Saturday, March 20, 2010

Bridget? Brigit? Bride? Ffraid? Brighideach?

Bridget? Brigit? Bride? Ffraid? Brighideach?

I have Protestant friends asking, Onnen, what is this blog of yours? What is Bridget/Bride/Ffraid, and what is Brighideach??

So a little backtracking into ancient times here, for a little explaining.

Go back to the world before the common era, when Romans had some writing going on, but much of Europe was in the dark ages. All across Europe a group of peoples spoke an early form of language that would eventually become old Welsh, and from there you will get the Gaelics - Irish and Scots, Manx is in there with Gaelic, and old Welsh divides into Cornish, Breton over in France, and modern Welsh. Yup I speak some of all those languages!

So back in that soup of early Celtic languages you have these pagan peoples, joined by some common language elements, common crafts, similar burial traditions, and into the written era, a common antipathy to the Roman Empire. Ok, everyone calls it the Celts. Yup you can argue with that name. (It can be another post, ok?) But in that soup of peoples there was one very common thread: lots and lots of worship of maybe deity like thingies, many called something similar to Brid or Brig. You get Brigantia in Britain (which is where the name Britain comes from - an entire modern nation named after a Celtic deity), Brighid in Ireland, Bridghe in Scotland, Ffraid in Wales, Brigandu over in old Gaul, Bricta in eastern France, Brigindo in Switzerland, and through colonization you end of up with Maman Brigitte in Caribbean voudou and Bridang in the Philippines.

Brid or Brig perhaps meant "exalted one," some translations say "fiery one." With Christianity and the beginnings of writing you find stories of Bridghid, where she becomes a patron of hill forts and mountains, and lofty intellectual things like poetry and healing, plus the highest echelon of crafting, blacksmithing. Monks writing down older Irish tales from before Christianity leave Brighid as the daughter of the Dagda (the good one), and daughter of a poet. (A most auspicious child then!) However, the Christians have their own Brighid, now a common era Christian daughter of druids, who claims land in Kildare for a great monastery where flames to Bridget still burn today. Historical pictures of the Saint always show her with a Bishop's staff, a wonderful point showing the historical ordination and status of women in the early church.

So there you have Bridget. Goddess or Saint, or both. Well worth worship, for inspiration or for crafting, for women's aspirations in the church or for healing, for fire or for hilltops. Bridget is a nice bridge between and among pagan and Christian women, who can find something in her famous mantle for everyone.

Bridget's fire, a woven crossroads of women's religious agency.

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