Ach ní dhéanfar dearmad ar an lá, A bhuail Oisín le Niamh
Warriors, saints and goodesses - Irish women, the land and equality are a part of our heritage

What age was she, your sister, when she died?” She was 29. On St Brigid’s Day, she would have been 32. Although I think of her almost every day, some days are more poignant. I prefer the birthday remembrance to the other annual day our thoughts are only of her – that of her passing. I prefer it because it’s nicer to remember her dressed up, full of life and ready for out. She was a social creature and as we were quite alike, we fought like hell and I miss those rows, like I miss so many things about her.

Our sister Leza was married on St Brigid’s day in 2013, so it’s a day we mark two celebrations

Every year I post the same picture on my social channels to mark her birthday. Our sister Leza was married on St Brigid’s day in 2013, so it’s a day we mark two celebrations. The picture is of Leza, radiant in her white wedding dress; Brig, in the fiery red of her personality and me in the black that dominates my wardrobe. Raine, my eldest is there too, just three days old. In this picture, we are frozen in time, Brig will always be that age.

I think it appropriate that our livewire of a sister, who forged her own path, was born on the feast day of St Brigid and bore her name. St Brigid’s father named her after one of the most powerful pagan goddesses – the goddess of fire.

Given the week that was in it, I asked Raine had they learned about her in school

The legends around her vary with some calling her a goddess and others a saint. Given the week that was in it, I asked Raine had they learned about her in school. Her eyes lit up and I was excitedly regaled with the tale of how “Brigid magically got land to build a convent, from the bad man, when her cloak got really big and covered lots of fields, because she wanted to do good stuff”. Good enough synopsis for me. If you want to feed people, you need land to do it.

Land and agriculture are a common theme across these women of our folklore. Driving through Roscommon en route to Ballina for a funeral recently, I passed through Rathcroghan, the seat of the warrior queen, Medb. When her father became the high king, she became the ruler of Connacht. Under the laws of the time, women were equal to men, owned land, participated in the legal system and picked their own partners. Legend has it, she ruled for 60 years and had five husbands.

That was 50BC. The same equality was not Brigid’s lot some 530 years later

The unions allowing them to be kings as – by being married to Medb – they were married to the land, but it was hers. That was 50BC. The same equality was not Brigid’s lot some 530 years later (480AD). Her father promised her in marriage and depending on what you read, she either asked God to take away her beauty, or she gouged out her eye to do it herself. The result was the same and she remained unmarried.

Another lady in Irish folklore who seemed to know what she wanted was Niamh who rode to Ireland on her white horse to bring the warrior Óisin back to Tír na nÓg. Ireland called him back from the land of eternal youth and despite her warnings, his ego saw him fall from his horse and gain the age he had avoided, thereafter living with St Patrick.

There are many Irish women that do not get the recognition they deserve

There is a call for Brigid to be given her own national holiday. There are many Irish women that do not get the recognition they deserve and if Patrick can have one, why can’t Brigid? I don’t mind if our Brig is in heaven with her namesake, or in Tír na nÓg frozen in time with Niamh, as long as she is surrounded by great women.

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