purification, the golden colour and traditions of Candlemas day, which falls the day after her own feast

I invite you to try burning a pure beeswax candle for your next vigil, or to honour Bride on a festival day. You will be surprised at the difference and may find it hard to go back!

To explore the colour symbolism of a deity, we must put aside a few modern biases and assumptions. I have had the opinion expressed to me before that the colours of Bride, described as her white skin and golden hair are superficial and unimportant. I can understand this from a modern perspective, where we associate such things with vanity or even racism, but I do believe that anything important enough to be preserved in lore and prayers for centuries is worth looking at and likely to be significant on a symbolic level.

Bríde, being a Goddess primarily associated with fire is often linked in modern thought to the colour Red. In fact many modern artists give her Red hair too, which is further linked to her Irish dominion. However this is something I’ve begun to question in my studies and work with her. To begin with, is red really the colour of fire? It is only one of the colours in fact, with shades of gold, blue, purple and white also present in flames. In fact the hottest flames are white. I do wonder if our idea that red is the primary colour of fire could be a fairly modern one, and the ancestors may have considered yellow/gold or white to be it’s true colour.

The reason I consider this, is because of the little recorded lore we have of Bríde, albiet after her assimilation with the saint of the same name, she is linked with the colours Gold and White repeatedly.

Carmina Gadelica Vol 3. Page 365 Night Shielding Verse “And Brigit, the fair and tender, Her hue like cotton-grass, Rich-tressed maiden, Of ringlets of gold.”

The above phrase appears again in a House Blessing chant in The Sun Dances Prayers and Blessings from the Gaelic, Alexander Carmichael, which I have previously posted on this blog.

Carmina Gadelica Vol 1. Page 277 Herding Blessing

“And of the milkmaid of the soft palms,
Bride of the clustering hair golden brown,
And of the milkmaid of the soft palms,
Bride of the clustering hair golden brown.”

In less scholarly sources, Bride is described as having golden-brown hair in The Coming of Angus and Bride (1917) by Donald Alexander MacKenzie, and as having long golden hair in Abbie Farwell Brown’s The Book of Saints and Friendly Beasts (1900)

Additionally, the flower for which we have the most evidence of connection to Bríde is the Dandelion, which turns from gold to white. The foods given to Bríde include milk (white) and butter (gold) due to her connections with cattle and the dairy. In the sources we have describing the Brideog it is often dressed in white cloth, and the reeds woven in to the cros Bride are golden when dried. The more one looks, the more connections one finds between these colours and the Goddess/Saint.

Conversely, I have found no great connections in the lore between Bride and the colour red. The only one that has been pointed out to me is the Oystercatcher, Bride’s bird, which is Black, White and Red in colour.

Of other interest is the colour of Bride’s mantle, which I have yet to find any description of in lore, other than being ‘bright.’ John Duncan paints it white, but it is also often represented as blue or green, both in modern Pagan and Christian iconic art. This article is a fascinating exploration of the possible colours of Bride’s mantle.

Why is this of any significance? Because it allows us to evaluate other connections and associations to Bride in a different light. One might be more inclined to research the connection between Bride and a certain tree, flower or animal if it reflected the colours associated with her. Likewise one can meditate on the symbolism of these colours to uncover further mysteries of Bride, our bright lady of the white palms and golden hair.

There is a sentence I keep coming across in articles and mentions of Bride, it is this:

“Brigid possessed an apple orchard in the Otherworld; bees traveled there to obtain magical nectar.”

If you google ‘Brigid apple orchard’ you will find this copy and pasted on countless websites, with some slight variations. However for the life of me I can not find a source for it anywhere. Although many of these web sites state that it is mentioned in a Gaelic folk song, I have found no such song as of yet.

The only connection I’ve dug up is this tiny mention of Bride’s feast in Ireland:

“St Brigid’s Eve was the time to save apples for the last night of January when old fashioned griddle apple cake was made. In some places this was known as St Brigid’s tea.” source

There is a lot of lore attached to Bride in modern times that has actually been borrowed from the myths of other, less popular Goddesses and spirits so it is no surprise to find something like this floating around. One of my favourite such attributions is that white trefoils spring up in Bride’s footprints, which is actually taken from the Mabinogion where this attribute is given to Olwen.

This idea that both Bees and Apple Trees could be connected to Bride is a very interesting one, although at present I remain sceptical of it’s origins. Apple Trees have a huge body of lore in Celtic myth and Bees come with their own powerful folklore. The reason I am so curious is a bit of UPG about a goddess in an orchard, which has been with me a long time now, far before my connection to Bride was born. I would love to hear anyone who knows a legitimate source for Bride’s bee-beloved Apple Orchard!

The Rites of Brigid: Goddess & Saint by Sean O’Duinn

I really loved this book. As an overview of the traditions and rites associated with St. Bride in Ireland, and speculation of their pre-Christian origins in the cult of the Goddess this exceeded my expectations.

Friar O’Duinn who lives at Glenstal Abbey in Ireland gives an academic and unbiased description. He compares the various components of the rites on St. Brigid’s day in Ireland to the cults and festivals of other saints to show what was quite normal in the veneration of a saint, and what was clearly influenced by other beliefs. I particularly liked his assertion that both the Brideog procession and the Threshold rites on St. Brigid’s day symbolise Bride’s return from the Otherworld, something not generally appropriate for Saints who tended to remain in Heaven. I see this as a very good argument for their being derived from earlier traditions.

Of perhaps the greatest value are the many first person descriptions of the rites he has collected from various Irish sources and translated in to English for the reader. These pieces show how the rites varied by locality and are worth the price of the book alone, whether or not you get value from O’Duinn’s speculations.

One of my few peeves with this work is the occasional reference to a Goddess as ‘the fertility goddess’ or ‘the mother goddess’ without specifying which one is meant, as the Celts clearly had several. However references of this kind were few and far between, so it’s certainly readable despite this.

I also took issue with some of his speculation, such as his comparing the symbolism of the Cros Bride with the lozenge and dot found on some ‘goddess’ figures in central Europe. Likewise, while I support his pet theory, that the Celts had a ‘Purusha’ type creation myth, I think he goes too far by suggesting that the rushes used to form the Brideog then being pulled apart to make Cros Bride is a form of mythic dismemberment.

Overall this is an excellent work and I would definitely recommend it to anyone as a solid source book for the traditions and rites surrounding La Fheile Bride and Bride’s wells in Ireland. It is useful in a practical sense for those wishing to reconstruct the rites and as a starting point for meditations on the symbolism of the many aspects of our beloved Bride.

Kilmeny

Bonnie Kilmeny gaed up the glen;
But it wasna to meet Duneira's men,
Nor the rosy monk of the isle to see,
For Kilmeny was pure as pure could be.
It was only to hear the yorlin sing,
And pu' the cress-flower round the spring;
The scarlet hypp and the hindberrye,
And the nut that hung frae the hazel tree;

Kilmeny, James Hogg

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