Perhaps one of the most complex and contradictory Goddesses of the Celtic pantheon, Brigid can be seen as the most powerful religious figure in all of Irish history.
Many layers of separate traditions have intertwined, making Her story and impact complicated but allowing Her to move so effortlessly down through the centuries. She has succeeded in travelling intact through generations, fulfilling different roles in divergent times. She was, and continues to be, known as Bride, Bridey, Brighid, Brigit, Briggidda, Brigantia, and Brigid. There are also many variations on pronunciation.
Brigid is the traditional patroness of healing, poetry and smithcraft, which are all practical and inspired wisdom. As a solar deity, Her attributes are light, inspiration and all skills associated with fire, and while She might not be identified with the physical Sun, She is certainly the benefactress of inner healing and vital energy. Also long known as The Mistress of the Mantle, She represents the sister or virgin aspect of the Great Goddess. The deities of the Celtic pantheon have never been abstraction or fictions but remain inseparable from daily life. The fires of inspiration, as demonstrated in poetry, and the fires of the home and the forge are seen as identical; there is no separation between the inner and the outer worlds. The tenacity with which the traditions surrounding Brigid have survived, even the saint as the thinly-disguised Goddess, clearly indicates Her importance.
She rules over healing, protection and midwifery, and as the patroness of poetry maintains the filidhecht, bardic lore and all culture and learning. The bansidhe and the filidh-Woman of the Fairy Hills and the class of Seer-poets respectively-preserve the poetic function of Brigid by keeping the oral tradition alive. It is widely believed that those poets who have gone before inhabit the realms between the worlds, overlapping into ours so that the old songs and stories will be heard and repeated. Thus does Brigid fulfill the function of providing a continuity by inspiring and encouraging us.
Brigid, which means "one who exaults herself," is Goddess of the Sacred Flame of Kildare (derived from "Cill Dara," which means "church of the oak") and often is considered to be the White Maiden aspect of the Triple Goddess. She was Christianized as the "foster-mother" of Jesus Christ, and called St. Brigit, the daughter of the Druid Dougal the Brown. She sometimes also is associated with the Romano-Celtic goddess Aquae-Sulis in Bathe.
Brighid's festival is Imbolc, celebrated on or around February 1 when she ushers Spring to the land after The Cailleach's Winter reign. This mid-Winter feast commences as the ewes begin to lactate and is the start of the new agricultural cycle. During this time Brigid personifies a bride, virgin or maiden aspect and is the protectoress of women in childbirth. Imbolc also is known as Oimelc, Brigid, Candlemas, or even in America as Groundhog Day.
As the foundation for the American Groundhog Day, Brigid's snake comes out of its mound in which it hibernates and its behavior is said to determine the length of the remaining Winter.
Gailleach, or White Lady, drank from the ancient Well of Youth at dawn. In that instant, she was transformed into her Maiden aspect, the young goddess called Brigid. Wells were considered to be sacred because they arose from oimbelc (literally "in the belly"), or womb of Mother Earth.
Because of her Fire of Inspiration and her connection to the apple and oak trees, Brighid often is considered the patroness of the Druids.