Brigid, the Celtic goddess of fire (the forge and the hearth), poetry, healing, childbirth, and unity, is celebrated in many European countries. She is known by many names, including that of Saint Brigid, who is, perhaps, the most powerful religious figure in Irish history.
The goddess Brigid was also revered as the Irish goddess of poetry and song. Known for her hospitality to poets, musicians, and scholars, she is known as the Irish muse of poetry.
Born at the exact moment of daybreak, Brigid rose into the sky with the sun, rays of fire beaming from her head. She was the daughter of Dagda, the great ‘father-god’ of Ireland.
In Druid mythology, the infant goddess was fed with milk from a sacred cow from the Otherworld. Brigid owned an apple orchard in the Otherworld, and her bees would bring their magical nectar back to earth.
It is said that wherever she walked, small flowers and shamrocks would appear. As a sun goddess, her gifts are light (knowledge), inspiration, and the vital and healing energy of the sun.
A Marriage To End The War
Brigid became the wife of Bres, an Irish king. Together they produced three sons, and each of them became a famous warrior. Brigid and her husband came from two warring tribes and hoped their marriage would end the enmity between their kin.
Unfortunately, it did not. But, as it turns out, the battlefield death of their son Ruadan assured Brigid’s role as a goddess of peace and unity.
A major battle between the two families was about to begin.
Death Takes The Beloved Son
Brigid’s eldest son, using the knowledge of metalsmithing that he had learned from his mother, struck the first blow, killing the smith of the opposing army. But as the warrior fell to the ground, he managed one last blow before he died, and Ruadan was also killed.
Brigid’s grief was enormous for the continual hatred between the two sides of her family and for the death of her son. Her lamentations were so loud they were heard throughout Ireland and so heart-rending that both sides left the battle and forged peace. The goddess Brigid is said to have originated the practice of “keening.”
She is also credited with the invention of whistling, which she used to summon her friends to her side.
The War Is Over
Eventually, the love and respect for the goddess Brigid brought unity to the Celts, who were spread throughout Europe. Regardless of their differences, they all agreed upon her goodness and compassion.
The Story Of Two Lepers
One of the most popular tales of the goddess Brigid involved two lepers who appeared at her sacred well at Kildare and asked to be healed. She told them that they were to bathe each other until the skin healed.
After the first one was healed, he felt only revulsion for the other and would not touch him to bathe him. Angered, Brigid caused his leprosy to return. Then she gently placed her mantle (cloak) around the other leper, who was immediately healed.
Traditions Related to Brigid
Ireland is full of springs and wells named after the goddess Brigid. Symbolically, water is seen as a portal to the Otherworld and as a source of wisdom and healing.
There is a saying that Brigid rewards any offering to her, so coin offerings were often tossed into her wellls. The forerunner of the modern custom of throwing a penny into a fountain while you make a wish.
At her most famous shrine, Brigid taught humans how to gather and use herbs for their healing properties, how to care for their livestock, and how to forge iron into tools. As a goddess of childbirth and protector of all children, she is the patroness of midwifery.
This shrine, near Kildare, was located near an ancient Oak that was considered to be sacred by the Druids. In fact it was seen as so sacred that no one was allowed to bring a weapon there.
The shrine is believed to have been an ancient college of priestesses who were committed to thirty years of service, after which they were free to leave and marry.
During their first ten years, they received training. The next ten were spent tending the sacred wells, groves, and hills of the goddess Brigid, and the last decade was spent teaching others.
Nineteen priestesses were assigned to tend the perpetual flame of the sacred fire of Brigid. Each was assigned to keep the flames alive for one day. On the twentieth day, the goddess Brigid herself kept the fire burning brightly.
The Christian monastery eventually built upon the site of her sacred shrine continued this tradition. It became known as a great European center of learning and culture. Indeed, it was instrumental in preserving much ancient learning and literature during the Dark Ages.
The Feast Day of Brigid, known as Imbolc, is celebrated at the start of February, midway through the winter. Like the goddess herself, it is meant to give us hope, to remind us that spring is on its way.
The lessons of this complex and widely beloved goddess are many. Brigid lends us her creativity and inspiration but also reminds us to keep our traditions alive and whole. These are gifts that can sustain us through any circumstance. Her fire is the spark of life.
The goddess Brigid is often represented by symbols associated with light and farm animals. It is not surprising that many of our icons representing compassion and inspiration are derived from the ancient goddess symbols of Brigid.
As a goddess of fire, it is logical that Brigid is often symbolized by fire, sparks, sudden flames, a hearth, a forge, light, and candles. Since the beginning of human civilization, fire has represented warmth, safety, and home, concepts that are closely related to Brigid.
Her other symbols include sunrise, springs and wells, poetry, whistling, embroidery, arrows, bells, thresholds and doorways, sandstone rock formations, bells, St. Brigid’s cross, cloak, midwifery, middle of winter (Imbolc), corn dolls, and the number 19.
Lambs and ewes are the most common animal symbols of Brigid. They symbolize innocence, peace, compassion, purity, and a sense of community, and Brigid certainly possesses these qualities.
Her other animal symbols are dairy cows, bees, owls, serpents (especially two that are entwined), and all hibernating animals (ex., snakes, badgers, groundhogs).
Dandelion is the sacred flower of Brigid. Its bright yellow-colored petals symbolize the sun, another symbol of Brigid. When the dandelion petals turn into white seeds, they represent Brigid’s sorrows and tragedy.
Her other plant symbols include snowdrops, crocus, trillium, acorns and oak tree, corn, oats, sage, pumpkin seeds, heather, chamomile, broom, shamrock, rushes, straw, and all field flowers.
Brigid’s perfumes and scents are: heather, wisteria, violet, lavender, lemon verbena, and heliotrope.
Gems and Metals
Naturally, as the goddess of fire, Brigid is most often associated with gold. Gold is a symbol of power and royalty, but it is also a symbol of generosity, compassion, and endurance.
Other gems and metals that symbolize Brigid are brass, silver, carnelian, agate, copper, amethyst, jasper, and rock crystals.
Brigid’s color is definitely white, symbolizing purity, innocence, grace, and peacefulness. Other colors that perfectly symbolize Brigid’s role as the goddess of fire are yellow and red. When the fire burns out, everything remains charred black.
Other Celtic Goddesses
If you enjoyed reading about Brigid, you should check out the other Celtic goddesses we have also written about.
- Ceridwen – Goddess and Witch
- Badb – Goddess of Death
- The Morrigan – Celtic Trinity Goddess
- Rhiannon – Goddess of the Sun and Horses
You can find the complete list of world goddesses sorted across regions and religions here.