There is something more I need to ask Brigid, something about a forge, a smithy. Didn’t Anne O’Reilly tell us that Brigid is also the Matron of Smithcraft?
These lines from James Joyce have always haunted me:
I go for the millionth time into the reality of experience
To forge in the smithy of my soul
The uncreated conscience of my race.
There is a link I am trying to make, trying to forge, I suddenly realize. I risk now asking Brigid: “How does the poetry connect with smithcraft? Anne O’Reilly’s poem asks you to forge us anew. I sort of get that, but James Joyce seems to be talking of so much more. He says he must forge in the smithy of his soul the uncreated conscience of his race. What does that mean?”
Brigid holds my gaze for a long searing moment. “Indeed,” she says at last, “what does that mean? When you understand, you will each be ready to leave this garden, to return to your homes, to do the same for your time, for your task, for your earth.”
And with that, she is gone. We get up from the almost-dry grass, shake the last drops of rain from our umbrellas, and head back to the hotel.
We did not see Brigid again during our time in Ireland. We returned home, her last challenge still ringing in our hearts.
Yet we continued to seek a deeper understanding. We stayed in touch with one another, offering our thoughts on what it might mean to forge ourselves anew. Here are some of our responses:
Noreen suggests: it is a call to each to do our own inner work.
Patricia touches on the same theme: we need to trust and be in touch with how we feel, what we see… and then to bring it into relationship with our mind. We must trust ourselves and be true to who we are and what we believe, protective of the unique gift that we bring to our world.
Shirley, commenting on the magnitude of the challenges presented to us by the global crisis in the planet’s environment, says: if we allow ourselves to connect deeply with our feelings, we tap into the energy that can give us courage, strength and determination to practise compassion to create a better world.
These three women have understood the heart of Brigid’s challenge: the call to transformation that is the essence of our work in the hearth or smithy of our soul.
Irish Theologian Mary Condren writes compellingly of the gifts of Brigid for our time. Her article, “Brigit, Matron of Poetry, Healing, Smithwork and Mercy: Female Divinity in a European Wisdom Tradition” was published in 2010 in the Journal of the European Society of Women in Theological Research.
Mary Condren’s work sheds light on this fourfold matronage of Brigid, and was my source for information in the last posting on the role of the poets in ancient Celtic Society.
Mary Condren guides us into a further understanding of smithwork of the soul:
As a smith, Brigid transformed people’s minds rather than metals. She forged new ways of being and transformed old patterns of behaviour into new courses of action. Her psychic mojo speaks of another kind of in-depth knowledge: the perspective of the Crone, the one who has seen it all and is not afraid to speak.
Brigit may be patroness of smithcraft, but her anvil was that of the soul; her alchemy, that of the spirit….Brigit’s matronage of smithwork also takes the form of the “inner fire” necessary to ensure the ethical life of the community….the fire that does not burn, the life-force within….Brigit’s followers, like the ancient Vestal Virgins, were charged with holding the seed of the fire on behalf of the community. The fire would not burn provided they remained focussed, and undistracted by flattery.
With the poet Anne O’Reilly we ask Brigid to forge us anew, to assist us in our work of transformation in the smithy of our souls.
Shirley offers a further reflection that speaks to this challenge, offering us hope:
If our hearts can be turned forward we can help co-create a new human species, a new consciousness. We cannot be fear based. If we stay fear based we can become more unconscious. There are powerful voices building, encouraging momentum. Hopefully in our dialogue we can change minds and hearts by increasing the awareness of the sacredness of all creation and the interconnection of all things.
May we ponder this and send light and love to assist in the emergence of a new human community to embrace the whole of the Earth Community.
This is part of the dying and resurrection. We work it through and that’s the power of the resurrection. This is a new universe being born and it’s messy.
Thomas Berry wrote: “We are not lacking in the dynamic forces needed to create the future. We live immersed in a sea of energy beyond all comprehension. But this energy, in an ultimate sense, is ours not by domination but by invocation.”