Saturday, 8 February 2014

Saint Brigid: 'spiritual and patriotic archetype of the feminine'.

To mark the Octave Day of the Feast of Saint Brigid, I conclude the series of posts with a final offering from James F. Cassidy's 1922 text, The Women of the Gael. In his work, Cassidy sees women as having made a distinct contribution to the preservation of the Irish Catholic identity. Saint Brigid embodies this 'feminine factor' of which she is the 'spiritual and patriotic archetype'. The author also reflects a contemporary belief in a 'Celtic personality', based around a sense of otherworldliness and lack of interest in materialism. This sort of thinking remains alive and well in modern 'Celtic spirituality', despite the reality that late twentieth-century 'Celtic Tiger' Ireland embraced consumerism and secularism with gusto. So much for 'that essentially Celtic attribute of immaterialism of outlook' which was supposedly an integral part of our genetic make-up!

And even if all these facts of ancient times were consigned to oblivion the vital influence of her memory in the world of the modern Gael would be quite sufficient to prove that the personality from which it emanated centuries ago must have been a commanding one. Irish manhood remembers her as the acme of glory of its womanhood and it feels stronger and more sanguine every day in the face of all difficulties bolstered up by the sustaining reflection that the companions of its joy and sorrow and ultimate triumph is the feminine factor of which Brigid is the spiritual and patriotic archetype. Multitudes of societies pledged to the support of the twin ideals of faith and nationality act under the patronage of her protection. Her memory survives in the names of a host of parishes and townlands throughout the country. Churches, ancient and modern, within and beyond the seas of Ireland preserve her name. The very topography of Ireland conspires to keep the memory of Brigid ever fresh in the soul of the Gael. Her holy fountains strew the land where her devotees come in crowds to seek her healing power for wound of soul and body. In a word all that lives of her in the Gaelic memory helps to wield with powerful force the hammer that drives home conviction of woman's domineering part in the spiritual regeneration of the Irish race. It tells too of the need of unswerving adherence to the spiritual tenets of Brigid for the preservation of sterling nationality for it shows the potency of a woman to help that essentially Celtic attribute of immaterialism of outlook which has ultimately wrested many and many a time the nation from its death grasp, and preserved intact its corporate sense of racial distinctness and individuality. It is a reminder that the nation which for six and a half centuries, according to Cambrensis, kept a mysterious fire continually burning at Kildare in honour of Brigid, has still the fire of admiration in its heart for one of its greatest benefactors.

James F. Cassidy, The Women of the Gael(Boston, 1922), 64-65.

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