Lá Féile Bríd came and went in our house unnoticed. Which was a pity because it was a pretty lousy day to say the very least.
But as my mother said, when things are lousy, there is only one answer, to de-louse. Actually, she said nothing of the kind. What she said was, “when life gives you scraps make quilts”. But I’ll write about that another day.
Anyway, conscious of missing our lesser known patron saint’s day I looked her up. Partly because she is a woman, partly because our office has a Brigid’s cross sitting in it and partly because I saw something about her having Celtic meaning before she had a Christian flock.
It turns out Bríd was some girl. Patron saint of everything from children whose parents are not married (that would have been four out of my five kids), to poultry farmers and blacksmiths. (I wonder what she has made of the RHI scandal!) Oh, and Ireland.
Of course, her Celtic origins are impressive too. Imbolc. Which is a little disconcerting as it means a pregnant ewe. I’m not sure when she diversified into poultry. Yes, again I’m thinking about boilers…
Happily, I found that what she offered in both her pre-Christian and Kildare Monastery days was the promise of protection and healing. She will guide us from the darkness of winter into the early days of Spring in safety. In these short days when darkness barely lifts, before the sun has warmth and the wind cuts through us angrily, what better promise could we be offered?
For me it felt like a connection I hadn’t even known I had had been revealed to me. Here was a woman, whose interests are diverse to say the least, whose legend and presence has supported those in their darkest moments. That she is Irish, embracing and strong spoke to me and gave strength.
There are many reading this who will definitely know far more about her, and hopefully will write to me to give me better insight than what I have gleaned in my short week of reading. But there are also many like me who will have had a notion of Bríd, some idea of an ancient saint connected to Ireland who made a cross. The woman whose name we know but whose identity we don’t know. But something has been there to connect us all the same.
When I was younger I found all of these things easy to dismiss and if I am honest was more than dismissing. But as I get older I recognise that connection to our history, our traditions, our language, whether it is very ancient, or connected to early Christianity is meaningful and can be a really positive dimension to our lives.
I don’t want that to be in any way divisive. I want that to be an inclusive place where connection to nature, relationships and family is strengthened and developed. I reckon these are universal themes we could do with in these uncertain times.
I also reckon Bríd is a pretty good role model for young women, rather than being plagued with body impossible images and reducing stereotypes. Promoting our national icon who is a healer and provides hope in times of darkness could benefit us all.