Trigger Warning: Passing mention of sexual assault.
Brigid is a Goddess from the Celtic Pantheon. She is associated with the number 3, sometimes being perceived as a triple Goddess, not unlike Hekate and the Morrigan. A lot of her qualities were absorbed by St. Brigid when Christianity arrived in Ireland. She also became part of some American syncretic religions like Voudon as the Lwa Maman Brigitte.
Her color is red, and she has close ties with both the Element of Water, as the Goddess of Wells, and the Element of Fire, as Goddess of the Anvil. In some myths, Brigid is the daughter of the Morrigan. She rules over poetry and other expressions of art, wells, fire and the Anvil, animals, and battle. Oak is sacred to her. She is mostly a gentle Goddess, which makes her exceptional in the Celtic Pantheon.
She is often depicted as “maiden, mother, and crone” (Weber, 2015). These are three sisters. Each sister embodies these different energies. Historically, however, she was a solar Deity represented as three women of the same age. One was understood as a healing Deity, another was the patron of Smithwork, and the third was a poet.
She was also seen as a Deity who embodied the energy of spring. Her province is Leinster, in the southeast of Ireland. One of Brigid’s symbols is shared with Ireland as a whole, the harp. A fun fact about Brigid is that her Christian counterpart, St. Brigid, according to some myths, was Sapphic. She had a lover of the same gender.
Brigid is a champion of women, known in her myths to help many women, sometimes keeping them away from sexual assault. She helps women be strong during times of crisis. Women lawyers, judges, mediators, and paralegals can benefit from working with Brigid.
The Celtic Pantheon
Celtic Gods and Goddesses are better understood as almost literal representations of the forces of nature. Like nature itself, they can be unpredictable and erratic. Their strength is not to be underestimated. Having a gentle and maternal Goddess was the exception rather than the rule in this Pantheon. Most of the Goddesses from this Pantheon are forces of nature to be reckoned with – even thirsty for blood. Worship was less about reverence and more an act of self-defense against these wild Divine Beings.
All natural places were sacred to the Celts, especially bodies of water. They held within embodied spirits of the land. Most of the ancient Celts practiced animism. Animism means they believe everything has its own spirit, from people to animals to the land we walk on.
A term for an exalted being or spirit of the land or nature was Brig or Brid. Brig was primarily understood as the spirit of the green Earth. But it was found in many things and beings in the natural world.
It’s important to make the distinction between a Goddess who asks as a steward of nature and a Goddess that is nature. Brig would be the latter. For many years, Brig existed to refer to the landscape. Over time, the figure of three identical women by the name of Brigid started to appear.
Brigid is considered by some to be the Patron of the Druids. Who were the Druids? They were the priesthood and authority of the Celts. According to Strabo, some dedicated themselves to Divination, others were philosophers and other Druids were Bards. They were so powerful that some considered them to be above Kings in rank. This is where Brigid’s reputation as patron of poets and storytellers, as the modern equivalent of Bards, comes from.
Brigid and Imbolc
Brigid’s holiday is Imbolc, as it celebrates the first stirrings of spring and Brigid is the Goddess of Spring. For the Ancient Celts, when the days started to get longer, it was a sign that spring was coming. The danger of winter had passed. Even if there still was snow on the ground, they celebrated the coming of warmer weather.
They celebrated Imbolc on February 1st (it would be August 1st for people in the Southern Hemisphere). Druids were the keepers of time and made sure customs and traditions were followed. Celts celebrated from sundown to sundown. In Imbolc, cows and sheep would start lactating again. This was important because the Celtic economy relied heavily on dairy. Dairy was also a staple in their diets.
Brigid was believed to visit the house of the Celts during Imbolc, not unlike Santa Claus. Ribbons were blessed in her name and later used to cure headaches and upset tummies. Brigid’s cross is also handmade and hung on doorways during Imbolc. This cross is thought to symbolize the Sun and the turn of the seasons. Hanging a cross on your doorway is thought to protect the inhabitants of your house. It protects them from illness and promotes fertility, both literal and metaphorical. This cross can also be used to bless food. Here are more rituals you can do on Imbolc.
Imbolc represented new beginnings, and Brigid was the Patron of this holiday. As a spring Goddess, she was thought to breathe back life into the land. There was a huge amount of births that took place among the Celts in early February. This is why Brigid became associated with motherhood as well, especially breastfeeding. In some myths, she marries Bres and has children of her own. In other myths, she is a midwife. She is often summoned by mothers and parents in labor. She has a place both in the summer of the living and the winter, which was the realm of the dead.
Brigid, the Goddess of the Well
For the Celts, any natural source of water was sacred and a place where secrets were stored. They would leave very expensive offerings for bodies of water, including swords and jewelry. They did this not only to honor this source of water but also to be in its good graces. Water was also considered a portal to the plane where the spirits of the dead dwell.
Brigid is a Water Deity with ties to the Earth and Fire element. She is considered the patron of wells. Wells are sources of healing energy, and from the wells and water Brigid gets her healing powers. According to Weber, healing following Brigid’s tradition and lore includes surrendering to the process. It also includes admitting one’s limitations. It’s not a journey one can go on alone.
Her assistance feels more like a kick or a slightly harsh invitation to get into action, rather than a soothing presence. If you have the drive to heal, Brigid will provide the means and invite you to embrace the journey. She’s also pretty big about us digging for the source of our pain or other ailments. It is only after digging that a wellspring full of healing energy finally appears.
If you ask Brigid for help during a healing process, remember to offer her water or something else to represent the element.
Brigid, the Goddess of the Poets and the Bards
Brigid rules over poets, artists, and anything involving craftsmanship. She invites us to embrace the process of becoming proficient and making large, long-term art projects. This can make us feel impatient, especially in this day and age, when there are a lot of distractions and we have grown used to immediate satisfaction.
Bards were highly educated people. They had special education in storytelling and music. They could preserve history by playing songs that narrated past events. They generally had more than one area of expertise, and they had a way with words. The way that Bards expressed themselves gave more power to what they said. Words were magic when a Bard uttered them. Their charisma and intelligence was even feared by the Romans. They had the tongues of the Bards cut off after they took over a Celtic region. Bards didn’t write things down. All that they knew was by heart, and memorization was believed to strengthen the mind. Bards also acted as prophets sometimes, probably after getting into a trance induced by music and dancing.
Celtic mythology has several instances that illustrate the magical properties of poetry and song. Heroes often recurred to them to enchant beings who kept them away from their goals. Poems and songs were often also used for protective purposes. You could try writing a poem invoking Brigid and use that as protection.
Brigid is often called “the Poet” in many of the myths she appears in. She is also a champion for Bards in many myths where she appears. She is so effective for people who make art because she is both a deep well and a strong flaming fire (Weber). You may go to her when you’re starting a new artistic or passion project. This is especially the case if it is one that is long-term or will need sustained inspiration.
Brigid, the Fire Goddess and Goddess of the Anvil
The Ancient Celts saw fire as a mysterious and sacred phenomenon. Their four major holidays (from which some of the contemporary Wiccan holidays come from) were all aligned to the Sun’s patterns. Brigid’s fire is said to leave no ashes. Weber understands this as a metaphor for growth not needing to depend on consumption and destruction.
Brigid also has a close relationship with iron and smith workers. Iron was revered by the Celts, who could do great things with it. It was one of the unifying factors in the Celtic world. The Celts in different regions developed different customs. It is said to be the thing that makes the Celts Celt. It allowed them to build chariots, swords, and axes.
Iron’s contribution was once seen as Divine. The smith became a mage of sorts. This person was a master of this natural ingredient, so Brigid had to be really powerful to be their patron. Smith Workers generally kept their professional secrets under lock and key. In some magical practices, iron is even believed to ward off evil spirits.
Brigid, the Battle Goddess
The Celts fought in honor of their Gods. War had a religious element to it that involved ritual and prayer. Women played a part in the War, too, not just as helpmates but as warriors themselves.
Brigid was known as a warrior and lawmaker. She’s primarily a Goddess for peacetime, but she can deliver on the battlefield. Her early work as a warrior involved settling matters of justice. She also worked as a healer and a keener in the battlefield.
She inherited some of her mother’s ability to make prophecies on war matters and strategic abilities. Her own keening can be taken to be based on the Morrigan’s crows. She was thought to command the weather and water, which was a valuable asset when wars took place in the sea.
She isn’t known to attack, and has more of a defensive role in battle. However, once provoked, she’s a fierce defender. This is especially the case when the person who summons her stands against a force much stronger than themselves and a battle is inevitable. She inspires her soldiers to be crafty and astute rather than taking the opponent by storm.
Recommendations for Your Brigid Altar
First of all, remember that your altar must be functional to you and your lifestyle. Most practitioners build theirs on a table. But you can also build it on a shelf if you have children that could tamper with it.
I personally have my altars on the floor, on wooden trays, because my cat will knock anything I leave on a table. For magical workings, I pick up the tray and place it on the table.
If you travel a lot, you can keep your altar inside a wooden box, or even have a virtual altar made up of sacred images and sounds. Cleanliness and order is important for altars. Whatever you do, keep it clean and tidy. In the case of Brigid altars, here are a few ideas on what to include and where to build it:
- use some red cloth as a base
- if you’re into crystals, you can place some crystals that have solar energy like Carnelian, Citrine, Obsidian, or Sunstone, or watery crystals like Chrysocolla or Opal
- place your altar where there is plenty of sunlight
- keep a piece of red ribbon
- keep a Brigid’s cross
- place images or figurines of her sacred animals
- as Brigid is the Goddess of the Well, it is essential you get her a chalice that you only use to leave offerings of water on her altar. There should always be fresh water on your Brigid altar, if you leave near a well, the water should be from that well
- make sure to have a representation of the element of fire. A red candle works best. You can use electric candles if you live in a dorm or it’s dangerous to light a fire where you live for whatever reason
- other representations of the water and fire elements, like a small fountain, charcoal, or your cauldron/incenser, are also nice
- place fresh apples or figurines of apples
- oak acorns or figurines of acorns (some crystal shops send these made out of various crystals)
Offerings for Brigid
- milk and other dairy products
- beer (she is the Patroness of Beer and is said to be able to change water into beer)
- white roses
- collecting trash from the surroundings near a body of water
- red ribbon
- oak acorns
- oakmoss essential oil
Brigid, Goddess of the Oak
Oaks grow to be big, formidable trees. Their wood is very strong and they resist fires, insects, and disease. It grows slowly but is always incredibly strong. This can be a metaphor for the years of preparation a Bard or a smith needed. The Celts gave oaks the Druidic titles of “King of the Trees” and “The Magickal Tree.” Oaks had a profound spiritual significance for the Celts. It was considered a barrier of sorts between the human realm and that of spirits and Gods.
It also symbolizes life and a challenge ahead. Druids refused to perform any rituals without at least oak leaves present. It was also a tree of sacrifice. Dead oak leaves and dead oaks were a powerful symbol for the Celts. They symbolized death and possibly even a curse.
Notably, oak trees are also sacred for the Greek God Zeus, among other Deities. Oak acorns are a great offering for Brigid. You can also carry these acorns around if you’re around energy vampires or other demanding people who drain your energy. They’ll keep you protected. Have them around you whenever you have to sacrifice something important to you for the greater good. They will comfort you and give you the strength you need. They are also a reminder of the promise of rebirth. When you collect the acorns, it’s important you make a sacrifice of your own to the trees they come from. You can leave hair, nail clippings, or saliva there. Some people leave their blood. However, you should be really careful about using your blood for magical purposes. This is so because blood magic is very strong and difficult to undo if you make a mistake. Remember that the tree doesn’t own you its seed. When you ask for permission, it may say no, and you have to accept that boundary.
Mistletoe grows out of oak bark and can also be an offering. It is considered miraculous because it can grow without roots. But beware, it can be toxic to pets (and to humans, if ingested). You can also ask for permission to take with you any branches that have fallen off from the oak or to cut wood from these branches. Don’t cut living trees unless they are in danger of falling and causing human or animal injury.
Oaks aren’t found worldwide. It is typical of the northern hemisphere, including North America, Europe, and Asia. If you live in South America, Australia, or New Zealand, you may have to look for an alternative. You may order oakmoss essential oil, though, like I did, as I am a Brigid devout in Argentina. However, any tree that is strong that grows slowly and surely will do. A local alternative for me would be the Quebracho or Schinopsis balansae.
Brigid’s Sacred Animals
Pay attention if these animals appear in dreams or if you see several of them in a short period of time. They could be signs Brigid is reaching out to you. For the Ancient Celts, wild animals were an omen. Birds were usually seen in a negative light. Seeing any animals related to Brigid rarely means bad news, though, even if it is birds you see. Many of the animals associated with Brigid enjoy a high status among the Celts. These are some of Brigid’s sacred animals. You may include pictures of them in your Brigid altar.
Celts considered them musical and productive. They were thought to reflect Brigid’s Bard spirit. Seeing bees may mean you are about to receive a creative surge as a gift from Brigid. It can also signify that travel or a spiritual journey is coming.
Seeing one may mean you are out of the woods. They may also symbolize that it’s time to do some ancestor work and seek advice from your ancestors.
They symbolized courage, battle, and having the spirit of a warrior. Its meat was linked to pork, which was a symbol of hospitality for the Celts. For Brigid, boars represent protection, leadership, and also collaboration and teamwork.
White cows with red ears in particular symbolize the Otherworld. Brigid was thought to be able to turn water into dairy milk. This is one of the animals that is closest to Brigid. Cows symbolized how sacred motherhood was for the Celts. Cow’s milk blessed by Brigid was thought to be able to cure various illnesses. Cows are not seen as passive milk givers. They were thought to be like a mother actively fighting their children’s illness. Dreaming of cows may mean a Divine and harmonious communion with the Goddess. Blessings from her may be on the way, and she may be facilitating a new beginning for you.
Dogs are a reminder that giving to others doesn’t always need to mean sacrifice. They are also a sign of an abundance mentality, in the sense that there’s enough for everyone and you can feel free to practice acts of generosity. Dreaming of a dog may be Brigid nudging you to be more giving and start sharing the resources you have in abundance. If you’re short on money, that doesn’t mean you don’t have anything in abundance. Being of service and giving support to your community is very valuable.
Ducks mean a need to be more in touch with your instinct and your gut. They show Brigid is encouraging you to be more organized in your day-to-day matters as well. It’s an invitation to both follow your gut instinct and manage your time or resources in an organized manner. Dreaming of a flock of ducks may mean that there are people under your care or supervision. You cannot neglect this responsibility.
Dreaming of dragons means that you or your work are having more of an influence than you think. It may also be that you need to set your ego aside and show compassion. You may also need to summon Brigid and ask her for help.
If you see foxes in a dream or in real life and you work with Brigid, she may be inviting you to think about where you see injustice. Think about how you may lend your voice to those who need you in these unfair situations. She may also be indicating that unconventional methods may be in order to be successful.
Horses were among the most revered animals in the Celtic world. The horse was a sign of victory. Brigid saw the horse as providing movement and triumph – especially white horses. White horses were thought to be messengers from the Otherworld. They may also mean freedom.
According to some myths, Brigid had two companion oxen called Fe and Menn. Oxen represent power and fertility for the Celts. They were usually slain and offered as a sacrifice. This animal has ties with Brigid’s work related to justice. They also represent fortitude and determination. If you get it as a sign, it can also indicate to identify and defend your boundaries.
They were a staple for the Celts’ diets and economy. They most often symbolize looking after one’s community. They also symbolize renewal, health, and hope.
It symbolizes rebirth and transformation. Whatever was dormant in your life is about to be awakened.
They eliminate the danger around you and ensure the health of your community. Something is probably about to end. They may indicate literal death. The vulture marks endings, but also new beginnings.
In short, we have gone through various aspects of this multifaceted Goddess. We have established the context of her Pantheon. We have explored her as the Goddess of Imbolc and Spring, the Goddess of the Well, and the Goddess of Poets. We have also seen how she is the Goddess of Fire, and the Goddess that defends her children in battle.
We have also laid out a few recommendations for setting up your Brigid altar. These recommendations include ideas for offerings. We have also explored her relationship to the oak tree, and, finally, we have seen which animals are sacred to her. For more information, rituals, and meditations, consult Courtney Weber’s book, Brigid: History, Mystery, and Magick of the Celtic Goddess.
Did you know about this Goddess? What would you ask Brigid to help you with?
Weber, Courtney. Brigid: History, Mystery, and Magick of the Celtic Goddess. Weiser Books, 2015.