St Brigid of Kildare

A text from my local pizza place reminded me that it’s St Brigid’s Day on February 1 (yes, Pizza Plus really did text me with a special offer for the weekend: for the record, it’s buy any medium or large pizza or a meal deal and get a free Arctic roll).

Poor Brigid (aka Brigit, Bridget, Bríd, and so forth). Most people don’t realise that she’s one of the patron saints of Ireland, along with Columba and that Patrick fellow. And to be fair, she was kind of a big deal in her day, easily the equal of any male monastic founder. She’s still quite busy: according to the Patron Saints’ Index, as well as a patron saint of Ireland, Douglas in Scotland, and of Ivrea, Italy, she’s the patron saint of: babies; blacksmiths; boatmen; cattle; chicken farmers; children whose parents are not married; children whose mothers are mistreated by the children’s fathers; dairymaids; dairy workers; fugitives; infants; Ireland; Leinster, mariners; midwives; milk maids; nuns; poets; poor; poultry farmers; poultry raisers; printing presses; sailors; scholars; travellers; and watermen.

So no matter what your field of endeavour, you’ll probably find a way for Brigid to put in a good word for you.

That said, she is easily confused and has probably been conflated to a degree with the Brigit of Celtic mythology, the Brigit who was part of a triple war goddess. While it’s quite possible that the saint was named for the goddess or simply shared the name, it could also be seen as the taming of Celtic religion or a way the new religion, Christianity, made itself intelligible to a new population and culture.

Here’s what today’s issue of The Irish Times had to say about her:

The daughter of an Irish chieftain and a slave from his court, legend and lore link St Brigid to St Patrick, though her personal achievements include founding the famed convent of Cill Dara, which went on to become a renowned centre for learning. In many ways, she was a woman ahead of her time, standing up to the patriarchy and refusing at least one arranged marriage while instead devoting her life to founding convents all over Ireland, as well as a school of art, and in the process ensuring an education for young women uninspired by the child-bearing alternative.

And, seeing as I can remember it somewhere being a feature of my education in the 1980s, here’s a five-minute (yes five-minute) video on how to make one, as recommended by the above IT article.


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