In Celtic Ireland we have two Brigids: the ancient Goddess Brigid and the christian Saint Brigid so at Kildare there are two Brigid's wells
The ancient 'original' Brigid's Well beside the Japanese Gardens in Kildare
Brighid: Goddess and Saint
I've always been surrounded by Brigid, in childhood she was my favourite Christian saint, even my local national school and Catholic Church bore her name. And today she is my beloved mother guide, my heart, my source, and my inspiration. She walks and weaves with me every moment of my life. Brighid, like Quan Yin and Isis among others, is one on the great archetypal mother goddesses, she is so intimate, so personal and private and yet she encompasses so profoundly the wider family, community, environment and place.
In Her we have the true mother understanding of social co-operation and caring, of support, of respect and understanding between one person and another, one tradition and another, one generation and another, and indeed between the whole of humanity and the land itself.
In Ireland everyone knows we have two Brigids: the ancient goddess and the christian saint. Yet there are those who prefer to focus exclusively on similarities between them, sometimes to the extreme of suggesting that they are one and the same - where St. Brighid is but some mere christian derivative of the earlier ancient goddess. This is patently not so. Just like the two traditions they represent, our two Brigids are as separate and distinct as the cities of Cork and Dublin. Saint Brigid was certainly called after the ancient goddess but she was a real flesh and blood 'mother of all Abbesses', a hugely influential bishop in the early christian church ordaining her own clergy to boot.
And just outside Kildare town there are, of course, two Brigid's wells. The original pagan one, very ancient and resonant with the Goddess Brigid, can be found in the car park of the Japanese Gardens. By one of those mere 'coincidences' which so often attend such places, this well has contrived to supply water to the gardens themselves. The whole structure here was recently restored as part of extensive renovation work on the car park itself.
It is a truly wonderful, old, profound yet simple place. One of those places that slowly draws you into its mystery, blessing the soul with a deep inner peace and stillness. Despite this well's relatively low profile, people come from many lands to this place, especially many women - for Brigid has always been a huge archetype of the awesome power that is Woman in all her many aspects and sacredness. I have met many people here down the years. One November I met a woman from Kansas in the US. Finally after a lifetime dreaming of this place, she had come to spend a week here in peace and contemplation. And that's where I found her, beside the well, her hair tossed by the breeze, her eyes smiling in the afternoon sun.
Some years ago I was fortunate to meet two great women from England who showed me plainly how mankind's attitude of exploitation, disrespect and abuse of the Land itself began at the same time as man started losing his respect for woman. I am struck sometimes by the dreadful pain and disrespect man has visited on woman for countless generations. The sheer magnitude and scale of it was nothing short of horrendous. The fortitude and inner strength that is woman and which carried her through this time is so present in Brigid. Her flame is so representative of the creative inspiration of the womb, the fire in the belly, and all that is so sacred in the feminine.
And Brigid's Flame is still regularly carried from here in Kildare to various women's conferences and gatherings as far away as Australia. So Brigid continues to play Her central role in healing and inspiration down the generations
The 'Christian' Brigid's well, the official one on signposts and tourism literature, is situated in a landscaped grotto at the end of a short lane way close to the first one. Christian devotion was moved to this site by local Catholic clergy in the 1950's out of concern apparently for people's safety in accessing the other well which was on the bend of a narrow busy road. From their devotional perspective at the time I suppose, one well was as good as another and so this new centre of devotion was created. Here at this site we have a Roman Catholic healing well, a different place and different energy, resonating with the spirit of Saint Brigid. Today many groups from various different traditions conduct their small ceremonies here in the gentle peace and privacy of the location. The many earth-based women's gatherings who have come here are warmly welcomed too, and their blessings have intensified the Earth Goddess energy in this place. Conversely, the countless generations of Christian devotion at the more ancient well have left their imprint in that place too.
Numerous goddess sacred sites were dedicated to St. Brigid after the rise of Christianity in Ireland. Pagan ceremonies continued alongside the latter day Christian novenas and patterns as the two traditions co-existed in the people and the land. This inclusive alliance within the Irish community over the centuries of both pagan and christian tradition, characterizes clearly the Irish indigenous spirit. Indeed it is typical too of the way spiritual tradition has evolved in many other indigenous societies, including South American and African cultures. Here too, we find older pagan charms and spells now merrily including the names of latter day Christian saints. This is the natural way traditions inform and enrich each other in real life and it continues to defeat the best efforts of those with political interests on all sides who would dearly wish it otherwise.
At the Brigid's Eve ceremonies in Kildare on Brigid's Eve night (31 January) the event starts round a small fire in the car park of the Japanese Gardens with a beautiful chant to the Goddess Brigid, such as the one originally composed by Daniel Maher. The event brings us on a powerful candle lit journey of contemplation with the great goddess and the christian saint and the spirit that weaves between them. We travel through the two spaces, the two wells and the pathways laid between them. The celebration of Oiche Bride in Kildare goes back to very ancient times. It is a very special gathering each year celebrating the return of spring and the power of woman ancient and modern. As Sister Mary, one of the Brigidine Sisters who tends the Flame in Kildare puts it: 'there's inspiration, peace and healing under Brigid's cloak for all traditions and peoples and all denominations'
Kildare Ceremony January 31st each year - Brigid's Eve
Brigid's Eve Ritual
Visit 'Solas Bhride' - the Saint Brigid (Celtic Goddess Brigid) Website in Kildare
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