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Article ID: 4546
Age Group: Adult
Posted: January 28th. 2002
The Practical Goddess
I like my Gods and Goddesses practical. So I will never be a big fan of the trickster gods. Oh, they do have their followings and I am not saying anything against either the Tricksters Themselves or those who follow that sort of Path. I happen to know quite a few Pagans, in fact, who carry off the very embodiment of the Trickster spirit quite well. You can never turn your back to them, of course, but all in all they are a joy to have around. For me, it's just a personal preference.
While I do appreciate most forms of humor, I am just too straightforward of a Witch to be able to pull off the role of the quirky Fox. For one thing, I don't look good in red-orange. I also prefer a straight answer to a straight question. I can take it. When I was seven years old, I declared to the world that I would be ripping off my own band-aids, taking out my own splinters and yanking my own loose baby teeth from now on, thank you all very much. I didn't want a kiss to make it all better either. I just wanted to get the thing done. That is still my approach today towards life and towards magic(k). And that is probably why I so very much appreciate Brigid.
Much has been written about Brigid (pronounced 'Breed') and so I won't go into that here. You can check out Brigit's Forge, Brigit of the Celts or Brigid and the Fires of Love for more basic information about the Goddess. I am also not going to get into any of the controversies over whether or not there was more than one Brigid or Brigit, if any of the Pagan Brigits were really transformed into Christian saints or if there is any historical evidence of Imbolc actually being a fire festival. Ronald Hutton does a good job with this in his various books and I will leave you to draw your own conclusions. In her aspects, Brigid is primarily associated with three things: inspirational poetry, healing and smithing. In Practical-Witch fashion, we'll just take these in order.
Inspirational Poetry: When many people think about poetry, the first things that come to mind are rhyme and romance. I think perhaps the modern-day greeting card has had a lot to do with that. But before the maudlin and flowery verse of Hallmark was the power known as "imbas forosnai". Rather than the sort of poetry that fills library shelves, imbas fills the heart and spirit with otherworldly knowledge. It was both a form of divination and a pronouncement of revealed secrets. Various heroes of the Irish myths and sagas possessed or knew how to invoke the power of imbas. This knowledge was not something that most of the people who came in contact with the possessors of such gifts actually relished. For more often than not, the revelations pointed straight to those very things that most people wished would remain safely covered up. Famous bards such as Taliesin could -and did- bring even great kings low through satire and lampoon. This is the sort of poetry that Brigid also embodies. It usually doesn't rhyme and it is not supposed to make you feel better. It is designed to make you a better person. Sometimes that may smart a bit. Having one's illusions ripped off like an old band-aid usually does. But it also lets the fresh air in and when you become accustomed to working with Brigid, you may find that all She has to do is point to that band-aid and then you'll rip the ragged, dirty thing off by yourself. Now that, to me, is true inspiration. And that also is a nice transition into:
Healing: All across Ireland and in parts of the Scottish Highlands, there are wells dedicated to Brigid. Many of these wells had trees planted close by and people who sought healing for their ailments would tie ribbons on the branches. Other wells when excavated have been found to contain coins, trinkets, jewelry and other votive-type offerings to the Goddess or spirit of the well. Brigid is undoubtedly the most beloved Goddess in those parts as the Goddess who heals and alleviates suffering. But one must remember that the people of past times led a much harder life than we do today. Many women died in childbirth and infant mortality rates were very high. Childbirth itself, while being a very natural process, is also a painful and messy business. Brigid, rather than offering a complete absence of suffering, brings forth the ability to endure. And that makes good practical sense. This life and this world will never be completely free from some sort of pain or suffering. Brigid gives us not the impossible gift that we might ask for -the freedom from all in this world that causes physical or emotional hardship- but rather lends us what we really need- the ability to endure what simply must be borne. The splinters in your finger will not magickally disappear, but you will gain the strength to dig them out. You may curse a bit. She doesn't mind. She's heard it all. And She'll stick by you while you hop around shaking your hand and crying, "Ow! Ow! Ow!" I think perhaps this might actually be an alternative invocation to Brigid. I know when I am having a bout of the 'ouchies', She always seems to come around. But then I always check to see if She just happens to have the mallet hidden behind her back...
For Brigit is also the patroness of Smithcraft and the forge. Smiths have always been considered magickal people. Smithing was long ago a secret profession passed on only to those apprenticed to the craft. Working with the four elements of nature, smiths were seemingly capable of molding and hammering shapeless forms into something useful. Modern-day Pagan smiths are perhaps most well-known for the forging of knives and athames and swords. While these same weapons were a large part of smithing in the past as well, the practical aspects of the forge were much more prized. For literally almost no other craftsperson could perform his/her own art unless he/she had the tools of his/her trade first made by the smith. From woodcarving utensils to plows ad rakes to the very shoes on the indispensable horses feet, the smith made almost all of the other arts, crafts and basic necessities of life possible.
Smithing is hard work. And so anyone who holds in his or her mind a picture of Brigid as being little more than a glorified Fairy had better ask that apparition for some identification. Brigid is tough. She's gritty. She wields a big hammer. She is no shrinking violet when things get messy. Brigid gets her hands dirty. She's blunt. She's a very busy Goddess because She is not apart from Life; She is infused and entwined and up to her childbirth-bloody elbows in life. She doesn't do things for show; She does things. Period.
I don't like to mince words when speaking with the Gods. I don't want Them to mince words with me. I happen to like my inspiration to the point, my pains endurable and any gifts that I might receive- and in my turn to offer- to be of practical use. Not all Goddesses, after all, show up wearing a starry crown and a velvet dress. Some of them, like Brigid, may actually be more comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt. So when there is actual Work to be done for the Pagan communities and for the world, forgive me if I don't invoke any pink-light bubbles or twinkling beings wearing gossamer winged leotards.
But do send us Brigid, the Practical Goddess- She who is willing to roll up Her sleeves- and then we'll see if we can really make those sparks fly.
Walk in Love and Light,
Co-Founder - The Witches' Voice
Monday, January 28th, 2001
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