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Tony Grist

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St Bridget [Apr. 22nd, 2010|06:13 pm]
Tony Grist
The tower on top of Glastonbury Tor is all that remains of a late medieval church that fell down in an earthquake.  As is usually the case with these hill-top shrines, the dedication is to St Michael the Archangel. There are images of him on the tower- very badly worn- and this- not so badly worn- of St Bridget milking a cow. According to the researches of Dr John Goodchild, the Godfather of New Age Glastonbury (as reported in Patrick Benham's The Avalonians) Bridget- who is the same person as Bride of Ireland who is a Christanized version of the Great Goddess or Morrigan- was a one-time Glastonbury resident- and ran a women's college or convent at Beckery, just outside the town. One of the titles- or disguises- of the Morrigan is "the black-mained heifer"- and an old fragment of bardic poetry has her travelling the three provinces of Erin, giving milk to everyone. "She was sent to give food and comfort to all; and she gave it, but especially to poor people."


[User Picture]From: endlessrarities
2010-04-22 05:31 pm (UTC)
What a fascinating post!

I always thought the Morrigan was a bit mean... Frank Delaney implied as much in his programme The Celts (ah, the Celts twas what inspired me to become an archaeologist, when I was a young, impressionable muppet... I blame the Enya sountrack...)

I presume she's one of these typical pagan goddesses who dishes out bounty and brutality in equal measure, depending on her mood.

I once wrote a fantasy horror story about the Morrigan, but I couldn't ever find a home for it. Might wind up posting it on the blog some time.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-04-22 05:41 pm (UTC)
Yes, I too have always thought of the Morrigan as nothing more than a battle-Goddess, but Goodchild- something of a 19th century feminist- believed She'd been traduced and demonized by the Church. I've no idea whether his ideas stand up.

I'd like to read the story.
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[User Picture]From: endlessrarities
2010-04-22 05:59 pm (UTC)
I like the idea of the battle-goddess! My story involved a bunch of hunt sabs who accidentally enlisted the help of the Morrigan by chucking a couple of coins into a spring when she was hanging out in the neighbourhood, feeling bored...

I'll post it some time, when I pluck up the courage! I don't usually do short stories - I find them far too much like hard work!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-04-22 06:09 pm (UTC)
Sounds promising. I presume things didn't go too well with the hunt after that?
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[User Picture]From: endlessrarities
2010-04-23 04:33 pm (UTC)
Er, no.

Although, I suppose this does depend on your perspective...

The germ of the idea was inspired years ago when I was seeing to my horse one cold winter's evening and I heard one of the servants calling on his horn to a lost hound. It was a misty night, and rather creepy...

Took me another 15 years to get the story down onto paper, mind...
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-04-23 04:43 pm (UTC)
The sound of a hunting horn in the mist- spooky!

So, come on, let's see it. :)
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[User Picture]From: karenkay
2010-04-22 06:03 pm (UTC)
I love your photos of old stone carvings. They are always very real-looking, in that you can feel the ages.

Sort of like a good portrait.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-04-22 06:15 pm (UTC)

I've tried photgraphing this before, but never with much success. This time the light was just right.
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[User Picture]From: aellia
2010-04-22 06:38 pm (UTC)
I never noticed that when I went.
Her stance is lovely
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-04-22 08:44 pm (UTC)
She's placed about a third of the way up on the right hand side of the West front.

There's quite a lot of carving on the tower- all of it, sadly, rather badly eroded.
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[User Picture]From: ideealisme
2010-04-22 06:53 pm (UTC)
I think there's some good evidence that Brighid was a real person - she founded a monastic settlement at Cill Dara which is the modern town Kildare.

Some of her attributes could have been added by myth afterwards.

The Mór Ríagan was three deities in one as far as I can remember - Macha, Badhbh, and I can't remember who the third one was.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-04-22 08:54 pm (UTC)
I think it's highly probable that under all the mythical and legendary accretions lies a real person called Brighid. She may even have spent time in Glastonbury.

Our culture is full of such figures- Jesus, King Arthur, Maeve, Cuchulain, Robin Hood....
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