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Author Topic: Brighid's Mantle  (Read 2217 times)
Aster Breo
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« Topic Start: February 22, 2010, 03:53:14 pm »

In the last several days, three different people have mentioned Brighid's Mantle to me in e-conversations.  This made me realize that I haven't really thought much about the mantle, symbolically speaking.

The only pieces of lore I can think of off-hand that involve the mantle are the story about St Brigit getting land from the king for her "convent" (can't think of the right word at the moment) and the story about St Brigit hanging her mantle on a ray of sun.  And, of course, there are the brats we put out at Imbolc, which symbolize Her mantle.

To the extent that I've thought about it at all, I think I've considered the mantle a symbol for Brighid's nurturance and protection.  But that doesn't really fit that well with the stories about the saint.  Or maybe it does...

I'm curious about what others think about this.  Is the mantle an important symbol to you?  Why or why not?  Does it relate to the goddess or only to the saint?
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« Reply #1: February 22, 2010, 05:09:20 pm »

The only pieces of lore I can think of off-hand that involve the mantle are the story about St Brigit getting land from the king for her "convent" (can't think of the right word at the moment) and the story about St Brigit hanging her mantle on a ray of sun. 

As I recall, the story about her spreading her cloak over the land has a couple of incarnations: one indeed involves the King of Leinster, who was miserly and wouldn't give to any of St. Brigit's charities. Jokingly, she asked him if he would at least give her a piece of land as large as her cloak could cover to build a convent, and wanting to get rid of her, he agreed.

Brigit's ladies drew her cloak out to cover nearly a mile over the king's province and the king relented, and he gave her several acres to build her convent.

Another version of this story (from Lady Gregory's Book of Saints and Wonders--yeah yeah, I know, but it's the only one immediately available to me right now) involves Brighid feeding her cow by the side of the road. The man who owned the land the cow fed on was very rich, and asked Brigit how much land it would take to feed the cow. Brigit replied, "As much as my cloak would cover," and the man granted it. She lay her cloak on the ground and it spread for miles, until an old woman passed by and said, "If it keeps on spreading, all of Ireland will be free." The cloak stopped spreading. Brigit held that land for the rest of her life.

Again, this could just be a pro-Irish Renaissance rewriting of the story (Lady Gregory goes on to say how the English had now built barracks on the land that Brigit once held), but there it is.

The one about the sunbeam appears in incarnations that are pretty similar to one another.

Quote
To the extent that I've thought about it at all, I think I've considered the mantle a symbol for Brighid's nurturance and protection.  But that doesn't really fit that well with the stories about the saint.  Or maybe it does...

I'm curious about what others think about this.  Is the mantle an important symbol to you?  Why or why not?  Does it relate to the goddess or only to the saint?

I've always considered the mantle, primarily in the form of the brat we set out at Imbolc, to be a symbol for protection from physical harm and from fear. The nurturing qualities are a part of that overall sense of protection: when I snuggle up in a warm blanket for comfort, it tends to be because I need a sense that nothing can harm me if I'm underneath the blanket. And naturally, I tend to snuggle up and bury myself under covers when I'm afraid, and am trying to shut out the fear from my brain to fall asleep. My little kid days of hiding from the monsters in the closet under my blankets (if I can't see them, they can't see me!) have largely built up these associations in my mind.

As I've grown older, the cloak or mantle has come to be associated in my mind with protection from physical harm and fear while traveling. Various associations from other stories, like in Lord of the Rings, where the Elvish cloaks render the wearer almost invisible, strengthened the sense of shielding, hiding and protecting, and also helped cement the image of the mantle as a comfort from fear.

I wear a small brat set out at Imbolc whenever I fly or take a long car drive, for ease of the journey as well as physical shielding, and one of the last lines in my night prayer is "I rest today under the mantle of Brighid... may she always keep me close and I never afraid."


YMMV, of course, because the issue of fear is pretty solidly worked into a lot of my personal spiritual crises and issues, and I tend to grab anything and everything symbolic to protect me when I get skurred.  Tongue


I tend to associate most of the saints' stories, their importance and symbolism, with the goddess. Mainly because I don't really conceive of the saint as more than a fictional character. Which isn't to say "she's not real", or "she's not important"; she is simply a part of the story that people have been telling about Brighid for a long time, and I tend to look past her. *shrug*
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« Reply #2: March 07, 2010, 02:07:15 pm »

In Kindling the Celtic Spirit they mention the brat left out as helping in childbirth and healing, but they give no direct source. Just thought I'd throw that out there.
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