Brigid Goddess and Her Beautiful Celtic History

Brigid Goddess and Her Beautiful Celtic History

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You’ve probably heard of Brigid, the Celtic Goddess of fire, poetry, and healing, but what do you really know about her? Brigid is an intriguing and fascinating goddess with a rich and beautiful history.

Although Brigid’s origins, mythology, and stories can be complex, my goal is to bring together these aspects to create a broader view of this multidimensional Goddess. This will help you uncover and personally connect with Brigid and incorporate her into your spiritual practice.

Please note that I make every effort to ensure this information is correct and accurate through my own experiences and referencing sources throughout AND at the bottom of this article.

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Who is the Goddess Brigid?

Brigid, one of the most popular Celtic goddesses, represents a solar deity associated with the beginning of Spring. Her name means the high one or the exalted one. Images depict her as a fire-haired Goddess wearing a sunbeam cloak. She was born at sunrise, with rays of sunlight radiating from her head.

Her nicknames include Fiery Arrow, the Bright One, Lady of the Sacred Flame, The Powerful One, or Bright Arrow.

Celtic Gods and Goddesses were manifestations of Nature and the elements, which were often chaotic. Celtic Goddesses were multi-dimensional and often fierce, demanding, sexual, and vengeful instead of being solely depicted as peaceful or nurturing.

While Brig was spirit of many things, she was primarily the green earth itself. This should not be confused with being a Goddess “of” the earth.

Brig was not a caretaker or steward. The earth was alive and cognizant. Brig was its spirit and the soil, rocks, hills, and rivers were her body.

Weber, Courtney – Brigid History, Mystery, and Magick of the Celtic Goddess

It’s crucial to note motherhood was incredibly respected and honored by the Celtic people. Due to this, rape was a serious and unforgivable crime sentenced with the harshest punishment possible. However, sexuality was celebrated because of its contribution to the sacred role of motherhood.

Who is the Goddess Brigid?

Why is Brigid’s Name Spelled Differently?

The ancient Celtic Pagan civilization thrived between approximately 600 BCE and 400 CE and was a mixture of many different cultures and belief systems. They flourished throughout the geographic areas of Ireland, the British Isles, Portugal, northern Italy, southern Poland, central Turkey, France, and northern Spain.

As a result, many believe Brigid’s origins encompass many Goddesses (some possibly dating back to the Neolithic Revolution) or a single primary Mother Goddess called Brig.

You’ll find alternative spellings for her name throughout history and in different geographical areas.

  • Ireland – Bhríde, Brigid, Brighid, Brig-eoit, Bríd, Brígh, and Brigit
  • Scotland – Brigh, Bridi, Bridean,  Bhrìghde, Brighid, and Brüd
  • Wales – Bregit, Breit, Freit, Ffraid, Ffred, and Fride
  • England – Brigitae, Brigindo, Brigandu, Brittania, or Brigantia
  • Isle of Man – Breeshey
  • France – Brigandu

However, you’ll often find regions also using the name Brig, Bride, Bridget, or Brid. Briganti was her name in the ancient Celtic language and is connected to the Indo-European term Bhrghnti, meaning exalted one in Sanskrit.

For simplification, I’ll be referring to her as Brigid throughout this article. It’s important to note each spiritual practitioner is welcome to use whichever name resonates with them. Your connection with this lovely Goddess is very personal. What you choose to call her or how you worship her is between you and her!

Who is The British Goddess Brigantia?

Some believe the British Goddess Brigantia is entirely separate from Brigid. So here’s a quick summary of Brigantia. Brigantia is a Goddess of healing, crafts, fertility, and water (springs, lakes, and wells).

There were at least two tribes who respected Brigantia so much, they named their tribes after her: the Brigantes (who lived near northern England) and the Brigantii (who lived near Austria).

In 60 AD, the Romans launched an attack against the Druid Order in Anglesey. As the Roman soldiers reached the shoreline, they were terrified to see long-haired Druidesses dressed in black alongside warriors and male Druids.

Their commanders persuaded the intimated soldiers to attack, and unfortunately, they decimated the Druid Order in Anglesey in 60 AD. Brigantia blended with the Roman Goddess Minerva and her associations as the Romans took control of their conquered territory.

As Britain became established in the decades following the Roman conquest, a warrior goddess became unnecessary.

So Brigantia’s other attributes, protection of a personal nature and particularly healing, became more emphasised among the civilian population.

This appears to be the case through the whole of the Roman period in Britain until the official withdrawal of the Romans from Britain in 410 AD.

However, a new religion [Christianity] was beginning to spread and become more popular from the sixth century onwards.

Brian Wright – Brigid: Goddess, Druidess, and Saint

What is Brigid the Goddess of?

The symbolism behind Brigid can sometimes be mysterious and contradictory, which creates a beautifully complex Goddess. Brigid is the Goddess of poetry, divination, knowledge, creativity, and the anvil and forge (smithing).

She is a Goddess of battle, fire, and death, yet also healing, fertility, love, sacred wells, and water. She protects domesticated animals, cemeteries, and abandoned children while simultaneously defying authority.

Sanas Cormaic (aka Cormac’s Glossary) is a tenth-century compendium of Irish oral history written by Irish bishop and king Cormac mac Cuilennáin, who died in the Battle of Bellaghmoon in 908. The Sanas Cormaic shares the stories and history of many Gods and Goddesses, which is helpful when studying Irish mythology.

In the Sanas Cormaic, Brigid is described as “a poetess, daughter of the Dagda. This is Brigit, the female sage or woman of wisdom.”

What is Brigid the Goddess of?

Brigid Goddess Origins and History

If you’re an overthinker like me who is always looking for the “right” or “wrong” answer, you may struggle with the multiple aspects and origin stories of the Goddess Brigid. Keep in mind people have honored Brigid for centuries, weaving MANY tales behind her origins.

I encourage you to keep an open mind and allow the various stories of Brigid to paint a larger picture of who this Goddess truly is: layered, complex, and multi-dimensional. This will allow you to personally understand and connect with Brigid in a more profound way.

Brigid The Daughter of Dagda

Modern scholars believe The Book of the Taking of Ireland, also known as The Lebor Gabála Érenn, is an inaccurate portrayal of ancient Irish history created by Christians. It’s a pseudo-historical compilation of fictional poetry from the Middle Ages. However, remember this doesn’t mean there isn’t some truth!

Some of the earliest known sources, including The Lebor Gabála Érenn (along with the Sanas Cormaic), indicate Brigid is the daughter of Dagda. Dagda serves as a leader among the Fae people known as Tuatha dè Danann. Their name translates to People of the Goddess Danu, and they’re her children. The Tuatha dè Danann possessed the ability to become invisible and shape-shift at will.

Their enemies are the Fomorians (Fomhóire), a hostile mythical race that emerges beneath the sea or the earth. It’s believed the Tuatha dè Danann magically materialized from a cloud of mist from across the northern sea. Dagda had four children Angus, Aed, Cermat Coem, and Brigid.

In an alternative story, Danu and a sacred oak named Bíle are the parents of Brigid, while Dagda is her brother.

The Lebor Gabála Érenn also mentions Brigid’s two oxen (Fe and Men), while also connecting her to the enchanted wild boar Trwyth (who appears in Arthurian legends), and Cirb (a castrated ram who was king of all the rams and sheep of Ireland).

Brigid The Wife of Bres

The Lebor Gabála Érenn also established Brigid as the wife of Bres (his father was Fomorian, and his mother was Tuatha dè Danann). Brigid’s marriage to Bres aimed to bring peace to the two warring groups. Brigid and Bres even welcomed a child named Ruadan.

Despite their attempts, they couldn’t achieve peace. In the battle of Magh Tuireadh, Ruadan died fighting. In her grief, Brigid keened (to wail in despair) for her dead son. ‘At first, she shrieked, and then she wept, then for the first time weeping and shrieking were heard in Ireland.’

This created a melancholy tradition in Ireland where women would now keen at the graves of their loved ones. In this same excerpt, Brigid is credited with developing a night-traveling whistle.

In an alternative story, Brigid married a man named Tuireann, and they had three sons: Brian, Iuchar, and Irchaba.

Brigid Daughter of The Morrígan

The Morrígan may be Brigid’s mother, although this is a hot topic of debate.

However, according to Brian Wright in Brigid: Goddess, Druidess, and Saint, there is an ancient traditional tale that describes Dagda having a sexual relationship with the war Goddess Morrígan.

The Daghdha dwelt in Glen Etin in the north, and met a woman in Glen Etin on that day which was a year before he was to fight a great battle. The River Unshin in the Province of Connacht roars to the south of the place and he beheld a woman washing herself, standing with one of her feet at the Allod Echae to the south of the water, and the other at Loscuinn, to the north of the water.

Nine loosened tresses were on her head. The Daghdha spoke with the woman, who was Mór-Ríoghain, goddess of war, and they had intercourse. The place where they mated has been called Bed of the Couple (Leaba an Beirt) ever afterwards, and the result of this union was to be Brighid.

Brian Wright – Brigid: Goddess, Druidess, and Saint

Morrígan then provides Dagda with a prophecy and knowledge of the battle he will encounter with his adversaries, the Fomorians. She even decides to join and help him win this battle.

In some versions of this story, their sexual encounter took place on the Pagan holiday, Samhain. There are also alternate versions of this story that do not include Brigid’s name, hence the debate among Brigid’s followers. Dagda is also the lover of Boann, who is another possible mother of Brigid.

Brigid and the Pagan Holiday of Imbolc

In modern times, we celebrate the beginning of Spring during the equinox. However, the Celtic people viewed Imbolc as the beginning of the Spring season. The overall intentions and spiritual meaning of Imbolc are transformations, purification, fresh beginnings, and celebrating the return of the light.

Imbolc (meaning “in the belly”) associates itself with ewe’s milk and begins at sundown on February 1st until nightfall on February 2nd. Imbolc is a fire festival that celebrates the home and the halfway point between Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox.

During Imbolc, people honor the Goddess Brigid because of her connections with Spring and a story where she actively chases away Winter.

One Winter, Cailleach kidnapped and imprisoned Brigid in a mountain called Ben Nevis. Cailleach symbolizes Winter and storms and brings darkness and gloom every year.

Brigid was freed from her captivity by her brother Angus on Imbolc. Furious, the Cailleach created massive storms, but Brigid still made her escape from the woman who had ruled the land since Samhain, allowing Spring to return once more.

Her feast day was February 1, which was also the date of the pagan festival of Imbolc, the season when the ewes came into milk.

Britannica – Brigit Celtic deity

Goddess Brigid Symbols

Ancient Celtic people incorporated many symbols into their spiritual practice, including spirals (representing spiritual growth) and the Ogham Alphabet. In addition to the symbols listed below, Brigid is connected to images of Spring (like birds, eggs, and flowers).

Brigid Symbols

  • Anvil (Representing smithing and metalwork)
  • Oak Tree (A sacred Celtic tree. A grove was originally at the site of the Kildare church)
  • Brigid Cross (Representing life, wealth, and prosperity)
  • Milk – (Since ewes came into milk during early February)
  • Flames
  • Water/Wells

Animals

  • Raven (During early February, this is the first bird to start nesting)
  • Oxen (Symbolic of Fe and Men)
  • Ewe (Portraying her connection with the powerful ram Cirb)
  • Boars (Representing her enchanted wild boar Trwyth as well as Celtic beliefs that boars symbolized bravery and shape-shifting)
  • Snakes (Due to its connection with renewal and new life)

Colors

  • Red, Orange, and Gold (Representing glowing solar energy or the hearth fire)
  • Blue (Representing tranquil and healing water energy) 
  • White (Representing purity, milk, and the snow typically on the ground during early February)
  • Green (Due to her association with the earth and the Fae)
Goddess Brigid Oak Tree Symbol

What is Brigid’s Cross?

This geometric symbol is often confused with a Christian symbol but has much older roots. Brigid’s cross is multi-dimensional and believed to be a Pagan sun wheel. You can create your own using rushes, reeds, brown paper, pipe cleaners, wire, or lavender stems!

It symbolically represents her as a solar deity, protects your homestead (including loved ones, domesticated animals, and home), and embodies the earth, life, and fertility.

Refer to the section below (What is St Brigid’s Day?) to read about Brigid’s cross in more detail.

What is Brigid's Cross?

Is the Goddess Brigid a Triple Goddess?

You’ll often see Brigid confusingly portrayed as three identical women, making people wonder if she’s a Triple Goddess. Only in more recent years did the Goddess Brigid emerge in a triple form. This is possibly due to the ancient Celts’ spiritual sacredness of the number three and its association with the divine. 

The most likely theory stems from Ireland, where there was a belief that Dagda had three identical daughters with the same name. However, each was associated with different aspects, including healing, smithwork, and poetry.

In Wicca, this is portrayed as a Triple Goddess reflecting the maiden/mother/crone aspects or the moon phases (waxing, full, and waning). However, this does not accurately represent how the Celtic people viewed Brigid.

While Brigid’s complexities and multiple associations may be frustrating to understand at times, it’s important to remember we are all unique and don’t necessarily fit into a specific box or category. Our passions, interests, and skills make us all peculiar and much more interesting. The same can be said for the beautiful Goddess Brigid.

Bridgid Offerings

If you include the Goddess Brigid in your spiritual practice, it’s customary to make offerings to her. Some suggested altar offerings include:

  • Milk
  • Fire elements (candles with corresponding colors, bonfire, sunlight)
  • Water elements (water fountain or moon water)
  • Grain
  • Herbs (representing fire (cayenne or cinnamon) or water (chamomile, lavender, or mugwort))
  • Creative offerings such as poetry, art, music, food, or whatever you enjoy making
  • Corn doll
  • Flowers
  • Coins
  • Any Imbolc spiritual correspondences

Hearth Witch created a lovely video showing her personal Goddess Brighid Offering. I highly recommend watching it if you’re looking for inspiration.

There are many ways you can celebrate the Goddess Brigid. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Create solar water to place on your altar
  • Make a Brigid’s cross
  • Practice Fire or Water Scrying
  • Burn a candle for Brigid
  • Dedicate a Spring Egg Ritual to Brigid
  • Read poetry or create your own
  • Make Moon Water for your altar
  • Create a corn doll
  • Make a healing salve or herbal remedy like Fire Cider
  • Incorporate the Fae into your practice
  • Spend time in Nature, especially near wells or sacred waters
  • Bake a recipe like this one: Cheesy Dandelion Spirals: Serpentine Spring Magic
  • Create a sigil to represent Brigid
  • Set up a water fountain
  • Add your connection to her in your Grimoire
  • Take care and honor your home

Sacred Wells of the Goddess Brigid

Many sacred wells blend Celtic Pagan ideas with Christian beliefs and are famous for their power to heal physical, mental, and spiritual illnesses.

People seek healing at one of Brigid’s sacred wells by tying a piece of their clothing to a tree. This allows their ailment to transfer from their bodies to the tree. You may also see bits of cloth, called clooties, tied to trees or placed on stones.

Here are some locations of the well-known wells honoring Brigid in Ireland, according to Druidry.org. I highlighted the two most popular sites along with a brief description.

  • Kilbride parish, Co. Mayo
  • Chiffony, Co. Sligo
  • St. Brigid’s Well in Faughart, County Louth (Located just north of Dundalk, this site is believed to be the birthplace of St. Brigid.)
  • Ardagh, Co. Longford
  • Buttevant, Co. Cork
  • Castlemanger, Co. Cork
  • Dunteer, Co. Louth
  • Inismagrath parish, Co.
  • Leitrim; Killinagh parish, Co. Cavin
  • Kilranelagh parish, Co. Carlow
  • Liscannor, County Clare (located near the cliffs of Moher. It’s believed to be one of the oldest wells with healing properties. It is located in a stone grotto with an entrance to an ancient cemetery on the hill above it. You can reach it through steep pathways and stairs)
  • Marlerstown ,Co. Louth
  • Mullingar, Co. Westmeath
  • Tully, Co. Kildare
  • Outeragh parish, Co. Leitrim
Sacred Wells of the Goddess Brigid. Bits of cloth, called clooties, tied to trees or placed on stones.
Sacred Wells of the Goddess Brigid. Bits of cloth, called clooties, tied to trees or placed on stones.

Who is Saint Brigid?

The ancient Celts chose not to document their history in writing. Instead, they relied on oral retellings due to a belief that written accounts might lead to misunderstandings. Throughout time, many Celtic deities (it’s believed there were hundreds of them) were forgotten or vanished as Christianity spread.

The few deities who made it into written history did so through the perspectives, interpretations, and writings of ancient Greeks, Romans, and Christian monks/historians. While this doesn’t necessarily imply inaccuracy, it does pose a challenge in establishing authentic Celtic beliefs from possible later additions throughout history.

St. Brigid’s Cathedral in Kildare, Ireland, is widely believed to have been constructed on a Pagan shrine near an Oak grove. They kept a constant flame in this sacred place to honor and respect the Pagan Goddess Brigid.

It’s essential to note Oak trees and everlasting fires are not generally devoted to Catholic saints. However, it is quite common in Celtic spiritual beliefs. Just saying!

However, at this point, the story gets hazy and is told through folklore and legend. Here are two different versions you may find interesting.

Who is Saint Brigid?

The Story of Brigid, The Druidess

A Druidess woman took care of the Pagan shrine in Kildare, Ireland, and later led its transition from Pagan to Catholic. People commonly referred to prominent Druidesses or influential Celtic women, including judges, teachers, and healers, as Brigid out of respect and honor. It’s believed this Druidess was also given the title of Brigid.

This clever and tenacious woman found a way to protect a sacred space that would inevitably shift or be destroyed by the Christian religion and beliefs.

According to legend, the Bishop Ibor, performing the liturgical rite, read from the wrong passage and gave Brigid a status of power unheard of for women [The title Bishop of Kildare], even in contemporary Catholicism. If the story is true, it was almost certainly not an accident.

Druidesses commonly held high posts, although nuns did not. To keep the respected Druidess in a powerful position would have been to the Church’s advantage, strengthening alliances with the local population. After her death, she became St. Brigid. Even in the new faith, Brigid remained exalted.

Weber, Courtney – Brigid History, Mystery, and Magick of the Celtic Goddess

After Brigid’s death in 525 AD, the Catholic church made her a Saint and attached all associations of the Goddess Brigid to her.

The Story of Brigid Enslaved To Saint

Another story states Saint Brigid was born to a Christian slave mother and a wealthy Pagan father who named her after the Goddess Brigid. She bathed in milk as soon as she was born. Brigid refused to eat anything impure and only drank the milk of a white-skinned, red-eared cow. The Celts believed them to be otherworldly in Celtic legend.

Even though her dad was wealthy, he kept Brigid and her mom as slaves. Growing up, Brigid worked on the farm, helped the poor, and was known for her kindness. When she turned eighteen, her dad tried to sell her as a slave or marry her off, but the King of Leinster freed her because he was impressed by her virtue.

In the late 11th century, the King of Leinster gave Brigid land in Kildare to start her monastery, Cill Dara, according to the Liber hymnorum manuscript. When she became a nun, the Bishop defied Christian protocol by ordaining her as a female bishop. 

Additional St. Brigid Legends

There are many legends about Brigid’s and her miracles. Some say she healed a blind nun with prayer, while others claim she turned bathwater into ale, enough for eighteen churches. That’s why she’s known as the patron saint of beer.

Another story claims St. Brigid performed a holy abortion on a nun who’d broken her vow of celibacy, becoming pregnant. Brigid blessed the woman’s womb, and the baby disappeared without any pain or suffering. There are also stories of her breathing life into stillborn babies.

St. Brigid is also called Muire na nGael, meaning Mary of the Gael. Some legends even claim she acted as the midwife for Jesus Christ, despite Jesus being born centuries later, illustrating how stories of the Goddess Brigid and St. Brigid have combined throughout history.

What is St Brigid’s Day?

People celebrate Saint Brigid’s Day on February 1st with various traditions and rituals. Many children learn to make Saint Brigid’s Crosses a few days before the holiday, either at school or at home. These crosses are then taken to the church on Saint Brigid’s Day for blessings.

After receiving blessings, people place Brigid crosses in their homes—kitchens, doorways, or windows—for a year. Brigid crosses provide protection and good luck. The next year, they create new crosses and burn the old ones in a fire.

Another tradition takes place on the eve of Saint Brigid’s Day and involves people leaving clothing outside their homes to be blessed by Saint Brigid with healing powers or good luck. The clothing can later be worn by those suffering from illness. 

Another custom designates a household member to extinguish the home’s fire and brush the ashes flat and even. The next morning, they search for any imprints on the ashes, indicating Brigid visited during the night or early morning. 

These beliefs likely stem from ancient Pagan spiritual practices because these traditions are not found within the Christian stories of St. Brigid. This further shows the integration of the Brigid Goddess into the Christian beliefs of St. Brigid.

Goddess Brigid and Voodoo Loa Maman Bridgette

In the 1600s, as European nations grew throughout the Caribbean, landowners were looking for cheap workers to give them massive profits.

The Irish and Scottish people were promised transportation for years of free manual labor, known as indentured servitude. They would be fed and housed. Once their term was complete, they would be free to leave to create their own opportunities and purchase land.

However, this was far from reality, and they frequently suffered horrible working conditions and death from disease and hunger. Remember, slaveholders enslaved Africans, forcing them into physical labor on plantations with no hope of gaining freedom.

Indentured servants lived and labored beside enslaved people from Africa, and while under these horrific circumstances, these two cultures shared and discussed their spiritual practices and ideas.

Several Catholic saints gained new roles in the Voudon faith, including Saint Brigid as Maman Brigitte, a powerful Lwa (Loa) of death, cemeteries, and who lives in an Oak tree.

Maman Brigitte is the only Lwa with white skin and red hair. She is sought for issues pertaining to justice or contacting the Gede – ancestral spirits. Maman Brigitte is a tough character, often described as a profanity spewing, hardened presence, yet still full of fierce love.

She is made of a presence that could wrap someone up in the toughest, motherly embrace, or cut with a hidden blade if crossed. She is symbolized by a black rooster, and known for donning bright, clashing costumes, use of rancid profanity, and flagrant sexuality.

Weber, Courtney – Brigid History, Mystery, and Magick of the Celtic Goddess

It’s important to note some believe this correlation is false and exaggerated; claiming Maman Brigitte and the Goddess Brigid are entirely different.

However, others claim the names, oak tree connections, red hair, protector of cemeteries, and symbolic strong motherly figures are too strong to deny.

Additional Notes about Voodoo Loa Maman Bridgette

I’d like to state I do not practice Voudon (aka Voodoo) and have the utmost respect for those who do. Voudon is a closed practice, and I do not wish to offend anyone with Voudon as part of their ancestral line or who is an initiate in the practice.

People often ask about the connection between Brigid and Maman Bridgette. I wanted to quickly summarize the history without getting into specific practices or rituals.

I hope you found this post about the Goddess Brigid helpful! Lots of love to you, and remember, as always…

Sources

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