The deep sleep for the last few months has invigorated me. I’m now ready to take over from Cailleach*. People are ever-eager for my love. They welcome me with merry fires, cheerful songs, fresh loaves of bread, and frothy milk from healthy cows. They ask me to bring sunshine and warmth into their lives after being covered in snow. My lips curve into a smile of their accord.
Oh, they can’t help it! Cailleach is a dear old crone, but her love is harsh and wintery. People want gentler love – flowers, food, drink, and abundance. I give them all and more. Hence, they do their best to please me.
The icy wind tickles my skin in response to my thoughts. Of course, she can peek into my mind as she wants. We are two forms of the same source. One cannot exist without the other. The world needs us both, like it or not.
A handful of snowflakes drift towards me, adoring my flaming red-orange tresses like dainty flowers. I throw my head back and laugh. The sound echoes before it is cut off at midpoint, as if someone shut my mouth with their hand around my throat. Something tries to suppress me. I shake it off. It’s not the winter hag. She would never do that.
So… who is it?
I sense no one around in this deserted street. Soothing darkness envelops me from all sides. The night is serene and calm, undisturbed by evil entities.
Maybe it’s my sleepiness. It’s natural to feel sluggish after a nap, even for us. Moreover, I woke up late this year. Shrugging, I glide around the neat little houses. Despite the snow, the villagers have kept the place clean and ready. Wonderful!
Tomorrow is Imbolc*. It’s the nineteenth year, the end of a cycle and the beginning of another. More preparations should have been made for the ceremony. But… I don’t see enough. Is it because I overslept?
Night birds puncture the silence with random bursts of sweet melody and shrieking calls. A faint tune reaches my ears. Someone is humming a lullaby to their babe. It eases my concerns, too. I try to bless them, but my hands don’t move.
Huh! What’s happening?
I try again and this time, my right hand rises to touch my forehead, chest, and shoulders- left and right, in a strange gesture.
What am I doing?
“May the Lord bless you, sweet angel.” I hear myself say.
Lord? Which Lord? Why would I bless my worshippers with a Lord’s name? Wanting to assure myself, I turn to vacant land on my left and wave my arm. Nothing.
I flex my fingers, trying to shoot tiny bursts of flames into the inky night. Nothing again.
How can this be possible? How can the goddess of fire and flame lose her powers?
“Sister Brigid… you can’t walk alone on the streets at night! What would Father say?” A young woman dressed in black rushes to take my arm.
I stare at her, bewildered. Sister Brigid? Why would father worry about where I go?
“Please don’t do this again. You know some of these folks aren’t happy with you being Brigid. They could…you know.”
I’m stunned. Why are the villagers unhappy with me being me? And they could… what?
The Daughter of the Dagda* has no fear of anyone. Kings and monarchs have done my bidding. I could burn them alive for this arrogance.
“Don’t fret, Sister Maeve. Kildare is home, and Jesus would never let any harm come to me. Let’s go back to the cathedral.”
What am I saying?
My legs move despite my resistance. I find myself walking with the young woman. My words and actions are strange. Never has this happened before, to a goddess, no less!
Is it my father’s doing? I discard the thought. It’s not him. Not Cailleach, either. I feel her bristling around me as if she is also unsure of what’s happening.
What place is this with crosses and domes? This isn’t my rock temple in the Kildare market. I take in my surroundings as Sister Maeve steers me towards a dark room. We walk through a large space filled with rows of dark wood benches. There’s an enormous form looming at the altar.
Who is that?
“Do you want to pray, Sister Brigid? I’ll leave you to it then.” She says and walks off.
I walk towards the statue of a young man with a beard and arms spread wide, staring back at me. He has a soft smile on his face. It’s peaceful, but there’s pain too, as if he is bearing the weight of the world.
You poor man… whose burdens did you agree to carry?
However, I feel myself kneel on the hard floor and clasp my hands on the front. Ridiculous!
As if that’s not enough, strange words come out of me. Suppressing my irritation, I notice they are prayers and he… the young man, is Jesus. Oh… He is a new god for the people.
I smile and welcome him, despite my irritation. We may already be plenty, but more are welcome if they prove their worth. The world can never have too many gods given the sins folks like to commit.
“I bow to you, my Lord and Saviour. Please guide me to show your path to these barbaric pagans. They still prepare bread for the older gods. Help me teach them you are the only true God.”
Fury fills me at the words I’m forced to speak. How dare they make me insult myself?
But… who are they?
I stand, ignoring the pressure to stay on the floor. Closing my eyes, I call the dormant power resting in my soul. Images flash behind my lids – a form bending over a table with a quill in the right hand. The words on the paper are neat and styled in curvy loops. It’s an unfamiliar language, but I see the darkness in them rising to bind me with unbreakable chains.
You! Scoundrel! What shady magic is this?
There’s no answer.
Who are you?
I force a small amount of power into the image. The action makes me weak. I stagger and fall onto the hard bench, panting. Focusing harder, I try to sense more from the words. The pounding in my head intensifies. I persist and win.
How dare you?
At last, my words make an impact. Laying the quill aside, you turn to me and smirk. Then you store the papers in a drawer. My eyes follow your movements – your brisk walk to the spacious room, the sign you make at the altar and the prayers you speak to the statue.
“Father Patrick,” a whisper sounds from the corner of the room.
“Yes, Sister Maeve, any concerns?” Your tone is gentle, assuring.
She nods. “The villagers are still preparing for Imbolc to welcome the pagan goddess. Last Sunday’s sermons haven’t convinced them.”
“Don’t worry, Sister. The Lord knows how to deal with such people. He will teach them that He alone can save the world.” You sound confident of this.
“Yes, Father Patrick.” She says.
“God bless you, my child.” You place a hand on her head.
She bows and leaves. It’s just you and me now. I stand to the side, visible yet invisible. The cunning in your eyes is a contrast to the love on the new god’s face.
I wonder if he sees the real you.
“Well, Sister Brigid. You’ve heard that. It’s up to you to show people the truth.”
I glare when you smile at me. “What’s the truth?”
You raise an eyebrow in surprise. Didn’t expect me to talk to you, did you?
“Why, the truth about our Lord, of course. They named you Brigid to replace the worthless pagan god. Even your parents accepted this when you chose Christianity.”
“My… Who?” I splutter.
You shake your head in mock sadness. “The old druid and his salve; I mean, your mother. Sister Brigid, as much as it pleases me that you accepted our Lord as the saviour, it wouldn’t do well to forget the people who birthed you.”
My temper flares. I step forward to punish you for your insolence. Instead, I bow and murmur. “Yes, Father Patrick. I’ll talk to the women tomorrow.”
“See that you do. There should be no Imbolc. Ever. God be with you, my child.” You raise a hand to bless me and walk back into the shadows. Your words stab my heart. A year without Imbolc celebrations would lead to chaos and ruin.
I turn to the young man’s statue with determination. “New god, I still welcome you into the ranks. My followers can be yours, and yours can be mine. However, this replacement has to stop. I will if you don’t.”
Of course, there’s no answer. I don’t expect one. You’ve bound me with those written words and stripped me of my powers. You merged the times and twisted them without a care for the havoc it would unleash on people. I cannot undo the damage, but can correct the course for the future. No one messes with a god.
My feet carry me to my room, a shabby little hole with such gloom that even Cailleach would want to fill it with light. After two failed attempts, I manage to light the lamp with a weak flame. The trembling in my fingers fills me with disgrace.
I sigh and look around, finding a hard bed with threadbare blankets and a book on a cracked table. There’s no mirror, no flowers, no incense – nothing a woman would have in her domain. Is this how my namesake would live?
Slipping out of the depressing room, I walk around the structure to familiarize myself with it. The rocky foundations of my temple are still visible. Yet, the wooden building above it is not mine. While I don’t resent the new god it houses, I dislike you for tainting the sacred grounds. And when I see the emptiness in my fire centre, I understand what you did.
The fire in this temple has burned for centuries. It has been here when Kildare didn’t exist for long afterward. Yet… you doused it. Light no longer dispels the dark, and here you grow stronger, using your position to conquer rather than heal.
You aren’t the first to attempt this. You won’t be the last. Do you think no one ever tried to best me with their perceived control? I taught them a lesson, and you will learn one now.
The sweetness of Gaelic fills me with pleasure. I smile as the people welcome the wintry sunlight with their melodious songs. Some of them wear crosses on their necks and worship the new god. Still, their love for me burns bright in their hearts. Most of them haven’t replaced one god with another. They’ve only made space for all of us in their lives.
I want to show you this, the simplicity of their acceptance and devotion. Oh, none of them are faultiness. Many have done things they would never confess to. But they are not you, and thus, deserve to be blessed. I spend the entire day walking around, noticing how they prepare for Imbolc in secret. My people cannot practice their customs in their own land.
You are responsible for this.
A young girl walks past me, carrying a tiny doll made from clean fabric. The doll is to invoke me as the Goddess of Maiden, the Bride of Spring.
I blurt. “May God hold you in the palm of His hand. Where to, my child? The church, I hope.” The words are yours. I know that now.
She gives me a startled smile, sliding her hands into the apron pockets. “Thank you, Sister Brigid. My apologies… Umm… I… We’ll come to the church soon.”
The young girl runs from me, fear evident on her beautiful face. She is not afraid of what I am; but what I represent; what you turned me into. Is this how you want people to remember the new god? Is it fair to him?
“Sister Brigid, why haven’t you stopped her?” I know this voice.
Sister Mauve hisses in frustration. “They are meeting in secret. You should stop this before it gets out of hand. Father Patrick trusts you to convince them to let of their superstitious beliefs.”
With a brisk nod, I push her to a side and follow the girl.
It’s near twilight, the time to light the Imbolc fire. The girl leads me to the back of the hills, where more women are waiting. The sight warms my heart. This is true devotion. I feel the pressure of your words to tell them that worshipping the old gods would lead to damnation. I almost do as you bid but refrain.
The rocks beneath my feet hum with raw energy as the ritual begins. The chants reverberate deep within me.
May Brigit bless the house wherein you dwell
Bless every fireside, every wall and door
Bless every heart that beats beneath its roof
Bless every hand that toils to bring it joy
Bless every foot that walks its portals through
May Brigit bless the house that shelters you#
Women – young and old, maidens and widows, pagan and Christian, stand in a circle, holding their hands as their voices grow louder and stronger. They sway to the unheard music of the earth and sky. The little white doll in the centre with a crystal on her heart glows.
I feel your shackles melt into nothingness. Their faith is my power. No word written or spoken can bind me without faith. You can never erase my existence. It’s time to reclaim my temple.
“No dead or living will replace the member of the Tuatha dé Danann, the first of the Triple Goddesses. To the universe, I belong. Nature is me, and I am Nature. Break open the earth, break open the sky, part the winds, and part the waters; the old gods rise again.” I spread my arms wide, face raised to the turbulent sky above the open garden of the cathedral.
“No! I deny your power!” You yell at the top of your voice, rushing outside from your safe haven.
“I, Brigit, the Goddess of Healers, Smiths, Childbirth, Poets, and Inspiration… the Goddess of Fire and Hearth and a Patron of Warfare, take over my name and identity. Brigantia, Brid, Briginda, Brigdu, Brigid, and Bride, whatever name you use, it’s me you worship.”
The elements whip into a frenzy and dance in wild abandon. I free them as I free myself. Snow falls through the cracks in the ground. The clouds pelt raindrops, unleashing the worst thunderstorm you have ever seen. The sky shoots thunderbolts into the ground, forming a circle around me.
You watch in horror, eyes wide and mouth hanging open. The black dress tears off my body. Naked I stand, cleansed of your ink and intentions.
I turn to you with a smile. You shiver and clutch the papers to your chest. Your heartbeat doubles in fear. Yet, I trace anger underneath. I nudge it out, wanting to hear you say the words. It’s my turn to control you.
Words choke out of your body in a strangled gasp. “You… uncivilized brutes! I Hate You!!”
A flick of my fingers sends you down. You cry out loud at the jolt of your knees hitting the rocky foundations of my fire centre. The papers slip from your hands. You scramble and try to gather them. Years of hard work, precious time wasted on erasing history.
For what? What did you gain?
I let nature pour its power into my body. Fire spreads through my veins. I amplify it, more, more, and more, until sharp flames burst through my fingertips. Red-gold fire suspends midair, eager to devour anything and everything. With a swipe of my hand, they swallow the fluttering papers.
“You have NO right!”
Your cries are frantic. You ignore the heat and the pain. All you want is to save your papers, to spread falsehood, to deny me my rightful existence. Even my namesake, the woman to be born centuries later, the one you wish would replace me, will understand my power and respect it.
You have extinguished the sacred fire on Kildare, butchered the priestesses, and tortured the villagers in the name of salvation. You may succeed for a while, but the fire burns again – a guiding light for people who wish to reclaim their roots.
“You Do Not Exist. There’s Only ONE GOD.” You rush towards me with a rock in hand.
“We co-exist,” I say. A simple truth you refuse to understand.
I don’t have to sidestep when you pounce. You strain against the invisible barrier between us, abusing me until you faint. A flick of my wrist is enough to send you tumbling into the burning fire.
I don’t do that.
Your days on the earth are meant for suffering, a payback for your crimes in the name of true religion and god. Spend the rest of your days walking around the village, rambling nonsense, and attacking only what you can see.
You will live, hate burning your insides and consuming you alive. Tearing you bit by bit, filling each cell with poison until you can no longer bear the punishment for your sins. It's a shame that you won't have true knowledge before you die.
The world still has a chance if they realize…
I, Brigit, the Flame of Ireland, the Exalted One, am eternal.
Bandia na Tine: Goddess of Fire (in Irish)
Cailleach: Old woman/ hag/ veiled one; Goddess of winter, winds, and wilderness in ancient Ireland
Imbolc: or Imbolg; a Gaelic traditional festival celebrated on 1st Feb as the beginning of spring
Dagda: Important God in Irish mythology; controller of life, death, and seasons; associated with agriculture, strength, manliness, magic, and fertility
#Credit for the Prayer: https://www.aletterfromireland.com/from-an-irish-goddess-to-saint-brigid/