Who is Brighid?

Statue of St. Brigid with braided hair wearing robes and a cross necklace. In one hand is a shepherd's staff, in the other a lit torch.
Image by Annie Gomlie, 2014.

Brighid is a cherished figure for devotion and worship throughout the world and has been for many centuries, spanning multiple cultures and religious paths. It is Clann Bhride’s position that all these figures and more represent a common source, Whom we call Brighid, Who inspires us and calls us to draw together in community for works of fellowship, justice, and peacemaking.

As Brighid (also Brigid) She is an Irish triple goddess, often depicted as three sisters, overseeing aspects of healing, smithcraft, and poetry. In Irish lore Brighid is the daughter of the Dagda and the wife of Bres, gods on opposite sides of a great conflict. It is said Brighid was the first to keen in lamentation over the dead, after the death of her son Ruadan.

As St. Brigit of Kildare (also St. Brigid or Brig Euit, “Brighid of Piety”) She is one of the three patron saints of Ireland and famed for Her compassion and hospitality. St. Brigit and Her abbesses were known to “turn back the streams of war” and encourage us to also act as peacemakers in our own communities. Her flamekeeping order continues to inspire devotional practice today among Christians and Pagans alike.

As the many, many Celtic Brigidine goddesses (such as the Scottish Bride, the Brythonic Brigantia, and the Gaulish Matres Brigaecae) She is known by Her “Brig” epithets, which translate to “the Exalted One(s)”. Goddesses such as the Roman-Brythonic Sulis Minerva (“The All-Seeing One”), the Gaulish Belisama (“Summer Bright”) and Sirona (“The Starry One”) may also be part of this constellation.

As human women like Brig Ambue (“Brighid of the Disposessed”) and Brig Brethach (“Brighid of the Judgments”), She is known by Her dedication to justice, lawgiving, and the protection of marginalized peoples. We grow to know Her by extending hospitality to those in need without expecting recompense, and by dedicating ourselves to acts of justice and truth.

Brighid’s symbols and associations are many, from livestock like cows and sheep to flowers like snowdrops, dandelions, and crocuses. The great oxen Fe and Men, as well as the wild boar Torc Triath, are known to be Her companions. Fire, warmth, and light in all its aspects are related to Brighid, from the smallest candle to the hearth fire to the sun itself. Brighid is also associated with healing waters such as springs and wells. One of Her mysteries is the image of fire-in-water, uniting these two elements into a greater whole. As St. Bride She takes the symbols of Her protective mantle, of sunbeams, fire held in chalices, and the Celtic cross. She is also related to the tools of Her stations: anvils and hammers of the forge, brooms and cauldrons of the kitchen, and the cup or horn of hospitality and plenty. Perhaps Her most famous symbol is that of a Brigid’s cross, traditionally woven from rushes for devotion and protection.

To Clann Bhride, Brighid is all of these things and more. She is our Muime, our foster-mother, our object of devotion and our love. She is the Great Illuminator that illustrates the text of our lives, bringing to them a richness of color and meaning. She is our font of healing and restoration, bringing us back to our whole selves and comforting us in our pain and grief. She is Briugu, the Hospitaler who teaches the meaning of true generosity and compassion. She is also the font of justice and reconciliation that reminds us that social justice and peacemaking are natural results of nurturing hospitality within our lives.

Light me as Your lantern.
Play me as Your harp.
Keep me in Your mantle.
Guide me to Your hearth.