Brigid's powers are quite pleasant, and she is seen as an incredibly loving and friendly figure, so she is very approachable for those who want to work with her. Compared to the Morrigan (the goddess of death, battle bloodlust and sex) and the Cailleach (the old hag of winter who comes to smash the green of summer with her giant hammer), Brigid is utterly delightful, and people love to engage with her as a spiritual helper and guide. Brigid was rapidly absorbed into the Christian world as Saint Brigid, and she has remained a favorite, popular figure over many hundreds of years.
The downside of Brigid's positive aspects is that it's a bit easy to underestimate this sacred force. You'll find thousands of romantic, glowing, radiant, and, often sexy looking images of Brigid on the internet. Ah, internet.
I'd like you to hold in mind this story: 2,400 years ago, a Celtic warrior king named Brennus sacked Rome and held it for a few months. The story goes that, walking down the main boulevard, Brennus gazed up in astonishment at the many statues of the Roman deities displayed one after another. He then turned to his men and guffawed at how utterly simple-minded these Romans were—to believe that the deities looked anything like human beings. The deities are forces of the universe, far beyond human. To box them in with our human categories - god of war, goddess of intellect - was so utterly small-minded and arrogant.
In shamanism, remember that we are dealing with immense, incomprehensible powers, the powers of creation and destruction, of transformation and shape-changing. Even if they are pleasant powers, we must always approach them with respect and humility. I like to think of the deities as more like quantum physics than mythology. For me, that helps to being is some humility. If there is a single poison potential in all spiritual work (and all human endeavors), it is the loss of humility. When we think God/dess looks and act like us, there's a humility problem there. Remember - humility is not a lack of power – it is power properly contained and used – what is called "right relationship."
I see it like this: Brigid is the force inside the element fire. What we call "she" is a quality of that fire - a sacred feminine energy, because the Brigid fire is the force that initiates and warms any new creation.
In some forms, like dawn and early spring, that fire energy is sweet, spacious, gentle, careful, and delightful. In this way, she is the bringer of human inspiration – the Gaelic word is "Imbas" (Gaelic for "fire in the head") – the spark of "aha!" that bursts in all artistic and creative work. This is why the ancient Irish poets, who studied formally for many years, saw Brigid as their lifelong guardian, teacher and patron spirit.
And in this gentler form, she is also seen as goddess of the hearth – the place in the very center of ancient Irish and Scottish huts, where the fire burns constantly and cooks the food. At night, a ritual of keeping the house safe would be performed. The hot coals would be "banked" or "smoored" – separated into three small piles, with peat laid between and ashes spread over the top. This kept the coals from completely going out, and in the moong with a few gentle breaths they would ignite once more. A prayer would be made for protection of the sleeping family. Here is a prayer I wrote that you can use, adapt, change, edit:
I smoor this fire as Brigid herself would:
With the power of love
The power of life
And the power of protection
Around this house these powers spread
Like Brigid's cloak
Around the family
Around the herd
Around the land
May we rise tomorrow
Seven times stronger
Seven times more wise
Seven times more loving
Most of us don’t smoor the fire at night, but you can do this prayer to your body as you go to bed. The fire is in you, after all.
In more concentrated form – with more heat – Brigid brings the warmth of springtime to melt the constricting forces of winter inside the land. This is why she is a healer, because she unbinds the death force, she evaporates darkness, and she melts hard, frozen, constricting winter where she finds it - whether in the land, or in the body, or the heart or the mind. She is "warmth" – an elemental energy in nature, and "warmth" underlies healing in many ways.
In even more concentrated form, Brigid is the intense fire of the forge – the fire that transforms something into a different shape. As the goddess of the forge, she is involved in making beautiful and useful metal objects, including weapons.
The heat of the forge needs to be intense because the iron does not want to change. It wants to stay the way is. So, when it is necessary to affect transformation, Brigid turns up the heat. In this way, Brigid is present in any initiatory event in our life, and in those events where we feel great resistance, she may come as a gentle flame first, but if our resistance does not melt away, she may turn up the heat.
Humans cannot bring new daylight to night, cannot melt the ice of winter, and cannot transfigure raw earth, by searing heat, into gleaming objects. So, I urge you to be careful about shrinking Brigid down into a sexpot with a crystal hanging on her forehead. Brigid may not look so sexy and mild to the iron – or to the parts of us in great resistance to the new life that she is bringing forth from our inner earth.
Brigid is spelled and pronounced many ways: Brigit, Bride, Brigh, Bridey, Brighid, Brigit, Briggidda, Brigantia. The name can be pronounced like the common girl's name, Bridgette or Bridget, or in Gaelic it can be pronounced BREE-ya or BREE-ja or Breet. Even the fact there are so many variations and pronunciations of her name give you the idea of how widespread, flexible, welcoming, assimilating and adaptable this figure is.
The root of her name – Brig – is the Gaelic word for "power." Brigid is power, and what is fire if not pure power? That Gaelic root, "Brig" can also be translated as "exalted." That is a great word for us to muse on, because we automatically think of exalted as "high status." But it also means "great joy." One of the most serious illnesses in our time is the inability to summon true joy. One of the most powerful ways to work with Brigid is to ask her to help you with authentic joy – not the distracting and addicting pleasures that dress up messily as joy, but actual joy. One of the best questions you can ask yourself is "What does joy mean to me?" (And do I currently have it in my daily life?) You can ask how you can retrieve lost joy (bring spring out of dead winter, bring new day from night, bring healing to your joylessness). These are prayers you can make to Brigid.
Traditionally, Brigit is the goddess of springtime – the goddess of new life emerging, of rebirth and renewal in all its forms. In this way, she is the premier figure of the east on the Celtic Medicine Wheel – the direction associated with dawn, springtime, new life, starting fresh, forgiveness, abundance and generosity, and with what the Christian tradition calls "grace."
In the Christian tradition Brigid became the midwife at the birth of Jesus. This expands her pre-Christian association with bringing grace into the world, with renewal and fresh starts for the whole world. The Christ beings the power of "Rejoice!" into the world, and Brigid is the one who midwives that power and carries it safely into our world.
In the Irish tradition Brigid is also credited with being the inventor of "keening"- the deep, frightening wailing song of grief, which she introduced after her son was killed in battle. Her song of grief was so powerful that it shook the warriors on the battlefield to their core, and they dropped their weapons. This is part of her story that doesn't make it into the usual categories, because it's not tidy, like the Roman mind wants Goddesses to be. But as a goddess of birthing the new, her keening calls out with great power to the forces that needlessly take life away - like war. And grieving is always a part of starting a new life, is it not? - in order to begin new, we must always let go of the old. In this way Brigid connect the east to the west on the wheel.
February 2nd is the traditional celebration of Brigit. Astronomically, this is the midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, and year by year it can happen anytime in the first few days of February. In this way, Brigid is a solar goddess, and could be described as the Goddess not of the sun, but of light itself - and all the things we associate with light: spiritual wisdom, intelligence, truth, healing. And also justice: Brigid is also the Goddess of physicians and healing, divination and prophecy. One of her most ancient names is Breo-saighead (Pronounced "BREE-o SUH-yed) meaning fiery arrow – an image of divine justice. In the form of Brigantia, she offers big vision of time, and the heroic quest.
In the British Isles, the first signs of spring really do begin to appear at this time – the average low temperature throughout Britain, Wales, Scotland and Ireland is in the low 40's Fahrenheit. The crocus and snowdrops begin to appear, sometimes poking up through the final snow. The udders of cows and sheep begin to swell in anticipation of giving birth.
This is why Brigid is associated with milk – mother's milk of new life. Everything to do with new life, and ordinary, day to day life, is part of Brigid's domain, and this is perhaps the reason why she is so widely known and venerated. Everyone has to churn butter and tend the cows, and everyone is concerned about getting sick and healing from it. In some ways, Brigid can be seen as the goddess of the everyday life. That may not seem as dramatic as a war or death goddess, or the mythic figures that weave betrayal and wild magic. Brigid has a subtlety and gentle beauty to her power.
Is the first snowdrop of spring emerging form the dark less interesting or potent than a sword that guarantees victory or cauldron of rebirth? I say yes, easily as interesting.
In Minnesota where I live, the average low does not get above 35 degrees until mid-April. That leaves Brigid-ophiles in the great north needing to tweak the Brigid tradition some. We can't celebrate the visible signs of spring in the land on February 2, but we can celebrate it in the celestial realm. By early February, the angle of the sun begins to soften the ice imperceptibly, making ice skating slower and less smooth. In early February, in the great north, we can just barely begin to feel that the darkness of winter is easing, even if it is 7 degrees outside. Brigid is just beginning her great annual argument with the Cailleach, the goddess of winter.
Brigit's Day may not be a time in the frozen north to watch for crocuses or swelling udders, but it is a time for us to see the "opening of the east" on the medicine wheel. The north is beginning to close, the east opens. This is great day to celebrate!
Empires like Rome and modern America like to have specific dates on the calendar to celebrate deities. So, Christ was born on December 25th, and to deny that is blasphemous. Brigid's Day is February 1, so you better do your ritual. This adherence to the calendar keeps order in the populace; it tells them how to live by delivering orders from The Authority, and Empires love that. But the indigenous mind goes by signs in nature, moon cycles, and guidance from Spirit.
So, I like to celebrate the celestial aspect of Brigid in early February - the sun's midpoint between solstice and equinox. In the cold of February I like to do healing ceremonies with Brigid - healing for people, or land, or whole nations and the human species - asking for her to breathe her new life into old dead winter - the dead ideas, the dead beliefs and ways of life that bring death to us and others.
I like to celebrate the fight between Brigid and the Cailleach - the fight between new spring and late winter - in mid to late March (see the story "The Coming of Angus and Bride). And I like to celebrate The Goddess of Springtime in mid-April when I can see the new flowers emerging (for us it's typically the Siberian Squill, the most beautiful, delicate periwinkle flowers atop dark green stems. I think of these as Brig's Flowers, something that is not at all in Celtic tradition.)
I celebrate Brigid's hot flame of transformation whenever a new idea comes to fruition, into shape in this world. In this way, she can be thought of as a goddess of "manifestation."
Here's a very good overview of Brigit from Sharon Blackie: https://thehedgeschool.org/Blog/the-brigit-phenomenon/thehedgeschool.org/Blog/the-brigit-phenomenon/
Here is an interesting piece about Brigid and the Morrigan (The goddess of war and sex):
Here's a long detailed piece on Brigid: https://www.druidry.org/library/gods-goddesses/brigid-survival-goddess
Here's a short audio telling of her: http://bardmythologies.com/brigid-the-goddess/