What a day February the first is. It starts LGBT History Month, it’s Harry Styles’ birthday, and it’s the feast day of St Brigid, the patron saint of beer and brewing. Triple celebration!
Brigid was an Irish nun who ran an abbey in Kildare, amongst others. Along with beer and brewing she’s also the patron saint of Florida, babies, milkmaids, and poets.
Typically in Christianity, pagan feast days were ‘borrowed’ and piggybacked on, because people were celebrating anyway. Imagine it’s your birthday party, and someone shows up in a big ‘It’s My Birthday!’ badge and some balloons and says “Oh my! What a coincidence! Why do we just make it a joint party!” What an arsehole. But anyway, that’s why almost all scholars believe Jesus Christ was born in the summer but we celebrate his birthday coincidentally close to the Pagan festival of Yule. St Brigid, as one of the patron saints of Ireland alongside Patrick and Columba, was afforded a big day of celebration, so the Christians ‘borrowed’ the pagan Spring festival of Imbolc (pronounced Imm-molg).
Brigid may not have actually been a real person seeing as there as striking similarities between her and the Gaelic goddess, er, Brigid. The story goes that she was born into slavery, and whenever the druid slave owners tried to feed her she vomited it all up because they were ‘unclean’. It was chill though because a white cow with red ears showed up and she just fed from that. Totally normal. She did a few miracles as a kid. Once, she gave away all of her mother’s butter to the poor. Oh shit! But then, by a miracle, when she went back to her mum’s butter…cupboard?.. all the butter was back and there was no problem. If it seems like most of St Brigid’s biography was made up by the Dairy Council of Ireland, hold on to your flipping hat because she also did the same to all her dad’s belongings. Just gave them away to the poor. So he took her the local King or whatever and said “This girl just gives other people’s shit away to the poor, do something about it.” While they were talking Brigid took the King;s bejewelled sword and gave that away to the poor too. So she was like Robin Hood only Irish and eleven.
The link with brewing comes from the story that she could turn water into beer. Nowadays we call that brewing, and so she’s the patron saint of brewing. It makes you wonder how happy the other brewers were to be told that a skill they had been practising for quite some time was now a miracle ordained by God. Probably not chuffed seeing as it’s highly likely that Brigid was stealing all their beer and giving it away to the poor. One of my favourite stories is that she was accidentally ordained as a Bishop, because the church official was drunk, making her the first woman Bishop in history.
Biddy’s Day is still celebrated in Ireland, with groups going from pub to pub. Excellent suggestion.