Crone in Corrogue: Wild Wisdom of the Elder Years

Glorying in the elder years, a time of spirituality, service and some serious sacred activism

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Making a Brídeog

Tis the season to prepare for the Festival of Brigid. Here in Ireland the customs of the goddess Brighid and St. Brigit, Abbess of Kildare, are often conflated. There was a Fire Temple at the Abbey until Henry VIII broke up the monasteries. Both the saint and goddess rule poetry, healing and craft. Both represent abundance, springtime, and returning light. In 'being both' Brigid (or Brighid or Brigit or Biddy or Bride) is a prime example of spiritual adapt and survive. Nothing is lost. It transforms a bit and moves with the times, but the essence is still there. What is important is to keep what is useful of the old and infuse it with up-to-date intentions as time rolls on, feeding the well spring of inspiration.

Back in 2017 I made my first brídeog or Biddy doll. I nicknamed her Activist Brigid. She eventually went to live in Co.Clare when she was a raffle prize as the last Wise Woman Weekend that year.


She came out wearing the traditional red hair and green  This brídeog was all fire and hungry for justice, especially for people of colour and refugees. Maman Brigitte of Haiti is sometimes said to have had red hair. She was surely an Irish addition to traditional West African spiritual traditions in the Caribbean where slave and impressed European labour mingled.

For a number of years I have wanted to create a more traditional version of the brídeog, updating the older rural customs of putting the biddy doll in the Brigid's bed. So first I found the components for Brigid's bed.


The basket was woven by a prisoner at the local open prison. Since St. Brigid is also (among her many patronages) the saint for the incarcerated, it seemed a fitting bed for her. I lined it will green felt to represent the greening of the land with the coming of springtime. Her pillow is a lavender bag emblazoned with a bee (honey is another one of Brigid's associated fertility products.) it is topped by a crochetted matt that was given to my mother as a bride by one of her mother-in-law's friends. Bride is another one of the many names derived from the Goddess,whose name (may) translate as bright or fiery arrow. In In English her name echoes the word Bridge. In modern times St. Brigit is the matron of peace in reconciliation in Northern Ireland. Bridge building is her aim.

So her bed is ready to welcome her. The older examples of rural biddy dolls were stuffed  flour sacking. For my biddy doll I recycled the nets that garlic and onions come in at the supermarket.  I stuffed it with timothy grass, the sort that you feed guinea pigs, hamsters or pet rabbits. When I was researching plants to create a Brigid corner of our garden, grasses came up as being part of her domain. I then recycled a bag that tulip bulbs came in to create a crinoline for her dress. I covered the head with one of those muslin squares you get to strain jelly or gravy. I deliberately wanted the head to be disproportionate as many of the older examples I've seen in photographs. Which is also an echo of much ancient Irish art, with the head being larger in relation to the body.


The final step was to dress her. As I was making her I realised that she very much wanted blue in her outfit. I used a cotton hankie to make her petticoat and bodice.  That was inspired by a video I saw explaining how an 18th century woman dressed in the days before buttons. (My one regret is that I have not given her pockets in her underskirt.) They pinned and tied themselves into their clothing. And so, too, is my Biddy.

I knit her a wee shall and was very fotunate to find a button in a shop with a St. Brigit's cross on it. Also in that shop I found a patchwork fat quarter. It echoes the blue theme, but includes little white flowers with a golden centre. Feverfew and chamomile are flowers associated with the saint and the goddess. So this felt very serendipitous. 

Because I feel 2019 is a year leaning towards the water aspect of Brigid I really felt that red hair wouldn't be appropriate. Fortunately, there was some yellow wool rowling that exactly replicates the yellow of Biddy's crinoline petticoat. Beauty parlour hair moment and she was done!

This is a Maiden Brigid. My friendly masseuse told me she feels that the word for 2019 is Faith. With all thisyear's Capricorn energy it feels like we may be going 'back to basics' or looking to more traditional ways of doing things. But remember Brigid's lesson. The old ways can be adapted. And they can be re-fashioned. Then they will survive for another generation. Pass it on!


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Bee Smith has enjoyed a long relationship with SageWoman as a contributor, columnist and blogger. She lives in the Republic of Ireland, teaches creative writing and is a member of the Irish Art Council's Writers in Prisons panel. She is the author of "Brigid's Way: Celtic Reflections on the Divine Feminine."    


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