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St Brigit (c. 450—525) patron saint of Kildare


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[Ir., the exalted one].

Pre-Christian Irish goddess of fire, smithing, fertility, cattle, crops, and poetry. She was the daughter of the Dagda and according to later tradition, the wife of Senchán Torpéist, a purported author of the Táin Bó Cuailnge [Cattle Raid of Cooley]. The calendar feast of Imbolc (1 February) was much associated with Brigit. Sanas Cormaic [Cormac's Glossary] (10th cent.) implies that Brigit is the name of three goddesses without giving extensive details of the other two. Brigit was the tutelary goddess of the province of Leinster. She was probably worshipped at Corleck Hill, near Drumeague, Co. Cavan, where a stone head thought to be hers once stood. Under the name Bríg[h], she is described as having mated with Bres (1) to produce Rúadán (2), who was killed when he tried to kill Goibniu. At her son's death, Brigit lamented in the first keening ever heard in Ireland. She may be the grandmother of Ecne, a personification of knowledge and enlightenment. Often compared with Minerva, Vesta, Brigantia, Brigindo; historians also see a link with St Brigid.

See Séamas Ó Catháin, The Festival of Brigit (Dublin, 1995).

Subjects: Religion

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