Friday 21 February 2014

Celtic Goddesses: Brighid (part 1)

Brighid triad cosplay (My IG)
 To start with my goddesses section in this blog, I'd like to dedicate a series of posts to the Celtic goddess Brighid. To read about her festival, Imbolc, you can check these posts: 1 and 2

   Brighid is one of favourite goddesses in mythology. Smith, artisan, healer, musician, poet, bringer of life and light, warrior-protector...She's just so empowering and awesome, an awesome model of a woman complete within herself. Plus she's normally depicted with long red hair (sometimes golden, both refer to her being a solar goddess), so she has it all (as I love red hair)! :) 

    I'd like to focus on a shameless picture overload of my favourite artworks about Brighid (I tend to show a lot of artwork in my posts, I really like the visual component), plus write a bit about her, plus some quotes and links to a couple of poems and Neopagan songs. Saint Brighid, the counterpart of the goddess in the Christian world, will probably feature a bit too, because she's rather remarkable, being an abbess and all.

 It's going to be quite long, but if you're interested, read (and watch) on!

   -Part 1 (this post): The Goddess Brighid: Triple goddess. Some mythology. Symbols and characteristics. 
   -Part 2: Brighid's four main aspects (mainly pic overload).
   -Part 3Poems and songs and more artwork. 
   -Part 4 (and final): Brigid and Saint Brigid of Kildare. Parallels in other mythologies and religions: Solar-protective goddesses. Focusing on Minerva/Atenea. Isis. Varda/Elbereth and Arien.
DISCLAIMER: All the quotes and artwork are duly credited. In some cases I don't know who the author or artist is, so if you know, please let me know, and I'll credit them! Fellow Deviants, let me know if you do not wish me to show your (credited) artwork here.

The Goddess Brighid:
"I am Bríd, beloved of Erin, spirit of fire, healer of ills, warrioress of old, protector of life, woman of power, sovereign Mother of all creation. I create, I inspire, I make magick. I am old, I am young, I am eternal. I am the All-Power personified. I am me…Bríd.”  -  (Celtic Myth and Magic – Harnessing the Power of the Gods and Goddesses by Edain Mc Coy, 65.)
Brighid as a Triple Goddess (Miranda Grey). My favourite depiction of Brighid.
Brighid was a very important goddess among the Celtic peoples. She is considered a triple aspect deity, with three main aspects: One of life, fertility and healing; one of poetry and inspiration; and one of crafts and smith-work.  She has also a warrior-protector aspect as Brigantia. 

   Thus, Brigid is primarily the patroness of poets, smiths and healers. She is also the patroness of the Druids, "in her aspects of poetry (Bards), healing and prophecy (Ovates) and blacksmithing (Druids)" [S.Morgan Black]. As a goddess of fertility, Brighid is also the protector of children and farm animals (particularly cows). Apart from smithwork, her crafting sphere includes weaving, brewing and dyeing. 

   Brighid rules the elements of fire and water. Water is associated mainly with her healing aspect and her being a triple goddess related to the the changing Moon. She is also considered a 'Solar goddess' (there are many of these in Celtic religion, like Lugh and Belisama) and as such, she is heavily linked with light, fire, fertility, creativity, inspiration, wisdom, healing and protective warrior skills. 

  "As a Sun Goddess, born at the exact moment of dawn, she bears the gifts of knowledge, inspiration, and the life and healing energy of the sun. She is complete within herpland areself." (Source)

   "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." (

Fire is probably the most powerful symbol of Brighid. It is linked with her three main aspects:
 "1.   Fires of Inspiration – poetry, learning, divination, witchcraft, occult knowledge and prophecy.  In this aspect She appears as a poetess and a muse.
2.   Fires of the Forge – smithcrafts, blacksmiths, goldsmiths, housecrafts. In this aspect she is seen carrying her famous cauldron used for melting metals.  She may even date back to the beginnings of pottery and its firing. Through this forge aspect She is also associated with the martial arts, as a warrior goddess, who forges spears and arrows.  A smith creates anew and fixes broken things.
3.  Fires of the Hearth – medicine, spiritual healing and fertility, midwifery, inner healing and vital energy. In this aspect She is known as the Goddess of Healing." (Source)

 As well as honouring sacred wells, sacred fires were lit in worship of this goddess. In Kildare there were nine priestesses who tended to a sacred fire. This tradition continued in the Christian era, in the form of nine nuns tending to Saint Brigid's fire.

 The name 'Brighid' has various possible meanings: "The Bright One", "The High One"/"The Exalted One", "The Powerful One", and, especially, "A Flaming Arrow". This last name refers to the solar aspect of the goddess, linked with fire and light, symbols of life and poetic inspiration.

 "and Brigit, that was 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 meaning of her name was Breo-saighit, a fiery arrow."
(Lady Gregory, Gods and Fighting Men)
My reenactment of Brighid (IG)
  In Irish mythology, Brigid is the daughter of the Dagda (the 'All-father' and protector of the tribe), and her mother is either the war-goddess Mórrígán, or Boann the cow-goddess. She is considered by many a pan-Celtic goddess, a Mother Goddess figure worshipped by many different Celtic tribes. The root of her name can be certainly found in many place names and river names across the continent (like 'Britain', for example, coming from the Brigantes tribe, who worshipped Brigid as Brigantia). It is also found in inscriptions and in myth, folktales and hagiography.

 "She has been worshipped by the Celtic people as a Saint for over fifteen hundred years, and as a Goddess long before the Roman invasion of Britain and the birth of Christ. Her cult was so powerful that the Celtic peoples had to adopt her as a Saint. (...) Brigit is a "pan Celtic" goddess, who was worshipped by both the Giodelic and the Brythonic Celts in the British Isles and beyond.(...) "
(Susan Morgan Black, essay on Brigit) 

  However, there are others who think that this is not all that clear, and that rather than being a pan-Celtic goddess, there might have been different deities with the bríg root (which means 'high' or 'exalted') in their name, given to them as a title. An interesting discussion of this can be found here:

-Water. Sacred wells. The changing Moon.
-Fire, candles. The Sun.
-A white snake (healing and fertility)
-Cattle and domestic animals, especially sheep and a white red-eared cow (fertility). Also the ox, boar and ram. Lebor Gabála Érenn says Brigid has two oxen, Fe and Men, that graze on a plain called Femen. She also possessed the 'king of boars' Torc Triath, and the 'king of sheep' Cirb.
-The swan (art and poetic inspiration).
-The hammer and anvil.
-The harp.
-The colours white (healing, life), red (fire) and green (healing, fertility).
-A white wand, sacred woods.
-Wheat and flowers. Bees (fertility, creativity).
-Weapons and an orb of victory (as Brigantia)

Some depictions of Brighid as a triple goddess:
'Brigid - Inspiration' by Hrana Janto. Portrayed with a harp as poetess/inspirer, with fire and with flowers (life, fertlity). Fire also comes out of her head.
Beautiful interpretation of Miranda Gray's Brigid (shown below in high resolution) by
Triple Brighid by Miranda Gray (high res)
'Imbolc-Brigid. The Triple Goddess'. ARTIST UNKNOWN to me. Portrayed with many of her symbols: The harp, the swan, the cow, the lamb, the sword, fire, the rod, the Sun, flowers.

Brigid statue as a triple goddess. Front is her metalwork and crafts aspect (shown here:

Brighid statue (Paul Borda) (shown here: Shows the goddess as nurturer, healer and life-giver, poetess and source of inspiration and wisdom, and crafstwoman, blacksmith and transformer.

'Brigid' by PicklePixie on DeviantArt ( Depicting an uncommonly dark-haired Brigid (because of her light and fire associations she's normally depicted as red-haired or golden-haired) as nurturer/healer/life-giver, poetess/inspirer and warrior/smith/shaper. The bees appear as symbol of fertility and creativity.

'Brigantia', by Amy-Pixel on DeviantArt ( Depicted with a bird (life, fertility), fire (inspiration, healing, life, etc) and a hammer (crafts and blacksmithing, shaping, creating).  The cow and plants are shown behind her.

My reenactment of Goddess Brighid (IG, Tumblr), inspired by art depictions such as those by Miranda Gray (left) and Hrana Janto (right)

-Lady Gregory, Gods and Fighting Men.
-'Brigid, goddess of Healing, Poetry and Smithcraft' by Judith Shaw
-Essay on Brigit by Susan Morgan Black. Downloadable as pdf.
-The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids:
-Interesting discussion about whether Brighid is really a pan-Celtic goddess and the relation between the goddess and the later saint:
-Mythical Ireland:
-Brighid jewellry and statues at GoddessGifts:

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