The Nine Elements of Clann Bhride

1- Clann Bhride, or the Children of Brighid, is a religious order for devotees of the goddess Brighid who feel called to a lifestyle of daily prayer and spiritual practice. Children of Brighid strive to live lives of extraordinary devotion and focus, and to do Brighid’s work in this world by any means possible under Her guidance.

 

Of course, the best way to discover what Brighid wants you to do is simply to ask Her, but it may also be helpful to think about the different aspects of Brighid as paths of service:

 

Poetry– This can refer not only to poetry, but to music, wisdom, literature, learning and mystical practice. All of these concepts were part of the path of poetry among the ancient Irish and other Celtic peoples.

 

Smithcraft– This can refer to any form of craftsmanship, sculpture or hands-on creative work.

 

Healing– This can refer to any type of physical, mental or spiritual healing.

 

Justice– This can refer to advocacy for the disenfranchised, as in the lore of Brig Ambue. It can refer to hospitality, the provision of food and drink without charge to whoever needs it, as in the lore of Brig Briugu. It can refer to “turning back the streams of war” by working for peace, as the abbesses of Kildare were said to do.

 

While individual Children of Brighid may be called primarily to work as poets, smiths or healers, the justice aspect of Brighid’s service is particularly important to Clann Bhride. Children of Brighid work for social justice and peace by all possible means.

 

2- Children of Brighid live as priestesses and priests of the goddess Brighid in all Her forms and by all Her names, including the three sisters Brighid the Poet, Brighid the Smith and Brighid the Healer, the daughters of the Dagda in Gaelic lore.

 

In this context, the word “priestess” or “priest” does not refer to ministerial service on behalf of a congregation, but to devotional service of the goddess for Her own sake. A priestess of the Clann Bhride may or may not be involved in a larger community for spiritual practice, and may or may not also fulfill a ministerial role in such a community depending on individual circumstances. Being a priestess of Clann Bhride is more like being a shrine priest of a temple in ancient times- the primary duty of a shrine priest is to worship the deity on a daily basis.

 

3- Children of Brighid honor Her as a primal creator deity, who forged the universe (like a smith) or oversaw its birth (like a midwife) or sang it into being (like a poet).

 

In the polyvalent logic of polytheist religion, the belief that Brighid created the universe does not contradict any legend or belief that another deity did so.

 

4- Children of Brighid recognize St. Brigid of Kildare as an avatar of the earlier goddess, and consider the lore of the saint to refer equally to the goddess.

 

One theory about St. Brigid and her nineteen nuns is that they were originally an order of priestesses or druidesses tending the eternal flame of the goddess Brighid at Kildare. The high priestess of this order could have been seen as the earthly incarnation of Brighid. If this priestess converted to Christianity to preserve the flame of Brighid through the conversion, this could have been the origin of the legends of the saint. In our own time, Brighid is beginning to reveal Herself as a goddess again after many centuries.

 

5- Inspired by the example of St. Brigid of Kildare as well as other manifestations of the goddess Brighid such as Brig Ambue and Brig Brethach, Children of Brighid are committed to working for social justice and advancing the cause of peace.

 

Among the Iron Age peoples who first called our goddess Brighid, warfare was a nearly constant fact of life. Their myths and legends have much to do with the deeds of warrior heroes and the battles of kings and gods.

 

Despite this fact, Brighid stands out from all other deities for Her work to “turn back the streams of war,” as Her later representatives the abbesses of Kildare were said to have done. Before the Tuatha de Danann gods fought their great war with the Fomorian giants in Irish mythology, Brighid married the half-Fomorian king Bres and bore him a son named Ruadan, as if to seek reconciliation between the two sides. When Ruadan was slain by Goibniu at the Second Battle of Moytura, Brighid invented the custom of keening as She wailed and mourned for Her slain son. Her sacred animals Fe, Men and the Torc Triath were said to mourn the aftermath of raids and battles.

 

In Her manifestation as Brig Ambue, She defended the outcast Ambue or “Cowless” ones, and purified reivers of this class who had committed acts of banditry to support their families. In Her manifestation as Brig Brethach, She gave legal judgments on behalf of the rights of women. In Her manifestation as Brig Briugu, She provided limitless hospitality in the form of food, drink and lodging without charge. In Her manifestation as St. Brigid of Kildare, She was the unfailing champion of the poor and powerless, and Her generosity was legendary.

 

Although Brighid does have a battle goddess aspect (in St. Brigid’s role as the sovereignty of Leinster and in Her epithet of Bride nam Buadh or “Bride of the Victories”), She manifests in warrior form only to defend against open aggression.

 

6- Children of Brighid honor and reverence Her as a goddess of Gaelic origins, but also consider Her to be a much older and vaster deity known by different names and by different peoples. Among the Celtic peoples, all of the goddesses of the “Celtic Minerva” type may be worshiped and honored as part of our practice. Some of us believe that some or all of them are the same goddess, but this is not a required doctrine.

 

Celtic goddesses of this type include:

 

The Brigidine Goddesses

 

Brighid (also known as Brigid, Brigit, Brighde, Brid, Brig and Bride)– Gaelic goddess of poetry, smithcraft and healing, sometimes represented as three sisters. Daughter of the Dagda, former wife of Tuirenn and Bres, mother of Ruadan, keeper of a divine cow, the Torc Triath and the oxen Fe and Men. Inventor of keening. Associated with the sun, moon and stars, fire and water, the dawn, the snake, the springtime and all liminal states of being. “The Exalted One.”

 

Sulis – Brythonic goddess of healing, healing wells and waters, cursing and justice. Represented in Romano-Brythonic iconography as a woman with a radiant face and short hair by the water. “The All-Seeing One.”

 

Sirona – Gaulish goddess of the night sky, healing, hot springs, and fountains. Represented in Romano-Gaulish iconography as a woman holding a snake in one hand and a bowl of eggs in the other. “The Starry One.”

 

Belisama – Gaulish goddess of light, fire, healing, crafts, water and rivers. Represented in Romano- Gaulish iconography as a radiant woman with a long skirt but no shirt, holding a snake. “Summer Bright.”

 

Matres Brigaecae – Gaulish triple goddess of fertility, prosperity, motherhood and nurture. Represented in Romano-Gaulish iconography as three seated women holding fruit, bread or babies. “The Exalted Mothers.”

 

Briganti – Brythonic goddess of culture, fertility, healing, victory and protection, known as “Brigantia” in the Romano-Brythonic period. Represented in Romano-Brythonic iconography as a woman holding a spear in her right hand and a victory globe in her left. “The Exalted One.”

 

Brigindona – Gaulish goddess. “The Exalted One.”

 

Brig Ambue – “Brighid of the Cowless” or “Brighid of the Dispossessed.” A protector and purifier of renegade warriors who were outside the tribal structure. Brig Ambue could be invoked to reintegrate these warriors back into the community and purify them of their deeds in battle.

 

Brig Brethach – “Brighid of Judgments.” A judge, lawgiver and defender of the rights of women.

 

Brig Briugu – “Brighid of Hospitality.” A briugu or “hospitaller” was a person who kept open house on a large scale, offering free hospitality to all who passed.

 

Brig Euit – “Brighid of Piety.” St. Brigid of Kildare.

 

Great Brid of the Horses – A dark aspect of Brighid, associated with the high-handed behavior of the bards and with their mantic practices. In the story of Great Brid of the Horses, she demands three impossible gifts of a king on behalf of the poets: blackberries in January, her fill of pork from a pig that was never born, and to ride on a red-eared white mare until tired.

 

Cerridwen – (also known as Ceridwen or Kerridwen). Muse of the Welsh bards, keeper of the cauldron of wisdom and divine mother of the bard Taliesin.

 

The Cailleach – A primal creatrix, goddess of winter and wild nature. At Samhain, the Cailleach or “Beira,” the mother of giants, strikes the ground with her hammer and it freezes for the winter. According to a late and possibly literary tale from Scotland, the Cailleach imprisons Bride the Queen of Summer in the mountain of Ben Nevis from Samhain until the spring. Bride is rescued from her wintery prison in Ben Nevis by the youthful god Aengus, who has fallen in love with her. Together they battle Aengus’s mother, the Cailleach, who seeks to prevent the spring. In Irish lore, Aengus and Brighid are siblings and Aengus is the son of Boann and the Dagda. According to another version of the same story, the Cailleach and Bride are the same entity, and the Cailleach transforms herself into Bride every spring.

 

7- Children of Brighid acknowledge and honor Her history within Gaelic culture, but do not consider Her to be solely a Gaelic goddess.

 

In medieval times, St. Brigid received great honor and reverence in non-Gaelic areas such as the Scottish Lowlands and Borders, England and elsewhere. In some form or other, She has been honored outside of Gaelic culture for many centuries now. As such, we do not identify our practice with Celtic Reconstructionism.

 

However, one aspect of social justice is cultural survival and autonomy for indigenous peoples. The struggle for survival of the Celtic languages and cultures (Irish, Manx, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Cornish and Breton) is particularly relevant for devotees of Brighid considering Her long history within Celtic cultures.

 

Although we don’t think of Brighid as an exclusively Gaelic or Celtic deity, we do honor Her importance to the Gaelic culture and support the struggle of Gaelic-speaking people to maintain their language and identity.

 

8- All goddesses associated with the sun, moon, and stars, fire, fresh water, fertility and abundance, healing, knowledge and the crafts necessary to society may be honored as part of this practice.

 

There is no required Clann Bhride doctrine regarding the exact relationship of such goddesses to Brighid. Some of us believe them to be manifestations of the same power in different cultural contexts. Goddesses with these associations include, but are not limited to: Vesta, Minerva, Saule, Hina and Sarasvati.

 

Although Children of Brighid may study and reverence such goddesses as part of this practice, it is important to remember that each goddess has a cultural and religious context of Her own, and even if these goddesses manifest the same underlying power as the goddess Brighid, they are not simply interchangeable. Each one must be studied and honored within the context and lore of the culture from which She originates.

 

9- Children of Brighid worship our goddess as a real entity, rather than a metaphor or archetype. She hears our prayers, She appreciates our offerings and She communicates with human beings through inspiration, dreams and other means. As important as it is to study Her lore and history, it is even more important to establish a personal relationship with Her, because She is still in the process of revealing Herself.

 

-by Gilbride, Aster Breo and Sage

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7 thoughts on “The Nine Elements of Clann Bhride

  1. Truly beautiful. I have never come across a group that is seemingly so aligned with my personal views and understandings. I would love to know more. I will read your other posts. May you be blessed in your work.

  2. I’d like to find some more discussion regarding number three. I’ve never encountered this tenet anywhere before so I’m wondering about the basis for this position. It’s not an issue for me but I’m curious…

    1. This concept has developed organically among some devotees of Brigid over the past several years, it isn’t derived from the ancient lore. The idea is that the processes by which the physical universe was created can all be related to Brigid’s core functions in different ways. For instance, the intense pressures inside stars created all the elements of which human beings are made, in a process analogous to forging.

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