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Saint Brigit, Protectress of Sea Monsters

1 Feb 2021

Sailing the sea and seeking the Land of Promise, Brendan heard a certain beast crying out in a human voice and invoking Brendan, and all of the other saints of the island of Ireland except for Brigit, lest another beast should harm it; but nevertheless it suffered from the other’s violence until it called upon Brigit. But after it invoked Brigit it escaped, and suffered no evil from its pursuer, inasmuch as the other, which pursued, said to it: ‘Since you invoked Brigit, I am not able to harm you.’ ... Thereafter Brendan came to Kildare, and to Brigit, so that he might know why the beast of the sea gave honour to Brigit beyond the other saints. When Brendan came to Brigit he asked her to testify as to her love of God. Brigit said to Brendan: ‘Give your testimony first, cleric, and I will give it after that.’ Brendan said: ‘Since the day that I took up devotion, I have never walked across seven furrows without having my mind on God.’ ‘The testimony is good,’ said Brigit. ‘Give your own testimony, nun,’ said Brendan. ‘By the Son of the Virgin,’ she said, ‘since the hour when I set my mind in Him, I have never taken it from Him.’ ‘By God, nun,’ said Brendan, ‘it is fitting for the beasts to give honour to you more than to us.’

(From the preface to the hymn Brigit bé bithmaith; text in Thesaurus Palaeohibernicus ii.324-5.)

Roinn na Sean- agus na Meán-Ghaeilge

Department of Early and Medieval Irish

Bloc A, Urlár na Talún, Áras Uí Rathaille / Block A, Ground Floor, O'Rahilly Building, UCC, Cork