Imbolc is approaching, and it is one of the only neo-pagan holidays I still celebrate. This is because of its relationship to Brighid, and the special place She holds in my heart.
If Odin was the first pagan deity that I had direct experience of, Brighid was the second. And it was a far more pleasant experience.
Several years ago, I had decided that I needed to strip everything down and go back to basics. My soft polytheistic theology wasn’t working for me any more. I realized I had come to think of the Gods as unique individuals, or perhaps I always had and was only then comfortable with going my own way. Either way, I needed to work this epiphany into my faith and practice.
When I started re-reading mythology with an eye towards finding a deity to approach, Brighid’s name just jumped off of the page, and I had what I think of as a “well duh” moment. I had studied Celtic mythology years earlier – thought it would be a good fit, since so many of my ancestors were from Britain and Ireland – but it didn’t resonate with me. I didn’t feel a connection with any of the Gods. Except Brighid. So here I was, years later, and the same Goddess was speaking to me.
I decided to start worshiping Her. I set up a small shrine and burned candles and incense to Her nightly. I learned prayers in Irish that I would say throughout the day as needed. I joined a flame keeping cill.
And, unlike when I called to “the God” or “the Goddess,” I felt something respond. I never really saw an anthropomorphic image of Brighid in my mind, but I came to know Her presence – a feeling akin to the heat of the sun, or of a forge.
Time went on and I was feeling very good about the way things were going. I began to seriously consider becoming a devotee, pledging myself to Her.
That’s when things got weird.
Brighid had became more distant. Though She still responded to my prayers, I would often find my thoughts directed to the Roman goddess Minerva, then the Etruscan Menrva, and finally to the Greek Athena. (At this same time, and completely unrelated to my spiritual practices, I had been developing a strong interest in Roman history and culture. I blame James Purefoy and Ciaran Hinds.)
At first I was confused – it almost seemed like She was trying to direct me back to the “all goddesses are one” perspective. Except the experiences I was having with each of these goddesses, brief as they were, showed me entities with very distinct personalities.
I finally guessed what was going on was that Brighid didn’t want me as a devotee. I didn’t belong to Her. She was basically taking me by the and, and step by step, through my Roman interest and paths that I would understand, was showing me where I did belong.
Remembering my childhood love of Greek mythology, I tried meditating on that pantheon, Athena in particular. The response I got from Her was welcoming, but a little stand offish. As though She were saying “No dearie – you think you’d be mine, wouldn’t you? A studious little girl like you? But no. Have you met my little brother?”
And that, as they say was that.
I suspect I’m not the only one who had this sort of experience with Her. Brighid is extremely popular in neo-paganism. I think, perhaps, one reason might be that She has taken it upon Herself to welcome many of us into the fold while we become acquainted with how polytheism works. Just speculation on my part, but it’s a comforting idea.
- Brigid, Goddess of Healing, Poetry, and Smithcraft by Judith Shaw (feminismandreligion.com)
- B is for “Brighid” (Finally!)