This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

February 1 -- Feast of Saint Brigid (again)

The historical Saint Brigid, founder of several monasteries for nuns including one at Kildare, has become an accretion of many different women (and a few goddesses).  Her patronage assignment is too long to list here, blacksmiths, printers, poultry & dairy farmers, mariners, children of abusive fathers, and all of Ireland.  There are at least three jokes to be fashioned from that list, but I'll leave the shaping of them to the reader. 

Wouldn't you buy an ale if this were tied to the bottle?
Historical though she was, Brigid the saint was rolled into the tri-partite goddess Brigid.  Three-form goddesses were not unique to the Irish -- sometimes they'd appear as three related but distinct forms, like the Greek Fates and the Norse Norns, but other times they'd be one goddess with three incarnations, like Hekate, Diana, and Brigid.  The Triple Goddess is big in contemporary Wiccan practice, and is sometimes depicted as the maiden, the matron, and the crone.  At other times, the Triple Goddess is three sisters -- the form the Celtic Brigids took.  It occurs to me that given the increased popularity of tripel ale, a Tripel Goddess Abbey Ale with Brigid on the label should be on the shelves soon.  Maybe a small St. Brigid's cross, made of Irish rushes, could be tied to each 22-ounce bottle.  Is it too much to hope that the crosses could be tied by waifs in orphanages (every sale would help support the starving little Seamuses and Fionas) and then blessed by the Archbishop of Dublin?  The blessed cross might help offset the pagan overtones created by the Tripel Goddess pun. 

Brigid the Goddess invented keening -- a shrill lamentation that was so essential to Irish funerals that women were hired as professional keeners.  Of course, the goddess had a reason to wail in grief -- an intra-family war resulted in her eldest son's death. But the Church did not like this ancient grieving practice; successive synods (councils of bishops) in 1641, 1748, and 1800 suppressed the practice. 

Saint Brigit's well in Kildare.
"Okay, Major," you are no doubt saying.  "You've talked about the pagans and beer, but what about the saint?"  Fair enough.  Here's the link to last year's post.  More than that, here's another miracle story. 

Brigid heard about a woodcutter who was condemned to death by the king for having killed the king's pet wolf.  Brigid jumped into her carriage, rushing to the king to plead for the hapless woodcutter's life.  As she drove, a wolf leapt onto the carriage and settled at her feet.  (She was good with animals.)  She walked into the king's court, wolf at her heels, and pleaded for the condemned man's life, offering the newly tamed wolf as a substitute for the dead one.  The king consented.

Another time, the cattle herd in her monastery was rustled. Cattle rustling is in fact a time-honored Celtic tradition, but it would be costly, maybe fatal, to a monastery.  As the thieves drove the cattle away, a river rose and crested its banks.  Arriving there, the thieves stripped their clothes off and tied them to the cows' horns before attempting to drive the beasts across the flooded river.  As soon as the cows began moving, they turned and stampeded back to the monastery.   The thieves chased them all the way back, arriving exhausted and naked, humbly begging Saint Brigit to give their clothes back.  

No comments:

Post a Comment