B is for Brigid (Pagan Blog Project 2013)

I didn’t want to write about Brigid.

For one thing, there are an awful lot of posts about her already.

For another, due to my upbringing, my relationship with the concept of deity is fraught. As a general rule I don’t have much to do with deities, and they don’t seem to want to have much to do with me. When I do vision or journey work, I encounter all sorts of beings but none that I would describe as god(dess), most of the time.

To be perfectly honest, I don’t even know if I believe in gods/goddesses. But. There she is, this presence, this pull. A tugging that I’ve felt since I first encountered her in 2004. I’d been a pagan for just three years and my studies had been sporadic and scattered, but something about Brigid got a hold of me. A friend of mine felt the same, so we decided (as many naive baby pagans do) that we would do a ritual to dedicate ourselves to her.

We did the ceremony, and it was lovely, but nothing very exciting happened after. Life went on as usual. Brigid didn’t visit me in dreams or send messengers my way. I had a permanent falling out with the friend I’d done the ceremony with. After a few years it seemed like the pull I’d felt toward her was something I’d made up.

But I had a binder full of articles about Brigid I’d printed off the internet, and I couldn’t bring myself to recycle them during any of my frequent paperwork purges.

I stopped wearing the necklace I’d made with the Brigid medallion, but I couldn’t bring myself to give it away or sell it.

Every time someone would mention the goddess, I’d feel a funny little wistful ache. Then I’d forget about it.

Last year, as the demands of the people in my life started to conflict with my spiritual practice, I spent a lot of time reevaluating my path. I wondered if maybe I hadn’t imagined the connection I felt to Brigid. I wondered if she might be more than a nice idea. I wondered if I might try to just decide to believe in something, try creating a devotional practice even if I was full of doubt.

I wondered: If she is out there, would she welcome my attention after I had failed to follow through on working with her? I asked for some kind of sign, but I didn’t expect one.

And then I got an email from someone who had created a gorgeous Brigid art doll . . . and a few days later I received the doll in the mail. I was surprised and excited–and disappointed that the doll wouldn’t fit on the altar I had planned to put her on (she was taller than I’d expected).

So I put her on my desk with plans to move the altar somewhere else.

That was early September. A few weeks later Brigid was in a box in my trunk and I was sleeping on a mattress on my friend’s living room floor. Once I got semi-settled in my one-woman living room refugee camp, I put the Brigid figure on a little shelf in my crowded corner. My friend and I admired her, but I was in shock and the question of belief or spiritual practice was kind of on hold. I couldn’t connect to anything anyway–I wondered if all of my meditation and learning and magical work was a big lie I’d been telling myself, a crazy delusion to help me deal with the things I felt like I couldn’t walk away from. My doubt was deeper than it has ever been.

But when my friend and I moved into a bigger apartment and I unpacked my bedroom, the altar where Brigid would live was the first thing I set up. My spirituality was floundering, but creating Brigid’s altar was a compulsion I couldn’t ignore.

Brigid on Her Altar

Those three hawthorn berries picked at the roadside a few days before Samhain were for her altar, and I placed them in front of her with a hasty, embarrassed prayer. Help me survive this. Help me know what to do. Help me have some kind of hope. I didn’t believe it would do any good. I didn’t think anyone was listening. But, again, it was a compulsion. I wanted to believe there was some force, somewhere, that would intervene on my behalf, that would give me some relief or some nudge of guidance or some comfort. But I didn’t believe it. I couldn’t feel any connection to . . . well, anything. Not even to caring friends. The isolation of grief was absolute.

I’d like to say that after the prayer to Brigid everything was miraculously transformed, but we all know it doesn’t work that way. Change takes time, and as I’ve said before, magic isn’t about immediate gratification–and neither is prayer. Things did get better, but slowly, and I have no evidence that the prayer made a difference. For all I know, prayer only makes a difference in the mental state of the one saying it.

But the pull I feel to engage with Brigid more consciously and intentionally has been getting stronger–and I’m not sure what to do.

I still don’t know what I think about the gods. I’ve been struggling with the question for years. All week, thinking about writing this post, I’ve been mulling over the concept of deity and trying to figure out how to relate to it.

There’s this line in the movie Practical Magic: “You can’t practice witchcraft while you look down your nose at it.” As I consider the question of Brigid, consider the pull that I can’t ignore, I wonder if trying to work with a goddess I’m not sure I believe in is kind of the same thing. Can you worship the gods while looking down your nose at them? Or in my case, while not wanting to look at them at all?

I don’t have any answers to that question. I live in the middle of a constant tug of war between my skeptical side and my mystic side. I don’t know if this means I have a healthy balance or a split personality. And I don’t really know how to begin reconciling my internal contradictions. Do I just start saying prayers and making offerings and see what happens? Do I decide to believe in something? Do I see a therapist and ask for medication? Hell if I know.

All I know is that altar in the corner of my room has a strong gravitational pull, and I started wearing my Brigid medallion occasionally again.

Joseph Campbell talked a lot about living with myths that no longer fit us. As I understand it, he felt a lot of our problems as a society rose from a lack of a properly working mythos. I think if I’m going to be devoted to something, someone, I have to understand how it is relevant to me here and now. Figuring that out could take a while–especially when I’m not even sure where to start. I’m open to suggestions, y’all.

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About Michelle

Just one of many queer pagan creative types, writing, knitting and navel gazing in the Pacific Northwest. View all posts by Michelle

5 responses to “B is for Brigid (Pagan Blog Project 2013)

  • Brighde Bright-Heart

    This post brought tears to my eyes. I know what that floundering feels like… I still struggle with it, knowing without a shadow of a doubt that I am Brigid’s, that She has always been with me, that She’s held my hand through every bit of strife and joy, even when I hadn’t realized it was Her. Thank you for sharing your experience, and your lovely altar.

  • Bronnie

    I have exactly the same dilemma – the conflict beteen my rational, objective self that respects science and that thinks perhaps spirituality is only a function of human psychology… and a fey, mystical side of me that has FELT, and also seen and heard, in minimalist ways, some things that hint at a very different side of life. I also struggle mightily with the concept of deity, and veer between gentle skepticism and a wordless sense of true connection to the two goddesses for whom I have felt exactly the same pull or affinity (Kuan Yin and Kali Ma). All I know is this: you don’t have to be certain. You don’t have to even “believe”. I don’t have beliefs – only possibilities, perpectives, and sometimes, hopes. And it still ‘works’ – by which I mean, when I deliberately and consciously use my rational side to its best effect, I get good results in my life which are directly atttibutable to that, and when I use my spiritual and intuitive side in an equally deliberate and coscious way, I also get good results, sometimes touchingly beautiful results, which seem directly connected to that work. To me this suggests that there is something valid about both those ways of being – that they both tap into something whch is ‘real’… and I’ve had to accept that this may be all I ever do know for sure, and that that is okay.

  • Christine Mason

    So I looked up Brigid in the Encyclopedia Mythica (http://www.pantheon.org/articles/b/brigid.html ) and I saw that she is the goddessof fire personifying inspiration (poetry), hearth (healing and fertility), and forge. To me, fire speaks about transformation. We speak of passing through the fire as a way to describe an ordeal. Passing something through fire is also thought of as a way to burn away impurities.
    Maybe Brigid is not so much a deity as an aspect of the universal mind that we all share in. While the jury is out on the existence of god/goddess, I am pretty sure that the universal consciousness is there, and everything, including all of us, express it. I find the analogy between a hologram and myself as an expression of universal mind works. I am to that mind as a drop of water is to the ocean. Each shares all the properties of the other, each is complete, but the ocean encompasses the drop as the universal mind encompasses me. This includes encompassing all the ways I, and other people, have found to explain or describe our reality. So Brigid is a way of describing the transformational aspects of the universe we inhabit.
    None of us can deny the ordeals that life presents us with, ranging from being denied the breast as an infant, to passing through adolescence, to devastating losses. We all experience stress during change; even change that we welcome brings stress. Perhaps Brigid speaks to that through the aspects of healing, birth, and creation that she addresses.
    I love the Brigid doll! She evokes something, even twice removed through photograph and internet. She seems to be saying something to me about acceptance. She seems to know that resisting the inevitable changes and transformations of our lives only brings pain. When one comes to terms with the fact that transformation and change inevitably accompany growth, the resistance fades and peace seeps in.
    I believe there is a way for all of our ‘sides’ to work together. Philosophical inclusivity as iterated by philosophers from all viewpoints and eras ranging from the Upanishads to Science of Mind seem to hold out the promise of peace through inclusion. Inclusion starts with acknowledgment of the real and enduring aspects of our universe, such as the transformational issues that Brigid personifies.

  • Gemmi Fuchsbau

    It’s a big step to let someone hold your hand. once, someone asked me “WHY would you want to do it alone?” I still remind myself of that question when I feel conflicted and overwhelmed.
    I usually find that my conflict is not with a specific choice, but with the choice of not doing it alone.

  • Linda Quest

    I’ve found that dedicating myself to the deity within me has assisted in connecting with the deities I perceive outside of myself.

    I explore the realms labeled “extra” because they can’t be frozen, dissected, quantified, and labeled according to society’s narrow understanding of science – clairvoyance, clairaudience, clairsentience, claircognizance – as they seem to manifest from within. It makes perfect sense that such traits are from the realm of Spirit – their voices aren’t channeled through the physical senses, yet we perceive their messages. Besides, I figure anything that scares the bejesus out of religious power brokers merits exploration. What better venue to explore than in the territory with which we are most familiar – our own inner universe. It’s somewhere to begin.

    I haven’t felt a pull to “dedicate” myself to any external power since childhood – after getting over the whole Catholic convent experience. Even my years in organized religion, for me, were about committing to a behavioral path as means of living an honorable life while learning compassion, self-discipline, and service to my fellowman. God was always there for me – I could feel Divine Presence. But I wasn’t able to reconcile the whole concept that gods, who were touted to be omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, would kowtow to the dictates of mortals when it comes to borders and restrictions around how they are expected to interact with mankind – and we with them – or the narrow, elaborate, and most often “ex”clusive constructs of ritual, tradition, and a seemingly pervasive idea that mankind needs intermediaries between them and the gods.

    I prefer a more direct route. Perhaps I am arrogant (as has been suggested a time or two, though I don’t feel or intend it), but I find my relationships with deity run more along the lines of “working with” rather than being “dedicated to.” I have no doubt that, if gods exist, they have the power to compel me into service. But that has never been the case. I perceive my Spiritual Guidance as family in nature – but a kind of family that is encouraging, respectful, and supportive of my individuality, and harmonious rather than controlling or contentious. I am dealt with as an apprentice, not a servant.

    I honor and respect the Divine Guidance in my life. Insights, understand, knowledge, wisdom, and direction received as a result of inviting the presence and influence of the gods into my mind and heart have added immeasurable depth, meaning, and significance to my existence, as well aiding my personal growth and expansion. As is true of any relationship, my understanding deepens with time and experience.

    Being solidly in touch with my own limitations, I don’t imagine that I am on equal ground in matters of intelligence, maturity, knowledge, wisdom, farsightedness, or personal power as the Divine beings with whom I endeavor to connect – sort of the way I remember feeling about my parents when I was very young. But I’ve never felt that those entities desired me to be under their thumbs (like my parents did). Instead, I feel supported, protected, guided, and directed to learn as much as I can to help me step into my own power, to expand my own wisdom and understanding, and to gain my own perfection rather than engaging in some perpetual groupie relationship. I perceive their agenda as helping me prepare to join their ranks – I believe that’s what this Earth School is all about.

    Can we prove, in physical terms, anything dealing with the gods or the realm of Spirit? Probably not – especially since the individual mind and Will is free to interpret (or deny) perception as it chooses in order to protect its own little comfort zone. Science continues to developed sophisticated devices that measure what the eye cannot see and science often appears to be catching up with metaphysics – but again, if one is not inclined to educate one’s self or to open one’s mind to explanations outside those programmed by religion or tradition …

    I see no point in arguing the validity of what I perceive as my spiritual experience or the need to gain the approval of others for how I choose to honor the gods I perceive. Who cares? A rose by any other name … My spiritual practice is what it is for me. It’s said that, “life is metaphor,” and perhaps my understanding of Spirit is, as well, but that’s okay. I have always tended to accord greater significance to life’s verbs, rather than to the nouns. I don’t feel the need to know the proper names for my gods or guides – if it’s important, they’ll tell me. I simply perceive their presence and interact with them as I would relate with anyone. I will not deny (nor turn away from) the benefits I derive from interacting with the realm of Spirit, nor cease taking advantage of the spiritual gifts I’ve developed as a result of those interactions. I’m grateful for expanded awareness and deeper understanding of day-to-day matters, particularly in the domain of relationships with others. I don’t have to become a slave to someone else’s spiritual rhetoric to do so.

    If I find, after I shuffle off this mortal coil, that my perceptions were inaccurate, so be it. Again, who cares? I figure, anything that comforts my heart in the present while offering courage and support sufficient to help me grow, mature, and become kinder, and more respectful, compassionate, self-disciplined, self-loving, and responsible has got to be a good thing, no matter its origin, title, or my understanding of its nature and proper name. If it’s only in my own mind, bully for my creativity.

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