Today is the feast day of St. Brigid of Kildare, to whom I have a special devotion. Patron saint of poets and brewers, of healers and midwives (and, along with Patrick and Columba, of Ireland itself), she was strong and gentle, prayerful and practical. St. Brigid worked miracles: my favorite is the healing of a blind Sister so that she could see the beauty of a sunset. To ease the thirst of lepers, she once turned a tub of bathwater into a tub of excellent beer. She was called Mary's Nurse, meaning that she helped Mary with the infant Jesus (a Time Lord!). Like so many of the great saints, she was as earthy and real as soil and water, and as wild as fire and air.
The following 10th century poem has been attributed to her:
I'd like to give a lake of beer to God.
I'd love the heavenly
Host to be tippling there
For all eternity.
I'd love the men of Heaven to live with me,
To dance and sing.
If they wanted, I'd put at their disposal
Vats of suffering.
White cups of love I'd give them
With a heart and a half;
Sweet pitchers of mercy I'd offer
To every man.
I'd make Heaven a cheerful spot
Because the happy heart is true.
I'd make the men contented for their own sake.
I'd like Jesus to love me too.
I'd like the people of heaven to gather
From all the parishes around.
I'd give a special welcome to the women,
The three Marys of great renown.
I'd sit with the men, the women and God
There by the lake of beer.
We'd be drinking good health forever
And every drop would be a prayer.
In my mind's ear, I can hear this woman laughing, and singing, her voice husky, her eyes shining. How could I keep from loving her?
For my solo album, Feather and Bone, I adapted traditional prayers collected by Alexander Carmichael in Scotland in the 1800s and composed Radiant Flame of Gold, a prayer to Brigid. Here is the track, with the sorely-missed Layne Redmond, and Tommy B on frame drums. I pray it in my times of trouble, and for others in theirs: Download 09 Radiant Flame of Gold
I am under the shielding of good Brigid each day,
I am under the shielding of good Brigid each night.
I am under the keeping of the nurse of Mary
Each early and late, every dawn, every light.