In Gratitude to Brig & How a Goddess Became a Saint

Heather Awen Photo Brig well
St Brigid’s Well somewhere in central Ireland from a windy roadtrip, copyright Heather Awen photo.

Brig saved my life once. I had been misdiagnosed with a psychiatric disorder and drugged out of my mind. In that state I married a psychologically abusive misogynist and fell apart as his control issues and lies strangled me. While on our honeymoon in Ireland I begged to Brig to cure me and give me sanity, tying a rag at Her well in Co. Clare. I’d ignored the psychologists who told me, “Heather, it’s not you, it’s your husband,” but Brig took my request seriously. Within two months he abandoned me, and a year later a rare good psychiatrist (Dr Joe Lasek) immediately said upon meeting me “You don’t have bipolar disorder. It’s ADHD. Let’s taper you off these drugs. If you weren’t hyperactive, you’d be unconscious!”

Heather Awen copyright, St Brigid well
St Brigid’s Well, Co. Clare, copyright Heather Awen photo.

In Brig’s honor I made a Mexican folk Catholic style ex voto. These are art depicting a horrible situation and the Saint who saved them. Usually the person draws the ex voto themselves but some people make a living painting them. Often the pictures are of drunk men hitting women or muggers with guns with the Virgin Mary or another Saint hovering over head. The sacred art is hung in churches as proof of the divine helping mortals.

I made mine a double face, one blue and looking up crying for depression, and one orange and looking down for mania, overlapping each other. Brig took bipolar away by getting me finally to a decent doctor who removed the 10 mood stabilizers, tranquilizers, and antipsychotics and gave me Provigil instead and, much relieved, I happily fell asleep.

ex voto brighid 001
Brig ex voto by Heather Awen copyright

At the top I hung a charm of a wedding couple. I painted the bride red in blood for how suicidal I became in this nightmare of gaslighting smoke and mirrors.

A little bucket (for milk, as She is associated with the abundance of cows) held a page from Alexander Carmichael’s Carmina Gadelica Hymns and Incantations (1900) with a prayer to Saint Brid (pronounced “breed” the Scottish version of Her name). A pruned blackberry branch, a bush associated with Brigid, was attached with a red rag (clootie). I made an equal arm cross from Rowan, a tree associated with Brigid, as well. (The rowan was a gift from a friend’s farm after pruning.)

Brig isn’t the only Goddess to save my health. After 10 years of living with Lyme disease and Babesiosis, Freya cured me after I fulfilled a promise She asked for in return. And Brig’s forerunner Brigantia, based on a prayer I wrote to Her for recovery from PTSD, aided a transgender woman in a male prison in her rape recovery, as posted here.

Power & Religion: The Creation of St Brigid

From Steel Bars, Sacred Waters:

“The British Ui Bairrche and Fothairt may have created St. Brigit from the Sovereignty Goddess Brig. The Ui Bairrche tribe were related to Britain’s powerful Brigantes (the tribe of Brigantia). They and their mercenaries, the Fothairt tribe, probably brought their Goddess Brig to Leinster when they migrated. The Fothairt were not originally important in Leinster, but they had the monastery of St. Brigit, which gave them some power by the 7th century. With its obviously Pagan roots of 19 female virgin fire tenders, the monastery was on the Curragh Plain, where originally Pagan horse races and religious activities had been held.

“Even before St. Patrick arrived, Christianity had a small following in Ireland, probably from Roman British tribes settling in Leinster, or through Irish families communicating between Wales and Leinster. Eventually Ulster’s powerful, new Ui Neill dynasty aligned themselves with St. Patrick and the Roman church. Meanwhile, the Ui Bairrche and Fothairt probably brought Christianity to Leinster, which used the native St. Brigit to consolidate its Christian power.

“St. Brigit gives some insight how the newly Christian Irish still understood a Sovereignty Goddess. Unlike Patrick, she never fights Pagans or their Druids. An early hymn starts by calling her Brigit, but then changes her name to Brig when asking for her protection. When Leinster was attacked she was seen in sky, defending her land. Unlike other medieval Irish saints who fasted and renounced the pleasure of the body, Brigit prepared eight miraculous feasts. She fixed the broken chalice of a king, handing it back to him whole. These are aspects of the Sovereignty Goddess and the Pagan king-making ceremony.”

 

Selected Bibliography

Bethu Brigte (Author: unknown), https://celt.ucc.ie//published/T201002/index.html

Byrne, Francis J., Irish Kings and High-Kings. Four Courts Press (2001)

Huth, Christoph and Monika Kondziella, Textile symbolism in Early Iron Age burials, CONNECTING ELITES AND REGIONS: Perspectives on contacts, relations and differentiation during the Early Iron Age Hallstatt C period in Northwest and Central Europe, Robert Schumann & Sasja van der Vaart-Verschoof (ed.) Sidestone Press (2017)

Meyer, Kuno trans., Hail Brigit: An Old-Irish Poem on the Hill of Alenn. Dublin: Hodges, Figgs, and Co. (1912)

Smyth, Alfred P., Celtic Leinster. Mount Salus Press Ltd. (1982)

Heather Awen copyright, Brigid
St Brigid’s Well somewhere in central Ireland on a roadtrip, copyright Heather Awen photo. (Friend said “It looks like a Black Sabbath album cover” LOL)

 

10 thoughts on “In Gratitude to Brig & How a Goddess Became a Saint”

  1. […] On July 17th the Romans made sacrifice to the Goddess of Victory, Victoria. The native British Goddess Brigantia was associated with Victoria sometimes. However, She’s been covered in this post. (Still, feel free to honor Her today. As the Goddess of the most powerful tribe in Britain, She is used to all the lovin’ you can give! How She probably was brought to Leincester by tribes already exposed to Christianity in Briton and became, partially for political reasons, Ireland’s first home grown Saint, Brigid, read here.) […]

  2. […] Ptolemy wrote that there was also a tribe named Brigantes in eastern Ireland, and there may be something to that. The Goddess Brig seems to have been brought to eastern Ireland by a tribe allied with the Brigantes and turned into a Saint. Political shifts that the old Pagan ways didn’t support had occurred and to hold onto their power, the new elites found having a Saint in the new religion was a good way to solidify authority. To combat powerful Ulster with its Saint Patrick, Leinster and sometimes eastern Munster had St Brigit. There was almost definitely a Christian community in Leincester before St Patrick ever arrived; Irish raiders who’d settled in modern Wales long enough to learn the new religion of Rome had returned home. There’s more about this in the post on February 2nd. […]

  3. […] In the opinion of Julius Caesar, Minvera was the Goddess most popular with the Gauls. Celtic deities tend to be great at everything. The Gaelic Brig is a great example of a Celtic Goddess of the arts, celebrated on Imblog, and the Sovereignty Goddess of Leinster, its wartime protector, and honored for Her fertility around August 1st. Minvera has a powerful connection with the Greek Athena who rules over the city of Athens the way Brig protects Leincester. To learn how Brig became associated with Leincester and why Her followers made Her a Saint, read this post. […]

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