Monday, November 15, 1999



1.  Bridge- id: Bridge- it: Those eedjit Sassenach
never could wrap their thick, alien Bearla around our sweet teanga.
Once I was Bree-id, Bride of Christ, but I bridled at Bridie: undignified.
I was synonymous with God-ness far beyond the Scythian Sea.
In the Isle of the Blesséd, the tuatha called me Brigantia
and gladly I gave name to them, for were they not my children?
I was the triune Bríd, but men from the east stripped me of my sisters:
Brighid of the healing, whom midwives and mothers beseeched,
bright Brighid of the Goibniu, who fanned the forge with her sweet breath.
But I, Brighid, the anvil of poetry, wrote the ranna into the numbering of years,
and was christened Naomh Brighid for my valorous deeds.

The Daghda, the Good God of Plenitudes, was my áthair,
who was my máthair? Bóand of the Cows? Or Danú? I never knew.
I was a fussy child, drinking only bainne from the red-eared cow.
I was born at the atha between worlds, betwixt night and dawn,
neither within nor without the house, ní an theach, ní an rígh,
wed a while to Bres, a half-Fomorii from beyond the sea...
My three strong sons fell, blessed by the song of the sword.
It was I who keened the first sorrow ever to face Éiru.
I wanted them beside me, not in the land of the ever-young.
Tír na n-Óg: did they not know Cill Dara was mine own?

At Bath, Caesar called me his wise Minerva: patron of arts and crafts,
but he never knew I was also Sulis, and her sister of the lost names.
Bélsima (most brilliant I was), then, from across the sea, they came
renamed my Féis Dé, Candlemas, but I was still a woman of sudden flame.
Ah, Imbolc, the sweet milking for the lambs on the first day of Earrach.
It was I who divided the year into two lovers: Samhain and Gemredh.
In the first paragraph of paradise, I was shaper of the land, consort of kings.

2. In the year of the plagues, Cogitius and other monks scribed:
to a slave I was born, swathed in a druid’s ráth, Foughart, Meath, 445,
to the sweet land of Medbh, regal woman of honeyed thighs.
My dark father, Dubthach, sold me to another king who thought me
too worthy a wife when I gave away sword, chariot, horses, treasury...
With my swirling cloak I claimed all his land to grass the cattle of the poor.
Milk overflowed in my fields. I bettered the sheep, I satisfied the birds.
It’s true, in the mortal coil, I refused marriage, even to the filidh
who couldn’t take a joke and fled when my eye burst like a meteor.
Before battling with angels, remember the Lord is better than any poem.
The lepers and the blind loved me, for my holy wells healed their maladies.
My little speckled fish wagged his tail, cured disease, restored sight and prophecy.

Brennaín of Tra Lí, in his blue martyrdom, for seven long years, went to sea.
No one to cure my headaches, or to tell me tales of breathing leviathan islands,
how he anchored on cities of glass beneath the foam, or of ships in adrift in the sky.
Forever Navigator, he never managed to hang his wet cloak upon the sunbeams.
My jealous brother, born of two worlds between the salt water and the sea strand,
claimed the beasts of the sea loved me better than Pádraig or he. By pondering
solely on God, I gentled mad horses, and soothed the voices of the waves.
With seven sisters, I built two monasteries beneath the oaks,
three-quarters of a century later, the earth took me back into her womb
until the dubhgaill pirates came in longships from the north
I was smuggled to Dún Pádraig with himself and Colum Cille,
500 years we slept, blissfully forgotten. No separation of marrow from bone.
We had but one heart and one mind.
On the eve of Conquest, it was Maolachi who found us.

3.  Dear Cormac in his Glossary penned: I usurped “ a goddess
whom the bards worshipped, for great and noble was her perfection.”
He was right, you know, my name was synonymous with Goddess.
19 of my cailleacha kept my fires lit with their breath until the 1200th year.
That Welsh monk Gerald scryed there was a matter of a hedge no man could cross.
Plenty came to visit. The only thing that drove them mad was their fear of desire.
Hairy-psalmed men moved by soft Latin. Three sons: and they claimed me a virgin!
That’s why I sent the kestrel to the spires of Kildare when her breeding was done.
And that bit about the nuns: As if I needed reminding to mind my own fire!
He never recognized me as his St. Ffraid of Wales, Angli-land, and beyond.

It wasn’t Ibor who conferred me to the veil,
it was Mel, so intoxicated by my presence so near,
that he read the ritual for ordaining a bishop over me.
Second only to Ticfa Pádraig; I kept my monks in food and beer.
Silly things drank my bath water from Maundy Thursday to Low Sunday
before they realized it wasn’t ale. They, who called me Mary of the Gael!
Everything I put my hand to received a threefold increase.
Once I fed the dog the bishop’s dinner; meat was back on the bone by supper.
The multitudes I fed from that same haunch! Go leor: plenty and emough.
But a sleighty fox stole the bone. I sent him packing to a king’s court
to beg for tricks like a hound a year and a day. To every dog its bone...
As a child, my hands charmed three yields of milk from my cows,
and the butter! I filled the dairy with it to impress a stranger.
But to the vain woman bearing me gifts of pride-apples,
I gave her fruitless trees as a token of my gratitude.

How I miss my bishop, Conleth, the metal-smith, falsely accused
of fathering a child, but it was Brón, (sorrow’s patronage abused.)
I bade the newborn speak the name of his father .Brón Trogain, he mewed.
Did I not reside over His birth, did my sisters not nurse the Holy Child,
he who was to come, God, the Son and the Father, all in one,
who was three in one, and one in three, like my sisters Bríd and me?

Know you that at the red hand of Ireland
I have been resurrected for the third age, a nameless woman,
reborn in the fire of the last phrase of the millennium,
while soldiers slouching on street corners, defend blood faith,
and the alien Bearla is now our sweet foreign tongue.
In it, the Nobel poet said to me: Read the hand, read the hand...

The Ides of Samhain, 1999
Berkeley, CA

Friday, November 12, 1999

SOURCE SYNOPSES ON BRIGID AS GODDESS & SAINT (notes for a paper and a poem)

SOURCE SYNOPSES ON BRIGID AS GODDESS & SAINT (bibl at end of each synopsis)
(parenthetical notes are mine; not text’s)

BRIGID/BRIGIT  A triune goddess of:
1) healing                                   therapy           
2) blacksmiths                            fire
3) fertility & poetry                    light, poets/seers, divination, prophecy

(also Patron saint of travelers, domestic arts; weaving & dyeing, agricultural abundance; the kitchen (bread), brewing;  arts/crafts learning; protectress of women; patroness of midwives/childbirth, water)

Mythological aspects: A daughter of the Dagda (The Good God ....Q is Boand (cow goddess) her mother??? her two sisters were also called Brigid, in other words, she was a triune goddess: that is, three in one). Must’ve been confusing having three goddesses with the same name.
She was married a while to Bres, the half-Fomorii ruler of the Dé Danann. By Tuireann she had 3 sons: Brían, Iuchar, Iuchara (twins+ 1, a mythic motif. It is said that at the death of her son, uttered the first cry of sorrow in Ireland.)

She appears as the equivalent to Dana, mother of all gods.
Counterpart in Brythonic Celtic (Brigantia; Totem of the Brigantes) and Gaulish (Brigindo) cultures. Her name seems to represent “High One”
(Exaulted One, Fiery Arrow. Bríg means god. A cognate with brihati in Vedic Sanskrit, correspondent in Britain with Briganti, latinized to Brigantia,)

Festival, Imbolg/Imbolc, Feb. 1, one of four great Celtic feasts. Pastoral festival assoc. w/the milk of the ewes and 1st day of spring.

(NOTE St. Brigid’s Night divided the year into 2 seasons winter/summer ....(from A& B Rees book, Celtic Heritage) Gemredh (winter half), Samhain (summer half), Earrach (spring or Oimelk/Imbolg or Imbolc -bolg+stomach/bag...ime is butter  butterbag??? cream bag/stomach? bainne = milk in Irish. If she’s the Indo European Cow Goddess, this all ties in. Cow, serpent, bird, cockerel assoc. w Brigid)

4. Brígid, 5th C. SAINT, AKA Mary of the Gaels; her tradition is often confused with the goddess. Attribute;  Icon: cow lying at her feet.
St. Brigid was born in Faughart in AD 540 and died in Kildare in 523; (note c.453 -523;
daughter of a slavegirl and Dubthach...a chieftain (or possibly a druid)
either sent to a druid or was born in a druid’s house...
She was baptized and returned to her father’s house, refusing offers of marriage (from a poet, no less), took the vow of virginity & with 7 companions, she founded Kildare, one of the greatest monasteries in Ireland. It was probably an important pagan site  kil= cell and dare= oak; Classical references state the druids worshipped in oak groves; it’s possible she was also perceived as a druidess. On the flat plains of what came to be Cell Dara were certain areas sacred to the fertility goddess Bríg, where her priestesses kept an eternal fire, The plains were left untilled  even though fertile, a sign that the goddess owned them.  Isle of the Saints: Monastic Settlement and Christian Community in Early Ireland, Lisa Bitel, Cornell  University Press, 1990  p 44).

Numerous accounts of her life were written soon after her death and her cult became widespread.. Her cult is second only to St. Patrick in Ireland (a paradox, if she was real, with 2nd generation monk-saints, a real misogyny seems to arise: it is said that St. Kevin disliked women as did Kentigern, and Columba, there’s even a tale attached to Brendan’s fear of women...a new element under Christianity : women lost many, if not most of their legal rights with the introduction of Christianity).

Many traditions and ceremonies assoc. w/ her predecessor, the goddess. Her Feast Day Feb. 1.  (Candlemas...interesting fire imagery here, also one description of her from the Hebrides has her head haloed with candles).
“RAS MacAlister put forward the theory that the saint was actually a priestess of Brigid who converted to Christianity. In most accounts of her life, her father is named as Dubhthach, a druid.”

p 50, A Dictionary of Irish Mythology, Peter Berresford Ellis, Oxford University Press, GB 1987.

BRIGID (Brigit, Bridget, Bride)  d 525 Abbess of Kildare. Historical facts about her extremely rare; some scholars doubt her existence. Lives mainly anecdotes and miracle stories, deeply rooted in Irish pagan folklore.
Born near Uinmeras, 5 miles from Kildare, parents of humble origin, baptized by Patrick, became a nun at an early age, founded a monastery at Kildare and contributed notably to the spread of Christianity. Her miracles stories portray her as a personification of compassion. Themes: multiplication of food, butter to the poor, and her bathwater into beer! (kinky!!!) to satisfy the thirst of unexpected cleric visitors. Even her cows gave milk three times during the same day to ensure that some thirsty bishops has enough milk to drink.

Other legends personify her with the Blessed Virgin (Mary of the Gael) based on a vision of Bishop Ibor the night before an assembly addressed by Brigid. When she arrived she corresponded exactly to his vision of Mary. Ibor also supposed to have consecrated her (or perhaps Mel “When Brigid went to Bishop Mel to receive the veil of a nun, he became so ‘intoxicated’ with the sanctity in his presence that he read the ritual for ordaining a bishop over her. Thus, Brigid is unique among Irish holy women in being a fully accredited bishop.” (Conversing With Angels & Ancients: Literary Myths of Medieval Ireland,  Joseph Nage (Cornell 1997)  p233 ) 

ODS  author David Hugh Farmer states: claims of bishops and abbesses of Kildare supreme over others in the whole of Ireland were a principal reason for the existence of even the earliest Lives, such as that by Cogitosus *(c. 650). (Ultan of Ard Braccan, d. 657, also wrote a Life). Lives translated into Old French, Middle English, German (some 7 Lives written??? ).

(Cogitosus maintains that Brigid’s patruchia stretched throughout Ireland....Brigid remains so colorless as an historical person that one doubts whether she had lived as a saint at all.” Medieval Ireland: The Enduring Tradition, Michael Richter, St. Martin’s Press 1995  p78.

(In Conversing With Angels & Ancients: Literary Myths of Medieval Ireland, UCLA Celtic Studies scholar Joseph Nage writes; “There is no serviceable modern edition of Cogitosus’s text (in Louvain)” page 234).
(“The cult of Brigid is the most spectacular example of the transformations effected by the medieval Irish hagiographic tradition, whereby pre-Christian divinity or divine trait becomes Christian saint or typical saintly behavior. There are incontrovertible references in medieval Irish literature to a pre-Christian divinity Bríg or Bright, who is obviously the inspiration for much of the cult of St.  Brigid.” Conversing With Angels & Ancients: Literary Myths of Medieval Ireland,  Nage,  p 233).

Unusual Double monastery of Kildare Brigid and Bishop Conleth (it’s significant that he’s a metalsmith, in one story, he’s accused of fathering a child and Brigid makes the child point out its father, in another story the cleric is Brón (sorrow), Another more repressed story where she gets rid of a nun’s fetus “public determination of at the heart of the story pattern.”  Conversing With Angels & Ancients: Literary Myths of Medieval Ireland, Nage,  p231).

NOTE also suggested that the double monastery was w/ Patrick and / or her brother).
Her cult is second only to Patrick. Popular in England (19 ancient churches dedicated to her: St. Bride’s Fleet St.)  and in Wales: as many churches (NOTE numerology: 19 churches, 19 nuns) St. Bride’s Day, Dyfed emphasizes strong links w/ Irish Christianity. Many places in Wales called Llansantaffraid (=St Bride’s Church ...llan  santa FFraid: Welsh for Brigit). The cult of Brigid was popular on Continent, esp. in Alsace, Flanders & Portugal. (Also France & Italy...what’s amazing about this is that it is thought that women didn’t travel, so monks would’ve had to spread the word. But if she was indeed a bishop as Nage suggests, it would explain her power and widespread cult).
Brigid is patron of poets, blacksmiths and healers. Icon: cow lying at her feet, which recalls her phase as a nun-cowgirl.
A relic of her shoe in Nat Museum, Dublin (NOTE: she is often paired w/ Lugh...patron of shoemakers...get back to that later).
Folkloric elements important in her Lives and cult. Gerald of Wales d.c. 1200 (See orig. text, incl. & use in paper) described a fire kept burning continuously at her shrine for centuries, tended by 20 (19) nuns of her community. The fire was surrounded by a circle of bushes, which no man was allowed to enter.
Brig also means valor or might, personified as a goddess whose fire cult took place on Feb. 1; her translation to June 10. There is another feast on March 24 commemorated the discovery by St. Malachy in 1185 of the supposed bodies of Patrick, Columba and Brigid at Downpatrick.

—from p 50 Oxford Dictionary of Saints, David Hugh Farmer, ed. Oxford University Press, GB 1978. (he cites Plummer, among others) take tidbits from his intro on Celtic saints???

(Note Morgan uses similar verbiage as Oxford Dictionary) Brigid...gathered together women from all over Ireland into protected monastic communities. (Why did they suddenly need protection? Viking invasions?) Brigid was legendary in her abilities to multiply food: turning bath water into beer & milking her cows successfully 3 x day (he misunderstands the information: it should say 3 x the yield, not 3 x day). She was an agriculturist: cowherd, shepherd, butter churner, baker, corn reaper (add more from Life).
The association with Brig whose cult was celebrated with a ceremony of fire. “Brigid has experienced a relatively recent insurgence of popularity due to the interest of contemporary feminist and environmental groups, as well as the growing women’s movement in Ireland.”

p 29 Saints: a Visual Almanac of the Virtuous, Pure, Praiseworthy, and Good, Chronicle Books, Tom Morgan, San Francisco 1994.

Brigid: Caesar includes her among major deities of Gaul (Interpretatio Romana) as Minerva, patron of the arts and crafts, but Celtic deities were larger and more complex, often assoc. w Mercury & Vulcan. Her cult was especially strong among the lower social orders, hence the patron of domestic arts: weaving & dyeing. Arts & healing, Brigid is honored at Bath (Aquae Sulis) and associated with Sulis.
Nearest counterpart, Irish Brighid in Cormac’s Glossary (c.8th c) states that she was the patron of filidhecht (poetry and learning, divination and prophecy-worshipped by the filidh).
Daughter of the Daghda, her two sisters also named Brighid: patrons of healing and smithing.
p 34  “Among all the Irish a goddess used to be called Brighid...her name used to be synonymous for Goddess.” Cormac’s Glossary (c.8th c).
There is slight historical evidence for her Christian namesake. “She usurped the role of the goddess and much of her mythological tradition”
In the saint’s Lives, she’s associated with livestock and any produce of the earth.
She was born at sunrise, a liminal boundary, neither within nor without the house (between worlds like Cuchulainn at the ford), and fed milk from a white, red-eared cow (supernatural Otherworld connection). And (while in conversation w/ St. Brendan) she hangs her wet cloak on the rays of the sun (Lugh/Griannos connection??) her house was ablaze when she entered.
Gerald of Wales quote: she and 19 nuns took turns guarding the perpetual sacred fire surrounded by a hedge, no men could enter (NOTE add Columba story of the man who went mad who crossed the threshold of bushes).

Solinus, in the 3rd c., mentioned that Minerva’s sanctuary (Bath?) in Britain contained a perpetual fire. Minerva’s epithet: Bélsima (most brilliant) Brigid: The Exalted one; cognate with brihati in Vedic Sanskrit, correspondent in Britain with Briganti latinized Brigantia, tutelary goddess of the Brigantes.
She gives her name to rivers: Brent in England, Braint in Wales and Brighid in Ireland.
There is no clear distinction between goddess and saint. Kildare was probably an important pagan site, Brigid was not a missionary saint, nor widely traveled (though chariot stories abound). There are dedications to her throughout Celtdom.

p 93 (compare w the Hag of sovereignty) mother goddess, shaper of the land, consort of kings  “The composite legend of goddess and saint connected her to...learning, craftsmanship, healing...childbirth and animal abundance....predominantly pacific concerns.” War: she intervenes for Leinstermen as a tutelary goddess concerned with political and economic well being. A territorial goddess of the land assoc. with sacral kingship. Land should be prosperous and inviolate under his rule; only a legitimate spouse of the goddess personified.

p 132 ...the notion of sovereignty...abundant evidence that symbolism and function of both myth and ritual, still clearly perceived pagan traditions and cults thrived and flourished...under the mantle of the church...spurious seal of respectability, pagan deities canonized and assimilated.

pp 32-4; 93, 132  Celtic Mythology, Proinsius MacCana, Peder Bedrick Books, 1983

p 53 springs and sacred wells associated with divine cults of healing, Brigid, Coventina
p54 Celtic Festivals 4 seasonal religious festivals  mythic tradition, farming year Imbolc Feb. 1-2 (lactation of ewes aka Oimelk) linked with Brigid (St. Brigid’s Night/Candlemas) a multifunctional goddess who protected women in childbirth who presided over the ale harvest; assoc. w poetry and prophecy.

p65 Brigid born in a druid’s household.
p66 Brigid patron goddess of seers, an expert in divination, prophecy, learning & poetry.
p 53, 54, 65, 66  Celtic Myths, Miranda Green, British Museum Press/Univ. of Texas, 1993

p 78 Matres, triple goddess associated with food— loaves, fishes, a suckling infant and a dog at her feet (in this case, the symbol of dog equals abundance, note the Brigid story where she feeds the dog the bishop’s dinner and the meat is magically restored, a reference to abundance) (Brigid is also portrayed with a cow resting at her feet).

“Triplism a basic phenomenon of Celtic religion...mother goddesses abound...a type  of Celtic divinity...and the triadic form appeared to have played an important role in her worship and cult expression.” Note the three-headed goddesses...and Mercury was triple phallused! (The Welsh saint had three breasts).

p 101  ...native /fertility goddess mates with mortal sovereign to ensure continued prosperity of Ireland.” The idea of Triplism is ethnically important. War was also an important aspect of fertility symbolism. “Irish fertility goddesses combine features of war, maternity, youth, age, monstrosity, always part of a fundamental life/death protective symbolism.”

p 150  Healing cult of sacred springs—votive offerings, replicas of heads, organs, legs, offered to the goddess. Blindness, arthritis, goiter, hernia clearly represented. Breasts, genitals (archaeological evidence in Britain and on the continent)  regenerative powers of water, a kind of fertility motif.

p 153  Epona, Apollo/belenus, bricta 7 Luxouvious,  couples who was Brigid’s?
154 Coventina counterpart? w/ sulis minerva? Bath again.

pp 78, 85, 101, 150, 153, 154  Gods of the Celts, Miranda Green, Sutton Publishing, Ltd. 1986

“The abundance of cow imagery reinforces the dependence of Ireland upon cattle. The goddess Brigid was reared on the milk of an otherworld cow.” This is a significant trope.

pp184-5  Animals in Celtic Life and Myth, Miranda Green, Routhledge NY 1992

p 20 threefold goddess of light/fire/healing; worshipped at a fire festival Feb. 2 called Brigantia or Imbolc

Cormac’s Glossary (9th c) the bishop wrote: “A goddess whom the bards worshipped, for very great and noble was her perfection. Her sisters were Brigid, the woman of healing, and Brigid, the smith-woman.” This is when Christianity replaced polytheism, ...(did) a priestess-guardian of the shrine became identified mythically with the goddess (use Giraldus’ description of the sacred fires like the Vestal Virgins of Rome)
“Until 1220, a perpetual fire, tended by 19 nuns, burnt in a shrine near her church at Kildare. bellows were used to keep the fire burning, only the breath of women.... there were attempts to rekindle it in the 1990’s.”

St. Brigid is also the epitome of kindness and charity: assisting and feeding the poor, freeing slaves, interceding on behalf of the unfortunate.

p21  Story of her father beating a servant, she stopped him “‘Would to God you were always here to protect us from the Master’s violence,’ a servant told her. Because of this, St. Brigid is the protectress of women.” Wild geese and ducks came to her for caresses, and foxes...

Brigid was famous for her ale (from bathwater?) “...on one occasion she supplied 17 churches in Meath with ale from Maundy Thursday to Low Sunday.” 

Under the name of St. Ffraid, Brighd was a popular saint in Wales.
Travelers said this prayer; “St. Ffraid bless us on our journey.”
She was sometimes conflated with Mary. St. Broccan called Brigid “The one-mother of the Great King’s son, wrote a hymn, Brigid, mother of my king,/ of the Kingdom of Heaven,/ Best was she born.”

There was more than one St. Brighd, who were disciples, or former devotees of the Goddess. “In Ireland, at Candlemas, it is the custom for people to make special St. Brigid crosses out of rushes, The rushes must be pulled up, not cut on St. Brighd’s Eve., and must be woven from left to right, Then the Brigid’s Cross is set above the door, as a sacred protection for the house, and left there until the next year, when it is replaced by a new one. Traditionally Brigid is welcomed back at her festival by rekindling the hearth fire after the house has been spring-cleaned.”

pp 20, 22  The Celtic Saints, Nigel Pennick, Bridgewater Book Co., Ltd., GB 1997.
misc notes:

Synopses of L Gregory’s collection: some 20 tales of Brigid which seem to incorporate most of the earlier Lives themes, some are barely recognizable and some are skeletal remains of the earlier miracles; most have interesting accretions that include many aspects of the heroic tradition; especially the supernatural signposts surrounding her birth. She was born at sunrise (another tale has her born half-way between day and night) on the first day of spring (between the 2 halves of the year) in a druid’s house...she drank the milk of a white, red-eared Otherworld cow (which is her totemic animal), everything she put her hand to used to increase, feeding a dog (another totemic animal).

Monday, November 1, 1999

Dark dream

Last night I dreamed I was choking and so I coughed until the phlegm lined my throat, but it was the roots of my tongue come loose from its bright moorings leaving me mute, intestate. My sphincter having reversed itself so that my entrails slowly bled a rich dark blood, devoid of oxygen. I'm like a sea cucumber spilling my guts at the first sign of danger. Others tried to stop the dam to no avail. Someone suggests a doctor to shove my entrails back in, another tries to realign my tongue. A child pulls the tampon that short up the bleeding. And my old augury spills to the ground unread.

added 9/17


Young students surfing the standing waves
of buckle pavement
receive a momentary glimpses of knowledge.
Wind teases the leaves toward the ground.
If I were young, instead of an infantile 46,
always late for classes, late for middle age…
In less than a month I will be 47, nearer to 50.
Students mistake me for 30-something,
I guess I should be flattered,
though the accident left me a legacy
of gray strands of wisdom.
A negative badge in a youth culture.
A girl on a skateboard breaks the mold.
I would've done that if I had been born later.
Instead, I begin to notice the first signs:
this is how it begins; shifting over the drivers seat,
my stiffness slowing me down, imperceptibly at first,
soon it will increase, then escalate,
and though I shore up the ramparts of memory
with infrastructures of history, classic middle age
clashes with druidical sacrifice. I wonder why bother
when I care so little. Late at night I contemplate
the image of my father's 38 caliber pistol
when nothing else will sustain me, it's a cold comfort.
But doubting both my sincerity and my conviction,
it remains buried in the file cabinet
in a cabin far from home.

added 9/17