Sunday, January 31, 2010

St Brigid of Kildare was no pagan goddess

There are ethnologists who suggest the cult of St Brigid of Kildare was the cult of the Pagan goddess Brigid.

"With the coming of Christianity, the priestesses became nuns of the abbey said to have been founded by 'Saint Brigit' and were called Inghean an Dagha[‘Daughters of Fire’], tending a fire of peat bricks, fed with hawthorn twigs, which was said to burn without ash or waste. The place of the fire was described as being twenty feet square, with a stone roof. The abbey kept the flame burning for another thousand years until 1220 when the Archbishop of Dublin, shocked at this evidence of Pagan of fire-worship under the mask of Christianity, ordered the Kildare fire to be extinguished. It was, however, relit and maintained until the suppression of the nunnery during the reign of Henry VIII. During the Vatican modernisation program of the 1960's St. Brigit was decanonised- the church could find no evidence of such a saint, only a Pagan goddess."


Same source states that Kildare was main Pagan sanctuary for the goddess Brigid. If so, what could have been more natural for a Pagan family in the area than to name their daughter Brigid? It seems one did so, she was baptised, she became a nun, and a friend of St Patrick.

But it seems also some people are so eager to find Pagan roots and syncretism in Catholicism that they cannot think as far as concluding "ah, then the St Brigid as honoured by the Irish is that Pagan girl who became a Christian nun" - they must simply seek some opportunity to conclude otherwise, against the reasonable reading of the complete evidence and say instead: "St Bride is a Pagan goddess". It also seems they had their day even in the Vatican just after Vatican II.

The last idiot is not born yet, a friend used to say.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
G Pompidou, Beaubourg
31 janv 2010


P.J.cooper said...

So you are saying that there was no Goddess in Ireland with the name of Brigid. The name Brigid was not used for children until after Ireland was Christianized because it it was normal to name the children after the saints.

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

"So you are saying that there was no Goddess in Ireland with the name of Brigid."

I said nothing of the sort. Read again.

"The name Brigid was not used for children until after Ireland was Christianized because it it was normal to name the children after the saints."

In plenty of pagan societies it is ok to name children after pagan divinities.

Like St Dionysios Areopagita being named after Dionysos, god of wine.

When I read that St Dionysios Areopagita wrote De Cœlesti Hierarchia, you may disagree about the genuinity of attribution - I do not - but you will not claim this was an attribute of the God of Wine attributed to the Saint by syncretism.

When I read that St Brigit and her nuns were invited to some chieftain - rí, king or lesser, I do not know though I think the latter - during Lent, and she was the only one who ate meat and afterwards she scolded her nuns for being impolite and uncharitable with a kind man, who knew no better, even you will hardly claim this was the pagan goddess.

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

From a FB friend:

"Regarding the perpetual fire, the version I heard (and would like to believe) was that she willingly took over a Druidic fire and continued to keep it lit as a converted fire, representing the same virtues but now brightened with an infusion of the fire of the Holy Spirit."

I also wrote her this:

Normally a monastery is evidence of a founder, including when the founder was a former Pagan priest and the first monks or nuns too (St Pachomius, father of cenobitic monasticism was a former priest of Serapis).

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

Furthermore on your claim:

"The name Brigid was not used for children until after Ireland was Christianized because it it was normal to name the children after the saints."

This brings me to ethnological claims that, as far as I can see are mere reconstructions. Who says no pagan girls were named after the goddess?

How much do you know about pre-christian society in Ireland from pre-christian sources?

Assuming epics like Cattle Theft of Cualgni or Cycle of the Fiannna of Erin to be correct traditions before taking Latin letters in monks' or other writers' pens, they are not exhaustive accounts of Irish society nor, for that matter of Pre-Christian onomastics.

But even in Tain Bo Cualgni, there is a queen of Munster, I think it was, or Leinster, whose name is so much a name of an elven queen or fairy goddess, that ethnologists have taken her too as a humanised version of a myth: Maeve.

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

The simple explanation - and why rule it out without the hardest of evidence? - is that Pagan Irish like many other Pagans named after gods.

Sts Dionysios and Apollo (later Christians, in Acts and Pauline letters) after Dionysos and Apollo the gods.

Hannibal and Hasdrubal evidently after Baal.

A lot of Thorsteins and Thorleifs and Thords after Thorr (who himself may well have been a man wrongly taking the role of Jupiter Tonans).

And of course, for our case: Queen Maeve after Mab, St Brigid of Kildare after the pagan goddess worshipped there.

The one pagan tradition where this spontaneously strikes me as a bit lacking is the Roman one.

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

Let us immediately add: St Lucy was not a goddess of light either. Lucia was her name because that is the feminine of Lucius which was a pretty common man's name in the Roman world, and martyrdom was her feat.

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

That was added because she has also been identified as "Pagan feast object barely christianized", a category dear to both ethnologists and such "monotheists" as seek fault with Catholicism.

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

Here is Catholic Encyclopedia:

Abbey and Shrine of St. Brigid

Before the time of St. Laserian of Leighlin, St. Conleth and St. Brigid were the patron saints of Kildare. The latter was a native of the district, though born at Faughart, near Dundalk. In 487 she received the religious habit from St. Macaille, Bishop of Croghan in Offaly, and coming to Kildare formed a community of the pious virgins who flocked around her. Her first house was a humble cell under a large oak, which gave Kildare its name - Cill-Dara, the cell of the oak. The fame of her sanctity attracted such a concourse of pilgrims to Kildare that a city soon sprang up which included a religious community of men. To meet the spiritual wants of the new city St. Brigid requested the appointment of a bishop. Great deference was paid to her wishes, and, as she had recommended St. Conleth, he was consecrated the first Bishop of Kildare about 490. He had been leading the life of a recluse at Old Connell near Newbridge, was a skillful artificer in gold and silver; and the ancient crosier in the museum of the Royal Academy is believed to be the work of his hands. It is said that as bishop he made a journey to Rome, and returned with vestments for his church at Kildare, in which latter place he died, 3 May, 519. A fire was kept burning day and night at Kildare by St. Brigid for the use of pilgrims and travellers, and for the same purpose, as well as in memory of the saint, it was continued till the total suppression of the religious houses at the Reformation. The firehouse was a cell or vault twenty feet square, and its ruins existed till 1792. The first church of Kildare was probably of wood, and, being designed for two communities of different sexes, the nave was divided by a partition or screen. For an account of the church and its relies see BRIGID, SAINT. Kildare with its church was plundered and burned frequently. Sometimes it suffered from the Danes, sometimes from the native chieftains, and sometimes by accident. Its records give about twenty-five catastrophes of the kind. At the Reformation the cathedral was seized by the Protestants, and a portion of it was used for a church. The rest of the building became a ruin, and so remained till 1875-96, when it was completely restored by private contributions, and is now the Protestant cathedral.