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British Culture, British Customs and British Traditions
La Feill Bhride - St Brigid
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This section is in advanced English and is only intended to be a guide, not to be taken too seriously!
Brigit was one of the great goddesses of the Celtic people, she is known as Brigit to the Irish, Brigantia in Northern England, Bride in Scotland, and Brigandu in Brittany., She was the goddess of grain. In the Christian calendar this day is known as St Brigid or St Brigit or St. Bride's Day and it takes place on February 1st, the date of the great Celtic feast of Imbolc or Oimelc which celebrated the birthing and freshening of sheep and goats (a Feast of Milk). Throughout the Highlands, elaborate rituals accompanied the adoration of St. Brigit, the daughter of the good Irish god, the Deagh Dia. It is Brigit who gave her name to the powerful confederacy of northern British tribes the Brigantes with which the Roman armies had so much trouble.
The goddess Bride presided over the various seasons of the year. Her magic white wand brought life back to the earth after the dead months of winter. On Uist, the flocks were dedicated to her on February 1st. On Barra, lots were cast for the fishing grounds on Bride's Day. Following a ceremony honoring her, the men would cast their lots for the fishing banks at the church door. Sadly, many of these rituals are no longer remembered, even in the remote islands. Other traditions connected with the saint also disappeared before the beginning of this century.
The link to the Church is that she was a Druid's daughter who predicted the coming of christianity and then was baptised by St. Patrick. She became a nun and later an abbess who founded the Abbey at Kildare. The christian Brigit was said to have had the power to appoint the bishops of her area, a strange role for an abbess, made stranger by her requirement that her bishops also be practicing goldsmiths. As St Brigit she was the patron of crafts, poets, healers, midwives and doctors.
Actually, the Goddess Brigit had always kept a shrine at Kildare, Ireland, with a perpetual flame tended by nineteen virgin priestesses called Daughters of the Flame. No male was ever allowed to come near it; nor did those women ever consort with men. Even their food and other supplies were brought to them by women of the nearby village. When catholicism took over in Ireland, the shrine became a convent and the priestesses became nuns but the same traditions were held and the eternal flame was kept burning. Their tradition was that each day a different priestess/nun was in charge of the sacred fire and on the 20th day of each cycle, the fire was miraculously tended by Brigit Herself. There into the 18th century, an ancient song was sung to her : "Brigit, excellant woman, sudden flame, may the bright fiery sun take us to the lasting kingdom."
For over a thousand years, the sacred flame was tended by nuns, and no one knows how long before that it had been tended by the priestesses. In 1220, a bishop became angered by the no-males policy of the Abbey of St. Brigit of Kildare. He insisted that nuns were subordinate to priests and therefore must open their abbey and submit themselves to inspection by a priest. When they refused and asked for another Abbess or other female official to perform any inspections, the Bishop was incensed. He admonished them to obediance and then decreed that the keeping of the eternal flame was a Pagan custom and ordered the sacred flame to be extinguished.
Since she was eventually booted out of the Church in the 1960's, when it was declared that there was insufficient proof of her sanctity or even of her historical existance, and she was decanonized (probably for being so Pagan), even though she has her own style of cross. Therefore it is regarded as incumbent upon Pagans everywhere to restore her worship to 'former glory' especially to those of Celtic ancestry.
In some areas people put out a loaf of bread on the windowsill for the Saint and an ear of corn for her white cow.
Sometimes offerings for the grain goddess are made by burying a loaf of bread in the first furrow of a field. A small quantity of special seeds are mixed with those to be sown.
Wheat stalks are woven into X-shaped crosses to serve as charms to protect homes from fire and lightning.
In the HIghlands of Scotland, women dress the corn doll or last sheaf (from Lammas or the autumn equinox) in a bridal gown and put her in a basket, which is called the Bride's bed. A wand, candle or other phallic object is laid across her and Bride is invited to come, for her bed is ready.