St. Brigid, Druidic Ecumenism, and the Divine Feminine  

One story tells us Brigid’s mother was a Christian and her father a Druid or spiritual leader in pre-Christian Celtic society.  Iona was a sacred site for Druidic pilgrims before St. Columba in the sixth century.  The name “Hebrides” means “the islands of Brigid or Bride.”  

Iona (Inner Hebrides, Scotland, UK) Wikimedia Commons.

Thus she stands for “a symbol of continuity in the Celtic world between one age of wisdom and the next.” The pre-Christian and Christian merge with Brigid.

The Book of Leinster, a twelfth century Irish manuscript, says Brigid was a Druidess or leader in that community to which the oak tree was very sacred.  With its roots in the earth and its reach for the sky, it “connected heaven and earth.”  “Kildare” means “Church of the Oaks” and Brigid saw Christ as her Druid. 

The pre-Christan earth goddess was “brigid” or the “great one” or “shining one.”  Says Newell, “the earth goddess was the shining or brightness deep in all things.” 

Mural depicting Brigid as both goddess and saint, Dundalk, County Louth. Wikimedia Commons

Recall that Hildegard of Bingen calls Mary “the ground of being” and Eckhart calls God “the ground of being.”  The “shining” element of being is also the Cosmic Christ.  Hildegard and Aquinas talk of the “radiance” in all of being.  

In the centuries following her death, St. Brigid “took on many of the characteristic of the goddess” and was remembered though the ritual of the perpetual fire, a ritual that lasted a thousand years right up to the Protestant reformation when it was extinguished.

Says Newellhis: This marked a tragic shift in Ireland’s dominant form of Christianity away from the divine as immanent and feminine toward regarding it solely as masculine and transcendent.

“Trailer for ‘Brigid & the Sacred Feminine” by Kirsten Newell. Earth & Soul – John Philip Newell

Surely this parallels the shift in the Hail Mary prayer in the sixteenth century that we discussed in a previous DM and set the pace for the modern era of patriarchal excess. 

As an abbess in Kildare, Brigid celebrated Mass along with other women—we know this because a synod of bishops in Rome in 520 denounced the practice as “abominable.”  “She had episcopal status in the Celtic world.”*

*Philip Newell, Sacred Earth Sacred Soul: Celtic Wisdom for Reawakening to What Our Souls Know And Healing the World, pp. 48-54.

See Matthew Fox, Hildegard of Bingen: A Saint For Our Times, pp. 17, 111-131.

And Fox, Passion For Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart, p. 472.

Banner image: St. Brigid’s Well, Cullion, Ireland. Wikimedia Commons.

Queries for Contemplation

How does Brigid’s story speak to you and to the patriarchal excess we are trying to move beyond today?

Recommended Reading

Hildegard of Bingen, A Saint for Our Times: Unleashing Her Power in the 21st Century

Matthew Fox writes in Hildegard of Bingen about this amazing woman and what we can learn from her.
In an era when women were marginalized, Hildegard was an outspoken, controversial figure. Yet so visionary was her insight that she was sought out by kings, popes, abbots, and bishops for advice.
“This book gives strong, sterling, and unvarnished evidence that everything – everything – we ourselves become will affect what women after us may also become….This is a truly marvelous, useful, profound, and creative book.” ~~ Andrew Harvey, author of The Hope: A Guide to Sacred Activism.

Passion for Creation: The Earth-Honoring Spirituality of Meister Eckhart

Matthew Fox’s comprehensive translation of Meister Eckhart’s sermons is a meeting of true prophets across centuries, resulting in a spirituality for the new millennium. The holiness of creation, the divine life in each person and the divine power of our creativity, our call to do justice and practice compassion–these are among Eckhart’s themes, brilliantly interpreted and explained for today’s reader.
“The most important book on mysticism in 500 years.”  — Madonna Kolbenschlag, author of Kissing Sleeping Beauty Goodbye.  

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8 thoughts on “St. Brigid, Druidic Ecumenism, and the Divine Feminine  ”

  1. Avatar

    Hurrah for Brigid and for other women who like her were fearless in the face of “puritans”. We too are images of the divine and God is not only like a father but like a mother as well.

  2. Avatar

    From Wikipedia –

    There is debate over whether Brigid was a real person. There are few historical facts about her, and early hagiographies “are mainly anecdotes and miracle stories, some of which are deeply rooted in Irish pagan folklore”.[1] She has the same name and many of the same attributes as the Celtic goddess Brigid, and there are many supernatural events and folk customs associated with her.

    Brigid, who was an expert dairywoman and brewer, was reputed to turn water into beer.[25]

    1. Avatar

      Brigid: dairywoman and beer brewer:
      That means she absolutely MUST be the genuine patron saint of our fine state of Wisconsin! (Matthew and I were both born here).
      I’ll admit I’m not fond of beer (yes, I know: that’s a sacrilege in this state!), but beer does make a mighty fine cooking glaze for our bratwursts, if you add some fried onions to the mix. But cheese — we really DO make some divine cheeses in our neck of the woods!
      Maybe Brigid has something to do with that.
      In which case, Brigid, girl, you ROCK!

  3. Avatar

    Prayer to Saint Brigid

    You were a woman of peace.
    You brought harmony, where there was conflict.
    You brought light, to the darkness.
    You brought hope, to the downcast.
    May your mantle cover those
    who are troubled and anxious,
    and may peace be firmly rooted,
    in our hearts and in our world.
    Inspire us to act justly,
    and to reverence all God has created.

    Brigid, you were a voice,
    for the wounded and the weary.
    Strengthen what is weak within us.
    Calm us into a quietness,
    that heals and listens.
    May we grow each day,
    into greater wholeness,
    in mind, heart and spirit.
    May we kindle the Divine fire,
    of the light of love,
    in ourselves and each other.

    Brigid, guide us to the wellspring,
    that sacred space within,
    that we may dip our chalice
    into the streams of living waters,
    and taste once again, the sweetness
    of the wisdom ways and truth of love.
    As we wade into the river of life,
    may we awaken to the beauty,
    within and all around us,
    cultivating, nurturing and preserving,
    that essence of goodness inherent
    within the all and the everything of creation.


  4. Avatar

    Brigid, the Goddess and the Saint, reminds me of another manifestation of the Divine Feminine Spirit of DIVINE LOVE & WISDOM PRESENT within and among Us helping Us integrate and balance Sacred Feminine & Masculine Energies on our spiritual journeys with one another, with Beautiful Sacred Mother Nature and Her creatures & graceful abundance, and with-in All Our Sacred LOVING Evolving Diverse ONENESS COSMOS in the Sacred Process of the ETERNAL PRESENT MOMENT….

  5. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
    Richard Reich-Kuykendall

    Matthew, Though I have not commented for some time, I wanted you to know that I feel your meditations on death, the rosary, and what you have written today have been outstanding! They have really spoken to me in a deep way. Thank you!

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