Pagan goddess or Christian saint, Brigid’s spirit lives on in Ireland today

The traditions of the feast of Brigid have been unchanged for what may well be thousands of years. This is despite all the social changes that have taken place in that time.

Before Christianity came to Ireland, the people here had a long tradition of pagan worship. They carried out rituals at sacred sites and believed that certain wells had the power to heal. Their important festivals marked the changing seasons.

Rather than fighting against such traditions and beliefs, Christianity became another layer, another chapter in the history of Ireland. It is small wonder then that the stories about pagan deities and Irish Christian saints became somewhat blurred. Nowhere is this more evident than in the case of Brigid.

Imbolc

The feast day of St Brigid is celebrated on Imbolc, the pagan festival of spring. February 1 is still considered the first day of spring in Ireland, in variance to many of our close neighbours who say spring starts in March.

In pagan terms, ‘Brigid’ means ‘Exalted One.’ It seems that the name was used as a general term for goddesses as well as being a title for Brigid herself. She was closely associated with learning and poetry, both of which were highly thought of in ancient Irish society. 

Brigid was also linked to a mythical creature that transformed from an ugly hag into a beautiful woman at the mid-point between the winter solstice and spring equinox, symbolising the change of season from winter to spring.

The healing power of the goddess Brigid was invoked in times of illness. This is perhaps the strongest link between the stories from pre-Christian times and the belief in the Christian saint.

St Brigid

The Christian St Brigid was born in Louth in 457AD and was the daughter of Dubtach, a nobleman. Her mother is thought to have been a slave in Dubtach’s household.

The young Brigid became a nun along with seven other women. The story goes that she was mistakenly consecrated a bishop. Brigid was certainly a powerful, determined woman who became an Abbess in County Kildare and was linked to many miracles.

One of the most recounted is the tale of when she asked the King of Leinster for land to build her monastery. He agreed but later changed his mind.©Siobhán McNamara Brigid then asked him for as much ground as her cloak would cover. The king agreed. As Brigid laid out her cloak it grew and grew until it covered the whole of the Curragh, an area of grassy plains in Kildare famous for horseracing and horse breeding today.

The tradition of weaving crosses from rushes relates to a story of Brigid’s visit to a dying Chieftain. He wanted to convert to Christianity so Brigid wove a cross of rushes for him. The simple cross was as much a symbol of humility and a condemnation of materialism as it was of religion. Despite being born into a noble household, Brigid was a strong advocate for the poor.

Beyond Ireland

The fame of ‘both’ Brigids spread far beyond Irish shores. The term ‘bride’ was first used by the medieval Knights of Chivalry for whom Brigid was a patroness.

For others, Brigid is seen as the goddess of poets and an inspiration for lifelong learning and betterment, particularly for women.

We will most likely never know if there really were two Brigids or if both traditions competed to claim her, though many people have a strong belief in one or the other.  Folklore by its nature evolves, grows, and while this makes for great stories there is always the risk of manipulation to fulfil a personal agenda. Though of course, that is the very core of the Irish bardic tradition and it remains alive and well today.

Each year on the eve of St Brigid’s Day I join over 100 people in a former parish church, making crosses, drinking tea and catching up with friends and neighbours. Perhaps best of all is seeing the youngest members of the community enjoy the occasion every bit as much as the older generation. Skills are passed on, stories are told, songs are sung. These gatherings could be taking place at any point in history.

I think it’s fair to say that whatever version of Brigid you choose, she lives on today as a symbol of the very essence of life – the power and the determination to leave the darkness of winter behind and grow towards the light.

Happy St Brigid’s Day.  Happy Imbolc. And happy first day of spring.

Posted in Non-fiction, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Eye of the Beholder – a 100w story

This week’s photo prompt comes from Dale Rogerson.

The challenge is to write a fictional story in 100 words.

To find out how to get involved, click here

To read other contributions from some excellent writers, click on the Blue Frog

ff20170120

Eye Of The Beholder

Mamma fussed over the wedding veil.

‘Oh child,’ she said. ‘I will miss you but my heart soars at the freedom you will have. The world will know your beautiful soul.’

Anna remembered these words as she wrote:

Dear Mamma,

I am very lucky. Rich people come to my husband’s gallery and pay the price of a house for my paintings.

Anna couldn’t tell Mamma she saw little of her new life through the narrow, netted slit. She asked her husband why she had to cover herself, here where women were free. He got so angry that afterwards she was glad her shameful, broken face was invisible.

©Siobhán McNamara

Posted in Fiction, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 42 Comments

Daily Post photo challenge – ambience

The theme for this week’s photo challenge from the Daily Post is ‘Ambience’

To get involved or to see other contributions, click here

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Posted in Photography | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

What’s in a name? A 100-word story

Below is this week’s 100-word story for Friday Fictioneers.

The photo prompt comes courtesy of ©C.E. Ayr

To find out how to join the challenge, click here

To read other contributions, click on the Blue Frog

ff20170113 

What’s in a name?

Something nagged Stanley through the maelstrom of bloodied faces, shattered metal and broken corpses.

He had been certain they had the right man. All intelligence led to Dhern Riger.

Damn it, Riger even spouted foreign incantations while being arrested at the train station.

The explosion came anyway – from a small plane overhead.

When Stanley finally got home he tried to focus. He wrote down the suspect’s name.

His wife looked over his shoulder.

‘Doing a crossword to take your mind off things?” she asked. ‘Only, I’d say that’s an anagram and …’

But Stanley was already rearranging the letters to spell R-E-D  H-E-R-R-I-N-G

©Siobhán McNamara

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 42 Comments

Mind Over Matter – a 100w story

Thanks to ©Sandra Crook for the photo prompt for this week’s Friday Fictioneers.

To join the challenge, write a piece of flash fiction in 100 words and post it via host Rochelle Wisoff-Fields’ blog by clicking here

To read other contributions, click on the Blue Froggy

20170106

Mind Over Matter

It’s that dream again. The one where I am in a dusty attic looking for something elusive.

Long ago, before the accident, my college lecturer said dreams about attics represented a need to explore the higher mind.

This attic is different. It is full of cogs and machines that don’t work.

There are voices coming from outside the attic; faces I see through the window. They mean no harm but I don’t think they can help. Whitecoat Man talks about tests. Again.

There must be a way to get this machinery moving. If I could only find some oil …

©Siobhán McNamara

Posted in Fiction, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 38 Comments

My #50HappyThings 2016 for #BloggersUnite

Thanks to Dawn Quyle Landau for inviting me to take part in this much-needed exercise – to take time for gratitude and positivity. It felt at first like I would struggle to reach 50 in the allocated time, but in the end, I probably could have added lots more. It’s a great exercise for taking stock of where you’re at and of what matters in your life right now.

My list of #50HappyThings for #BloggersUnite is:

1.       20 years of motherhood – my eldest daughter turns 20 today

2.       Blog friends – a bonus I never could have imagined when I tentatively started my blog

3.       Blackstar – David Bowie’s perfect parting gift to his fans

4.       Nature on my doorstep – I love where I live

5.       Being a dragon – or at least, a member of the Donegal Dragons dragon boat club and being inspired and supported by the amazing breast cancer survivors and supporters who make up this club dragon-boat

6.       People – those who are there in so many ways, from close friends to the people who serve me my coffee with a smile

7.       Kindness – being on either the giving or receiving end of an act of kindness

8.       Work – sometimes I love it and sometimes it drives me mad but a mid-life career change was the right choice and I wouldn’t change it

9.       Friday Fictioneers – that wonderful weekly flash fiction writing challenge and all the writers who take part, give feedback and are generally a great bunch of people. I’m so glad I stumbled into this group

10.   My garden – it’s been a bit neglected this last year or two but I still ljamove it

11.   Continuing the practical skills I learned from my mother, like how to make jam (from the fruits of my garden!) and how to knit

12.   Memories – and learning to smile through the memories of those no longer with me

13.   My Fitbit – for reminding me that I’m doing OK

14.   My home – secure and warm, even if its constantly in need of a little bit more organisation

15.   Beaches – blessed with choice, whether it’s a long walk to the sound of crashing waves or the peace of a quiet inlet, all within a short drive

16.   Writing supports – the various groups, classes, books and mentors that continue to help me develop as a writer and get my work up to publishable standard

17.   Radio – for always being there

IMG_0036

18.   Travel – what a great time to be alive for those with the travel bug. In 2016 we enjoyed a great week in Italy taking in three very different cities and we also spent two days in beautiful Sweden visiting my daughter, not to mention numerous camping trips here in Ireland

19.   Family – my immediate and extended family, those I managed to spend time with in 2016 and those further afield

20.   People who trust me to tell their stories – and who in doing so, remind me why I like being a journalist in a local newspaper

21.   Friendship – especially from unexpected sources in difficult times

22.   Photographs – snapshots of moments in time

23.   My Kayak – my escape, my me-time, my means of switching off from life’s challenges

24.   Magical places – those favourite views or retreats to return to time and time again, or newly discovered places that are destined to become favourites frosty garden.jpg

25.   Music – where do I start ….

26.   Camera – for capturing those special moments and places and for helping me to focus on what matters

27.   Outdoor furniture – because everything tastes better outside

28.   Skilled people – woodturners, stone masons, sculptors, weavers, musicians, storytellers for their commitment to their art

29.   Learning to let go of past hurts

30.   Fridge Magnets for reminding me of all the places we’ve beenWater drops

31.   Water – taken for granted by some of us but an unattainable luxury for far too many people in the world

32.   Fruit trees – even if the raspberries are taking over the garden!

33.   Inhalers – for giving me a quality of life not available to asthmatics in past generations

34.   The internet for all the people with whom I would never otherwise have connected

35.   Wonder –  for the pleasure it adds to travel and to life

36.   Surprise – to keep me on my toes

37.   Conservationists –  for painstakingly keeping so much of our heritage intact

38.   Hospice care – and for learning that it’s not about dying, it’s about living in the moment

39.   Books – too many to mention

40.   Laughter – especially the uncontrollable kind

41.   Photoshop – because sometimes it helps!

42.   Car – because I like to choose my own route and set my own pace

43.   Skechers – the most comfortable walking shoes ever

44.   Imagination – because life would be dull without it

45.   Learning – formal and informal

46.   Creative energy from a writing group

47.   Gratitude itself

48.   Dawn Quyle Landau for giving me a nudge to take part in this exercise – a good call for me right now

49.   Everyone else who shared their gratitude list

50.   You, for taking the time to read this list

51.   Last but by no means list, my children for giving me reason to get up every day and face the world

 

If you’d like to take part, Dawn’s instructions are as follows:
Set a timer for 15 minutes; timing this is critical. Once you start the timer, start your list. The goal is to write 50 things that make you happy, or 50 thing that you feel grateful for. The idea is to not think too hard; just write what comes to mind in the time allotted. You may find that if you use numbered mode, and just type what comes to mind, like me you will have enough time for more than 50. When the timer’s done, stop writing. Finish whatever sentence you’re on, but don’t add more. If you haven’t written 50 things, that’s ok. If you have more than 50 things great; you can’t feel too happy or too grateful! Add the photos, links, instructions, etc after you finish the list––the timer doesn’t matter for getting these details down; it applies to the list only. 

When you’ve finished your list, pop over to Dawn’s blog Tales From The Motherland and follow the instructions to add your link to the Blog Party List.

Posted in Non-fiction, Photography, Uncategorized | Tagged | 8 Comments

Curtain Call – a 100w story

Below is this week’s contribution to Friday Fictioneers. ff20161230
The challenge is to write a piece of fiction in 100 words based on a weekly photo prompt. This week’s photo is courtesy of Shaktiki Sharma

To join the fun, click here

To read other contributions, click on the Blue Froggy

 

Curtain Call

George envied the lives extinguished by the curse of 2016.
He yearned for their glory, their effervescence and their adoring, heart-broken fans.
He’d met most of the stars. Not that they noticed George, the man who made the curtain go up and down.
The New Year’s Eve performance ended. Someone cracked a joke about surviving into 2017.
Everybody laughed.
Except George.
He lowered the curtain.
If only his big break had come, he could have stepped on to the stage, soaked up the applause and poured heart and soul into song that filled the theatrical hush.
Instead, emptiness loomed.


©Siobhán McNamara

Posted in Fiction | Tagged , , , | 24 Comments