What in the heck is a
*A note: I'm post dating this entry so it stays pinned to the top . The entire post is on my main blog. You can read the rest of it by clicking the button below.
That’s a more than fair question. I’m still figuring some of that out myself. Here is the best in a nutshell response I can give you for now, with hopes to elaborate further at a later point.
This blog started out as a “goddess blog” in its previous incarnation on a personal site and it started to evolve into a deeper exploration. I hope to continue in that vein, I’m going to start with revamping some of the original topics and branch out. I hope it inspires you.
Today is Imbolc, the midwinter celebration honoring Brigid as she ushers in the return of the sun. There’s a lot to revel in when it comes to this fierce, nurturing, creative goddess. There are exhaustive books, articles and YouTube articles to be found on this popular (for good reason) celtic goddess so I will try to give an overview and talk about my own experience. I’ve also written a companion piece for Imbolc on the Speaking Of Witch blog that I will post and link to, later today.
Looking back to February 1, 2011: I had been invited to join the South Bay branch of a Bay Area coven I had recently begun circling with for their public Imbolc ritual. I had no way of knowing the trajectory that group would take, or how badly it would become corrupted by its leader. I have talked about this subject before and will certainly do so again, but in 2011, I had only been involved with the group for a few months. Before this I had been a solitary practitioner for about two decades. I was in a vulnerable place and longed for community and collaboration. Everyone treated me so wonderfully. I did not recognize that I was actually being love bombed, a common cult practice. All I knew at the time is that I was lucky enough to be circling with an amazing group of magical people and they wanted ME!
Despite the disfunction, so many of the members and clergy of C.A.Y.A. coven were amazing, creative, loving people and I bonded with them quite easily. One of these witches became a best friend and I stayed in way too long simply because of her. Processing all of the fallout, still grieving, I can’t discredit some of the genuinely good things I experienced due to my association with C.A.Y.A. and it’s members. One of these happy sparks is my relationship with the celtic goddess, Brigid.
This particular Imbolc celebration was held at a Unitarian Universalist Church. The church sanctuary had a labyrinth woven into the carpet. The event was set up with multiple activities, including weaving a Brigid’s cross. (I still can’t make a Brigid’s cross.) Another activity offered was a walking meditation in the pattern of the labyrinth. It was an interesting night. I had really just begun what I had no clue would feel like a long trial by fire. I had lost my home and I was frightened and alone. I was so grateful for the human connections I was making. I listened to other witches gush about Brigid but I could not relate.
2011 was far from my first Imbolc, or my first time honoring Brigid, but it was the first time I connected with her. There are many variations of her name including: Brigid, Brigit, Brighid, Brìd, Brighid, Brigantia (Her protective war-like aspect, in which she carries an orb of victory, a spear and wears a crown.The word Brigand came from this form) and Brittania (yes, Britain was derived from her name). Early in my practice, partially because of my ethnicity and partly because I started as a wiccan, I felt that I was supposed to connect to celtic or norse deities. I tried, I really tried. I just wasn’t feeling it. Being a poet and creative sort, you’d think I’d have fallen for Brigid immediately, but the only celtic goddess I vibed with was, Epona which makes sense since I was both obsessed with horses and had first discovered her through interest in Greco-Roman mythology.
At this ritual, the labyrinth was a popular activity. I wanted to be able to take my time with it so I held off. Finally, toward the end of the evening, no one else was doing it and I took my turn. I began to walk slowly, ruminating on my troubles opening my heart to healing and my mind to solutions. About halfway through, I felt someone come up behind me. I assumed it was another participant and I wondered if I should pick up my pace. Then I felt a gentle but firm hand on my shoulder. It gave a squeeze that sent tingles through my whole body and rested there. As I continued to walk the labyrinth I had a vision of a lithe woman behind me, dressed in white with a green cloak, hair full and shining, and serene yet strong, look on her face. I knew it was Brigid. I knew that Brigid had my back.
Of course when I reached the center and turned around. No actual person was behind me.
I’ve felt a kinship with Brigid ever since.
Brigid is a goddess of poetry, of augury, a sun goddess (her name means fiery arrow or bright one), a goddess of the hearth and the forge. She is the white goddess of the healing spring and the sacred fire. Her priestesses kept a sacred flame going in her name and worship of Brigid goes back before the birth of Christ, before the Romans came to Britain. She is a goddess of healers and midwives. Most of my petitions for friends struggling with health troubles go to Brigid’s care. She is also a goddess who cares for animals, farm animals particularly.
Brigid is worshipped as a powerful triple goddess. Using the term, triple goddess, isn’t quite accurate, however. The three aspects of Brigit are actually, three sisters, all named, Brigit. Each sister is patroness of a different skillset. The Brigit of poetry holds a tablet and a crescent moon, the Brigid of healing is handling two snakes and the Brigid of smith-crafting carries a sword and blacksmith tongs.
Basically, she’s got it all going on.
Oh, and by the way, she’s also a Catholic saint.
“A WHAT,” you say?
Yes, a Catholic Saint. The Irish patron saint. The cult of Brigid was so powerful that the Celtic Christian Church and then the Roman Catholic Church reached into their appropriation playbook for a classic bait and switch. They decided there must be a Saint Brigid to give her followers a Christian alternative or they would never give up their religion for Christianity.
There are many legends of Saint Brigid of Kildare. She was the first Irish nun and there are nuns dedicated to Brigid to this day. An interesting blend of Christianity and thinly veiled paganism can be seen at Kildare, the monastery / nunnery she founded in 470 AD, where nuns dedicated to Brigid worship maintain Brigid’s sacred well and a sacred flame in her honor. I was once gifted a candle that had been lit from this flame. This is a pilgrimage for many as well as a popular tourist site. There are a number of Brigid’s Wells, but the one at Kildare is probably the most famous. Many leave offerings and prayers at these wells and the water is believed to have healing properties.
It is said that Brigid was either raised by a druid or that her father was one. He had vision before she was born and knew she was destined for greatness and that he must name her after the goddess, Brigid. Brigid was very beautiful and kind. She dedicated herself to God (Christian) and godly works which displeased her father, especially when her generous deeds included giving away all her possessions and some of his as well, even his sword! He tried to sell her off, but the King of Leinster, seeing her piety, would not allow it. Next her father tried to marry her off, but she wasn’t having it. She disfigured herself by tearing out one of her eyes. When her father gave up, she popped it back in the socket, (eeew) and it magically healed!
Brigid was not only Ireland’s first nun, she was ordained the first female bishop because obviously God had stamped her with his seal of approval. She was such a powerful healer that even stepping into her shadow could fix you right up. She breathed life into the dead and cured all mental illness and disease. She even handed her “healing girdle” off to a beggar who was then able to make a living as a healer. She was a prophetess. Her charity was renowned and she could also curse you if you did not act in kind, encouraging the greedy to share with those less fortunate. Brigid performed many miracles. She even turned water to ale!
Essentially; Jesus with lady bits.
Of course when you have a goddess that does so many things, she has a lot of sacred symbols and associations:
Here are some links if you want to read more about Brigid:
What Is Mother Goose Doing Here?
One of the first entries on the original, Thought Of The Deity, blog was a very short piece about Mother Goose. Yes, Mother Goose of nursery rhyme fame! I've decided to fatten up the original goose, er post, with some more in depth information.
The origins of the Mother Goose Goddess archetype may go back to the ancient Egyptians who believed that “The Great Chatterer” aka “The Nile Goose” laid the golden egg from which the sun god Ra emerged. Look through many ancient goddess pictures and you will see the goose as her symbol or companion! The goose is a solar bird. She announces the dawn.
Yes, the goose is a solar bird. The tradition of the Christmas goose symbolizes the annual death of the sun at winter solstice.
Where the Mother Goose nursery rhymes and character came from and how she evolved is a bit of a muddled mystery. Theories abound. Was she based on an historic person? A goddess? A witch? Is she an amalgamation of lore? Should we look at this whimsical image of a jolly old lady with her squawking feathered conveyance more seriously? Perhaps. Was she turned into the wicked, cackling, wart nosed Halloween witch by The Fecking Patriarchy?
Maybe It's Just Me, But....
Much of the available research finds a closer connection to the Germanic Winter Solstice Goddess, Holda or Frau Holle, the original Domestic Goddess, the one who watches out for housewives, children and all the household arts. In many stories she seems like a kinder, gentler, all together friendlier version of Baba Yaga. Instead of a walking house with chicken feet, she just glides in on her goose.
I find the similarities to Baba Yaga intriguing, though as far as I know, I'm the only one to make the connection. Like Baba Yaga, Frau Holle suffers no fools. If they are lazy, she is quick with punishment but is extremely generous at rewarding those who are honest and work with diligence and effort. Holda and Baba Yaga either protect children or steal their souls, depending on the circumstances and which story you read. When I see Mother Goose as a kindly old woman, I think of Holda and when I see her as a witch, I think of Baba Yaga.
The Cool Goddess With The Warm Heart
Holda is a winter goddess associated with Yule. She is not always seen as an old woman but sometimes as a beautiful maiden or as a mother so she fits into the triple goddess archetype. In some stories she is seen with two faces, one a young woman, the other a crone. In some traditions Holda is the one who decides which children are naughty or nice and brings them gift if they deserve them, not Saint Nicholas. Holda shakes the comforter on her bed, or her glistening white cape and snow falls down upon the land so she is also a weather goddess.
"Yule, the longest day of winter, was her holiday, and until recently she was one of the Christmas gift-givers in parts of Germany. There she was pictured as a red-cloaked witch on a broom who would fill children’s shoes with goodies and then move on. German children left milk and bread for her, in hopes of better presents.
"In particular, the customs associated with Holda seem to have to do with rituals of preparation for the New Year. To provide closure for the year that is passing, try to finish up any tasks that you have been putting off for too long. Keep New Year’s day as one of rest and celebration, and include pickled herring and oatcakes on the menu. Other foods might include elderberry tea and pfeffernusse, those gingery German cakes covered with powdered sugar which cover anyone who eats them with a dusting of sugar like snow."
She Does All The Things!
This powerful creator goddess is a far cry from the diminished, albeit enduring, character with her whimsical rhymes.
“There was an old woman who lived under a hill; and if she’s not gone, she lives there still.”
While she may be hidden in a simple nursery rhyme, Goddess can't be watered down. She is ancient and contemporary, powerful and alive!
Honk. Honk. Hellooooo!
Thought Of The Deity
A VERY eclectic Witch, Writer, Muse, Artist, Animal wrangler, Cross-Cultural -Polytheistic - Agnostic Pagan with an active inner 12 year old!