Stories of Brigid

I first wrote this retelling of some of Brigid’s stories for an Imbolc ritual in 2011. I’m reposting it with a few edits and blessings for the new moon before Imbolc 2020

Sit down, sit down, make yourselves comfortable; you should be comfortable to listen to the stories of Brigid, because Brigid always wanted people to be comfortable, and happy, and loved.

Now, the stories of Brigid have no single beginning. Some people say Brigid was a goddess, perhaps the daughter of the Dagda, the good god. The goddess Brigid was born to the mother goddess Danu, whose people are the Tuatha de Danaan, and Danu is the one who pours out the rivers that flow through the lands. And some people say that Brigid was a woman, the daughter of a druid, or maybe just born to a serving-woman in the druid’s household. And some people say that Brigid was a woman who became a saint – although her nuns today will show you where the foundations of the ancient temple were before the Christians ever came. And maybe all the stories are true.

Now, Brigid was out one day, and when she came home, her cloak was wet all through. So she hung it on a sunbeam to dry. And it stayed there till it was dry. By that you know she had the power – not because she hung her cloak on a sunbeam, mind you, but because the sunbeam stayed there till the cloak was dry! For in Ireland, the weather can never make up its mind for five minutes altogether, and while you might get a sunbeam where you ask for one, it’ll never stay there when you turn your back on it. But I think that maybe the sunbeam just wanted to be helpful to Brigid, because Brigid herself was helpful to others. That’s how she used her power, after all.

The power Brigid had she used for her three great talents: the service of healing, the gift of giving what was needed, and the wisdom to inspire and change the hearts of people.

Once a sick man came to Brigid to beg for food. Brigid asked, “Would you rather be king of all Ireland, or be healed of your disease?” The man answered, “I would rather be healed, holy Brigid, for a man who is healthy is his own ruler.” And she saw that he knew the truth of the matter, and she brought water, and washed him, and he was healed. In this she did the service of healing.

Another time, two widows, who were poor and sick, came to beg for food, and she offered them the one cow that she had, and bid them share it between them. But one of the widows was proud, and insisted that she would not share. The other widow let the proud one take the cow, and turned to Brigid, saying that she would be content if Brigid would just pray for her. Brigid did more than that: she put her hands on the old woman’s back, where it had been bent and sore these many years, and Brigid prayed, and the widow’s back was healed. Just as she was going out, another man who had been helped by Brigid came, bringing her a cow, and Brigid gave it to the widow who had been healed, and said, “See, because you were humble, you have a cow and your health as well, while the proud widow went away content with her pride.” This was the gift of giving what was needed.

Yet another time, two lepers came to beg for healing, and Brigid washed the first one, and he was healed, and she bid him wash his companion, so that he too might be healed. But the one who had been healed refused, and would not share the gift of healing, for now that he was clean and whole, he disdained to touch the ragged skin of his fellow leper. Brigid was angry, but she didn’t say anything; she just took the water, and as she washed the second leper herself, his disease went into the skin of the one who had refused to share the gift of healing. Now he cried out twice as loudly for Brigid to heal him again, and was sorry for his scorn of his fellow leper. She healed him again, and then he had gotten not only the service of healing, but the gift of what he really needed as well, which was the wisdom that good things are meant to be shared. This is wisdom that inspires and changes the heart.

A similar thing happened when Brigid was working in the dairy, for she was told to divide the milk and butter into twelve parts, but she divided them into thirteen, and made the thirteenth larger than all the rest, and gave it away to the poor and hungry. A woman working with her warned Brigid that the owners of the dairy would know that she had stinted the twelve parts, but Brigid said, “The Dagda, the good god, he will make it up.” Then the woman looked, and Brigid was right: the twelve jars of milk were full up to the brim, and the twelve portions of butter were overflowing. On another day, Brigid had given the milk and bread and butter for the evening’s dinner to feed a hungry woman and her children, so Brigid went out before dinner to milk the cows again. And although the cows had been milked twice already that day, and their udders should have been empty, they gave milk in plenty, and as soon as Brigid put her hand to the churn, there was butter, as much as she had given away, and more.

As you’ve heard, a great many of the tales of Brigid have to do with cows and milk and butter, so it’s no surprise that her day falls at this time of year, when the first milk begins to come into the belly of the cows and ewes. Brigid’s day also comes at this time when we crave the beginnings of spring, when we are hungry for light, even hungrier for light and warmth than we are for milk and butter. We look for the light that was promised to us at midwinter, and Brigid brings that promised light, just as she and her priestesses tended the sacred flame at Cill Dara, under the oak, and still, today, in Kildare in Ireland, her sacred flame is burning, and with her three great talents, she lights the way for us.

And now, when they need her talents, the healers call on her, and they bless their water in her name, saying, Brigid, let this be the water of healing just as pure and as clean as if it came from your holy well. Brigid, let me serve others with my healing, and make them whole. Then healers wash people with the water of healing, serving with compassion and caring, helping others become whole. And in doing the service of healing, they shape the world.

And when the smiths need her talents, they call on her, and on her sacred flame, for smiths know that the fire doesn’t just consume things – the fire can give, too, and the fire can be used to make what is needed. The smiths kindle the fire in their forges, saying, Brigid, let this be a spark of your flame, let me use this flame to give to others. Then the smiths heat the metal and bend it and shape it into the tools that are needed. Thus the smiths give the gifts that are needed, and in their forging, they shape the world.

And the poets call on her too. Now you know what poets are like – they are people who feed their souls on beauty, and a verse that won’t run to its meter is as painful to them as a wrenched knee is to the rest of us. But a poet wants more, too – a poet wants a verse to go out and do some good; for the poet shapes the verse – which is what the root of the word poetry means, after all – but then she sets the verse out to do some shaping of its own. So the poets call on Brigid, saying, Brigid, heal my words so that they run to the meter, and Brigid, light the flame of inspiration so that I can bend the words to my purpose, but most of all, they say, Brigid, let my words go out to others to be a source of wisdom, wisdom that does the service of healing, and wisdom that gives the gift that is needed, and wisdom that inspires the hearts of people.

So when we come together, on this, Brigid’s day, we who practice the craft of the wise, we who bend and shape the world, we honor Brigid. We give her praise and thanks, and petition her to be with us, so that she will share her power and her three great talents with us, as we strive to be healers, and smiths, and poets, that we too may shape the world, in her name.

The stories told herein are my interpretations of stories of both the goddess and the saint. Some are derived from these two groups of stories.

Kindle the fire in my deep well

Kindle the fire in my deep well, lady,
being the light in the midst of the dark,
healing the old wounds, the deep ones, the scarred ones,
believing in life in the middle of winter.

Kindle the fire in my deep well, lady,
to burn like a star on the surface of water.
Let my emotions give fuel to my will,
transform in the light of your brilliant blue flame.

I’m turning my attention away from the social stuff back to my own practice, to pause over this weekend and reach inside, reach up to the moon and out to the cold earth. It’s really, truly cold here for the first time this winter, and there’s just enough snow to make things a little interesting.

Next weekend is Imbolc, and even in the midst of the cold and the dark, I can tell the light is beginning to return, that the cold won’t last forever. So I honor all those things at once – the snow and the moon, the light and the dark, and I use this time to gather my will to take the next steps, to work to make change in the world.

These are some of the words I’m using to do that and to honor Brigid. May you find your own inspiration to do so as well.

Just published! Unto Herself: A Devotional Anthology for Independent Goddesses

Please join me in celebrating the publication of Unto Herself: A Devotional Anthology for Independent Goddesses, edited by Ashley Horn. It has essays, rituals, and poetry on a wide range of goddesses, including Neith, Artemis, the Morrigan, and my own contributions on Columbia and Athena. Check it out!

Please note that I get no money for this and do not have a financial interest in your purchase, but I encourage you to support Bibliotheca Alexandrina by buying through their site if you do want to get the book.

“Ravening” now at EHS; time off; blessed Litha!

The summer solstice issue of Pagan ezine Eternal Haunted Summer is up. My poem Ravening appears in it along with a lot of other great material. Check it out!

This poem came about in the wake of the ritual to the Morrigan held at Sacred Space Conference this past spring. I’d like to thank Maggi Setti and all the other excellent leaders who made that ritual such a powerful experience.

As a side note, I will be traveling without access to the Internet for about a week starting this Friday. If I have time in the midst of preparation for my travels, I’ll prepare a few posts to auto-publish during that time, but will probably disable comments. I’ll also have a piece on the Litha going up at the Slacktiverse sometime soon, but may not be able to link to it until I get back.

I wish everyone a blessed summer solstice!

Mandragora is out!

I just got my contributor’s copy of Scarlet Imprint’s new anthology of esoteric verse and essays, Mandragora. It’s gorgeous, and on first glance it looks like the work of some of the other poets and writers makes the content live up to the presentation. My own “Equinox Egg” is a small contribution, and I’m honored to have my work in such good company. I can’t wait to get more into it.

A less expensive edition is available, and a digital one will be out soon, it looks like. If you’re interested in the intersection of poesis and magic, check it out!

Waiting for the bus: A hymn to the landbase of my youth

This time of year, the pine trees do the Great Rite
so exuberantly that the streets are paved with gold
and my nose runs until I feel utterly zero desire
for anything besides a tissue, and I remember…

When I learned that DST means
I never have to wait for the bus
in complete darkness
and that regardless of the hour
dusk means driving carefully
when the Horned One is in his season.

This is the place where I
grudgingly
picked up pine cones and
gleefully
wore azaleas and dogwood in my hair
on Easter,

Where I learned how pine trees age
and new ones volunteer,
how pine cones open and close
with heat and rain
and why long-leaf pines
are dangerous in ice.

But it is mornings I remember most of all
waiting for the bus
outside with Talking Self so briefly still
in my first meditations.

Just published! Queen of the Sacred Way

Please join me in celebrating the publication of Queen of the Sacred Way: A Devotional Anthology in Honor of Persephone edited by Melitta Benu. It contains essays, rituals, and poems, including my poem Seeking Persephone. Melitta has done an excellent job of gathering materials addressing the complexity of this goddess, rather than sticking solely to the simplistic narrative as told in elementary school mythology. Check it out!

Please note that I get no money for this and do not have a financial interest in your purchase, but I encourage you to support Bibliotheca Alexandrina by buying through their site if you do want to get the book.

From the trenches of the war on women

If in some aching dreams you too could pace
sleepless with the choice we find ourselves in,
and hear the fear and loathing we will face
as people tell us aught we do is sin;
If you could feel, with every cramp, the blood
ready to gush forth from ectopic wound
to salve your conscience in its crimson flood
and leave behind my lifeless form marooned,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To women ardent for a martyr’s glory,
The new lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro blastocyte mori.

With homage to Wilfred Owen and respect to veterans, I would like to point out that the war on women is still going strong. So-called personhood was defeated in Mississippi. Almost 60% of people voted against giving fertilized eggs all the rights of corporations  people, which would take away fundamental rights (like life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness) from the real, live people who would become little more than incubators.

I’m happy that it was defeated, believe me. But that vote was the result of tremendous work by women’s rights organizations, and even after major investments of time and money, somehow 40% of voters still thought the bill was a good idea. Why are we even having to fight this fight in the first place?

But fear not! Personhood USA is going to expand its efforts and bring similar legislation to more states. Satan won’t win every time, they insist. Others are misappropriating the history of the Holocaust to try to convince people that it’s a good thing to let women die. And in the next election cycle, graphic, gory ads may be coming to a TV near you – but they won’t show the horror of the pre-Roe days.

That’s my war today. It’s one I was drafted into the minute I was born with a uterus and a disability. And in that metaphor, I desperately want to become a veteran, to lay down arms (and coat hangers) and rest secure in my person and in my right to appropriate health care. So I pray, today, for all the veterans of the past, and for current wars to end so that there are more veterans and fewer soldiers, and I reflect on the value of life and how I fight for it.

Just published! Anointed: A Devotional Anthology

Join me in celebrating the release of Anointed: A Devotional Anthology for the Deities of the Near and Middle East, edited by Tess Dawson! This project occurred under the auspices of Bibliotheca Alexandria, a project of Neos Alexandria that fosters Pagan writing and publishing.

It includes two pieces of mine, the poem “Call to Inanna,” which starts out:

Out of the depths, I call to you, Inanna!

Out of the depths of my fear, I call to you, holy priestess!

Out of the depths my call echoes up to you, Queen of Heaven!

Do not forget me!

Do not forsake me!

Do not abandon me to my fear!

and an article, “Facing Fear,” which describes how

The Call to Inanna can be used as a solitary ritual in order to have a cathartic confrontation with fear and reclaim your power in the face of that fear.

It also looks like there are some great resources on other, less well-known deities and cultures. I can’t wait to get my copy! If you have any interest in these deities, check it out. Please note that I get no money for this and do not have a financial interest in your purchase, but I encourage you to support Bibliotheca Alexandrina by buying through their site if you do want to get the book.

Punxsutawney Phil called Persephone

Punxsutawney Phil called Persephone and said
“All clear here, spring is coming,
but don’t let me rush you.
In this our present age
of lesser gods and greater mortals
we think we’ve got this handled.”
But that afternoon the sun came out
and as he dived back into his burrow
he put his lips close to the crack
that goes all the way down
and whispered, “Hey, P?
We might need you
after all.
You’re better at dealing with shadows
than I am.”

 

Copyright Literata 2011; unlike other material on this blog, this work is not included under my Creative Commons license. Please do not reproduce it without my permission.