Brigid (or Brigit or Bride) was the name of both a saint in the Catholic church, and a Celtic goddess. According to the church, Brigid was said to have fed and healed the poor even as a child. Later in her life, she was said to have founded a monastery in Kildare (Ireland), which stood above a shrine to the Celtic goddess of the same name; and to have set up a school of art.
Meanwhile, the Celtic goddess Brigid was said to be one of the three daughters of the Dagda, the leader of the Tuatha Dé Danann, who came to Ireland from the Otherworld. Not dissimilarly to St Brigid, she was traditionally associated with craft, poetry, and healing.
At some point, the festival of Imbolc also became associated with the goddess Brigid – likely because it takes place on the same day as St Brigid’s Day, and because of the similarities in the stories about the Celtic goddess and the Christian saint. Imbolc was one of the four “fire” festivals in Irish mythology, and the name literally means “in the belly”, a reference to the pregnant ewes in the fields. To celebrate, folk would weave crosses, make corn dollies, and leave a spare bed for Brigid to visit if she wished.
Whatever your beliefs, the core of this festival is about creativity and the promise of Spring – and I personally think that’s something wonderful to be celebrated.
Want to learn more about Brigid? For those of you who don’t mind a longer, more academic read, here’s a great article exploring the roots of Brigid-the-goddess and Brigid-the-saint. In short: it’s not quite as simple as I’ve set out above!
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