Brigit's Forge Website
Sarasvati, Brigit and the Sacred Word 

Charms & Prayers
Olive Branch

Musings from Gelli Fach
Storing Magic



celtic frame



Sarasvati: Divine River of Healing and Fertility

Sarasvati the Healer

Sarasvati and Ritual Drink

The Three Sarasvatis

Sarasvati and the Sacred Word

Sarasvati and Vac

The Creative Power of Sound

Sarasvati, Goddess of Culture

Transcendence and Purity

Brigit and Sarasvati

The Mead of Poetry

The Cup of Sovereignty

Sacred Sound

The Creative Word


Water, Fire and Illumination

The Breath of the Universe

Speech and Truth


As has been pointed out, it is not an easy task trying to reconstruct ancient Celtic religion since we do not have any substantial texts or scriptures left by the pre-Christian Celts themselves. Hindu religion does not have this problem since the earliest Hindu sources, the Vedic scriptures, orally passed down in an ancient version of Sanskrit, originate in the second millennium BCE. The people who practised the Vedic religion were Indo-Aryans who shared a common cultural ancestry with other Indo-Europeans, including the Celts. It is sometimes helpful therefore to look at Hindu religion as a way of gaining some insight into the general patterns that lie behind the details we do have about the religion of the ancient Celts.

Bearing this in mind, let us look at the Hindu Sarasvati, goddess of learning and the creative arts, who bears some striking resemblances to Brigit, as well as some important differences. I shall start by exploring the image of Sarasvati as she appears in the Vedas and is developed in later Hinduism, and then go on to look at how this image compares with that of Brigit.

Sarasvati: Divine River of Healing and Fertility

Sarasvati has her beginnings in the Rig Veda, the oldest of the four Vedas, which was composed between 1300 and 1000 BC in Northwest India. In this collection of hymns she is associated with a particular river, the Sarasvati, which has since disappeared but which appears here as the chief of the divine rivers. The river is often addressed as a great and mighty goddess for it is no ordinary river; it originates in heaven and flows down to earth, blessing it and giving it fertility. In one hymn it is said to permeate the three realms of earth, atmosphere and the heavens. The associations then, are with bounty and fertility, and requests are made to Sarasvati for wealth, nourishment, immortality and children. She is seen as a great mother:

Your inexhaustible breast, Sarasvati, that flows with the food of life, that you use to nourish all that one could wish for, freely giving treasure and wealth and beautiful gifts - bring that here for me to suck. (1)

The Vedic religion was essentially the religion of a nomadic people in which the centre of worship was not a fixed temple but the fire altar, which could be constructed wherever people moved. The veneration of the river Sarasvati is significant because it showed a nomadic people who had begun to settle and to extend the focus of their sacred rituals to features of the land. A river was of the utmost importance for providing water for drinking, growing crops and cleansing and it is not surprising that Sarasvati was seen as a nourishing and beneficent goddess.

She is also a goddess who assists at birth, invoked here in an incantation for a safe pregnancy and birth:

Let Visnu prepare the womb; let Tvastr shape the forms. Let Prajapati shed the seed; let Dhatr place the embryo in you.

Place the embryo, Sinvali, place the embryo, Sarasvati. Let the twin Asvins, the lotus-garlanded gods, place the embryo in you.

With golden kindling woods the Asvins churn out fire. We invoke that embryo for you to bring forth in the tenth month.(2)

She is associated with virility, and a charm in the Atharva-Veda (the latest Vedic text from around 900 BCE) asks:

Now, O Agni, now, O Savitar, now O goddess Sarasvati, now O Brahmanaspati, do thou stiffen the pasas as a bow!

Sarasvati the Healer

As well as being a goddess of childbirth, she is also one of the divine physicians along with the waters, Rudra, and the Asvins. The waters hold a powerful and central place in Vedic thought. In the cosmology the earth is a disc floating on the ocean, and space also has the qualities of an ocean made up of two, three or four seas. Water surrounds the sun and the seven Vedic rivers flow from the sky. (3) The waters are usually seen as the original substance in the Brahmanas, and one scholar, Coomaraswamy, has described them as the home of the ambrosia, the source of universal life and the mother of mothers.(4)

In Hymn VIII, 7 in the Atharva-veda the waters and the medicinal plants are seen as the main healers:

The waters and the heavenly plants are the foremost; they have driven out from every limb thy disease, consequent upon sin.(5)

The Rig Veda contains a beautiful hymn (10.9) to The Waters of Life:

Waters, you are the ones who bring us the life force. Help us to find nourishment so that we may look upon great joy.

Let us share in the most delicious sap you have, as if you were loving mothers.

Let us go straight to the house of the one for whom you waters give us life and give us birth.

For our well being let the goddesses be an aid to us, the waters be for us to drink. Let them cause well-being and health to flow over us.

Mistresses of all the things that are chosen, rulers over all peoples, the waters are the ones I beg for a cure.

Soma has told me that within the waters are all cures and Agni who is salutary to all.

Waters, yield your cure as an armour for my body, so that I may see the sun for a long time.

Waters, carry far away all of this that has gone bad in me, either what I have done in malicious deceit or whatever lie I have sworn to.

I have sought the waters today; we have joined with their sap. O Agni full of moisture, come and flood me with splendour.

(trans. Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty) (6)

The waters then, like Sarasvati herself, have healing powers. They are seen as bringing the life force, providing nourishment and being able cure and to carry away disease - thus indicating a cleansing function. This ability to cleanse is not only physical but also spiritual as indicated by the reference to carrying away what has gone bad in the speaker through malicious deceit or lies, and in the Atharva-Veda, to their driving away of disease "consequent on sin".

Hymn 7.49 identifies the waters as goddesses, and the refrain asks "Let the waters, who are goddesses, help me here and now."

In the Rig Veda Sarasvati, along with the twin gods the Asvins, is said to heal the god Indra and in the Atharva-veda she is invoked in a charm to cure worms. In the Satapatha-brahmana she is described as a healing medicine and called upon to cure sickness.

Sarasvati and Ritual Drink

Although Sarasvati is not identified so precisely as a river in the later texts, she continues to be associated with water, not only with clouds and rain which she is able to manifest, but also with water in general and the sacred drink Soma which pervades all creation. Soma is the sacrificial plant divinised, according to Renou. "It is the essence of the waters and ranks as a god of the waters... it is the amrita itself, the drink of immortality, the remedy par excellence which stimulates the flow of words, produces a sort of ecstasy and confers all the delights." (7)

In the Vedas, the Sautramani rite is dedicated to Sarasvati as well as to the good protector, Indra and the Ashvins. The nature of the rite is an oblation of sura, a drink which was made from various plant extracts and which was a more common drink than soma, although partially forbidden. The rite was made for the benefit of a man who has been ‘purged by excess’ in drinking too much soma. (8)

The Three Sarasvatis

Sarasvati sometimes appears in a group of three goddesses. In the Atharva Veda a charm for ants as an antidote against poison declares:

The gods have given, the sun has given, the earth has given, the three Sarasvatis, of one mind, have given this poison-destroying (remedy)!  (9)

And in the Rig Veda she is associated with Ila and Mahi as one of the three goddesses who are present at the sacrifice. They "give birth to bliss and stumble not" (into pitfalls and error):

"May Bharati (10) come speeding to our sacrifice and Ila hither awakening our consciousness (or knowledge or perceptions) in human wise, and Saraswati, - three goddesses sit on this blissful seat, doing well the Work."  (11)

Sarasvati and the Sacred Word

Although Sarasvati is primarily a goddess of the greatest of all rivers in the Rig Veda with all the associations of water - nourishment, fertility, cleansing, wealth and prosperity - she is also described as the one who inspires songs, right thinking and an awareness of the truth. Sri Aurobindo translates the relevant verses of the hymn in this way:

"May purifying Saraswati with all the plenitude of her forms of plenty, rich in substance by the thought, desire our sacrifice.

She, the impeller to happy truths, the awakener in consciousness to right mentalisings, Saraswati, upholds the sacrifice.

Saraswati by the perception awakens in consciousness the great flood (the vast movement of the ritam) and illumines entirely all the thoughts." (12)

In this is the seed of her later role as goddess of learning, inspiration and eloquence. How did she progress from being a divine river to become a culture goddess? Some commentators have suggested that she made the transition because of the sacred Vedic rituals which were held on the banks of the great Sarasvati river - sacred speech being a vital component of these rituals. In fact it seems that the waters were equated with sacred speech as well as with healing. The Rig Veda 10, 89, 4 says "To Indra I send the hymns of praise, the waters which flow restlessly from the bottom of the ocean." A hymn spoken by Speech (which we will look at later) says that her ‘womb is the waters, within the ocean’. So, what effectively nurtures and nourishes speech, as well as bringing it to birth, are the waters.

In Hindu Goddesses: Visions of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Tradition David Kinsley mentions that in all three Indian religions rivers represent the idea of crossing from a place of ignorance to one of enlightenment. The river is a place of transition where the seeker, on his spiritual quest, is purified by the waters, dies to his old self and is reborn. Although this imagery is not used in connection with Sarasvati, it may have been implicit and led to her later association with wisdom, particularly in its spiritual aspect. (13)

Sri Aurobindo translates Sarasvati as "she of the stream, the flowing movement" (others translate it simply as ‘flowing’), a name which therefore describes not only a river but also inspiration. The Sanskrit word ribh or rebh has a range of meanings including to murmur like a stream, to sound in general, to chatter, babble, to talk or speak aloud, to shout with joy, to rejoice, to praise, glorify, or worship - demonstrating precisely the association of ideas which are also connected to Sarasvati. In the English language too, speech, eloquence and inspiration are often described metaphorically in terms of water. We can be ‘fluent’ in a foreign language or give a ‘flowing’ speech, sometimes the inspiration ‘flows’, sometimes not... Some of us may ‘gush’ like a stream or jet of water, or ‘babble’ like a brook and many of us ‘thirst’ for knowledge.

Sarasvati and Vac

By the time of the Brahmanas (composed around 900 BCE) Sarasvati became identified with Vac, the goddess of speech. In the Rig Veda, Vac or Speech is of major importance. A hymn spoken by her is particularly beautiful:

I move with the Rudras, with the Vasus, with the Adityas and all the gods. I carry both Mitra and Varuna, both Indra and Agni, and both of the Asvins.

I carry the swelling Soma, and Tvastr and Pusan and Bhaga. I bestow wealth on the pious sacrificer who presses the Soma and offers the oblation.

I am the queen, the confluence of riches, the skilful one who is first among those worthy of the sacrifice. The gods divided me up into various parts, for I dwell in many places and enter into many forms.

The one who eats food, who truly sees, who breathes, who hears what is said, does so through me. Though they do not realise it, they dwell in me. Listen, you whom they have heard: what I tell you should be heeded.

I am the one who says, by myself, what gives joy to gods and men. Whom I love I make awesome; I make him a sage, a wise man, a Brahmin.

I stretch the bow for Rudra so that his arrow will strike down the hater of prayer. I incite the contest among the people. I have pervaded sky and earth.

I gave birth to the father on the head of this world. My womb is the waters, within the ocean. From there I spread out over all creatures and touch the very sky with the crown of my head.

I am the one who blows like the wind, embracing all creatures. Beyond the sky, beyond this earth, so much have I become in my greatness.

(trans. Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty) (14)

It also gives us an active vision of the importance of Speech and of sacred sound. She is all-pervasive; she moves with the gods and carries the divine drink of vision and immortality. Through her the rituals that open the world of the gods are maintained. It is she who enables human beings to perceive, to hear, to breathe – even to eat, in other words she makes us truly alive. She is able to honour and raise up those whom she favours, she gives human beings wisdom and the poetic and visionary insight of the great sages, the rishis. On a more mundane level, in Hymn 10.71 she is also credited with being the means by which friends are able to recognise their friendship, thus like-minded people are able to find each other and share their understanding of the world.

However, the same hymn also states that speech does not reveal herself to everyone: One who looked did not see speech, and another who listens does not hear it. It reveals itself to someone as a loving wife, beautifully dressed, reveals her body to her husband. (15)

The Creative Power of Sound

Like virtually all Vedic deities, Vac is nourishing and benign. She is described as a heavenly cow that sustains both gods and men. She is also said to be a mother for by naming things she brings them into being.

In the Brahmanas she takes on a greater role in creation. Prajapati, the main deity, is said in one place to have produced creation by combining his mind and his speech and

 thus impregnating himself. Another version suggests that Prajapati’s mind produces Vac, Speech, who then has a desire to create and multiply and extend herself. The combination of mind, or thought, and

 speech is a potent and creative mix. Many later Hindu texts convey the idea that the world is created through sound, that creation is set in motion by ultimate reality in the form of sound. The syllable Om is said to contain the whole process of creation.

The power of words may be also be seen in the belief that the mantra of a deity is equal to the deity herself, as is the deity’s name.

As we have seen, Sarasvati is identified with Vac in the Brahmanas, and therefore has a role in creation. In later Hinduism, Sarasvati is associated with the god Brahma and here too she plays a part with him in creation. Brahma decides to create the world and goes into meditation which enables his body to divide into two parts, male and female. The female half is Sarasvati and Brahma desires and mates with her, creating Manu who goes on to make the world.

She is also associated with Krishna who divides himself into male and female, purusa and prakriti, spirit and matter, in order to bring about creation. The female half has five saktis or dynamic powers, and Sarasvati is the sakti whose specific task is to pervade reality with insight, knowledge and learning.

Some of her epithets show her as a powerful, creative goddess - Jaganmata, ‘mother of the world’, and Visvarupa, ‘containing all forms within her’.

Elsewhere she is said to spring from the tip of Krishna’s sakti’s tongue, appearing as a lovely girl wearing yellow, adorned with jewels and carrying a book and a vina or lute. There are other stories in which she is said to dwell on the tongues or in the mouths of Brahma or to be in the mouth or on the tongue of Vishnu, whose wife she sometimes is. Vishnu also has a wife called Lakshmi who represents wealth and fertility and more material values. Sarasvati, in contrast to this is connected with spiritual and religious values. A Bengali proverb states:

Lakshmi's gilded basket spills over with wealth

But it is Saraswati's humble mat on which sits wisdom.

There are many epithets applied to Sarasvati which underline her connection with speech, such as: Vagadevi, ‘goddess of speech’, Jihvagravasini, ‘dwelling in the front of the tongue’ and Kavijihvagravasini, ‘she who dwells on the tongues of poets’. But other epithets also identify her with the powers of thought which give rise to speech such as: Smrtisakti, ‘the power of memory’, Jnanasakti, ‘the power of knowledge’, Buddhisaktisvarupini, ‘whose form is the power of intellect’, Kalpanasakti, ‘who is the power of forming ideas’, and Pratibha, ‘she who is intelligence’. (16)

Sarasvati, Goddess of Culture 

Human thought, memory and creative intelligence have given rise to culture and so, not surprisingly, Sarasvati has become the goddess of culture. She is the inspiration behind the arts, often invoked by poets, but also associated with music, dancing and science. She is usually depicted with a vina or lute, and a sacred book.

Her puja or day on which she is venerated, Vasant Panchami, is celebrated in early spring, (January/February), on the fifth day of the waxing moon of Magh (which was January 31st in the year 2001). Books, pens, musical instruments and gurus are worshipped on this day and pictures and statues of her are put up in educational establishments. (17) She is venerated in schools and the following song is sung to her:




O Divine Virtuous Goddess Sarasvati. We bow to your feet. O Goddess of Speech, the all-pervading with cosmic vibrations, we surrender at your Divine feet.

O Goddess, shelter to the seeker, blessed of the Three Worlds, worshiped by divine seers. Your melody is with the nine aesthetic senses and divine poetry, adorned by the varied tastes of learning.

O the one seated on the throne of swan, O the one endowed by white complexion pure as snow and moon, the one seated on the white lotus, remove from us lethargy and expand our horizon of vision.

O Goddess, you are the embodiment of artistic skills and string of knowledge. O the one holding the divine book of learning and the vina, we submit ourselves in entirety at your lotus feet. O Goddess, remove from our minds the poison of hatred.


Transcendence and Purity

As seen in this hymn, whiteness and the swan and lotus are typically associated with her. The theme here is of purity and transcendence. She is said to shine like the moon, her purity is fiery and she is entirely sattvic or spiritual, unlike other Hindu goddesses who are identified with fertility, sexuality and blood. Sarasvati gives birth to works of art rather than to children and in the stories about her, her sexual aspect is not highlighted. She is said to have tried to escape from Brahma when he wanted to have sexual intercourse with her. She is not, therefore, a domestic goddess.

As we speculated earlier when looking at the significance of river symbolism in Hindu religion, she is associated with transcendence, with the idea of moving away from the shore of ignorance to that of enlightenment, of being reborn. In a sense she has evolved from having a purifying and cleansing function like water, to being herself the embodiment of purity, that which is purified. The lotus is a symbol of transcendence; although it is born of the muddy waters it rises above them, using their fertility to blossom into a flower of perfect beauty. The swan is also a symbol of transcendence and perfection in Hindu thought and, as Kinsley notes, Sarasvati born aloft by her swan suggests the realm of artistic achievement that has enabled human beings to transcend the restrictions of the physical world and to create beauty and perfection.

Sri Aurobindo sees the Vedic Sarasvati as the inspiration that comes from the Truth-Consciousness, "Inspiration from the Truth purifies by getting rid of all falsehood, for all sin according to the Indian idea is merely falsehood... Saraswati, the inspiration, is full of her luminous plenitudes, rich in substance of thought. She upholds the Sacrifice, the offering of the mortal being’s activities to the divine by awakening his consciousness so that it assumes right states of emotion and right movements of thought in accordance with the Truth from which she pours her illuminations and by impelling in it the rise of those truths which, according the Vedic Rishis, liberate the life and being from falsehood, weakness and limitation and open to it the doors of the supreme felicity.... Saraswati brings into active consciousness in the human being the great flood or great movement, the Truth-Consciousness itself, and illumines all our thoughts. We must remember that this Truth-Consciousness of the Vedic Rishis is a supramental plane, a level of the hill of being...which is beyond our ordinary reach and to which we have to climb with difficulty. It is not part of our waking being, it is hidden from us in the sleep of the superconscient. We can understand then what Madhuchchhandas means when he says that Saraswati by the constant action of the inspiration awakens the Truth to consciousness in our thoughts."

Sri Aurobindo also suggests that her sister goddesses, Ila and Bharati (with whom she is identified in Puranic worship) or Mahi must be different forms of knowledge. Mahi, based on the texts, he describes as "the luminous vastness of the Truth" and Ila is full of energy and brings knowledge. Her name means she who seeks and attains and it contains the same association of ideas as the words Rita (Truth-Consciousness) and Rishi (a seer, a poet). Ila may therefore well be the vision of the seer which attains the truth. (18)

Brigit and Sarasvati

There are many comparisons to be made between the Celtic goddess Brigit and Sarasvati. Both are midwives and have connections with healing as well as poetry, both are sometimes described as triple or part of a triplet, both have their special day at the beginning of spring. (Depending on the movement of the moon, this day will even coincide occasionally).

But there is no evidence that Brigit was first worshipped as a sacred river in the same way as Sarasvati and her name is not connected with images of water, flowing or inspiration. It comes from the old Celtic *briganti which meant ‘height’, therefore ‘exalted’, ‘raised up’ and the name therefore becomes something like ‘She Who is Exalted’. This makes it more likely to be related to the idea of fire which was seen as ‘that which rises’ and of hills, than of water.

However, the British goddess Brigantia of northern Britain was linked with river and water cults and her name is also remembered in the Braint on Ynys Môn (Anglesey) and the Brent in Middlesex. Some rivers in Ireland may be related to the name Brigit - there are two rivers called Bride, as well as a Breedoge and a Breda. However, she does not appear to have given her name to any major rivers in Continental Europe.

Brigit was not the only goddess connected with a river in the Celtic world; divine females were often associated with water sources and rivers, many of which were named for them. We have Sequana, the personification of the source of the Seine in France, Sabrina of the Severn in England and Boand (of whom we shall hear more later) of the Boyne in Ireland.

Springs and wells had healing properties in the ancient Celtic world and Brigit herself is still connected with numerous healing wells in Britain and Ireland today. Rivers could also have a healing function as this passage from the Táin Bó Cuailnge attests:

Cúchulainn lay there sick. Senoll Uathach, the Hideous, and the two sons of Ficce were the first to reach him. They bore him back with them to Conaille, where they nursed his wounds and bathed them in the waters of the rivers Sas, for ease, the river Búan for steadfastness, Bíthslán for lasting health, the clear Finnglas, the bright Gleóir, the dashing Bedc; in Tadc, Talamed, Rinn and Bir, in the sour Brenide and narrow Cumang; in Celenn and Gaenemain, Dichu, Muach and Miliuc, Den, Deilt and Dubglas. (19)

In the above extract it can be seen that the different rivers were named and had different characters as though they were seen as beings in their own right.

The idea of the river as a crossing-place was also recognised by the ancient Celts who invested all liminal or threshold places with a numinous quality. Stretches of water were seen as being gateways between the earthly and supernatural worlds, so that offerings of precious metals, ornaments and weapons were thrown into them. There are also Irish stories of voyages, imrama, which describe the search for wisdom, inspiration and ultimate knowledge by means of a sea voyage to the far islands. In Welsh tradition Gwion gains wisdom from the cauldron of Ceridwen after which he is eaten by her as a grain of wheat, born from her womb and then placed in a leather bag which floats on the sea for many days. Being found by Elphin at a salmon-weir, he emerges and is reborn as Taliesin, the all-wise poet.

Interestingly, in Hindu religion, sacred places on the earth are known as tírthas, a word which actually means a place where one crosses a river. Tírthas may be a mountain, hill, cave or other geographical feature as well as a river, indicating not only that rivers had spiritual power but also that at these places it is possible to cross from the earthly plane to a divine or sacred reality.

There are also several connections in Indo-European derived cultures between water and inspiration. In Greek mythology, the springs of Aganippe, Castalia and Hippocrene are sacred to the Muses as well as many other springs and wells. (And the nine Muses, interestingly, correspond to nine aspects of culture which are more or less combined in the one figure of Sarasvati.) In Norse mythology the Well of Mimir was the source of wisdom and Odin, the father of the gods, sacrificed his right eye in order to drink of it.

In Irish tradition water and wisdom are often found together, most notably in the Well of Segais which was the source of inspiration and knowledge. There are stories connecting the goddess Boand (‘She of the White Cows’) with this well, which only Nechtan and his three cupbearers were able to look upon. When Boand went to the well and walked three times around it against the way of the sun, the waters rose up and drowned her - in the process she became the Boyne river. In this myth therefore the goddess becomes identified with the Boyne and the Boyne river was a place of great importance for Irish poets. Boand is described as being the mother of the three strains of the harp - the sorrow-strain, the joy-strain and the sleep-strain.

The Mead of Poetry

As we have seen, in medieval Welsh poetry and myth, Taliesin obtains poetic inspiration and knowledge by drinking from the herbal brew in a cauldron, made by Ceridwen. The poems in the Book of Taliesin, particularly the Cadair Taliesin, use imagery which presents a symbolic connection between poetry and liquid. (20) Intoxication may have been implicated in poetic and divinatory acts in the same way as in the Bacchic cults of ancient Greece and in the use of the soma in Vedic ritual to stimulate the flow of words and produce ecstacy.

In Norse mythology too, Bragi, the god of eloquence and poetry, and the patron of skalds (poets) was said to have inspired poetry in humans by letting them drink from the mead of poetry. According to the Snorra Edda the gods had made this mead by putting their combined spittle into a pot from which they created Kvasir. He was later killed by two dwarfs who mixed his blood with honey and thus made the mead of poetry.

In Ireland the folklore view of the poet was of someone who could not make a song when sober and many ancient texts connect poets with the word meisce which can mean ‘in a mental ferment’ as well as ‘intoxicated’, and often describe them as being heated or having inflamed faces while composing. St Brigit was associated with ale in Irish and Welsh poems and songs. Although this probably has more to do with her role as provider it is tempting to pick up these associations of poetry and intoxication, knowing as we do from Cormac’s 9th century glossary that the Irish goddess Brigit was a poetess, a woman of wisdom whom poets adored.

A curious cauldron, the Cauldron of Covetousness, is also described in Cormac’s Glossary. Although only the size of the head of a large cingit (goblet?) it had nine chains coming out of it with a hole at the end of every chain. Nine artists stood around it while the company sang, with the point of his spear fixed in the hole of the chain that was next to him. Any gifts given to the artists were put into the cauldron, hence its name, the Cauldron of Covetousness. The proper content of the cauldron was a brethnasc of pure gold weighing twelve ounces. (21)

Stokes also makes note of another mention of this cauldron in the preface to one of the manuscripts of Amra Columcille. Here the author of the text says that each company of artists had a cauldron of white (pure?) silver with nine chains of brass and a hook of pure gold on each chain. All the gold and silver the artists received were put into the cauldron and thus its name, coire sainte, Cauldron of Covetousness. Or, he goes on to speculate, it was called coire sainithi (Cauldron of Pleasantness?) because they used to drink ale out of it and the nine best of the company played a melody around it, while the poem was being sung. We can’t say with any certainty what this cauldron actually was, but it is suggestive of ritual activity involving poets, poems, singing, ale and reward. Looking at this with eyes fresh from visions of the soma sacrifice with the singing of the three Udgatri priests and the Hotri priests (similar perhaps in function to the Gaulish gutuater or ‘Father of the Invocation’) invoking the gods and reciting parts of the Rig Veda, brings colour and depth to the description. Was the cauldron perhaps a container of the ritual liquid that helped to give vision and eloquence to the poets of the company, and was it later filled with the Celtic equivalent of the dakshina or fee for the ritual, namely gold and silver? We can only speculate.

The Cup of Sovereignty

As I have noted elsewhere, (22) it has been suggested that Brigit is a Christianised version of Queen Medb of Connacht, whose name means ‘She Who Intoxicates’. Medb has mythic associations with the goddess of sovereignty; in the stories she has many lovers and it appears that sexual union with her confers kingship upon them. But also in the old Irish tales kingship is sometimes conferred by drinking dergfhlaith, red ale or red sovereignty (there is a pun on the Irish word for ale, laith, and sovereignty flaith) which is offered to the potential king by a goddess or her representative. It is possible, therefore, that Brigit’s connection with ale points not only to her functions as a mother goddess of plenty and fertility and a goddess of poetry, but also to that of sovereignty goddess. It has been convincingly argued that the Welsh word for king, brenin, originally meant consort of the goddess *Briganti and that its first use was in reference to the male leaders of the Brigantes.

Although Sarasvati is connected with the ritual drink which gave inspiration and immortality, she is not connected with sovereignty. This role falls to Sri Laksmi and to Sita. Sri Laksmi does not appear in early Vedic religion but the term sri is found there and has the meaning of beauty, prosperity, riches and rank. In an appendix to the Rig Veda the goddess Sri is associated with fertility and in the later literature she confers royal power, authority, fertility and prosperity upon those whose consort she becomes - Indra and Visnu (also husband to Sarasvati in some accounts) among them.

A Vedic goddess called Sita, ‘furrow’, associated with the fertility of ploughed fields, is the apparent model of the Sita of the Ramayana who, in her relationship with Rama, fulfills the pattern of sovereignty goddess. This pattern reflects the relationship between the sky-father and earth-mother seen in early religions where the sky-god fertilises the earth-goddess with his rain to bring about the fertility of the land. In ancient India, as in ancient Ireland, the righteousness of the king was seen as integral to the fertility and prosperity experienced by the land and the people during his reign. The Hindu idea, and probably that of the Celts also, is that the earth needed the virility of the king to stimulate or activate the earth’s fruitfulness just as the king needed the fertility of the earth to grant him success in his reign. The plough symbolised the male king entering the body of the female earth and planting his seed which then grew into the crops that would ensure the livelihood of his people, just as a man entered the body of the woman and planted his seed which grew into children who would ensure their livelihood. Without the activity of the male, the fecundity of the earth remains potential but unmanifest, and conversely, without the fecundity of the earth as a visible symbol of his virility, the king is impotent, a king not worthy of the role. Therefore a king needed the goddess of sovereignty to smile upon him and accept him as her consort.

It is worth noting that in the Lebor Gabála Érenn Brigit is said to have had two oxen, which is suggestive of ploughing, and the feast day of St Brigit marked the beginning of preparations for the spring sowing. The seed grain was often made from the sheaf that was used for the making of her crosses, or hung up beside them.

Giraldus Cambrensis in the 11th century describes an inauguration ceremony carried out in Ulster in which the new king simulates sexual union with a white mare. The mare is then killed and the king eats the meat and bathes in and drinks of a broth made from it. Symbolically this ritual enacts the mating of the king with the land, the white mare probably representing the fertility and prosperity of the earth since the Continental horse-goddess, Epona, was associated with these qualities in peacetime (and with guardianship and protection in times of war).

The Vedic rite of Ashvamedha bears a strong resemblance to this ritual but is also fundamentally different. It is a three-day soma sacrifice but includes other sacrifices, significantly that of a stallion as the high point on the middle day. The four wives of the king walk around the dead horse and the chief wife simulates sexual intercourse with it, after which it is dismembered and its blood given as an oblation or divine offering. This ritual celebrates and invigorates the power of the king by mediating the strength and power of the horse through a female consort rather than giving him kingship by a symbolic mating with the mare as a symbol of the divine female power of the land.

A hymn in the Atharva-Veda for the election of a king proclaims "Thee the clans, thee these regions, goddesses five, shall choose for empire!" suggesting that the choice is a foregone conclusion that the goddesses don’t actually have much say in. However, at the consecration of the king, the Rajasuya, he is sprinkled with the waters which impart brilliance and vitality to him: "The heavenly waters, rich in sap, flow joyously, (and too) those in the sky and upon the earth: with the lustre of all of these do I sprinkle thee." (23) This is the Vedic version of the cup of sovereignty; the waters (which, as we have seen, are goddesses) endow him with the qualities necessary for a king.

Sacred Sound

As we have seen, in early medieval Ireland Brigit was described as a poetess adored by poets. A hymn collected in Scotland at the end of the 19th century refers to her as ‘my maker of song’, suggesting that even down to comparatively recent times in traditional communities she had the ability to inspire, much like Sarasvati.

But we may also note that the three main references to Brigit or Brig as a goddess in ancient Irish literature connect her with sound. In the 12th century Lebor Gabála Érenn (Book of Invasions of Ireland) which gives the mythological history of Ireland, we hear of:

 "Brigit the poetess, daughter of the Dagda, she had Fe and Men, the two royal oxen, from whom Femen is named. She had Triath, king of her boars, from whom Treithirne is named. With them were, and were heard, the three demoniac shouts after rapine in Ireland, whistling and weeping and lamentation."

Bríg appears again as one of the Tuatha De Danaan in the story of the Battle of Maigh Tuiredh (12th century but based on 9th century material):

 "Bríg came and keened for her son. At first she shrieked, in the end she wept. Then for the first time weeping and shrieking were heard in Ireland. (Now she is the Bríg who invented a whistle for signalling at night.)"

and in the Dindsenchas she is said to have instigated wailing and keening for the dead after Mac Gréine’s death. (24)

The repetition of weeping, shrieking, lamentation and whistling may point to a tradition concerning Brigit in which she is a goddess of sounds, those connected with grief and alarm, in the same way that the goddess known as the Morrígan is associated with the terrible noise of battle. Perhaps she was once associated with sound itself?

Although there is no evidence for it I also like to think that originally she might have invented the whistle itself (rather than just a whistle for signalling at night), much as the Greek muse Euterpe was said to have invented the flute. Irish folklore does associate musical and poetic ability. Ó hÓgáin tells a story of how the poet Carroll O’ Daly received his poetic gift. (25) He saw a strange cloud float down into some rushes when he was herding cows for a farmer. The rushes then appeared to be on fire and were subsequently eaten by one of the cows. On reporting this, the farmer asked Carroll to bring him the first pail of milk he took from that cow. After milking her, Carroll carried the bucket of milk to the farmhouse, but on the way he spilt some which splashed on his finger - naturally enough, he licked it off and immediately his appearance changed and he began to speak in verse. As he continued walking he made a pipe from some reeds and began to play it. When the farmer heard the wonderful music, he asked Carroll how he came to play so well and Carroll answered in verse. The farmer then knew that Carroll had drunk the wondrous milk.

Ó hÓgáin links this story with Brigit as patron saint of milch cows (26)and the goddess whom poets adored, and although Brigit is not explicitly connected with music or musical instruments like Sarasvati, the connection is implicit in the linking of musical and poetic gifts which is attested in many texts. The Caldron Of Poesy text, for instance, remarks that the Cauldron of Érmae is "the estuary of wisdom… where one approaches the musical art". (27)

It seems that the ancient Irish had an almost (to us) heightened awareness of sound and were able to use it in different ways. There are references in the lives of the saints to people prophesying from the sound made by a chariot, and in battle the Irish warriors used the sounds of instruments, voices and poetry as devices to intimidate and frighten their enemies, encourage their comrades and celebrate victory.

The Creative Word

As we have noted above, there is a Hindu concept that creation is set in motion by ultimate reality in the form of sound. The Vedic deity who embodies the idea of sacred sound is Brihaspati, the master of the force (inherent in the incantation). He is the lord of prayer and religious devotion and also the deity who presides over spells, also known as Brahmanaspati. Some scholars have seen him as another version of Agni, Fire, and of the fire of heaven. The deity Brahmanaspati, the descendant of Brihaspati, is eventually transformed into the god Brahma (and, as we have seen, in later Hindu texts Brahma’s female half is Sarasvati).

This leads us on to the concept of brahma in later Hinduism, and the possible evolution of the idea which leads to the brahma as the absolute, the ground of all being. Renou talks of the "sacred formula, of a mystical or esoteric type, which opens the world of the gods and puts a flow of force at the disposal of the Brahmana..." (28) One scholar (Oldenberg) has suggested that the sequence of meanings assigned to brahma runs from ‘magic force’ to ‘sacred word’ to ‘absolute’. Bloomfield talks of the sacred word brahma starting as a prayer, charm, sacred formula, or religious act and becoming "the symbol of holy thought in its highest utterance, the outpouring of the soul in its highest longings. It is the best wish of a spirtually-minded and gifted people that becomes for a while a personal god and at last the divine essence of the universe". In fact the etymology of brahma is controversial today and not all scholars would accept this progression of meaning.

(Of interest is a note by Stokes to his translation of the entry about Brigit in Cormac’s Glossary. In it he suggests a possible link between the name Brigit, Brihaspati and the Old Norse Bragi, god of poetry and eloquence. However, if Brihaspati and brahma do come from a root *blagh meaning ‘sacred utterance’, an idea not accepted by all scholars as we have noted, then the name Brigit, which comes from a root *bhrgh meaning ‘high, exalted’, is not related.)

The power of the word as a creative force is found also in Irish and Welsh medieval texts and in folklore. The Old Irish word for poetry creth and the Welsh cognate prydydd contain the idea of shaping and the linguist Calvert Watkins has suggested that the image underlying these is one of magical transformation. In the Welsh Câd Goddau or Battle of the Trees, Gwydion the magician appeals to God for help and is told:

"By means of speech, o magician, Conjure up lordly trees - A hundred soldiers in hosts - And impede the vigorous one..."  (29)

In both Ireland and Wales the opening lines of St John’s Gospel were thought to protect the wearer from illness and misfortune and they were often written down and placed in a small pouch worn round the neck. In Ireland this was known as the custom of Leabhar Eoin. The opening lines of this gospel state:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The same was in the beginning with God.

All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made..."

The same idea is found in the Irish story of The Finding of Cashel, where it is stated that the mighty Lord "made the whole world by his sole word from its yellow (?) foundations" and so Christianity becomes the vehicle by which a similar concept to the Hindu is brought into later Celtic literature. In fact the author of the gospel had used the pre-Christian Greek idea of the Logos (reason, discourse, utterance) emanating from the mouth of God and creating the universe, a concept which had arisen from the philosophy of the Stoics and Neo-Platonists and which no doubt helped to sell the Christian idea of Incarnation to the Greek world. In all three cultures - Hindu, Greek, Celtic - there may have been an Indo-European predisposition to the acceptance of this concept.


Christianity is also responsible for a parallel development between Sarasvati and Brigit. As we have seen, Sarasvati becomes associated with purity and transcendence in later Hinduism. She is sattvic or spiritual, associated with the sattva guna, the pure spiritual thread of prakriti, matter. In a similar way the Christian St Brigit is pure and spiritual; as with all female saints, her purity and chastity is emphasised as a great virtue. St Brigit plucks out her eye rather than marry; Sarasvati’s sexuality is played down and she flees from Brahma when he desires her.a when hst brigit stained glass window

e desires her.

In Irish and Scottish folklore however, Brigit is often seen as a domestic goddess connected with the idea of the hearth, and of prosperity, nourishment and protection of livestock; she is also the foster-mother, sometimes even the mother, of Jesus which may point back to a previous incarnation as a mother goddess. Yet the pervading image in the Scottish Gaelic Carmina Gadelica is of the saint as a calm and mild maid with golden locks and white palms, and once she is described as having a fairy swan, reminiscent of Sarasvati’s swan vehicle. In Celtic mythology swans are associated with shape changing and with travel to or from the Otherworld - a sort of transcendence - while in the folklore young maids are sometimes referred to as swans, with undoubted connotations of purity. So again there are some parallels here between the two goddesses in this respect. In Celtic mythology however, unlike the Hindu, there is usually a theme of thwarted or unrequited love in connection with the interworld travel of the swans.

Water, Fire and Illumination

As we have seen, the early conception of Sarasvati is inextricably linked with water, as are hymns and poetry. In Celtic tradition inspiration and wisdom are also associated with water as noted earlier. Although Brigit does have water associations as one might expect, she is more usually connected with the sun and with fire and these also play a part in Hindu and Celtic ideas about the nature of poetry and inspiration.

Setting foot on the shore of Ireland, the poet of the Tuatha De Danaan, Amergin, recited a poem in which he declared that he is ‘the god who fashions fire for a head’, meaning, according to Macalister, that he is a giver of inspiration. A gloss on the Caldron of Poesy text, which uses water imagery in reference to poetry, also refers to tein fesa, the fire of knowledge. (30) Another gloss in the same text talks of the sun as a source of inspiration, for it is the sun which causes a protuberance on herbs which, when eaten, conveys the poetic gift and activates the caldron of poetry, or ‘poetic inspiration from the Boyne or the sun’. (31) And in the wisdom text ‘The Colloquy of the Two Sages’  (32) fire and water imagery are again used of poetry; one of the two contending poets, Ferchertne, says that he has come from the ‘streams of Galion’ (the greatest of which is the Boyne) and Néde states that his name is ‘Well of riches’ (of knowledge) as well as ‘Wrath of fire’, ‘fire of speech’…’straight-artistic with bitterness(?) out of fire’. (33) Ó hÓgáin talks of the folklore view of the poem as a burst of energy coming out of the poet’s mouth, perhaps conjuring up the image of a dragon breathing fire.

If this seems confusing after all we have said about water and inspiration it must be pointed out that in Celtic tradition fire and water held a special and important place and together they were a potent mix. The action of the sun, a source of fire, on the waters was seen as a dynamic and activating force.

 sun on water

In the story of Boand and the well of Nechtan, we learn that only Nechtan and his three cup-bearers are able to look upon the waters without their eyes bursting, suggesting that there was a blinding quality to the water which we may associate with light from the sun.  In two of the Irish and Welsh octopartite man texts mentioned above, (as well the Hindu Great Forest Upanishad), the eye is the part of man that is of the sun and the Irish word súil, ‘eye’ is cognate with Latin sol, ‘sun’. There is often a correlation between blindness and ‘insight’ in Irish thought, seen also in the Norse myth of Odin sacrificing his eye so that he loses some of his ability to see outwardly in order to have access to a deeper wisdom by drinking of Mimir’s well.

Illumination, therefore, comes from water, the illuminating and energising power of the sun with its fiery light in a sense impregnates the waters with its essence.

In many early religions the sun was seen as all-knowing, the ‘eye’ of heaven and is related to the omniscient god. Hymns in the Rig Veda to the All-Maker Vishvakarman refer to him as the Father of the Eye, in other words the creator of the sun, and describe him as wise of heart, the lord of sacred speech, swift as thought, the one to whom all other creatures come to ask questions. (34) Oghma of the Tuatha De Danaan (35), the divine patron of poetry and eloquence is referred to as Oghma Grianainech, Oghma Sun Face, as well as Oghma Cermait, Honey-Mouthed. Even in the Scottish Gaelic folk hymns of the Carmina Gadelica, the sun is referred to as the ‘eye of the great God’. The idea seems to be that the all-knowing eye of the heavens, the sun, descends into the waters which then become a source of wisdom and knowledge.

The poet is able to access this insight from water as a passage from Imacallam in dá Thuarad shows us. It tells of Néde finding out about the death of his father when he goes to the seashore 'For the poets deemed that on the brink of the water it was always a place of revelation of (poetic) science.'  (36)

There are some parallels in Vedic thought. The Rig Veda, Hymn 10, 177, 1, says "Into the interior of the ocean do the seers see; the masters seek the path of the rays of light."  (37) In Sri Aurobindo’s translation of the Hymns to the Sacred Fire, the Fire, Agni, is thrice-born, once of heaven, once of earth and once of the waters:

3. He of the god-mind kindled thee in the Ocean, within the Waters, he of the divine vision

kindled thee, O Fire, in the teat of heaven; the mighty ones made thee to grow where thou

stoodest in the third kingdom, in the lap of the waters.

This sacred Fire is able to grant the sacrificer or priest inspired wisdom so that it rises and breaks forth from him, being born by speech into the world, in a manner which may remind us of Brigit and the upward movement of fire associated with her name.

O Fire, bestow on him his share in the things of inspired knowledge, in word upon word

as it is spoken: he becomes dear to the sun, dear to Fire; upward he breaks with what is

born in him, upward with the things that are to be born. (38)

Sukta 46 talks of the fire of knowledge:

Fire carries with his tongue the illumination of wisdom, he carries in his consciousness

earth's discoveries of knowledge; him men hold the illuminating and purifying rapturous Priest of the call most strong for sacrifice.

Fire, the king in the Waters, is able to bring human thought into the world:

An exalter of glories, a holder of the riches, a manifester of thinking mind, a guardian of the

wine of delight, a shining One, the son of force, the king in the Waters, he grows luminous

as he burns up in the front of the dawns.

The Great Forest Upanishad also mentions that when a man dies his breath goes into the wind but his speech goes into fire. (39)

The Breath of the Universe

Wind is another element that relates to poetry and inspiration, (another contradictory variable, or reflections of a greater unity, depending on your perspective). Ideas about this may be seen at the level of language. Old Irish fáth, fáith, "prophecy", Welsh gwawd "song, praise, poetry", Lat uates, as well as Vedic api-vatati "blows"; "inspires" come from Indo-European *wâtu- (inspired utterance) from the root *wet- "to blow, inspire, arouse spiritually" giving an Indo-European metaphor connecting "poetic art" with "blowing, breath, wind" and with the idea of ‘in-spiration’. There is also the Old Irish word aí "poetic art" which has a Celtic cognate in Welsh awen "poetic inspiration". The root is ultimately that of OIr fáth, Lat uates, Ved. api-vatati as well. (40) The Welsh awel "breeze" is also related to awen.

We know from the medieval Irish and Welsh texts relating to the octopartite man who is made from various substances of the universe that his breath was made of the wind. A similar idea is found in the Vedic hymn about the giant Purusha, the cosmic sacrifice, whose breath becomes the wind. According to the later Great Forest Upanishad, at death a man’s breath returns to the wind and Vac, the goddess of Speech, describes herself as "one who blows like the wind" in the hymn quoted earlier. So there is a cosmic connection between breath and poetry, almost as if poetry, spoken on the breath, is an emanation of the universe, for it is conveyed by the wind of which the breath is part. Perhaps the energetic force emanating from the mouths of the Irish poets may be seen as wind as well as fire, although we should note that the oxygen of air enables fire, and wind energises it.

The elements appearing in the story already mentioned of the poet Carroll O’ Daly may be played with to illustrate the concepts surrounding their connections with poetry. Here the folk imagination has described wisdom and poetic art descending in the form of a strange cloud. The texts of octopartite man state that the mind of man is made from the clouds so there is a correlation here in that this cloud ultimately has the ability to affect and improve the mind of Carroll. (In Hindu tradition the mind is associated with the moon. Since the cloud image is connected with the idea of changeability in the Celtic texts, the moon image may be drawing on something similar.)

Next Carroll sees a fire in the rushes where the cloud appeared – the fire symbolising the fire of inspiration and knowledge - and finally the cow eats the rushes and transforms this cosmic substance into a liquid which, when drunk by Carroll, gives him access to flowing inspiration.

Speech and Truth

As others have noted, Hinduism and its rich literature is able to shed light on the apparent mysteries of other religions. The Vedic literature in particular seems to speak to us of a time when humankind’s relationship with the natural world - the elements and forces, the flora and fauna - was fresher, more immediate and more respectful than in our own day. It also shows us a time much nearer to the beginnings of human civilisation when the particular skills and abilities of homo sapiens were being recognised, developed and celebrated. Lines like the following put us in touch with our earliest history and with the magical possibilities of speech:

"When, O Brihaspati, men first sent forth the earliest utterances of speech, giving names to things, then was disclosed a jewel treasured within them, most excellent and pure". (41)

Speech not only enabled human beings to communicate, it also gave us access to the external world and the things in that world. It was a common belief in many ancient and primal cultures that the naming of something gave one power over it, this belief may have come about because by speaking a name we are able to conjure up a mental picture of the person, deity or thing so named and communicate it to others. It is not surprising, therefore, that in Hindu tradition a deity’s name was seen as equal to the deity herself.

Human knowledge and its expression and display in speech were honoured as sacred. Through this knowledge humankind was able to bring forth order out of chaos and to interact with the supernatural forces of the universe; ritual with its use of speech in hymn and incantation was a mainstay of the cosmic order. In Vedic tradition the knowledge of origins (jatavidya in Sanskrit) was held to be of primary importance for the maintenance of the universal order, and competitions in such esoteric knowledge were an essential part of religious ritual. Possibly something similar is in operation in The Colloquy of the Two Sages, for Néde and his brothers turn back from their journey to ritually challenge Ferchertne for the ollamship of Ireland when they are unable to give the etymology for three plants they come across on their way.

Certainly in Celtic tradition the word and its manifestations held a sacred place; since it was it creative and ritually powerful. According to Miranda Green, not only was the voice the source of the druids’ power (compare Vac saying "Whom I love I make awesome: I make him a sage, a wise man, a Brahmin") but also speaking was itself seen as a quality of life and it is possible that the absence of a mouth on a carving meant that the person was dead. (42)

Religion and its ritual was an early science which enabled man to negotiate a living from the cosmic forces, and inspired sound in the form of prayer, incantation and hymn, was an engine of ritual. It was the emanation of the thinking mind, of the human mind, which was not only celebrated but actually raised to the level of divinity.

The study of Sarasvati and sacred sound in Hindu religion may invigorate our understanding of Brigit. ‘The Colloquy of the Two Sages text already referred to relates Brigit not only to poetry and speech but also to the functions and abilities of the human mind which are connected with Sarasvati in Hindu thought. When Ferchertne asks Néde whose son he is, Néde replies:

I am son of Poetry,

Poetry son of Scrutiny,

Scrutiny son of Meditation,

Meditation son of Lore,

Lore son of Enquiry,

Enquiry son of Investigation,

Investigation son of Great-Knowledge,

Great-Knowledge son of Great-Sense,

Great-Sense son of Understanding,

Understanding son of Wisdom,

Wisdom, son of the three gods of Poetry.

A gloss on this points out that Brigit the poetess, daughter of the Dagda, was the mother of the three sons of Poetry. She is then the ancestress and progenitor of Poetry, Wisdom, Knowledge, Investigation, Enquiry, Lore, Scrutiny, Meditation and Understanding, just as Sarasvati is not only Vagadevi, Goddess of Speech, but is also given epithets which identify her with the powers of thought which give rise to speech such as Smrtisakti, the Power of Memory, Jnanasakti, the Power of Knowledge, Buddhisaktisvarupini, Whose Form is the Power of Intellect, Kalpanasakti, Who is the Power of Forming Ideas, and Pratibha, She who is Intelligence.

In her role as goddess of poetry then, Brigit does not only function as a muse, a patron of eloquence and the word. She is implicit in the human mind itself, bringing gifts of wisdom and understanding, helping us with scientific enquiry, with critical thought and discernment, with meditation and inspiration.

She also, in my opinion, calls us to remember the sacred nature of the word, whether written or spoken, and its implications for power and control.

The Greek writer Lucian described a Gaulish depiction of the god Heracles, dressed in his lion skin and carrying his club. In the image he saw, the god was old and wrinkled and he is followed by a group of men who are seemingly happy to be bound by a chain attached to their ears which is attached at its other end to Heracles’ tongue. A Gaul, standing next to Lucan as he gazed at this picture, pointed out to him that his people saw Heracles as the god of wisdom, rather than Hermes, because he was stronger, and that in their language he was called Ogmios.

This is a graphic image of the power of the word to control and enslave. Whether or not the physical universe was formed by the word, it certainly allowed human beings to survive and dominate and the so-called civilised world owes its existence to communication. The voice of the media is today as powerful as the voice of the druids was in ancient times. Newspapers and television influence the ‘people’s choice’ of government and also determine to a large extent not only how we think about things but even what things, what events, what people, what issues we think about. In other words, they shape our perception of reality.

This being the case, an awareness of Brigit becomes a reminder to us to choose our words with care. Like any tool, they may be used for good or ill. Unlike those who use words to deceive, Brigit, like Sarasvati, enjoins us to awaken to inspiration from those truths which as Sri Aurobindo has said, liberate the life and being from falsehood, weakness and limitation and open it to supreme happiness. The utterance of these truths then becomes a sacred act.

The importance of truth may be seen in the Irish concept of ‘the truth of the ruler’ (fírinne flátha) which compelled the king to uphold the truth, seen as a magical force that maintained the cosmic order, ensuring the movement of the elements and the seasons and bringing prosperity to the agriculture which the people depended upon: " Truth in a ruler is as bright as the foam cast up by a mighty wave of the sea, as the sheen of a swan’s covering in the sun, as the colour of snow on a mountain. A ruler’s truth is an effort which overpowers armies. It brings milk into the world. It brings corn and mast". (43) This concept is similar to the Vedic concept of Rita, the cosmic, ritual and moral order. (44)

Brigit not only aids us in a skilful and potent use of language but also, I believe, calls upon us to maintain a right use of language; a use which upholds the truth and by doing so also upholds the order and healthy functioning of the universe. Perhaps now more than ever, since globalisation is occurring at such a pace, we need those in government and in positions of power in the international corporations to uphold the truth and with it the natural order of things which is necessary for our survival. But we can make a start ourselves by becoming open to inspiration and sacred truth and being more aware of the words we utter and their effect.

© Hilaire Wood 2001

Recommended Reading

O’ Flaherty, Wendy Doniger: The Rig Veda, Penguin Books, London, 1981.

David Kinsley: Hindu Goddesses: Visions of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Tradition, University of California Press, California, 1986.

Sri Aurobindo: The Secret of the Veda, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, 1971



Home / Articles / Charms & Prayers / Meditations / Poems / Olive Branch / Links / Contact / blog