|Member of the Tuatha Dé Danann|
|Texts||Lebor Gabála Érenn, Cath Maige Tuired, Cormac's Glossary|
|Siblings||Cermait, Aengus, Aed, Bodb Derg, Brigid the Healer, Brigid the Smith|
Brigid ( BRIJ-id, BREE-id, Irish: ['b?j?d?, 'bi:d?]; meaning 'exalted one' from Old Irish), Brigit or Bríg is a goddess of pre-Christian Ireland. She appears in Irish mythology as a member of the Tuatha Dé Danann, the daughter of the Dagda and wife of Bres, with whom she had a son named Ruadán.[a]
She is associated with wisdom, poetry, healing, protection, blacksmithing and domesticated animals. Cormac's Glossary, written in the 9th century by Christian monks, says that Brigid was "the goddess whom poets adored" and that she had two sisters: Brigid the healer and Brigid the smith. This suggests she may have been a triple deity. She is not related to a British goddess at the time of the Roman occupation, Brigantia, a personification of the hegemony of the Brigantes tribe of Northern England, but is sometimes associated with her due to the similarity in names.
Saint Brigid shares many of the goddess's attributes and her feast day, 1 February, was originally a pagan festival (Imbolc) marking the beginning of spring. Commentators have long asserted that her persona is based on the cult of the pre-Christian goddess Brigit. It has thus been argued that the saint is a Christianization of the goddess - a form of syncretism.
Cormac's Glossary, written by Christian scribes in the 9th century and based on earlier sources, says that Brigit was a goddess and daughter of the Dagda. It describes her as a "goddess of poets" and "woman of wisdom" or sage, who is also famous for her "protecting care". It says that Brigid has two sisters: Brigit the physician or "woman of healing", and Brigit the smith. It explains that from these, all goddesses in Ireland are called Brigit; suggesting that it "may have been more of a title than a personal name".
The Lebor Gabála Érenn also calls Brigit a poetess and daughter of the Dagda. It says she has two oxen, Fea and Femen, from whom are named Mag Fea (the plain of the River Barrow) and Mag Femin (the plain of the River Suir). Elsewhere, these are named as the two oxen of Dil, "radiant of beauty," which may be a byname for Brigid. It also says she possesses the "king of boars", Torc Triath (from whom the plain of Treithirne is named), and the "king of wethers", Cirb (from whom the plain of Cirb is named). The animals were said to cry out a warning and this suggests Brigid was a guardian goddess of domesticated animals.
In Cath Maige Tuired, Bríg is the wife of Bres and bears him a son, Ruadán. It says she began the custom of keening, a combination of wailing and singing, while mourning the death of Ruadán. She is credited in the same passage with inventing a whistle used for night travel.
In her English retellings of Irish myth, Lady Augusta Gregory describes Brigit as "a woman of poetry, and poets worshipped her, for her sway was very great and very noble. And she was a woman of healing along with that, and a woman of smith's work, and it was she first made the whistle for calling one to another through the night."
In the Middle Ages, some argue that the goddess Brigid was syncretized with the Christian saint of the same name. According to medievalist Pamela Berger, Christian "monks took the ancient figure of the mother goddess and grafted her name and functions onto her Christian counterpart," St. Brigid of Kildare.
St. Brigid is associated with perpetual, sacred flames, such as the one maintained by 19 nuns at her sanctuary in Kildare, Ireland. The sacred flame at Kildare was said by Giraldus Cambrensis and other chroniclers to have been surrounded by a hedge, which no man could cross. Men who attempted to cross the hedge were said to have been cursed to go insane, die or be crippled.
The tradition of female priestesses tending sacred, naturally occurring eternal flames is a feature of ancient Indo-European pre-Christian spirituality. Other examples include the Roman goddess Vesta, and other hearth-goddesses, such as Hestia.
Both the goddess and saint are associated with holy wells, at Kildare and many other sites in the Celtic lands. Well dressing, the tying of rags, (called clooties in Scotland), to the trees next to healing wells, and other methods of petitioning or honoring Brigid still take place in some of the British Isles and the diaspora.
Brigid is considered the patroness of poetry, smithing, medicine, arts and crafts, cattle and other livestock, sacred wells, serpents (in Scotland) and the arrival of early spring. In the Christian era, nineteen nuns at Kildare tended a perpetual flame for the Saint, which is widely believed to be a continuation of a pre-Christian practice of women tending a flame in her honour. Her festival day, Imbolc is traditionally a time for weather prognostication:
Thig an nathair as an toll
The serpent will come from the hole
Saint Brigid's feast day is on 1 February celebrated as St Brigid's Day in the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church and by the Anglican Communion. The Gaelic festival coincides with Imbolc the first day of Spring in Irish tradition, and because St Brigid has been theorised as linked to the goddess Brigid, some associate the festival of Imbolc with the goddess Brigid.
Old Irish Brigit ['bi?id?] came to be spelled Bri?id and Brighid [bi:d?] by the modern Irish period. Since the spelling reform of 1948, this has been spelled Bríd [bi:d?]. The earlier form gave rise to various forms in the languages of Europe, starting from the Medieval Latin Brigit /'brid?it/, suggested by the written form, and from there to various modern forms, such as English Bridget and Bridgit (now commonly seen as Brigid), French Brigitte, Swedish Birgitta, Italian Brigida and Finnish Piritta.
The name is derived from Proto-Celtic *Brigant? and means "The High One", cognate with the name of the ancient British goddess Brigantia, the Old High German personal name Burgunt, and the Sanskrit word B?hat? () "high", an epithet of the Hindu dawn goddess Ushas. The ultimate source is Proto-Indo-European *b?réntih? (feminine form of *b?éronts, "high"), derived from the root *b?er- ("to rise"). Xavier Delamarre, citing E. Campanile, suggests that Brigid could be a continuation of the Indo-European dawn goddess.
Possibly related names in Celtdom are: