Earlier this week I finished my annual Daughters of the Flame 20-day devotional journey with goddess Brigid. My heart is feeling so full from weaving women into sacred connection with this ancient goddess, while activating them into their own embodied wisdom.
On this journey (and in my own practice) I take a cross-cultural, pan-Celtic view of Brigid as a goddess of both Ireland and Britain. In celebration of the completion of this journey, I want to share a few words about Brigantia, who is the “English” counterpart of the Irish Brigid.
Brigantia was a goddess in Celtic (Gallo-Roman and Romano-British) religion of Late Antiquity, and she’s thought to have been the patron goddess of the Brigantes, who were a tribe centered around what is now known as Yorkshire and northern England.
Interestingly, it has been suggested by a notable Irish scholar, Dáithí O hOgain, that it was the immigration of some of the Brigantes tribe to south-eastern Ireland in the 1st century that brought the goddess there.
We know very little about Brigantia because of the Roman invasion and subsequent invasions in the millennia that followed, and the desecration of the native traditions that took place in England.
What we do know largely comes from what’s called “interpretatio Romano” which was a practice of taking indigenous deities in the places the Romans conquered, and then syncretizing those gods and goddesses to their own.
When the Romans did this to Brigantia, they felt that Minerva, Fortuna and Victoria were the most suitable goddesses from their own tradition to synthesize with her.
Ancient statue of Brigantia
Currently, there are eight known inscriptions to Brigantia in Britain. Some of these dedicatory inscriptions refer to these syncretizations, while others give further clues as to the nature of Brigantia’s identity; for example, at Corbridge on Hadrian’s Wall, Brigantia has the divine epithet Caelestis (“Heavenly, Celestial”) and is paired with Jupiter Dolichenus, a Roman god popular with members of the Roman army. Statues of her are thought to depict her wearing a crown of fire or light, and holding a spear and a globe of victory like the Roman goddesses Victoria and Minerva.
There was a temple in Northern England dedicated to Brigantia/Minerva, where it’s thought that a perpetual flame burned in honor of her (a fire that never went out).
Although people tend to be more familiar with the story of Brigid’s perpetual flame at Kildare in Ireland, we actually know with more certainty that there was a perpetual flame kept for Brigantia, and with less certainty that there was a perpetual flame kept at Kildare.
As someone who spent a lot of time in England growing up, I always found it so heartbreaking that many of England’s ancient goddesses have been lost and their stories forgotten.
The severance of native, earth-based traditions in England was brutal. In truth, I have cried many tears over this over the years.
My path with goddess wisdom and paganism began when I was sixteen while living in East Anglia, England. I spent a great deal of my childhood on the ancestral lands of the Iceni tribe of Celtic Britain. These tribal lands were home to the great warrior woman known as Boudicca, who put up a truly epic resistance against the Romans.
I have often wondered; what would have happened if Boudicca had succeeded?
Would England be different?
Would the world be different?
Would we still remember the ancient goddesses of England; her stories, traditions, and ancestral wisdom?
I’m very much of the belief that the ancient goddesses are never truly gone, and their wisdom never truly lost.
The goddesses of old belong to earth-honoring peoples, and so their wisdom is part of the tapestry of the Land itself.
It sings in the water, trees and stones.
It speaks through the networks of mycelium under the forest floor.
It lives in the depths of the sacred wells.
This wisdom is simply waiting for us to listen. To remember.
When the fire speaks, I strive to listen with the softest part of my ear, so that I may hear Brigantia’s voice. So that her ancient wisdom may be remembered through the dancing of those primordial flames.
If you hear the call to connect with Brigantia, I lovingly invite you to welcome her into your heart and listen for her voice in the fire. It’s my guess that if you hear her calling, she has wisdom to share with you.
P.S. If you’d like to hear about more about my relationship with Brigid, here’s my recent blog post about my pilgrimage to Ireland and healing with goddess Brigid