Monday, February 1, 2010

February! St. Brigid's Day, and Happy Birthday to Deirdre


It's February! For some reason I'm excited. The sun has been shining the past three days, and it's the birthday of Deirdre Otis, mother of the Seven Sidekicks, whom I've known since before she was born.

Deirdre is doing a novena for St. Brigid of Kildare during the next ten days, as a way of observing the birthday they have in common, February 1st, Candlemas,  the traditional first day of spring in Ireland. (Imagine that, those of you now in the deep Midwest.) She says it is:

A gift of reflection and peace for myself:) St Brigid is my birthday saint and confirmation name, the traditions surrounding this saint are so beautiful.

The stories around Brigid have with both pagan and Christian overtones. Here's just a glimpse, from our friends slaving away in the name of information over at Wikipedia:
According to her biographers her parents were Dubhthach, a pagan chieftain of Leinster, and Brocca, a Christian Pict and slave who had been baptised by Saint Patrick. Some accounts of her life suggest that Brigid's mother was in fact from Lusitania, kidnapped by Irish pirates and brought to Ireland to work as a slave, in much the same way as Saint Patrick. Many stories also detail Brigid's and her mother's statuses as pieces of property belonging to Dubhthach, and the resulting impact on important parts of Brigid's life story.

Brigid was given the same name as one of the most powerful goddesses of the pagan religion which her father Dubhthach practiced. In that religion, Brigid was the goddess of healing, inspiration, craftsmanship and poetry, which the Irish considered the flame of knowledge.
Below is St. Brigid's cross, woven from rushes, as well as a sample of Aryan knitting in a St. Brigid pattern, from a blog called Fluff Buff: Slow Life in the Fast Lane, An Italian in L.A. Brigid is represented by braided threads and rushes, connecting strands between pagan and post-Patrick Ireland. 

I have vivid memories of Deirdre visiting me in Ireland when she was a child of about nine or ten, when we played one afternoon at an Adventure Park where kids could swing on ropes over a pond, ride on rafts without adult navigation, and do other quasi-dangerous things that would never be allowed at an amusement park in the U.S. She was brave and much amused. Thinking back, I realize that this was a real hint of her life to come – now she has seven daredevil children who would probably love that experience, too. Both Deirdre and her husband Sheff know that kids have got to move, to be adventurous, and to experience the sensory pleasures of getting dirty, wet, muddy, cold (and warm again) in the great outdoors. I hope they all have a fabulous day!

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