Brigid’s festival is the first of February, otherwise known as Imbolc, when ritual fires of purification were lit. She takes over from the goddess of winter and is seen as the maiden aspect of the triple goddess by some researchers. In Irish mythology she is the daughter of the Dagda, the father god, and ruler of the Tuatha de Dannan.
Some scholars believe that Brigid is the Celtic equivalent of the Roman goddess Minerva, and it is possible that the worship of the two became amalgamated in Roman Britain. It has also been suggested that Brigantia, the goddess worshiped by the Brigantes tribe of Northern England is analogous with Brigid.
Brigid was eventually Christianised and adapted into the cult of St Brigit, who founded a religious community at Kildare in Ireland. A perpetual fire was kept burning at her nunnery, until it fell under the heavy hand of the reformation. This link with an ever-burning fire may have roots in the original worship of the goddess in the distant past. St Bridgit is also seen as the foster mother to Jesus, and is the patroness Saint of Ireland.
The eve of St Bride’s (Brigid) day was celebrated in Ireland (and in some parts of Britain) by creating a female image out of straw, which was supposed to have become imbued with the power of her spirit during the night of the festival.
Offerings were also left out for her during the night, as she was supposed to walk abroad among the farms and villages. This practice is so obviously related to the old worship of the goddess, that it is surprising it lasted through the reformation and into relatively modern times. It was also customary to make a St Brigit’s cross from straw; the design of these varied from place to place but often resembled a swastika or sun wheel.
In Scotland, on the 1st of February, Brigid traditionally took the place of the winter goddess, who is often identified as the Cailleach Bheur, the blue-faced hag of the Highlands. Mc Lean, in his ‘Four Fire Festivals’ mentions how her festival was only open to women in the Highlands of Scotland, the men having to stay outside the confines of the celebration. It is also from the Highlands and Islands that the tradition of St Bride as the foster mother of Jesus originates.
The name Bride is often associated with prehistoric stones, and the ‘Bride Stones’ is found a few times as the name for prehistoric monuments in the British Isles. An example of which can be found in the jumbled remains of a chambered tomb on Congleton Edge in Cheshire.
Brigit was one of the most widely worshiped goddesses in the Celtic Britain, and traditionally she is seen as the goddess of smithing, creativity, healing, wisdom, fertility, and childbirth.