In Voodoo, there is a Spirit who has white skin, bright eyes and fiery red hair. She is the wife of Baron Samedi, the spirit of the cemeteries, and protector of women and children. Fowl-mouthed and always seen drinking rum infused with hot peppers, she is far from her original homeland of Ireland. Maman Brigitte, to some, may seem like an outsider in an African Traditional Religion, but her hold within the spiritual system of Voodoo is strong and how she ended up within the Diaspora is a weaving of ancient myth and religious history.
Maman Brigitte’s early roots are found within Celtic mythology. As one of the most favored Goddesses in Celtic mythology, Brigid was the daughter of Dagda and a member of the Tuatha De Danann. Her name, meaning the “Exalted One,” Brigid was the Goddess of Healers, Poets, Smiths, Fertility, Childbirth, and Inspiration. She was the main protector of women and children, and when she was not serving as a personal protector she was acting as an inspiration to many writers and poets throughout Ireland. Additionally, the Goddess Brigid was known as a fire Goddess with a strong connection to the sun, dawn in particular. Imbolc became Her sacred holiday as it mirrored the sun’s return to the world. She also dedicated a lament for the dead, reflecting her status as a Goddess of life and death and protector of cemeteries, which would later reflect in Her aspect as Maman Brigitte. Various cemeteries throughout Ireland have images of the Goddess Brigid serving as a protector.
In 453 C.E. Brigid was transformed by the Church into St. Brigid and became known as the Saint of farm work and protector of the household. It was believed that St. Brigid was the daughter of Dubthach, a Druid who brought her from Ireland to be raised on a mysterious island referred to as Iona, sometimes called the “Druids Isle.” As a young adult, Brigid performed several miracles including healing. In one instance after giving away all of her mother’s food store to the poor, she prayed for hours, and miraculously, the food store was replenished as an answer to her prayers. It was said that she also had the ability to heal headaches with touch, blessings barren gardens and fields, which would later grow fruit and vegetables in full and turn water into beer!
Brigid’s influence, as both a Goddess and Saint, would travel across the Atlantic and find a new home in the deep south of New Orleans, Louisiana. After the 1791 slave revolt in Haiti moved to New Orleans, many slaves and freed people of color infused their spiritual practice of Voodoo with the local Catholic population. Concealing their Voodoo Lwa behind the Catholic Saints, enslaved West African and freed people could freely practice their spirituality without fear of persecution. New Orleans Voodoo became known as Voodoo-Catholicism, easily merging into the everyday local religious life. And what better Saint to represent a Spirit whose purpose is to protect women, children, and the dead, and assist in healing than Brigid! Saint Brigid became the fiery, smart-talking, rum-drinking Lwa Maman Brigitte, one of the few Caucasian spirits found in Voodoo. Her spicey personality and symbolism of protection and assistance with the dead led her to become the consort of Baron Samedi. A fierce fighter, she is often called on by women to assist with fertility, assist with domestic violence issues and assist with the protection of children. One of her most powerful workings is her ability to help heal the sick and ease the pain of those who are suffering.
From Goddess to Saint to Lwa, Brigid’s Feast Day is February 1st
Below is a ritual to Maman Brigitte, which can be done on Imbolc or anytime you wish! It is a ritual to ask for good health and wellness as well as to honor those who have passed over. You will need an offering of tobacco for Papa Legba, the Gate Opener, who must be called before any other Lwa can be called in. You will also need some of Maman Brigitte’s favorites for offerings which can be any of the following: rum, hot peppers, rooster feathers, purple and black candles. Please note that the Lord’s Prayer is used in the beginning as New Orleans Voodoo does merge with Catholicism, if you are uncomfortable saying this, you can omit it. Additionally, parts of the ritual are in Creole as that is the language of the Voodoo Spirits!
Ritual to Maman Brigitte
Our Father Prayer
Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
Hail Mary (in Creole)
Je vous salue, Marie, pleine de grâce.
Le Seigneur est avec vous.
Vous êtes bénie entre toutes les femmes, et Jésus, le fruit de vos entrailles, est béni.
Sainte Marie, mère de Dieu, priez pour nous pauvres pêcheurs, maintenant et à l'heure de notre mort.
Calling in Papa Legba
Papa Legba, ouvre le barrier por moi passe
Papa Legba, open the gates so that Maman Brigitte and her husband Baron Samedi may enter our world in love peace.
For this we leave you an offering of tobacco.
Welcoming in Maman Brigitte
We welcome you Maman Brigitte, and your husband Baron Samedi. The offerings placed on this altar are yours, given with the highest intentions and purest of heart.
Maman Brigitte, you who are the Lwa of the dead are also a gifted healer, blessed with the gifts to bring health and wellness to those who seek it. We ask you Maman Brigitte, to help those who are suffering from illness now. As the Lwa of the dead, help guide those who have lost their lives in this pandemic. Help to heal and guide those many thousands whose life hangs in the balance. Give strength to the workers who risk their own lives to save many. Maman Brigitte, Baron Samedi, we ask that you help those families who have lost loved ones. We all understand that out of death comes Life and out of Darkness comes Light. Help to guide those of us who are in good health, to recognize the sacrifice of our freedom and our comforts at this time to save lives. Give us the wisdom and guidance to emerge with more compassion.
Moment of silence to pray
Maman Brigitte, Baron Samedi, we thank you for your presence and your blessing. We thank you for bringing the love of thousands that brought us life and allowing us to be a flame in the dark. Please stay as long as you like and leave when you are ready.
(first published in Witch Way Magazine February 2022)