“Brede, Brede, tar gys my thie, tar dyn thie ayms noght.
Foshil jee yn dorrys da Brede, as lhig da Brede e beet staigh.”
” Bridget, Bridget, come to my house, come to my house to-night.
Open the door for Bridget, and let Bridget come in.”
Manx invocation to Brighde (taken from William Harrison’s Mona Miscellany – Manx Society Vol. 16, p.137).
This was a tradition recorded from the second half of the 19th century in the Isle of Man. The invocation was made at the threshold of the house at sunset on the eve of St Bridget’s Day (1st Feb) while holding a handful of green rushes – symbolic of hospitality from ancient times. The rushes were then sprinkled to make a welcoming path into the house, which Harrison describes as a ‘carpet or bed’ for the saint or goddess. In the Hebrides, Carmichael recorded the tradition of women making an actual bed for Bride who they represented by a ‘Corn Dolly’ (Carmina Gaedelica Vol.1). Those familiar with the rush-bearing traditions of the Isle of Man will know that these were also related to Manannan – as a tax the people of the island used to pay the god, and that are still sprinkled on the processional way at the annual Tynwald midsummer festival. They exude a sweet smell when trodden and are soft under the feet. On old Irish welcome greeting was ‘May we strew green rushes under your feet’ (from the Folklore Commission Collection, Delargy Centre, University College Dublin).
The idea was one of welcoming the returning year. When it was recorded, the island had been Protestant since the 16th century but saints such as Bridget, Columba and Patrick still had popular currency as they were held to be the originators of christianity in the region. Curiously though, the saint’s day in the Isle of Man had another name with a distinctly pagan flavour – perhaps unsurprising at it also fell on the ancient Atlantic cross-quarter-day festival known in Irish as Imbolc. In the Isle of Man, the day was also known as the day of the Caillagh ny Groamagh, meaning ‘Old/Veiled Woman of the Gloom’. It was celebrated on Old St Bridget’s Day (i.e. – by the Julian calendar) on the 12th of February, the Manx preferring to keep the Julian calendar for many of their important festivals including Christmas (Shen Laa Nollick) and Midsummer’s Day (Tynwald Day).
It is quite important to understand that there is an etymological connection between the words Caillagh (Irish/Scots: Cailleach) and the name ‘Brighde’ or ‘Bride’: This is expressed in the Manx Gaelic word for ‘a veil, cover, hood; a sheltered part of the mountains…’, which is ‘Breid’ (Source: Kelly’s Dictionary), and ‘Brat’, ‘Brut’ or ‘Brot’ (Source: eDIL – consider the Germanic words for ‘bread’ when interpreting these!). In other words – they appear to be the same character: The ‘Old Woman’ whose ‘veil’ was ‘ever- renewed’ as the ancient Irish poem related… The Goddess as a metaphor for the annual cycle – the ‘saint’ known as Brighid or Bride.