In Celtic Mythology, Who is Brigid?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Brigid or “The Bright One” is a powerful goddess in Celtic mythology. She is considered a goddess of light and wisdom, bringing enlightenment to her followers, and she is also goddess of the hearth, the home, childbirth, healing, and the arts, especially poetry. Brigid is also linked with peace and reconciliation.

Woman standing behind a stack of books
Woman standing behind a stack of books

According to legend, Brigid is a daughter of the Dagda, a powerful king in Celtic folklore. She married Bres, an Irish king of a rival tribe, in the hopes of creating unity between the tribes and bringing an end to the wars between them. The two had three sons, one of who was killed in battle, inspiring Brigid to keen with grief. As a result, Brigid is credited with the invention of the practice of keening in Celtic society, and she is also linked with the practice of whistling to organize and gather followers.

Brigid's link with fire and light is due to the fact that she was born at dawn. Sacred flames all over Ireland were maintained by priestesses of Brigid historically, and she was also worshiped at sacred wells. Many people believed that drinking from one of Brigid's wells could bring about healing of various illnesses, as she was linked with the healing arts in Celtic society.

Brigid was also associated with oxen, as she apparently owned several, and with boars. In the legends, she is depicted as an accomplished poet, composing verses in honor of various events, and some bards venerated Brigid, especially bards who performed religious works.

As a goddess, Brigid was beloved of many women. Women prayed to her during pregnancy and childbirth, in the hopes of having strong, healthy children, and some sects of priestesses dedicated themselves to the worship of Brigid and the pursuit of wisdom and accomplishments in the arts in her honor.

Like many pagan gods and goddesses, Brigid found herself displaced with the rise of Christianity. Some people have suggested that Saint Brigid of Kildare is actually a reworked version of Brigid the goddess, rather than an actual person, and some evidence does seem to support this. Both Brigids, for example, share a birthday, and verifiable details about the life of Saint Brigid are very hard to find.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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