Today is the first day of Spring, known as Imbolc in Celtic Pagan tradition. It is a day that is traditionally associated with honouring Brigid, a famous Goddess of the Tuatha Dé Danann. However, today is also the feast day of Saint Brigid, the patron saint of Ireland. The reason for this is that they are the same person.
The Pagan Goddess Brigid was the daughter of the Daghdha, a prolific father-figure God of the Tuatha Dé Danann. In the mythology she married Bres, the somewhat unpopular half-Fomorian king of the Tuatha Dé Danann, They had a son, Ruadán, who was slain at the second battle of Moytura. When he was killed, Brigid went to the battlefield to mourn him and it is said that that was the first lament in Ireland
So important was the Goddess Brigid to the ancient people’s of Ireland, that during the period in the 5th century when Ireland was being converted to Christianity, the Church recognised that in order for the new religion to be accepted they would have to bring Brigid into it too.
According to medieval hagiography, Saint Brigid was born into slavery, owned by a Druid. Her holiness manifested as an infant and grew in intensity as she got older. She founded her monastery at the site of a pagan shrine to the Goddess Brigid in county Kildare. The shrine was located under a huge sacred oak tree, and an eternal flame burned there, tended by a group of young women. To this day the flame burns at the site in honour of Saint Brigid.
Brigid, both Goddess and Saint, is associated with Imbolc, the Spring, new life, farming, fertility, poets, smiths, babies, intelligence and warfare amongst other things. She is also seen by many as being a Triple Goddess and is said to lean on the cradle and watch over every baby.
The most famous tradition associated with Brigid is the making of a Brigid’s Cross. This is an unusually shaped cross made most commonly from rushes or willow. It is used for protection against evil. There are many more traditions associated with her, including leaving a scarf outside overnight on Imbolc’s eve to be blessed by Brigid. This is said to be a cure for many ailments from headache to infertility.
Brigid is a complex and fascinating figure, who exists in a duality that has allowed her to be passed down through the centuries, and remain relevant to millions of people across the globe today.
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