This is the first part of a series of articles which will explore the #goddess #Brigid and her role and lineage throughout history and her origins as a #beargoddess. I will also be linking her to the landscape of #EastCheshire where peaks meet the plains in an exploration of myth, land, culture and human relationship.
In the beginning there were, according Julian Cope from the Modern Antiquarian, four Neolithic goddesses. These were Koeur, Ma, Hoeur and Bree, from whom it is said, that Brigid the #Celt goddess descended.
Saint Brigid originated from this Celt goddess for whom the #Bridestones in Cheshire are named and she was later adopted as a Christian saint. The Bride Stones of Cheshire are the last surviving remanent of what was once the biggest #neolithic complex in Western Europe.
In the 9th century Cormacs glossary it was suggested #BreoSaighead (Breo Aigit ) was the root name of Brigid. Hence its link with Bree. Modern Scholars dispute this and state it is a name of folk legend. Yet still the Irish name persists, taken to mean High, exalted one, fiery arrow or firebrand. (See how this relates to the territory of Brigantia later.)
Brigids’ mother is #Danu for whom the River Dan, now Dane, is named. This river loops around the hill on which this monument is sited runs on the plain in teh distance below the Bridestones through the town of Congleton. Danu is mother of all the Celtic gods, and the race known as the Tuatha De Dannan, therefore she is also known as the ‘mother of the fairies’. The Tuatha De Dannan later took to the hills living underground when later tribes came. Brigid is daughter of this “good God” the Dagda of the #TuathadeDannan and Morrigan triple goddess of female power & death.
Sometimes tales depict the Dagda as a figure of immense power, armed with a magic club and associated with a cauldron. This description is very reminiscent of old mumming plays where the verse accompanying the devil goes...
In come I, old Beelzebub, On my shoulder I carries a club. In my hand a dripping pan. Don't you think I'm a jolly old man?
We will return again to this.
Briganti, in which the Bridestones are situated, is the term often given to the regional land inhabited by the #Brigantes, a British Celtic tribe which occupied the largest territory in ancient Britain. This territory which now forms Northern England and part of The Midlands, covered most of the land between the River Tyne and the River Humber forming the largest Brythonic Kingdom in ancient Britain. It was recorded by Ptolemy in the 2nd century AD to extend sea to sea, from the Irish sea on the west coast to the North sea in the east.
The name Brigantia is derived from the Goddess Brigantia. The word itself means 'high' or 'elevated' and it is unclear whether other settlements named Brigantium meaning 'high ones' is in reference to nobility or the highlands they lived around, such as the Pennines. In the form of a loose confederation, Brigantia existed as the territory of a number of small tribes with the Pennines being described as composing the heart
Brigids' festival is held on February 1st and corresponds to the ancient Celtic fire festival of Imbolc or Oimelc. The Festival was Christianised as Candlemas, Lady Day, Her Feast Day or La Feill Bhride; and was attended by tremendous local celebration and elaborate rituals.
Traces of this festival of the growing light can even be traced to modern America in the #GroundhogDay custom on February 2. If the groundhog sees his shadow on this morning, it means there will be six more weeks of winter. This custom comes directly from Europe, and Scotland in particular, where an old couplet goes :
If Candlemas Day is bright and clear;
There will be two winters in the year.
In other versions it is a serpent that will emerge from a hole, an allusion which Professor Séamus Ó Cáthain has linked to Scandinavian customs regarding the reappearance of the hibernating #bear. For this is the time when the animal world begins to stir from its winter sleep in the depths of earth, and life and light is ushered in by Brigid, the Queen.
Thig an nathair as an toll
Là donn Brìde,
Ged robh trì troighean dhen t-sneachd
Air leac an làir.
The serpent will come from the hole
On the brown Day of Bríde,
Though there should be three feet of snow
On the flat surface of the ground.
In the Carmina Caedelica - a collection of celtic folk prayers, charms rituals and omens the ancients made sacrifices at the meeting of three waters this same source also says that a primary symbol of the goddess was the serpent.
Today is the day of Bride
The serpent shall come from the hole
I will not molest the serpent
Nor will the serpent molest me
Welcome to February. May the milk of human kindness flow and may the inspiration of this earth rise up through you. May your hearth always be warm.
Amanda Claire x