Brigid was the goddess of the Sacred Flame of Kildare and one of the goddesses worshipped by the Celtic peoples, including the druids. She was the goddess of all things perceived to be of relatively high dimensions. This includes high-rising flames, highlands, hill-forts, and upland areas. Also, activities and states conceived as psychologically lofty and elevated, such as wisdom, excellence, perfection, high intelligence, poetic eloquence, craftsmanship (especially blacksmithy), 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. She is a favorite of both Pagans and Christians.
St Bride’s day, wherever it is celebrated, is one of the clearest examples of a pagan festival being adopted by Christianity. Because even the name has not changed. St Bride or Brigid simply took over the mantle of the pagan Brigid, chief goddess of not only the ancient Irish but Celts across a wide swathe of western Europe. The name in Gaelic means ‘bright flame’. In northern Britain she was called Brigantia, chief deity of the Brigantes tribe who were often led by warrior queens. Elsewhere she was called Brigit, Bride, Brighid, Brigandu and Berecynthia.
The Triple Goddess
Whatever the precise spelling, Brigid was a triple goddess. Or, as it was sometimes put, there were three sisters all called Brigid who were the patronesses respectively of fertility, poetry and smithcraft.
As goddess of fertility Brigid was concerned equally with humans, animals, and vegetation. Everywhere she walked, flowers sprang up under her feet. In her shrine, it was always springtime and her herds never ran dry of milk. Brigid was the patroness of midwifery and of healing generally. She was particularly associated with sacred springs and holy wells, to which people would bring prayers and offerings to ward disease and barrenness. These wells were adopted by her Christian successor and many continue to be places of pilgrimage today.
As goddess of poetry, Brigid was keeper and dispenser of inspiration, the ‘fire of the soul’. The symbolism of water and fire is combined in the Cauldron of Inspiration, of which she is the keeper. She invented the Ogham alphabet and it is said of both pagan and Christian Brigids that they were struck in their forehead on birth by a shaft of fire from heaven.
As goddess of earthly fire, the third Brigid was the patroness of metalcraft and all smith-work. In legendary battle, her preferred weapons were the spear and arrow. One interpretation of her name is ‘Flaming Arrow’.
Saint Brigid’s Festival
Brigid’s festival was one of the four main events in the ancient Celtic calendar. This is because it marks the invisible reawakening of Nature within the cold earth. It was also called Oilmec, ‘Ewe’s Milk’ because it opened the season of lambing.
The Pagan goddess Brigid is perhaps one of the oldest goddesses of Celtic Europe still recognized and worshipped. Until the mid-twentieth century in Scotland, she was still welcomed in at Imbolc by the symbolic rekindling of the hearth fire after the house had been cleaned from top to bottom for spring.
After celebrating Imbolc it is symbolic to make a Brigid’s Cross out of hay or raffia and hang it at your front door. This is said to be for protection during the rest of the year.
While making your cross, ask St. Brigid to protect and guard your home against negative energy, from strangers and thieves. Ask her to bring love and light in the through the front door every time you enter.
May Brigid protect your home and all who live within its walls.