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Weaving the Protection of Brighid – an Online Course
The following documentary clearly outlines the great span of time Brighid has existed for as she morphed and changed alongside us. These different ages of people took different meaning from her. In my new online course offered in partnership with Motherhouse of the Goddess we explore several customs of Brighid which offer protection. We explore their origins, there are journal prompts to explore your own feelings as well as suggestions in incorporating these age old rituals into your life. The course runs for a week, is self paced and explores her rites of making her wheel or cross, smooring the fire, charms, augury and clooties. There are also prompts in getting to know Brighid through creating a Brighid altar and a guided meditation which takes you back to a very early form of Brighid.
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The Brighid Documentary
I’ve always hoped someone would make a documentary or a film that dives into the depths of Brighid. A work that would flesh out the stories of Brighid taking her back to a time when she was the Great Goddess, the one and only Great Mother.
This documentary answer that request, a story that begins thousands of years ago, a time only remembered by the stones. I was glad to see the familiar face of Sean O Duinn, author of several books on Celtic Spirituality and someone I was honored to talk aside at a Celtic Spirituality conference in Edinburgh. O Duinn sets the record straight stating that we can only speculate about the belief systems of ancient Ireland as we cannot know for definite what our ancestors believed.
Wheel of Perpetual Motion
The shape of the woven Brighid’s wheel, or cross forms a lozenge pattern in the centre, a form that archeologist Marija Gimbutas links to similar shapes engraved onto Neolithic stone Goddess figurines. This symbol has been found etched onto to belly of such figurines, Gimbutas interpreted the lozenge to represent the feild and a seed which was actually often pressed into the clay became the seed planted into the mothers belly. ‘Fertility’ is a word that comes up too often in general discussion of the stone Goddess figurines. The Great Mother was fertile in the sense that she provided everything – she gave us life midwifing us into this world, she was there as we moved from cycle to cycle in our lives, as she cycled from moon cycle to moon cycle and cycles through the great WHeel of the Year. She was also there as midwife as we left this world and crossed over to the otherworld and returned back to her. She was birth, death and renewal.
This is what Gimbutus found through her work in the great language of symbols of Old Europe. This Great Goddess took many forms – snake, bird, owl…
The documentary introduces us to the outlook of megalithic people who did not see themselves as individuals as they were fully integrated with nature, they were an integral part of the cosmos. Slowly Brighid, the Great Mother was given different names in different locations as she became localized to each of the peoples in different parts of ireland. For thousands of years the Great Goddess was the deity that flowed through all things.
Waves of Invaders
Then came the invaders to Ireland, each wave of incomers bringing their beliefs and meeting the Great Mother. The Celts were a warring culture, a patriarchal culture. They were influenced by the Great Mother but ultimately the legends got rewritten and the strong women were defeated by male Gods – becoming wives, consorts and often being killed off.
Brighid shares has similar qualities to other mother Goddesses from Juno to Isis, Hecate, Artemis and Diana – sharing qualities of healing, crafts, patron of midwifes – of both life and death. In the face of all this change Brighid survived by adapting – now she has a father in the Dagda (King of the Gods) and a son Ruadh, killed in a war waged by his mothers people against his fathers people. At this stage with the belief in the Great Goddess waining Brighid, she as with the rest of the Tuatha de Dannan, retreat into the depths of the earth.
As the message of Christ came to Irish shores his message was woven into Irish belief and Christianity and local indigenous belief existed peacefully side by side and formed a merging of both in Celtic Christianity. Yet the message of this new faith of one male God figure took the power of creation from the womb of the Mother Goddess and he became the sole author of life. This view rejected the great birth of the Mother who had birthed all life for thousands upon thousands of years for a God who created the universe as an act of his own will. Her great cauldron of life becomes the new chalice of sacrificial blood which promising eternal life after death. An eternal life in heaven rather than a life renewed to be played out again and again on earth.
We’re introduced to the figure of the Sheela-na-gig, found carved over the door in many old Christian churches, she exists as a nod to the Great Mother as in walking into the church you are passing into her great womb, the cauldron of the Goddess. At this point Brighid is now reduced to the holy woman of the Christian church, placed under God the father. Time has now altered the peoples perception of Brighid. Mary is now the great queen and Brighid is cast in the same mould of virgin maiden.
Moving onto Kildare (Cill Dara – Church of the Oak) the documentary suggests that the origins of Saint Brighid of Kildare was likely to have been the priestess of the local temple. Addressing the point that the very name of ‘Brighid’ when you consider it’s wide appearance not just in ireland, Britain but all over Europe might actually have been a title rather than a name.
The biggest threat to the legacy of Brighid arrived with colonial rule, it’s impacts rippled through Irish life. Her stories were embedded in the folklore of the people and with the Celts an oral people her tales were never written down. A later banning of speaking Gaelic in turn marginalizes Brighid further and so it was in the farmsteads, with the country folk where Brighid’s beliefs were still held and could be seem in her customs and rituals.
I was hanging on every word of this documentary – guessing where it was going next, wondering what they would consider and address. They explained the concept of sovereignty – of Kings being married to the land and a mythical wedding to the Goddess Herself. And that She would often challenge them by approaching as an old haggard woman – to reject her was to bring downfall to their reign, to accept she then shape shifted into her maiden form. This concept adopted and romanticized by the Irish language revivalist movement and this young virginal maiden inspired many revolutionaries. They highlight that this image called for blood sacrifice as to them only blood could purify the land, this was never the a requirement by the Great Goddess and so by this point She, Great Goddess, Mother Goddess, Brighid had now been wholly colonialised.
Brighid’s Role Today
I was glad to see that the documentary ended questioning Brighid’s role today – questions I continually pose. An interesting answer is now that science has harnesses the ‘miracle of life’ and all that is there any wonder left in dawn and dusk and the cycle of the moon? Another answer nods to a need for partnership culture, born of Old Europe when men and women lived peacefully with no evidence of war or weapons. there’s was a time men and women worked together and honored the Great Goddess. That we need that relationship not just between men and women but also in humanity and nature. Sean O Duinn answers that she is still relevant as everyone needs a symbol of sorts. Another answers describes that as Brighid is relevant to her as the Goddess of inspiration and poetry if inspiration and poetry survive then too will Brighid.
The documentary concludes by highlighting Brighid has and always will be an intermediary – between the new and old, night and day, winter and summer. She links all of what has passed with all that’s yet to come.
I arrived in the foothills of the Appalchains not quite realizing the depths of Celtic roots, I was surprised to see Brighid alive and flourishing here. To me Brighid is a wonderful figure or birthing a new world. A fitting deity with the rebirth of the Goddess as we sow the seeds for a new world rooted in her rich spiritual bedrock.