Brigit: The Exalted One

I wanted to write about Brigit because she is the patron goddess of the tribe I belong too.  She is one of the famous goddesses of the Tuatha De Danánn, and there is so much information (and misinformation) out there about her.

Let us look at the etymology of the name and its possible meaning.  The name Brigit is Old Irish and came to be spelled Brighid by the modern Irish period. Since the spelling reform of 1948, this has been spelled Bríd. The earlier form gave rise to the Anglicization Bridget, now commonly seen as Brigid.  The name Brigit probably derives from the older *Briganti* which might have meant Sublime One or Exalted One.

The some of the sources for most of what we know about Brigit come from Cormac’s Glossary, the Lebor Gabála Érenn, Cath Maige Tuired, Imcallam in da Thurad as well as some inscriptions of what is thought to be variations of her worshiped in Britain and on the continent.

Brigit’s divine responsibilities are in the areas of poetry, prophecy, smithing, medicine arts and crafts, cattle and other livestock.  In Roman Britain she was the equivalent of the Roman goddess Minerva and the Greek Athena. She is sometimes thought of as the patron goddess of the filid.  According to Cormac’s Glossary, Brigit was a set of triplets, each one having the same name: a goddess of poetry, a goddess of smithing and a goddess of healing respectively.  Her favored time of year is said to be spring, and her feast day is Imbolc celebrated around February 1.  And her special region is said to be in Leinster, in the southeast corner of Ireland.

She seems to be a pan-Celtic goddess.  She is known as Bríghde or Bríde in Scotland, as Fraid in Wales, Brigan or Brigandu in Gaul, Brigantia or Brigantis in Great Britain, and Brigindo in Switzerland.  She is associated with rivers and streams and gives her name to the Brent in England, the Braint in Wales, and the Brighid in Ireland.  She is also thought (by some scant evidence) to be a Sovereignty goddess through her marriage to Bres as well as her name being part of the name for King in Welsh, and a goddess of agriculture though her association with lactating ewes and cattle.  She is also linked to fire cults.

Brigit is the daughter of the Dagda though we are not quite sure who her mother is though she is said to be a poet, her brothers are Cermait, Aengus, Midir, and bodb Derg.  She was married to Bres of the Fomoire and their son Ruadán who died while trying to kill the divine smith Goibniu.  Brigit’s lament of her some is said to be the first keening heard in Ireland.

If we really look at what we have of Brigit we can see that we have some information and a lot of speculation especially when the lines between the Goddess Brigit and the Saint Brigit becomes blurred.

Works Cited:

Koch, John T.  Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia.  ABC-CLIO, Santa Barbara, California.  2006.  Pp. 287-289

Monaghan, Patricia.  The Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology and Folklore.  Facts On File, Inc, New York.  2004 pp59-60

“Brigit” Mary Jones.  Jones’ Celtic Encyclopedia 2004, Access : July 16, 2010 http://www.maryjones.us/jce/brigit.html

“Brigantia” Mary Jones.  Jones’ Celtic Encyclopedia 2004, Access : July 16, 2010 http://www.maryjones.us/jce/brigantia.html

Lúgh Lamhfhada: Master of All Crafts

I gathered a lot of information on Lúgh when I decided to ask him formally to be my patron and then I decided to write this essay for others who might be thinking about him too.  It is ironic that I wanted to do this because apparently (something I learned after my research) he is associated with sworn contracts!

Lúgh is the easiest god to talk about and he is also the hardest.  There is a lot of information on him but most of it is fragmented, however, it does give a good picture of who Lúgh Lamhfhada is.  Our information comes from iconography from the Pre-Roman period, place-names, iconography and epigraphy from the period of the Roman occupation, testimony of the Greek and Roman writers and literary traditions of the insular Celts.  Possibly the earliest mention of Lúgh is in the Leinster cycle of poems, specifically “Lugh sceith”–“Lugh’s shield”, a poem in praise of the legendary Labraid. Other major texts that mention Lúgh are the Lebor Gabála Érenn, which briefly mentions Lúgh and the battle with the Fomorians, the Cath Maige Tuireadh in which Lúgh comes to the Tuatha De Danann and battles the Fomorians, the Oidheadh Chlainne Tuireann is a side-story to Cath Maige Tuireadh, the Sons of Turenn kill Lúgh’s father Cian, and Lúgh extracts an eric that results in their death, the Compert Con Culainn tells of Lúgh’s siring Cuchulain on Dechtire, the Táin Bó Cuailnge where Lúgh appears to Cuchulain and tells him he is his father, the Baile in Scáil where Conn Ceadcathach is taken to Lúgh’s house and is told of the future high kings of Ireland by Lúgh and the goddess of sovereignty and “Ar an doirseoir ris an deaghlaoch” a late poem, this has Lúgh raised on Emhain Abhlach.

I’d like to start with his name as he has many; some are famous while others are not.  He is called Lúgh Lamhfhada, Lúgh Samhildánach, Lúgh Lonnbeimnech, Lugaid Lága and Lugaid Láigne.  Lamhfhada means “of the long arm” and this refers to his ability with the spear rather than having a long arm.  Samhildánach means “the one who possesses equal knowledge of all the arts”, Lonnbeimnech means “fierce striker” and both Lága and Láigne mean spear.  Looking at the proper name though gives a few confusing definitions for him.  Lúgh name is thought to mean “shinning one” or “light” and because of that he was thought to be a solar god, but that is not true.  His name is more associated with storms and rain as he is the beginner of the harvest.  So if his name means “light” it is likely that it is more like lightning flash as in thunder.  His name is also linked to the Old Celtic stem word lugi, which means “to swear, or oath”, which makes him associated with sworn contracts.  There also seems to be a little pun on his name because Lú also means little, in the sense that he is overlooked until his power is shown.

Now let us talk about Lúgh.  Lúgh is the son of Cian and Eithne.  Cian is the son of Dian Cécht, the physician of the Tuatha Dé Danann.  Eithne is the daughter of Balar, the champion of the Fomorians.  So in a patrilineal society that means that his allegiance is to his father’s family as opposed to his mother’s.  He is a part of a set of triplets, two of which were killed and he is the only survivor.  He was fostered to Tailltiu, who is a Fir Bolg Queen associated with clearing a large field for agriculture, he is also said to have been fostered to Manannán mac Lír.  He is youthful, athletic and handsome.  He is the divine prototype of human kingship.

Lúgh is associated with Lughnasadh, some link him to ravens though the evidence for that is circumspect.  During the la Téne period there was a god who was widespread and he was shown on the La Téne art of the period with birds, horses, Tree of Life, dogs or wolves, twin serpents and mistletoe.  We don’t have a name for him but because of the place names that are associated with where these artifacts were found we can guess that this god might be Lúgh.  During the Roman occupation the name Lúgh was not used a lot however, this could be due to the Roman habit of giving the local deities Roman counterpart.  From the evidence we have Lúgh is linked to Mercury and there were over 400 dedications to Mercury found.

So let us talk about Lúgh’s domain.  He is a warrior, a sorcerer, a smith, a harpist, a champion, a poet, a historian, a physician, a cupbearer, a skilled god of commerce and a brazier.  He is associated with heights, he has multiple forms, and he is a sovereign protector with warrior attributes.  He is a master of all crafts and arts.  He chants spells to encourage the army of the Tuatha Dé Danann, he is a warrior that succeeded by the skill of his magic as well as brute force.  He uses a spear, and a sling in combat.  He shows his skill as a physician when he uses herbs to cure Cú Chulainn (whom he is associated with as father or foster father depending on the story read) in the Ulster cycle (not surprising considering who his grandfather is).

Some conclusions on my part:

–       Originally he might have been a god of sworn contracts.

–       Through his connection to the Fomorians (who were originally thought to be land gods or spirits that granted agriculture or withheld it) and to Tailltiu we can say that he is a god of harvest, as he got the secrets of the agricultural cycle from the Fomorians (Bres) and he was fostered by Tailltiu who cleared the largest plain for agricultural use.

–       He seems similar to An Mórrígan in that he encourages his army by chanting spells, he seems to be associated with Ravens (for An Mórrígan it was the crows) and it is not a clear association.  They both have a strange relationship with Cú Chulainn.  They are both warriors that use magic as well as might to fight.  Both are associated with sovereignty.  It is said that magic cows are created by the advice of the god Lúgh in order to defy the oppressive demands of Bres, which in the end might have brought conflict and we know that An Mórrígan is associated with cows mainly stealing them to instigate wars.

Bibliography:

Green, Miranda J.  Dictionary of Celtic Myth and Legend.  Thames and Hudson, New York. 1997

Ross, Anne.  Pagan Celtic Britain. Academy Chicago Publishers, Chicago. 1967.

MacCana, Proinsias.  Celtic Mythology. The Hamlyn Publishing Group, London. 1970.

Mackillop, James.  Myths and Legends of the Celts. Penguin Books, New York.  2005

O’Rahilly, Thomas F.  Early Irish History and Mythology. Dublin Institute For Advanced Studies, Ireland. 1999.

Ó hÓgáin, Dáithí.  The Lore of Ireland: An Encyclopedia of Myth, Legend and Romance.  The Boydell Press, Woodbridge. 2006

Why A Formal Contract With The Deities

So I’ve had people ask me WHY would I want a formal contract with the deities?  Haven’t I been making offerings to them already?  Weren’t they already my household deities?  The answer to the second and third questions is yes.  The answer to the first one is not so easy.

The idea for a formal contract just came out of a few things that I read in a couple of books.  The one book that is a representation of all I had read was The Horse, The Wheel and Language by David W. Anthony in it he says that an Indo-European speaking patron could accept outsiders as clients without shaming them or assigning them permanently submissive roles, as long as they preformed the sacrifices properly.  Praise poetry at public feasts encouraged the patrons to be generous and validated the language of the songs as the vehicle for communicating with the gods who regulated everything and therefore spreading the language. (p.343) He also said that The Proto-Indo-Europeans sacrificed sheep, cattle, and horses to a troublesome array of sky gods, and fully expected the gods to reciprocate the favor. (p.98) Putting the two pieces of information together gave me the idea of the formal contract.  The fact that the Celts had household gods that they worshipped other than the ones that the tribe prayed too also helped me make this decision.

I am not saying here that this is attested too in any literature, but it does make some sense to me at least.  So this is my UPG on this instance.  Here is my ritual:

Purifying Self:

Dip your hand into water, touch your forehead and say: “May I be pure that I might cross through the sacred.”

Dip your hand again, touch your lips: “May I cross through the sacred that I may attain the holy.”

Dip your hand again, touch your heart and say: “May I attain the holy that I might be blessed in all things.”

Petition Ritual:

Sit or stand in front of the deity Altar/Shrine and say a blessing for the three realms:

The Waters support and surround me.

The Land extends about me.

The Sky reaches out above me.

At the center burns a living flame.

Light the candle or flame at the center of the Altar/Shrine.  Say:

I light this fire to carry my prayers to the Gods of my ancestors.

Now you ask the gods, nature spirits and ancestors to join you.

I ask the gods of my ancestors to join me in my ritual, I ask my ancestors to guide me, and I ask the land spirits to aid me.  I ask all to be a witness to my endeavor.

Now insert a prayer for the gods you want to petition.

Morrígan, great warrior goddess, prophetess, and sorceress, I raise my voice in praise of you with wonder and awe.  I sit in your presence, oh great source of terror and comfort.

Lugh Lamhfhada, great warrior and god of many arts, I praise you.  Bright and shining god and flaming spear out of the chaos I honor you.

Next state the purpose of the ritual:

I would like to formally ask you to accept me as a client. I will make offerings to you daily and dedicate all my rituals to you and in exchange I ask for your guidance, blessings, fighting strength and prosperity in my life.

Now it is time to make the offerings:

Pick up the offering for An Morrigan and raise it above your head and say:

To the Morrigan, I honor you.  My Queen, I offer you my hospitality and give thanks for your blessings and protection!

Now place the offering in the place designated for the Morrigan.  Pick up the offering to Lugh and raise it above your head then say:

To Lugh Lamfhada, I honor youSamildananch, I offer you my hospitality! The Voice of Thunder, I give thanks for your blessings and protection!

Now place the offering for the place designated for Lugh.

Now thanks the gods, nature spirits and the gods for listening to you.

I thank the gods of my ancestors for joining me in my ritual, I thank my ancestors for guiding me, and I thank the land spirits for aiding me.  I thank you all for being a witness to my endeavor.

Listen carefully to your dreams or divination to see how the ritual went.

From my journal:

I woke up today to a feeling of peace and when I performed my daily offerings for the first time I not only felt peace but also I felt power, as if I was infused with it.  I’m guessing that my contract was accepted.  Another thing that made me feel that were my dreams from yesterday.  I dreamt of ravens and crows giving me bread.  They would also land on my outstretched hands to take food from me without scratching me or harming me in any way.

Bibliography:

Anthony, David W.  The Horse, The Wheel and Language.  Princeton University Press, New Jersey. 2007 p. 98, p. 343

Serith, Ceisiwr. A Book of Pagan Prayer. Weiser Books, San Francisco. 2002. p. 36

An Morrígan: War Goddess and More

My need to write this survey comes from the fact that I was trying to write a prayer to An Morrígan and found myself at a loss.  I know what she means to me, I know my thoughts about her and who she is but am I correct in my assessment?  I didn’t want to offend her so I decided to hit the books again and see what I could gather about her.  I was lucky.  I found a dissertation written by Angelique Gulermovich Epstein.  I had downloaded it from archives.org as her site, (the one she put the dissertation up on), is no longer on the Internet it seems.  She has done most of the hard work for me by listing almost all the places in the Irish myths that An Morrígan was mentioned in.

Sources Used:

Prose Glossaries:

–      Sans Cormaic (Cormac’s Glossary): It is thought to be written by Cormac mac Cuilennáin, a bishop and King of Munster who died in 908.  It appears in the Yellow Book of Lecan (14th century) and Book of Leinster (12th century).  It appears to be older than the manuscripts it is found in, it could be from the time of Cormac or a century or two after.

–      O’Mulconry’s Glossary: It appears in the Yellow Book of Lecan and it is thought to belong to at least the 13th or 14th century or even older.

–      O’Davoren’s Glossary: It appears in Egerton (18th century) and H.2.15 thought to date to the 16th century.

–      Michael O’Cleary’s Glossary: He was a member of one of the great literary families of medieval Ireland, and one of the “Four Masters”.

–      Séamus O’Bron’s Glossary: It is contained in Egerton, written in Cork in 18th century and its goal is to exhibit the vocabulary current among the Gaels of Alba.

–      Peter O’Connell’s Glossary: The author of this glossary died in 1810.

Metric Glossaries:

–      Forus Focal: It appears in 4 manuscripts, the oldest of which is the Book of Leinster.  It is attributed to John O’Duvegan but this is doubted.

–      Derbhshuir Glossary: This glossary is thought to be older than 1643.

–      Metric Glossary edited by Stokes: It was found in a fragmented copy of Egerton 90, it dated to before 1416 and it could even be older than 1300.

Myths and Lore:

–      The Lebor Gabála Érinn (The Book of the Takings of Ireland): A myth that talks about the pseudo-history of Ireland going back to before Noah’s Flood.

–      The Banshenchas: This is Lore that catalogues the important women in Irish mythology.  Funny enough they are catalogued via their husbands, brothers or fathers.

–      The Dindsenchas: This is the Lore of places.  It tells how places in Ireland got their names.

–      Cath Muige Tuired Cunga (The First Battle of Moytura): This is the story of the battle between the Tuatha De Danann and the Fir Bolg.

–      Cath Muige Tuired (The Second Battle of Moytura): This is the story of the battle between the Tuatha De Danann and the Fomoire.

–      Táin Bó Cúailnge: The center piece of the Ulster Cycle.  Revolves around a cattle raid that Medb leads into Ulster, and Cú Chulainn, who single-handedly defends the province.

–      And many of the Ulster cycle myths.

Conclusions:

From reading all the texts and the analysis provided by the author of the dissertation, I got the following:

  1. An Morrígan appears as a single being or a class of beings, with different interchangeable names like Macha, Morrígan, Badb, Nemain, Fea and Danu or Anu.
  2. She is associated with death and woe.
  3. She can be a shape-shifter, she is known in the texts to shift into a cow, crow, raven, eel and wolf.
  4. Her areas of “expertise” are prophecy, incitement to war, direct assault either physically or magically, joy in the carnage of battle, she is capable of making so much noise that the enemy either dies of freight or runs away, and she proclaims victory.  She is also considered a satirist and a sorceress.

It should be noted that because of all of these things she is designated as a WAR GODDESS, because when taken as a whole everything we know about her from the myths and the lore corresponds to what Celtic martial practices were like, but that is not all she is.  She is also a sovereignty goddess as evidenced through some of her transactions in some of the myths.  She is a mother, though her children appear to be made up of either dangerous poisonous children or warriors that help her in combat.

In essence An Morrígan is a very complex goddess just like all the other Celtic deities that don’t quite fit into one specific mold.