Question: Who is the Patron Saint of Ireland?
If you answered St. Patrick, you're right and you're wrong!
St. Patrick is one of three patron saints. The other two are Brigid of Kildare and Columba, also known as St. Columcille. (spelling varies)
Brigid (Bridget) is an iconic figure in the Celtic imagination. Originally a Goddess, representing the Celtic aspect of divine femininity, she was later canonized as a saint.
The history of the saint - thought an actual person - is the stuff of mythology and it's hard to distinguish where the goddess ends and the saint begins, so intertwined are the two. Like all good Saints and Goddesses, she is possessed of many dualities, humble yet powerful (tales of her power are many), born to riches but chose to renounce wealth in order to serve the poor.
As goddess, she was the patroness of all creative things and had a particular association with blacksmiths. It was thought that the man who could shape metal had great powers. When one considers the process of blacksmithing in terms of tools and beautiful objects, it's little wonder that the blacksmith and indeed Bridget herself were held in such high esteem.
The story of Celtic spirituality and Brigit's transformation from Goddess to saint is really interesting. The ideas and ideals of Christianity were accepted peacefully in Ireland, and not by the sword. There's a poem, supposedly penned by the 'goddess' Brigid, "I'd like to give a lake of beer to God." In essence, she wanted to have a pint with him! (full poem at end of article)
Her feast day on February 1st celebrated the Goddess Brigit on the old calendar, but was kept intact in celebration of St. Bridget when the old calendar dates were gradually superimposed with Christian themes and feasts.
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."
Her symbol is that of the triple spiral and represents the three aspects of womanhood, maiden, mother and crone.
When I was growing up (and still) in Ireland, her cross (a Bridgit's Cross), made from rushes, were hung indoors over the front door in many homes. The four sides are equidistant and often though to be more representative of the four elements or the four directions, unlike the Christian cross, which is longer in length and signifies sacrifice.
The other common association with Brigid is that of holy wells. Since she was associated with healing, there's an age old practice of visiting one of the myriad wells that bear her name throughout Ireland and Britain. People often leave touching symbols behind in thanks to Bridget and her legendary healing powers.
Her light (she also fits well into the 'fire Goddess' category) was kept alight for over a thousand years but was extinguished during the time of Cromwell. It was later relit as a 'perpetual flame' in the 1970's and has remained burning every since. There are approximately 280 Brigidine nuns throughout the world today. Their home center is still in Kildare, Ireland, a city that was built around Bridget's abbeys.
Poor Saint Patrick, or indeed Columba haven't gotten a look in here, but I feel a strong association with Brigit and her compelling representation of the divine feminine in the Celtic tradition. I've written a few bars in her honor, and recorded "Bridget's Feast" on the Mysts of Time album.
The song she is most associated with is "Gabhaim Molta Bríde," (on the album "Between the Worlds"). It roughly translates "We praise Bridget."
If you still like to know more about Bridget, there is an entire section of the site dedicated to her HERE.
Lyrics to Saint Brigid's Prayer
I'd like to give a lake of beer to God.
I'd love the Heavenly
Host to be tippling there
For all eternity.
I'd love the men of Heaven to live with me,
To dance and sing.
If they wanted, I'd put at their disposal
Vats of suffering.
White cups of love I''d give them,
With a heart and a half;
Sweet pitchers of mercy I'd offer
To every man.
I'd make Heaven a cheerful spot,
Because the happy heart is true.
I'd make the men contented for their own sake
I'd like Jesus to love me too.
I'd like the people of heaven to gather
From all the parishes around,
I'd give a special welcome to the women,
The three Marys of great renown.
I'd sit with the men, the women of God
There by the lake of beer
We'd be drinking good health forever
and every drop would be a prayer.
I arise today
through strength in the sky:
light of the sun
dazzle of fire
speed of lightning
Attributed to St. Patrick
Translated & adapted by: James Quinn S. J. 1919-1969
Sung to melody of Morning Has Broken
This day God gives me strength of high heaven
Sun an moon shining, flame in my heart
Flashing of lightening, wind in its swiftness
Deeps of the ocean, firmness of earth.
This day God sends me Strength as my steersman
Might to uphold me, Wisdom as guide
Your eyes are watchful, Your ears are listening
Your lips are speaking, friend at my side.
God’s way is my way, God’s shield is round me
God’s host defend me, saving from ill.
Angels of heaven drive from me always
all that would harm me stand by me still
Rising I thank You, Mighty and Strong one
King of Creation, Giver of Rest.
Firmly confessing threeness of persons,
Oneness of Godhead, Trinity blest.
Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day
No St. Patrick’s Day is complete without some wholesome Irish recipes. My sister Madeleine make my favorite Irish born bread and she was kind enough to share her recipe - the ultimate in sister love;)
For a special occasion, it’s love to serve with a pate or Irish smoked salmon (available in most supermarkets). There are lots of nice dressings for brown bread and smoked salmon. In our house, we use mayo and a little splash of some kind of hot sauce. Some diced purple onion and/or capers on the side really finish this off beautifully.
For more recipes for your St. Patrick’s day celebration, check out our wedding section and its special section on Irish recipes for food and drinks.
Brown Bread (double everything for a double batch) e.g. 8oz wholemeal brown flour (odlums)
My sister Madeleine make my favorite Irish born bread.
This is her recipe:
Where to buy flour for Irish bread in the US:
Coarse Odlums flour: http://www.foodireland.com/p/580406.html ***
King Arthur coarse flour: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/items/king-arthur-irish-style-wholemeal-flour-3-lb
4 oz wholemeal brown flour (Odlums) EXTRA COURSE
4 oz white flour (plain or self raising) (olds)
1 oz bran -
1 oz pinhead oatmeal
1 oz wheatgerm
1 teaspoon bread soda
12 oz milk (1 1/4 pints)
pumpkin seeds - 2 fistfuls (raw seeds)
wheatgerm - 2 fistfuls
sunflower seeds - 2 fistfuls
topping sesame sends
Put in all dry ingredients
Mix in milk
Make sure mix is well mixed.
SPRINKLE RAW Sesame seeds on top….
Double up to make 2 loaves
Use loaf tin with liners
Bake at 190 (irish oven) for 55 minutes