There are several Pagan Celtic-wise women who have become Christian saints. One of the most famous is Saint Brigid. She was born in AD 450 in Faughart, near Dundalk in County Louth, Ireland. Her father, Dubhthach, was a pagan chieftain of Leinster, and her mother, Broicsech, was a Christian. She was a spirited youth activist, feminist, and environmentalist who fearlessly championed the rights of the poor and animals. Within 100 years of her death, there was a thriving egalitarian monastery of men and women, living and practicing equally 12.
It is believed that Brigid was originally a pan-European Celtic goddess before Christianity came to Ireland in the fifth century. The pre-Celtic pagan goddess and the Christian Saint appear to have morphed into each other over the centuries. In the legends of Brigid we cannot be sure where the Goddess ends and the Saint begins 13.
1: https://www.rte.ie/learn/2023/0127/1352186-st-brigid-stories-and-legends-from-herstory/ 2: https://lithub.com/actual-social-justice-warriors-the-women-of-celtic-mythology/ 3: https://exemplore.com/paganism/Brigid-Celtic-Goddess-and-Catholic-Saint
Celtic mythology did not lose its female characters when Christianity arrived in Britain and Ireland. For example, Saint Brigid was a combination of an old Celtic goddess and a real Christian woman who lived shortly after Saint Patrick. She founded and guarded a monastery where men and women were equal. She cared for women who suffered from male oppression. She rescued a young woman who was about to be sexually enslaved by a powerful lord. She cured a girl who had never spoken and invited her to join the monastery. In one controversial story—later deleted by many church authorities—she made the unborn child of a nun disappear, giving her back her virginity and her status in the community.
The women in Celtic stories are courageous, smart, and able to defend themselves in a male-dominated world. These ancient and intriguing tales, once only known by scholars, are currently becoming more popular among modern readers from different countries. Actual Social Justice Warriors: The Women of Celtic Mythology ‹ Literary Hub (lithub.com)
Here is a summary of the web page:
- Brigid: Goddess and Saint – The web page discusses the history and mythology of Brigid, a Celtic goddess who became a Christian saint in Ireland1.
- Brigid’s Attributes and Roles – The web page describes Brigid’s various aspects as a goddess of fire, water, healing, poetry, metal smithing, and transformation, and how she was depicted as a triple goddess or three sisters2.
- Brigid’s Survival and Revival: The web page explains how Brigid’s worship continued despite the Christianization of Ireland and how nuns and priestesses maintained her sacred fire and wells. It also mentions the modern resurgence of interest in Brigid among Pagans and Christians alike.
- Brigid’s Feast and Festival – The web page mentions the celebration of Brigid’s Day on February 2nd, also known as Imbolc, Candlemas, or Groundhog Day, and how it marks the emergence of Brigid and Spring from the underworld3.
Pilgrims who seek to reconnect with their Irish heritage, or Pagan groups who wish to perform Goddess rituals in Ireland, may encounter resistance from Irish people who deny Brigid’s Celtic origins. However, some may be more open-minded, with a remark such as “Ah, was she not a Goddess before she became a Saint?” For the majority, the Saint’s dual identity as Pagan and Saint is not an issue. It is a source of attraction. It enables Pagans to honour Brigid, while still being part of the Christian community. The Irish refer to such people as “light green pagans,” because they aspire to enrich their Catholicism with the feminine energies of the Goddess. The Roman Church was tolerant of diverse beliefs when it facilitated them in conquering territories with inhabitants. It has also been tolerant of Mary worship, because how can they oppose those who wish to venerate the Mother of Jesus?
In Ireland, paganism and Catholicism are inextricably linked and essential to one another’s survival. Brigid’s sanctuary in Kildare was a temple in ancient times and a convent in Christian times. Today it is a place where people gather to bridge the gaps that have persisted between Ireland’s Catholics and Protestants, between Christians and Pagans, and between men and women. The word Brigid means “bright one” or “high one,” and all the old shrines to the Goddess were named with “bridge” in them. Brigid: Celtic Goddess and Catholic Saint – Exemplore