For many centuries Brigid or Bridhe has been a shining light held in great esteem and love, inspiring many, myself included. This ancient, Celtic Brigid, who is regarded as “The Great and Shining One”, is a, or even The, Great Goddess who has existed before time and through time.
With the arrival and subsequent domination of Christianity in Ireland and The British Isles She became Saint Brigid, as well as Mary of the Gael.
Brigid, is a Triple Goddess, or perhaps even three sisters who form a complex persona. She is said to be the muse of artists and craftsmen, poets, healers and blacksmiths. She lights the flame of love and inspiration, is compassionate, daring, courageous, powerful knowing the full gamut of joy and deep sorrow. She is a mother who has lost her son and mourns, having invented keening. As a mother who grieves deeply the loss of her son I know her well; together we have mourned our murdered sons.
As poet, healer and patroness of arts and crafts She inspires. Brigid, both as Goddess and Saint, is linked to cattle, sacred wells, fire and wisdom. Her followers were said to have attended of a sacred flame, an undertaking also taken by Saint Brigid’s nuns, a flame that now burns again.
Rituals are still held for her. One in particular is Imbolc, the day that acknowledges the first signs of the return of Spring. In the Northern Hemisphere this day is the beginning of February, here in the Southern Hemisphere it is early August, a day that is nearly upon us.
Touring in southern Ireland I had hoped to visit Kildare and had been very disappointed when this was not possible. Yet it seems Brigid wrought one of her miracles. We had spent the night at Doolin savouring the scenery and traditional Irish music. The day after we were on our way to explore the Cliffs of Moher, when I noticed a white calf in a field and asked to stop to take a photo.
The mist lifted and revealed a glorious view beyond of a village straddling the coast.
What had also drawn my attention at this spot was a statue and what appeared to be a shrine on the opposite side of the road.
Slowly it dawned-dripping noises indicating a spring or a well.
In the trees in the cemetery behind were brats or pieces of cloth.
These offerings to Brigid revealing a custom that goes far back in time and signifying that his was the site of a sacred well, a clootie well ,a healing well, Brigid’s well. Such excitement, such joy! We had happened upon Liscannor in County Clare.
As you step down to the shrine, the sense of it being regarded as truly “special” becomes apparent. There are many votive offerings and messages offering thanks and prayers to Saint Brigid as well as requesting healing and peace for troubled souls.
What impressed me was that these petitions revealed such faith and trust in a higher power, belief that there is something extraordinary and that this “other” cares and comforts, guides and protects. An other that goes by many names and features in many different belief systems, Saint or Goddess Her name is Love.