Brigid: "Mary of the Gael"
The early Christians believed that Brigid was present at the birth of Christ and acted as midwife. Indeed, she's often refereed to as "Mary of the Gael." Women saw her as a guardian of sorts around all matters of midwifery. Her symbol is that of the triple spiral and represents the three aspects of womanhood: maiden, mother and crone.
When I learned about Saint Brigid in school, it was of an almost mythological figure. In fact the stories fit in to classic mythological categories and probably belong more appropriately to the goddess with whose identity hers overlap. She was the goddess of all creative things, arts and crafts, healing, smithwork and poetry.
And yet the Brigid for whom people set a place at the table and believed looked after their livestock, for whom women felt close to and somehow shared their Everyday Concerns and touched the things in their lives which occupied them from dawn until dusk - this Brigid seems just as powerful and compassionate a figure, as strongly imbued with the divine feminine as is the Christ’s midwife.
Brigid was everywhere and not just on Brigid's Day. Her Wells could be found in almost every town land, her Crosses in every household and every night, Her Blessing was invoked as the woman of the house 'smoored' the fire while reciting one of her many charms. (Smooring the Fire: putting the ashes over the embers to keep them alight until the fire was needed again in the morning)
When you look at these Lovely Traditions woven into the fabric of ordinary everyday lives, divorced from the grandeur of fine architecture, 'creative things' and finer aspects in life, it is probably this very thing that made them special and 'present.' It was ironically the forbidding of the practice of religion that led to an everyday contemplative practice, wherein the ordinary practice of Baking a Cake, Sewing a Piece of Rag, Collecting Rushes From The River and lighting the fire was transformed from the everyday into the sacred.
These everyday practices were never closer to the people than through the simple Rituals Associated with Brigid, the Mary of the Gael, their own divine feminine - the woman who passed by the back of the house on January 31st and looked after the cows and the lambs, and while you might never get to Jerusalem, you could visit her Holy Well down the road, and you could make your own Cross for her by visiting your own stream. Joseph Campbell, the great mythologist, once said that all land is Holy Land. And no one made the land more holy that Brigid. And never was she more appreciated that in the depths of harsh winter when reminders of Spring were sorely needed.