Happy ….Whatever

At this time of year, you can offer someone best wishes or a peaceful Lá Fhéile Bríde (St Brigid’s day) or Imbolg, depending on which way your belief system drifts. The former ( Lá Fhéile Bríde) is now an official holiday in Ireland (on Monday 6 Feb). I’m pretty agnostic about both, to be honest (although I’m totally supportive of another national holiday! woop, woop!).

The problem is, that on the ‘relevance meter’, it’s pretty much an empty tank for both. It’s extremely doubtful Saint Brigid ever existed, for example. Most academic/historical thinking from the past fifty or sixty years is consistently of the view that ‘she’ (cough!) was a popular land goddess appropriated by the Christian Church way back in the day. This was actually quite a prevalent practice during the church’s early expansion, and it was pretty much essential in order to get the native peoples on board.

Over the centuries since them, ex-Land Goddess Brigit was assigned all the usual trappings of a saint (miracles, origin story, relics etc.) and became a political plaything between competing church elements (there was a lot of competition from Armagh, for example, where the St Patrick groupies were based). That’s pretty how we ended up with the sanitized representative we have today.

This is all pretty much common knowledge unless you’re a politician, a journalist, or a Facebook mythology authority (palm wipe!). The new Lá Fhéile Bríde was pushed by politicians predominantly to establish a kind of a woman’s day (something generic enough to allow safe speech and flag unfurling). I think that’s certainly a justifiable objective but it just feels somewhat shallow and self-serving to choose a fantasy figure when there were so many real and worthwhile female historical figures they could have used instead. A missed opportunity for something that has genuine meaning, in other words.

Imbolg makes an interesting comparison as you can see the same process of appropriation for this particular celebration – not by the Christian churches on this occasion, but by the ‘new age’ religions (Wicca, Pagan, etc. etc.). You read a lot of supporters from the newer religions criticizing the mainstream Christian church for such scurrilous behaviour in the past but, to be honest, they seem to be doing exactly the same thing.

Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose!