On Saturday as I walked through the Galway Market I noticed two young girls, at the entrance to St Nicholas Church with reeds in their hands.More reeds bulged in basket that sat on the wooden table beside them. Eyes bright, hands blue, fingers busily moving and weaving. In the distance I could hear an animated conversation taking place between a man and a woman of indefinable age. Perhaps one of the speakers was from the group of atheist who had a stand- Atheist Ireland, further up the road in Shop Street and the other a fervent Catholic. Who know? It was obvious nonetheless that both of them passionately believed in the truth of their own convictions.
The conversation went something like this ‘sure didn’t you Catholics seal our Goddess Brigid and sure wasn’t she Goddess of fertility, birth and fire. And didn’t she nurture and protect women and didn’t the women bake sweet cakes and bread in her honour. And sure didn’t they make a bed reeds with shapes like your cross over there, that those young girls are weaving. And didn’t they put it out in the moonlight with shells and white cloths chanting to Brigid and inviting her in to the warmth of their home fires’
‘A No! A No’ the other replied ‘sure you have got it all wrong woman ‘Brigid is ‘OUR’ patron saint. Didn’t St Patrick himself baptise her poor mother and she a slave of the chieftain Dubhthach? Little Brigid was holy from the moment she was born looking after and feeding the poor. Sure at times butter appeared out of nowhere. When she became a nun she could even heal the sick and multiply food just like the Lord himself.’
The man paused for a moment and blessed himself with the sign of the cross. His face was red and the vessels in his neck bulged. He looked at me. I glanced away, aware that I was listening to a private conversation. It was hard not to.They were almost shouting. The woman placed her hands on hips and inhaled. She didn’t get a chance to reply before the man resumed his tirade.
‘She was a great girl altogether. A gifted artist. And that cross over there, is a replica of what Brigid weaved as she sat praying at her pagan fathers deathbed. She even managed to convert him before he died. Now for ya. What do you think about that then?
‘A load of rubbish’!! She spat venomously
‘You and your Pagan Goddesses’. The man hissed ‘There is never was, nor never shall be, A Goddess Brigid. And anyways, aren’t you an atheist? I thought you lot believed in absolutely nothing?’
‘Better than you Catholics that believed in absolutely everything’ came the retorted reply.
I smiled, bought the St Brigid’s’s cross from the two girls and walked away.
There is no comeback when people talk in absolutes. Life has a way of teaching you that. Much of our understanding about Brigid was given to us when we sat beside the fire listening to stories and perhaps this is how the wonders of St Brigid t and the Goddess Brigid became fused into one. Things change with time and yet part of the traditions remains. I remember as a child leaving a cloth out on the 31st of January in the moonlight waiting for Brigid’s ’s blessing.
We Irish love this day. Spring is here. Soon the lambs will be born and the bells will ring.
So there you have it a story for you to discuss at your Tea Break this Monday
Hugs and love