Brigit, the Bright One
Pic: Hanging Gardens
|We’re proud to bring another post by Guest Blogger, Ishtar from the Hanging Gardens of Babylon blog and Ishtar’s Gate about the ancient Celtic Goddess Brigit, Brighid or Bride. As Imbolc/Imbolg, the 2nd of February – which is the Fire Festival associated with her – is rapidly approaching, this is an especially relevant post! Thank you, Ishtar
I say ‘almost’ because they didn’t succeed. The spirit of Brigit is beginning to burn bright again as more and more people search to uncover their spiritual roots. In fact, Brigit is the key to one of the most ancient initiations into the Underworld going back many thousands of years … but more about that later.
I only mention it now in order to signal that although I will be explaining the origins of Brigit, and going into some of the ancient customs associated with her, this is not going to be one of those dry, dusty, fusty essays about folklore that don’t lead anywhere. I leave all that to the folk historians. I’m not the least bit interested in folk songs or Morris dancing or corn dollies or May poles unless I can trace the magical, transformative seed underneath — the catalytic spark that creates change through magical or shamanic initiation. There is a very good reason for all that Morris dancing and singing of ballads, but that’s the bit most folk historians leave out.
However, I won’t let you down… so let’s get moving…
First of all, who was Brigit? And where does she come from?
Etymology of her name
The name Brigit means Fiery Arrow or Bright One, which is another name for Lucifer (for more about this, see Lucifer, the Fae and Initiation into the Underworld and also Why Lucifer Must Have Been a Woman). Her oldest name is Briganti, which could be derived from the ancient Indo European Bhrghnti (or in Sanskrit Brihati), which means ‘exalted one.’
|The Celts shared many sacred ritual practises with the ancient Vedic Indians. They migrated from across and through the Himalayan region after the last Ice Age, eventually arriving in Europe. The Brigantes were among them. Before becoming the largest Celtic tribe in the British Isles, the Brigantes had settled in Austria near Lake Constance in a place known as Bregenz.They had fire priests known as bhrisingrs after the bhrigus or fire priests of the Anu tribes.||
Pic: Hanging Gardens
Brittany in northern France was also named for Brigit, and she was also the inspiration for Brechin in Scotland, the river Brent in England, the river Braint in Wales, and Bridewell ~ both in London and in Ireland. The city of Bristol takes its name from Brigit. And Brenin, the Welsh word for King, meant consort of Brigantia.
(There’s probably loads more Brigit-inspired locations, and so if you know of one, please do add it in the comments.)
Brigit in mythology
In Celtic mythology, Brigit appears as one of the offspring of the Dagda and the Morrigen, (about whom you can read more in The Underworld Initiation of King Arthur by Morgan the Fae.) She was part of the Tuatha da Danaan, which is another name for the Sidhe, the Fae, the Little People or the Gentry.
Brigit was known as the patron spirit of healers, smiths and bards, and she rules the elements of fire and water. Brigid’s Feast Day is on Imbolc in February, which the Christians call Candlemass. On Imbolc, milk products are offered to her as the young Bride. Butter, cheese and milk are put out for her. People say that Bride herself is abroad on Imbolc Eve. So they leave out pieces of cloth for her to bless as she passes, and which are used later in healings.
One of her symbols is the serpent entwined around a white wand, predating Asclepius. Other important animals associated with Brigit are the white swan, the white wolf and the white cow.
Post Christian Brigit
|Brigit, the Bright One
Pic: Hanging Gardens
|The Romans Christians, as was their wont, found a way to amalgamate Brigit into the Christian religion by adding her to their pantheon of saints. Her centre was at Kildare in Ireland.“Cill Dare” means “Church of the Oak”, thus betraying its Druid past, and it was in an area known as Civitas Brigitae, “The City of Brigid”.Brigit is found in the carving below within a wall of what remains of the St Michael church on top of Glastonbury Tor, milking a cow.|
In this way, even within the Christian pantheon, she retains her association with her primary totem animal.
Brigit milking a cow
pic: Hanging Gardens
Because Celtic Christianity retained many of the indigenous spiritual practises, Brigit’s fire was kept alight day and night at the Kildare convent, by dedicated vestal priestesses, for centuries — until they were finally put out by Henry VIII’s shock troops of the Reformation.
The Way of Brigit
I’ve been getting to know the kind and gentle spirit of Brigit in recent times, and have been honoured to receive her initiation. She has taught me to follow her in an ancient route through the Underworld which, although well-trodden, is not so well used today, since the advent of the Western Mystery Tradition with its pathworking up the Kabbalah or Qabalah.
This way in which Brigit guided me is a much more ancient route. It bypasses the Abyss of the Kabbalah, with all its perils and pitfalls, by travelling underneath it. The Way of Brigit is part of a magical working known as The Mask of the Bright One, and it has also been called The Harrowing*.
Now that Brigit has taken me through this initiation, I’m ready and able to help any of those who feel that it’s the right time for them to receive it.
The Way of Brigit is for those who wish to quicken their progress in terms of self-transformation but also with regard to their relationship with the Land. It is about healing our place in the Land, and about how we stand in relation to all the other creatures on the planet. It is about breathing at One with All That Is, and taking back the reins of our own power as the glorious Beings which we truly are. It will also afford you the protection and guidance of Brigit and the Fae.
So if you feel ready for this next step on your path, do let me know.
* I’m grateful to R.J. Stewart for providing some of the material for this journey.
Further Reading: You can find reviews and books to buy on the Fae in the Faerie Tradition section of the Ishtar’s Gate Library.
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