If Candlemas be dull and cooltraditional
Half the winter was by at Yule
If Candlemas be fine and fair
Half the winter's to come and mair
BRIDE as an historical figure is likened to
Irish Abbess Brigid of Kildare who died AD 525, but whose flame was kept alive as a
perpetual fire in her monastery for more than a thousand years after her death. She is
known as Bride in such diverse locations as Wales, Alsace, Flanders and Portugal.
Bride in Northeast Scotland has Christian dedications at early (now invariably ruined)
sites of worship: her name lingers in Kemnay at Brideswell where she shared the parish
with fellow saint Anne (former Alisonwells, now Alehousewells); she still has churches at
Skene, Kildrummy and Drumblade and a gently crumbling one at Cushnie. Her name is
commemorated (though her church has gone) at Lhanbryde in Moray.
Brideswells abound. It pays to look into her pre-Christian persona to see why her
cultus should have been so influential (see FOGS Imbolc
newsletter 1997 , vol.viii, number 2, below).
As Brigantia she was recognised by Roman authors as goddess of the Brigantes and in later
Brythonic use as 'brigantinos' the Brittish word for 'anointed one' or king. Even Pictish
kings called Brude or Bridei (at one count in Pictish mythology there were 30 of them
reigning one after the other) may have derived from their having been anointed by or whose
genealogy stemmed directly from the goddess.
Because in one of her triple goddess aspects she was patroness of poets and bards, she was
supreme muse to an oral society who valued memory, learning and recitation of lineage and
heroic myth. Her other facets as patron of smiths and woman of healing were potent.
Early Christianity, faced with such power, did well to incorporate her within the
martyrology, perpetuated as Saint Bride, Brigid or Ffraid. At Kildare the older pagan
tradition of an overlighting female deity was clearly perpetuated until the Reformation:
Brigid's fire was kept by 19 virgins (perhaps reflecting a Metonic 19-year moon-cycle), in
a sanctuary where no man might enter, and whose breath alone (no bellows) was allowed to
fan the flame.
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Editor Marian Youngblood