The Goddess Brigid is a multifaceted Goddess who was revered under many names throughout the Celtic world.
There were many Goddesses throughout Celtic, Germanic and Gaulish lands that used to the root of the name Brigid, which means "exalted feminine spirit", though in all likelihood, these were honorifics rather than the actual name of the Goddess. Each Celtic tribe had its own collection of Gods either inhabiting local natural features with which they interacted on a regular basis, such as rivers, springs and forests, or ancestral deities associated with tribal legend. There was some continuity in archetypes though, that is, the tribes generally had the same types of Gods. It follows reasonably, therefore, that a number of these would have been female, and would have been granted the honorific "exalted feminine spirit"- Brigid, Brigit, Brighit, Brid, Bride (Scotland), Ffraid (Wales), Breo Saighead (fiery arrow), Berecyntia (Gaul), Brigan, Brigandu (Gaul), Brigantis (Britain), Brigando (Switzerland), Brigida (The Netherlands), Brigantia and Bricta. However, we must not assume that any of these Goddesses, just because they had similar titles, they all embodied similar characteristics, though many seemed to.
Brigantia was the ancestor Goddess of the Brigantes, a coalition of tribes that once dwelt in Northern England. She was similar to the Greek Goddess Athene in that she was concerned primarily with the protection of the tribe through defensive warfare, protection of the hearth and home and ensuring fertility. She was also concerned with the gaining of knowledge, especially that of bards and of handicrafts. (Athene is also a Goddess of wisdom, and quite skilled with the loom). Like so many Goddesses, she was also associated with springs and rivers. The Romans, upon encountering Her, associated Her with Minerva. In modern times, Her image is associated with Britannia, the personification and patroness of the British Empire and appears on coins of the realm.
Gaulish inscriptions have been found honoring Brigindo. She also seems to be associated with fertility, healing and crafts, but there are no surviving stories about her, so we don't know much about her personality or how she was worshiped.
An ancient Celtic hot springs and healing center in France (Saone valley, Luxeuil) reveals images of Bricta, identified as the consort of the healing God Luxovius (possibly a Sun God, may be associated with Lugh) and also of Sirona, a popular healing Goddess associated with bodies of water among the mainland Celts. It seems likely in this case that rather than being a separate Goddess, Bricta is a title or honorific used for Sirona.
The Goddess Brig of Ireland does not appear to be linked to any specific tribal group and the name has been found all throughout Ireland. She appears to have been associated with the functions and values of the common people. That is, the scholars and bards(poetry, art, insipiration), the craftsmen (the forge) and the keepers of the hearth (healers and housewives). She was also associated with protecting livestock, helping women conceive and bear children safely, bringing new growth to the land, protecting children, and blessing new brides. Some sources also associate her with warriors under the title Brig ambue.
Brigid is one of the Tuatha de Danann, but has been associated with Danu the Mother Goddess of Ireland, as an aspect rather than a descendant. Other legends say she is the daughter of the Dagda, the "Good God" of Ireland (Son of Danu). She was the wife of Bres, the half-Fomorian leader of the Tuatha de Danann (People of Danu) and it is said that the first lamentation heard in Ireland was hers, when her son was killed.
Brig appears to be the protectress Goddess of all of Ireland, and is quite probably a title that was applied to several different Goddesses remembered as one in modern times. It is also quite possible that the same Goddess was simply worshiped in different forms in different parts of the country, her mythology and associations changing as the stories were retold in isolation from other retellings.
After the conquest of Ireland by the Holy Roman Empire, the worship of the Goddess Brigid was largely frowned upon but Saint Brigid was soon canonized and effectively took her place. Along with Saint Patrick, and perhaps even moreso, Saint Brigid is the protective Saint of Ireland. Stories associated with this Saint are jumbled and leave one wondering just how many St. Brigids there could have been in how many different times and places. Many of these stories were originally probably folktales about various Goddesses or faerie women retold with St. Brigid as the main character. It should be noted here that some scholars insist that St. Brigid was a real person who simply became associated with the old stories while others insist that she never existed as a mortal woman.
There are many wells in Ireland associated with St. Brigid. It is generally believed that these were dedicated to various Goddesses at one point. She is also associated with fire. The Sacred Flame of Kildare was tended by St. Brigid and 19 maidens each taking it in turns to tend the flame through the night. On the 20th night, it was Brigid's turn, and she never let the flame go out- even long after her death. The flame burned from the sixth to the 13th century and it is said, never went out in all that time, but the Archbishop of London ordered it extinguished in 1220. It was relit a few times since then, most recently in 1993 and burns still today, tended by the Brigidine Sisters, no longer just maidens, women and men of all ages can tend it today.
Brigid in NeoPagan Theology
Brigid survives in NeoPagan theology as a fire Goddess of triple aspect common to many distinct neo-Pagan religions. She is the Goddess of the Hearth fire, associated with healing, marriage, fertility, mothers and children. She is the Goddess of the forge fire, associated with all manner of useful crafts and She is the Goddess of the fire of inspiration, patroness of poets and bards. As a fire Goddess, she is occasionally worshiped as a sun Goddess but she is more often honored as a Hearth Goddess, similar to Hestia or Vesta. She is also associated with the maiden aspect of the Goddess in Wiccan and other theologies that utilize the theme of the aging Goddess, and is thus associated with the young year, the springtime, and the growth of new things.
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