Thursday, March 3, 2011

St. Brigid, the Irish Goddess of Fire

With St. Patrick's Day creeping up on us, I was put in mind of the Celtic influences in my book. I guess it's only natural I would include them. I married a man 35 years ago who had been in America only nine months. He grew up in Kilkee, Ireland. So we visited about five times before the kids came along, then took them all once for an extended stay, then he took each of the girls once while I stayed home with the younger kids. Now it's gotten way too expensive to fly over and stay, so it's been a long time since he's been home. And I miss it, too. I'm about a quarter Irish and mostly English (the rest is French Canadian married to a Creole). But there's something about the Celtic  mythology, Druids, leprechauns, fae, that gets under your skin and tickles your fancy. So I ended up using mostly Celtic names for my characters.

This is the first post concerning the names I chose for my characters. Brigid Saulwen Heulog is one of the Vigorios Myrna finds in Odessa. She is 16-years-old, but has lived the experiences of someone much older. Each of the Vigorios has a special talent which develops around the time they are discovered to be Vigorios. The talent played a role in their name choice. Brigid’s talent involves use of light, as in sunlight, and control of weather. Physically, Brigid is tall and thin with short, blond, spiky hair. She has a sun tattooed on her right shoulder because her father used to call her Sunny. According to baby naming manuals, Brigid means, “bright, shiny”. Since I wanted her to reflect the sun aspect as well as that of a goddess, I chose the name Brigid. According to Irish lore, Brigid was the goddess of fire.

Historically, Brigid was the Irish Goddess of Fire, whose manifestations were song, craftsmanship, and poetry - which are considered the flame of knowledge. As a healing goddess, she governs childbirth and the birthing time. That Brigid was highly regarded as a healing goddess as can be seen from the numerous healing wells dedicated to her all over Ireland. As a goddess of poetry, she governs not only the inspiration and writing of poetry, but also divination and prophecy. As a goddess of smithcraft, she governs the forge's fire. It is for these reasons that she is considered the "Bright Goddess" and is associated with the element of fire.

The Irish goddess Brigid is unusual among deities because she is found in several different religions. References to her are found in ancient Paganism, Neo-Paganism, Christianity and Voodoo.

Both Neo -Pagans and Pagans of old worshiped Brigid as a Celtic Pagan triple goddess. The term triple Goddess refers to the belief that some deities have three distinct aspects covering the maiden, mother and crone phases of life. Brigid has power over childbirth, motherhood, smith craft, peace, unity, poetry, inspiration, healing, hearth and home among others.

Brigid, the Celtic goddess of fire (the forge and the hearth), poetry, healing, childbirth, and unity, is celebrated in many European countries. Born at the exact moment of daybreak, Brigid rose into the sky with the sun, rays of fire beaming from her head. She was the daughter of Dagda, the great 'father-god' of Ireland.

In Druid mythology, the infant goddess was fed with milk from a sacred cow from the Otherworld. Brigid owned an apple orchard in the Otherworld and her bees would bring their magical nectar back to earth. It is said that wherever she walked, small flowers and shamrocks would appear. As a sun goddess her gifts are light (knowledge), inspiration, and the vital and healing energy of the sun.

February 1st is a special day on the ancient Irish calendar. It's known as La Fheile Bride, Brigid's Day. This day is a celebration of the ancient Irish goddess Brigid, and marks the start of the spring festival called Imbolc.

Legend holds that Brigid began the Irish tradition of keening (crying,wailing, and singing) over the body of a deceased person at a wake. As outlined in the following story:

Brigid became the wife of Bres, an Irish king. Together they produced three sons, each of whom became a famous warrior. Brigid and her husband came from two warring tribes and hoped their marriage would end the enmity between their kin.

Unfortunately, it did not. However, as it turns out, the battlefield death of their son Ruadan assured Brigid's role as a goddess of peace and unity.

A major battle between the two families was about to begin.

Brigid's eldest son, using the knowledge of metalsmithing that he had learned from his mother, struck the first blow, killing the smith of the opposing army. But as the warrior fell to the ground, he managed one last blow before he died and Ruandan was also killed.

Brigid's grief was enormous--for the continual hatred between the two sides of her family and for the death of her son. Her lamentations were so loud they were heard throughout Ireland and so heart-rending that both sides left the battle and forged a peace. The goddess Brigid is said to have originated the practice of "keening".
She is also credited with the invention of whistling, which she used to summon her friends to her side.

Eventually the love and respect for the goddess Brigid brought unity to the Celts who were spread throughout Europe. Regardless of their differences, they all agreed upon her goodness and compassion.

One of the most popular tales of the goddess Brigid involved two lepers who appeared at her sacred well at Kildare and asked to be healed. She told them that they were to bathe each other until the skin healed. After the first one was healed, he felt only revulsion for the other and would not touch him to bathe him. Angered, Brigid caused his leprosy to return. Then she gently placed her mantle (cloak) around the other leper who was immediately healed.

Ireland is full of springs and wells named after the goddess Brigid. Symbolically, water is seen as a portal to the Otherworld and as a source of wisdom and healing. There is a saying that Brigid rewards any offering to her, so offerings of coins were often tossed into her wells, the forerunner of the modern custom of throwing a penny into a fountain while you make a wish.

At her most famous shrine Brigid taught humans how to gather and use herbs for their healing properties, how to care for their livestock, and how to forge iron into tools. As a goddess of childbirth and protector of all children, she is the patroness of midwifery. This shrine, near Kildare, was located near an ancient Oak that was considered to be sacred by the Druids, so sacred in fact that no one was allowed to bring a weapon there.

The shrine is believed to have been an ancient college of priestesses who were committed to thirty years of service, after which they were free to leave and marry. During their first ten years they received training, the next ten were spent tending the sacred wells, groves and hills of the goddess Brigid, and the last decade was spent in teaching others.

Nineteen priestesses were assigned to tend the perpetual flame of the sacred fire of Brigid. Each was assigned to keep the flames alive for one day. On the twentieth day, the goddess Brigid herself kept the fire burning brightly.
The goddess Brigid was also revered as the Irish goddess of poetry and song. Known for her hospitality to poets, musicians, and scholars, she is known as the Irish muse of poetry. 

The goddess Brigid lends us her creativity and inspiration, but also reminds us to keep our traditions alive and whole. These are gifts that can sustain us through any circumstance. 

Her fire is the spark of life.

The Heavenly Banquet (Saint Brigid)
I would like to have the men of Heaven
In my own house
With vats of good cheer
Laid out for them
I would like to have the three Marys
Their fame is so great
I would like people
From every corner of Heaven
I would like them to be cheerful
In their drinking
I would like to have Jesus too
Here Amongst them
I would like a great lake of beer
For the King of Kings
I would like to be watching Heaven's family
Drinking it through all eternity.

Rebecca Ryals Russell’s debut novel Odessa comes out April 1, 2011. You can read more about how she chose the names of her characters and places at the various stops along her Virtual Blog Tour to be announced mid-March. Check her Odessa page or main website for dates and places she'll be visiting throughout April. And watch for a lot more about the Celtic nature of her series Seraphym Wars.

If you like prizes, appreciate good cover art or my illustrations, be sure to watch my websites for the March Madness Blog Hop March 17-20. There will be multiple prizes going to one winner in a random drawing. 

I'm also running a Giveaway Blog Hop in April, and that prize is a dilly, or should I say prize-s, since I'm doing a huge Giveaway to mark the release of Odessa. 


  1. Nice post. Many years ago, I spent several weeks in Ireland staying with a friend at her step-mother's house. The trip was wonderful and full of mystical things,

  2. There must be a magical pull Ireland exudes, because even though I only have a bit of ancestry, I call it home and am always trying to figure out a way to get back there. We've even discussed buying a vacation home on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic. Maybe in 'Yeats Country'.

  3. awesome story!! I love lore and legend. Thank you so much for sharing.

  4. A beautiful story. I enjoyed learning about Brigid. My husband has Irish in his ancestry. You've made me want to learn more about the country.

    Congratulations on your book. Will check on the Blog Hop later.

  5. Your explanation of the name Brigid is fascinating. I have a young lady in my WIP who is obsessed with the sun, but she's not Irish. Still, this resonated with me.

  6. Wow, so interesting!