St. Brighid is linked to the miraculous brewing of copious quantities of beer. It is said that at Eastertide she brewed enough to serve the people of 18 churches for 8 days from a handful of malt and that the water for her bath would turn to beer. In the eighth century a lovely poem was ascribed to her:
“I'd like to give
a lake of beer to God.
I'd love the Heavenly Host
to be tippling for all eternity.
I'd love the people of Heaven
to live with me.
To dance and sing,
If they wanted,
I'd give for their use
vats of suffering.
I'd make Heaven cheerful
because the happy heart is true,
I'd make the people contented,
I'd like Jesus to be there too.
I'd like the people of Heaven
to gather from all around,
I'd give a special welcome to women,
the three Mary's of great renown.
I'd sit with the men and women of God.
There by the lake of beer.
We'd drink good health forever,
and every drop would be prayer.”
There is a story about St. Brighid visiting the king of Leinster and admiring the harps hung around the great hall. Brighid asked, “Who plays the harp?” She was told that nobody at court was able to play. So she blessed the hands of some of the people and they took down the harps and played the most beautiful music. The king was enchanted and said, “You may have anything that is in my power to give.” Without hesitation Brighid asked for all the prisoners to be released.
Once a friend brought Brighid a basket full of delicious apples and Brighid immediately began to distribute them to the poor and the sick. Her friend said, “Those apples were for you to eat.” Then Brighid replied, “What is mine is theirs also.”
Once a wild boar charged into the monastery grounds with hunters in full chase. St. Brighid told the hunters that the boar had claimed the right of sanctuary. The hunters protested that animals had no rights but Brighid insisted and eventually they rode off. Brighid then blessed the frightened boar and gave it food, water and a home.
It is said that St. Brighid went to live on the sacred island of Iona in the Hebrides until she was taken up in a dark blue mantle by two angels and transported to Bethlehem to be the foster mother of the new born Jesus. When the Holy Family had to flee to Egypt to avoid the Massacre of the Innocents, Brighid aided their escape by appearing as a burning fire between them and the pursuing soldiers.
These stories remind us of older, non-linear, attitudes towards time. They are also typical of the way in which patristic societies reduce the goddess to being a servant of god. Though, Murdo MacDonald, a former editor of the Edinburgh Review, suggests that the transformation of Bride from goddess to foster mother of Christ might imply an astonishingly harmonious negotiation between the old and new faiths.
The mantle is a symbol of liminity representing shape-shifting and transformation. Brighid rolls out her green mantle at Imbolc to restore life to the world. Adamnan, the biographer of St. Columba of Iona, recounts that before his birth an angel appeared to Columba's mother with a mantle of marvelous beauty in which lovely colours of all flowers were depicted. This mantle increased in size until it exceeded the width of the plains.
Wales has its own story of St. Brighid who is known in Welsh as San Ffraid. According to this story Ffraid was an Irish princess who wanted to devote her life to the service of God. Her father tried to force her to marry so Ffraid ran away from home. Finding herself on the sea shore with her father's men in pursuit she prayed to God for help. The turf she was standing on miraculously broke away and carried Ffraid across the sea until she landed on the banks of the Conwy river at a place now known as “Y Twyrch Ffraid” (St. Ffraid's Turf).
At that time the people who lived on the banks of the Conwy were in the grips of famine. Ffraid gathered an armful of rushes, walked out into the river and cast the rushes on the water. The rushes turned into fishes which the people caught; so ending the famine. The village is now known as Llansanffraid Glan Conwy (St. Ffraid's Church on the Bank of the Conwy).
The Isle of Man also has its own story. According to this story St. Bride (Breeshey in Manx) left Ireland with three virgins to receive the white veil of virginity at the hands of bishop Maughold. She received such great hospitality from Maughold that she decided to stay on the Isle of Man. She built a monastery for herself and the three virgins and lived there until she died.
Maughold was a thief from Druimm moccu Echach in Ulster who was converted by St. Patrick. Patrick insisted that Maughold do penance for his theft and told him to leave Ireland in a small boat with no provisions. Upon reaching land he was to fetter his ankles and throw away the key. Maughold followed these instructions and upon reaching the Isle of Man he was received by bishops Coniunri and Romul. He was ordained after the miraculous discovery of the key to his fetters in the stomach of a fish.
Kildare Imbolc 2008 Album