Brigit of Ireland: Saint or Goddess? Celebrating Ireland's complex icon

Posted on: 26 January 2023

A study day, hosted this weekend by Trinity's Centre for Gender and Women’s Studies in collaboration with Woman Spirit Ireland, entitled ‘Brigit of Ireland: An icon for today’ will consider how best to celebrate the complex figure of Brigit.

Brigid Mural Drogheda

The event on Saturday, January 28th, in the Edmund Burke Lecture Theatre, will feature a diverse line up of speakers as well as poetry, craft and music. It will provide participants with inspiration for reflecting on and celebrating the complex figure of Brigit as we approach St Brigid's Day on February 1st, and Ireland's new public holiday on February 6th.

Organiser of the event, Dr Mary Condren, Trinity’s Centre for Gender and Women’s Studies, said: “Inspired by her reputation for generosity, peaceweaving, poetry, healing and love of nature, in recent years, many have turned to Brigit. Her Old Irish name is Brigit. Today she is known as Brigid, Bríd, Bride, Bridget with lots of variations, not only in Ireland but also throughout the world.

“Her traditions bridge the old divisions between pagans and Christians, saints and goddesses. Saint Brigit was born when her mother had one foot inside the house and the other inside. Her cloak absorbs the dew of mercy, a common theme of many female divinities.  Her crios or girdle celebrates regeneration. Her cross, the Tree of Life, encompasses the four directions.

“Reflecting on her symbols, Brigit offers the disenchanted and the disaffected opportunities to come together to reinvigorate their neart, (lifeforce) to work together and celebrate the possibility of a new Spring. Brigit’s successors, her abbesses, were known as Those Who Turned Back the Streams of War. In this awful time of war, no better icon could inspire our efforts toward peace.”


  • Dr Catherine Lawless, Director of Trinity’s Centre for Gender and Women’s Studies, will speak of Brigit in art history in Ireland and abroad. 
  • Séamas Ó Cathain, Professor Emeritus UCD, will speak on Brigit’s Living Traditions, and launch a revised version of his classic book The Festival of Brigit.
  • Dr Edel Breathnach, former director of the Discovery Project,  will speak of the historical saint Brigit and her successors, the Abbesses of Kildare. 
  • Dr Mary Condren, Centre for Gender and Women's Studies, and director of Woman Spirit Ireland will explore Brigit's cloak, crios/girdle, and cross and their international counterparts as primary symbols of female divinities and how these symbol are used in rituals today.
  • A panel discussion entitled Recuperating Brigit Today will feature Dr Rosari Kingston, medical herbalist and Irish Studies scholar; Jenny Beale, founder and director of Brigit’s Garden, Roscahill, Galway; Dolores Whelan, Brigid of Faughart Festival; and Brenda Kindregan, Solas Bhríde, a Christian Spirituality Centre.
  • The day will be interspersed by poetry and music, including recent work of Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin and Grace Wells, and singing and music by Dr. Nóirín Ní Ríain. 

More information and registration details available here.

Cover image: photo of ‘Brigid of Faughart’ mural in Dundalk by visual artist FRIZ.

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