From Visions and Voyages:
mid fifth century, when Patrick was preaching his last sermons
in the north of Ireland, a remarkable girl was born in the kingdom
of Leinster, on the central plain. Her father Dubhthac was a
man of high rank and a pagan, but her mother was his Christian
slave. The child was called Brigid, the name of one of the Celtic
triple goddesses, revered as a giver of plenty and the patron
of learning - the crafts of the poet, blacksmith, healer.
Dubhthac's jealous wife had the slave woman and her infant sold
to a druid household. Brigid had a Christian mother, but, growing
up among druids, she could hardly fail to be interested in the
goddess whose name she bore.
comes across in the stories as a spirited lass. To begin with,
she was clearly a favourite with her natural father, and returned
as a teenager to his house. But she had no sense of personal
property. Throughout her life, she gave away anything that could
be eaten, worn or bartered.
her father could stand it no longer. He dumped her in his chariot
and drove her off to the king's court, intending to sell her.
While he went off to explain his business, a leper approached
the chariot, begging. Brigid was just telling him she had nothing
to give him when she noticed her father's sword. Impulsively
she handed it over to him. When her enraged father found that
she had given away his most precious possession, he dragged
her in front of the king. Brigid stuck to her principles. She
told the king, 'If I had all your power, and all your wealth,
and this country itself, I'd give the whole lot away to the
Lord of Creation.'
of marriage was made to her by a highly honoured poet. Brigid
refused. She said she wanted to start a community of celibate
women. Whether she could actually have heard Patrick preach
is doubtful, but she was clearly influenced by the ideal of
ascetic life he had inspired in his disciples. As usual, she
got what she wanted. She was given land for an abbey at Kildare,
'the Church of the Oak'. Her nuns ranged from princesses to