As many of you know, I worship and serve the goddess Brigid*. One reason I wrote my novels is out of service to her; to portray modern, polytheistic devotion to her and other members of her godly family. So when I was given the opportunity, I jumped to review an ARC (advanced reader copy) of A Brigit of Ireland Devotional: Sun Among Stars by Mael Brigde.
This book, like the goddess herself, is multifaceted. Part devotional poetry, part mystical reflection, and part resource, this text belongs on the shelves of all who devote themselves to Brigid. I don’t have much space in my little home, and I tend to buy ebooks these days, but I plan to purchase a physical copy of this as I sense it will become an old friend.
The poetry itself flowed from the page to my heart. While not all pieces will impact readers equally, there are verses reflective of many life experiences. I can see myself revisiting the tome again and having a completely different reaction. Favorites of mine include: “Brigit’s Garden,” “Otherworld Gate,” “Ancestral Dream,” and “Ogam Reading.” Some jumped out as prayers I want to commit to memory such as “Threshold Blessing” and “Kindling.”
Those who are familiar with Irish lore will recognize when the author taps into some older poetic forms as in “Song of Brigit,” but other entries take on a more conversational tone such as the excited, childlike “Everywhere.” Some ask the same queries I have about her mysteries.
What really touched me about the author’s writing, poetry and prose, is her humility and love for the goddess. She repeatedly speaks with an adoring tone, and it’s clear she has felt this love reciprocated over many years. The book ends with footnotes and short essays describing how the author’s intellectual understanding of Brigid has shifted over time. She humbly admits that some of her older poems were written based on misunderstandings or concepts passed on from Victorians and modern Neo-Pagans rather than Irish and Scottish sources, but she wanted to preserve them as part of her journey. Her wording is never accusatory or belittling to those who may still embrace those ideas. She simply describes her process of sitting with new information, letting go, and finding her relationship with Brigid has only strengthened as a result. Seeing this process in print without a condescending tone is both refreshing and very needed.
No tome concerning Brigid would be complete without reflecting on the question we all encounter: where does the goddess end and the saint begin? Are they different or the same? She continues to help me heal after converting from Catholicism, but has also acted as a bridge between me and my monotheistic family members. Like other flametenders and priests of Brigid, the contradiction has become less of a hinderance and more of a meditative concept that deepens our compassion for self and others over time. When there seems to be some new drama in the online Pagan community every day, I felt a medicinal sort of kinship with Brigde while reading her words.
Mael Brigde’s conclusions may surprise you, but she does not insist other’s embrace her perspective. She leaves it open, as each devotee must figure that out with Brigid herself. The figure(s) loom so large in Irish culture, both on the island and among the diaspora, that surely she(they) evolve with the times. She loves her devotees, whether Druid, witch, nun, Wiccan, Catholic, or polytheist. This book of poems will provoke your meditations but ultimately comfort you on your journey with Brigid. You are not alone, and the goddess is here to inspire and guide you on the way to be both a better priest to her and your community.
…and like the wild fox
race across the plain
leap into the jumping chariot
beneath her cloak
prepare to do anything she wants of me because I love to do as she has askedMael Brigde
You can read more about the author, Mael Brigde, here. She also regularly updates a blog (here) with reflections on Brigid, including more poetry, Pagan practice, the goddess in contemporary cultures, and book reviews (fiction and non-fiction).
* You’ll notice I spell the goddess’ name differently. The name can vary depending on region, culture, time period, colonial influence, etc. This is just another example of how multifaceted she is.