Brigid – Kildare

Brigid  (1)

It’s been a long, long time since I explored the wealth of culture and ruins on display in Kildare town. So to start of a number of articles allow me to take you to the busy market square in the middle of Kildare town where despite the heavy traffic and busy streets there stands a rather solemn statue of St Brigid. In many of the early posts on this blog you would have read about this early Christian saint whom shares much in common with her namesake, the Gaelic deity Brigid. Sometimes it’s quite hard to tell where one story ends and the other continues when dealing with Brigid. As we all know the early Christian church in Ireland was quite unusual in the fact that it had to assimilate much of the ancient Gaelic beliefs into its own teachings in order to convert the population to the new religion.

Flame Sculpture (2)

Although the statue commemorates the Christian Brigid, I would like to share with you a little history of both the Gaelic and Christian Brigid’s as they both have a Matriarchal role in Irish history. According to Lebor Gabála Érenn, Brigid was said to have been the daughter of the Dagda and one of the Tuatha Dé Danann. She was the wife of Bres one of the Fomorians, with whom she had a son, Ruadán. As with many ancient Irish deities she was known to have had a triple aspect, three sides to the one coin, so to speak. These three aspects or skills which see possessed were healing, poetry and smith craft. It was said that she possessed two oxen, Fe & Men, their grazing pastures where named after them, Femen. Being a daughter of Dagda she was the half-sister of some other Dé Danann’s. Notably, Cermait, Aengus, Midir and Bodb Derg. In the second Cath Maige Tuireadh or battle of Maige Tuireadh (Plain of the Pillars), the De Danann defeated the Fomorian’s. Brigid was said to have invented keening, a combination of weeping and singing, while mourning for her son Ruadán, after he is slain while fighting for the Fomorians. This story is very interesting in that although Brigid was of the De Danann, her husband Bres, was essentially a half breed, His parents were Elatha of the Fomorians and Eriu of the De Danann. After the first battle of Maige Tuireadh in which the De Danann defeated the nasty Fir Bolg and took possession of Ireland, their King, Nuada lost his right hand in battle. Being incomplete he was no longer suitable to be king under De Danann law and so Brigid’s husband Bres became King for a while. Bres favoured his Fomorian kin and subdued the De Danann. He made the Tuatha Dé Danann pay tribute to the Fomorians and work as slaves. Eventually Nuada had a hand made of silver which was transformed into flesh and blood by the De Danann druids. And so the second battle of Maige Tuireadh became an uprising by the De Danann against the oppressive Fomorians and Nuada was restored as the rightful king. In the early Christian period, nineteen nuns at Kildare tended a perpetual flame for the Saint, which is widely believed to be a continuation of a pre-Christian practice of women tending a flame for the De Danann Brigit. She is also connected to the ancient feast of Imbolc.

Saint Brigit of Kildare was born in the year 451 AD, in Faughart, near present day Dundalk, County Louth. She was an early Christian Nun whom became one of Irelands best known saints. The majority of Sacred wells, be they pre Christian or Christian are named after her, with two of these both in Kildare and within easy walking distance of each other. She went on to become abbess, and founder of several monasteries of nuns, including that of Cill Dara, (Church of the Oak) which is modern day Kildare. Her feast day is 1 February, which was formerly celebrated as a pagan festival (Imbolc) marking the beginning of spring and the lambing season. Her mother was said to have been Brocca, a Christian Pict slave whom had been baptised by Saint Patrick. Her father was believed to have been Dubhthach, a chieftain of Leinster. As the story goes Dubthach’s wife forced him to sell Brocca to a druid when she became pregnant. Brigid herself was born into slavery. Said to have been ordained by St. Mac Caill or St. Mél of Ardagh. I could go on for an eternity retelling the many tales associated with Brigid, but one of the more popular stories concerns how she came into possession of the lands in Kildare on which she established her convent. The story goes that initially Brigid was refused land by the then king of Leinster. After praying she once returned and asked the king for lands but this time she asked for whatever land her cloak would cover. The king agreed to her terms and when Brigid laid down her cloak it covered much of Kildare. How true this may be is open to debate, but it sure is a damn good story. To this day Brigid in whatever guise you tend to follow, is still strongly associated with Kildare and I have come across numerous Holy Wells named after her, some are older than others and may well have been associated with the older deity. The St. Brigid’s Flame monument which is only a few feet away from the statue of St. Brigid was unveiled by President Mary McAleese on St. Brigid’s Day, 1st February, 2006 at the Market Square Kildare.

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About edmooneyphotography

Photographer, Blogger, Ruinhunter, with an unhealthy obsession for history, mythology and the arcane.
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25 Responses to Brigid – Kildare

  1. I love these old stories Ed and the fact that the church did incorporate so much of the pagan beliefs into Christianity, Brigid being no exception and all that fire!!

  2. No surprise that Christianity has been folded through with pagan symbols…since its beginnings in Rome. I don’t remember Christ celebrating the last Supper with eggs and rabbits… 🙂

    • LOL,your cracking me up, dont get me started, we could be here all day. You can take almost every Christian festival, holy day etc and find its roots in the old belief systems. They were obviously really inspired, lol. Like me with Van Halen 🙂

      • C=Van Halen in many ways were the perfect rock band. Virtuosity (Michael Anthony’s backing vocals are completely brilliant yet underrated by music fans) ,great songs, great live shows… all eventually wrecked by band infighting, a revolving door of singers, and Eddie various addictions. I love all their hits (sammy or dave)… BUT “Running With The Devil, “Jamie’s Crying” and “Ain’t Talking About Love” are THE signature Van Halen hits. So original Van Halen/Diamond Dave for the win.

        Running your sports car to the limit with Van Halen screaming out of the speakers is one of Life’s great pleasures… (I am blasting Van Halen right now out of my stereo as I write this!!! \m/

        • Could’nt agree more, although I must say, I have lost alot of interest since Mikeys departure. That last album with Dave and Wolfie, sounded like the left overs from VH 1 & 2 😦

          At least we still have the classics to keepus going, I even enjoyed VH3, I know it wasnt a commercial success, but I think it showed another side to the band that had’nt been seen before, Gary Cherone was underestimated in my opinion and a damn better singer that Dave.
          It might be my age, but I grew up during the Van Hagar era and although I still love the early stuff, 5150 onwards was the soundtrack for my childhood 🙂

          • It is so weird to see Van Halen with Hagar as a person’s childhood Van Halen since the original VH was MY childhood! I love both “Roth Halen” and “Hagar Halen;” they both have highlights. And VH is NOT Van Halen without Michael Anthony. Woflie is a plump kid who plays bass competently BUT VH needs Michael Anthony’s bass feel and soaring vocals or it is NOT Van Halen, just a Van Halen cover band with EVH on guitar. I also think DLR should not be back with them either as what made him perfect for the band in 78 – 84 is gone with age. We have the hits, let Van Halen rest in peace… or bring back Anthony and Hagar.

            “I live my life like there’s no tomorrow…” Well Dave, it’s tomorrow… time to get off of that road…

              • … And I say that as a huge Van Halen fan. But Van Halen, like the Canadian prog rock band RUSH, have done what they set out to do, and the last few albums have been well made blues/rock albums that are nice, but lack the ferocious virtuosity and complexity of their late 70s albums (e.g. Hemispheres) or the amazing transition records from 70s hard rock to 80s sequencing (Permanent Waves/Moving Pictures) to the four heavily synthed albums (Signals/GUP/PW/HYF) to yet another transition back to their original rock/blues roots (Presto).

                Though I am a HUGE Rush fan, I think they are done too, and have rightfully ascended to the pantheon of rock gods. On their penultimate tour to the current tour (2015) they added strings. When you add strings to your band you are done. YES is done, Genesis is done, Led Zeppelin is done… and the might Van Halen is close to done. One more Hagar/Anthony/EVH/AVH tour and they can call it quits with GREAT honour and dignity. The great prog rock masters are done, now we have an era of wild virtuosity and complexity (Devin Townsend/TOOL/Animals As Leaders/Mastodon), bands who (love them or hate them) have rightfully taken prog rock in their own wild, hyper-technical directions.

                You only live once… but if you have done it right… like Van Halen, RUSH, Led Zeppelin, etc… one lifetime is enough! 🙂

  3. beetleypete says:

    Another very interesting look at Irish history Ed. I like the flame statue a lot. You would probably have laughed to ‘hear’ me pronouncing the names and places in my head though. It is only recently that I discovered that Dun Laoghaire was not pronounced ‘Dun Log Air’!
    Best wishes, Pete.

  4. armenpogharian says:

    Speaking of Welsh, I based part of my YA series on Welsh legends and mixed in a bit of Irish myth as well. I only mention it because it was interesting to learn more about the Fomorians. FWIW, in my story one of them is a truly nasty bad guy.

  5. Ali Isaac says:

    Good to see you back, Ed! We even have a lovely holy well dedicated to Brigid just down the road in Virginia, and found that huge one in Clare when walking the Burren Way recently, did you see those posts? In Clare she was called ‘ Mary of the Gaels’… Interesting, huh? I understand a local nunnery are still keeping the flame burning, is that so?

  6. colonialist says:

    I do like saints who earned sainthood without being bumped off in nasty ways!

  7. Pingback: The Round Tower of Kildare | Ed Mooney Photography

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