Mirror of Isis - An Official Fellowship of Isis Publication

Maman Brigitte

COVER: Volume V, Issue 3, Samhain 2010
Table of Contents
The Wild and Grassy Slope
We Honor the Earth
The Berwyn Mountains of Poetic Adventure
The Coming of the Cailleach
An Isian Midwinter Meditation
Wenet the Swift One: Hare Goddess of Ancient Egypt
Awakening of Aengus Og and Tara Rite
Druid in the Garden
Ancient Egyptian Creation Myths
Announcements: From Olivia Robertson
REPORT: Convocation of the Fellowship of Isis at the Temple of Isis 2010
REVIEW: Avalonian Aeon
MUSES SYMPOSIUM: Bentreshyt: Harp of Joy
Hestia's Hearth Fires
Shadow Queen
Hymn to Isis
Prayer to Isis
Correspondent's Reflections
Mark Your Calendar
Staff and Contact Information
Archive of Past Issues
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Veve of Maman Brigitte

Above, the "Veve" of Maman Brigitte. A Veve or Vévé is a religious symbol. It acts as a "beacon" for the loa and will serve as a loa's representation during rituals.


Maman Brigitte She Comes from Angletere
Thoughts of a Brighid Devotee on the Earthquake in Haiti

By Caroline Wise
Isis of the Thames Lyceum

The shocking situation in Port-au-Prince has vividly impinged itself on our privileged lives via the TV screen.  Brought to its knees by the phenomenal power of the earth, the recent quake has tragically put Haiti in the spotlight. It has given many of us pause for thought about just why this country is so poor.  And that, at least, is a good thing.

There is no space to give anything more than a general view of this historically, culturally and politically significant country, or its religion, so I apologise for this, but more can easily be found elsewhere.

Haiti should have had all the help it needed to develop from day one, when the slaves heroically overthrew their French overlords after years of rebellion. Independence came in January 1804. They named the country Haiti as the earlier Native ‘Indian’ people had.

The idea of a free independent black state of ex-slaves caused much spluttering of indignation in the ‘white world’. In consternation, and probably not a little humiliation, plus no doubt a dollop of spite, an impossibly huge ‘repayment plan’ was placed upon Haiti by the French for loss of their colony.  Some 20million Euros in today’s money, Haiti’s progress has also been hampered by constant interference and undermining from American governments and intelligence agencies. This can be read about elsewhere.

Baron Samedi by Pamela Colman Smith

The religion of Haiti is Voudoun, brought to Haiti with the African slaves. It is said the beliefs of the people are 98% Catholic and 110% Voudoun. Its origins lie in the Yoruba peoples from Nigeria, the Arada tribe from Benin, plus tribes from the Congo and other areas. It was passed on down the slave generations by word of mouth, although it was made illegal by the slave owners’ governors who feared anything that fired the spirits of their captives.

There is no doubt that the cohesion among the people, separated at different locations on the island with no basic human rights, and the subsequent revolts and final rebellion in Haiti, were helped by Voudoun. The slaves suffered unimaginable tortures and executions for any sign of revolt. The secret language of the drums as a way of communication gave  practical help. The sheer faith that their gods could help them through extreme adversity gave them heart.

It is widely believed that the slaves hid their gods and goddesses among the Roman Catholic saints of their overlords’ faith, but I wonder if the two religions also became entwined as future generations who never saw Africa were exposed to Catholicism. Voudoun evolved as new influences appeared.

Maman Brigitte, le soti nan Anglete

As the festival of Brigantia approaches, let’s look at a strangely familiar character that appears in Haitian and Caribbean spirituality.   
One of the deities who appears in the vibrant synchronization of Voudoun is Maman Brigitte. Her Christian blending is with St. Bride, in whom the legend of the British Goddess Brighid is subsumed. She appears in Voudoun songs, and she can ride people in rites. She is a guardian of the dead, and she manifests in the cemetery to bless the graves. She leads the dead to the afterlife. Her bird representatives in the British Isles are the goose and the swan. In Haiti it is the black rooster. She has her own Veve, a symbol that acts as a gateway for the loa being invoked. The Veve is drawn in the ground in flour or salt. This practice is not known in West and Central Africa so may have origins in the sand paintings of Native Americans. This in turn may have been influenced by the Taino tribe who populated Haiti before Columbus came and spoiled the party.

Maman Brigitte is a strong presence. She drinks rum spiced with hot peppers, which sounds rather good, and she can be jolly and fun, but is plain speaking and does not suffer fools. She has a robust sexuality and dances wildly.  The spiced rum would aid all these qualities!  

This Haitian voudoun goddess protects the graves in cemeteries that are marked with the cross. Her masculine counterpart is one of the Ghedes in his guise of the mysterious Baron Samedi; the black clad and hatted master of the cemeteries and chief of all the ancestors. The first woman to be buried in a cemetery in Haiti will be dedicated to Maman Brigid. Maman Brigitte is a healer, like Brighid of the British Isles.

But how did she come to be in Haiti and the wider Diaspora of the African slaves? I first heard of Maman Brigitte when I visited Fellowship of Isis members in New Orleans. I was told that the introduction of poppets, now commonly called voodoo dolls, came from St Bride/ Brighid. Many Irish women were shipped to New Orleans for crimes such as prostitution (in Ireland in those days it could have been for holding hands with a boy, or becoming pregnant due to rape). These poor women were put to work along side the black women, forced into the horrific task of draining the swamps. They told their black counterparts about St Brighid, and the poppets they brought with them were the ‘Bridie dolls’ of Scottish and Irish origin.

Interestingly, when plague spread through Louisiana due to the mosquitoes in the swamps, the Irish women became nurses by necessity, and this lead to a subsequent raise in status. I always see the matron-goddess of nurses as Brighid.

There is a similar story about the introduction of Brighid to Haiti. It is little known that many thousands of Irish people were shipped to Haiti as slaves. It is cunningly referred to as ‘indentured labour’. It was slavery pure, simple and wicked.  They had little or no price, unlike the African victims, and were therefore treated even worse, if that is possible. Their beloved goddess/Saint Bride went with them.

As the wheel of the year turns to the festival of Brigantia, let is light a candle for Brighid, goddess of light, nursing, and healing. Let’s remember her people in Haiti, bereaved, bewildered, homeless, starving and grieving. May Maman Brigitte lead their dead to the ancestors. Let us remember the sheer humbling faith and resilience, too, of those who had little, and now have nothing, but who we have witnessed on our TV screens singing in praise as they are rescued form the rubble. Brighid, may they be given healing and all the help they need – no strings attached – for a new beginning.

Hail Maman Brigitte
Hail Brighid
Hail Bride  


About the Author: Caroline Wise has been a member of the Fellowship of Isis for 21 years. She is Priestess, Hierophant, ArchDruidess, Grand Dame Commander, Solar Alchemist and member of the ArchPriesthood Union, ArchDruid Union and Grand Commander Union within the FOI, and a Priestess in the Temple of Isis, Geyserville, California. She helped to found several lyceums, groves and priories within the Fellowship. Caroline organized the first FOI Convention which took place in London in September of 1990. She has been active in the esoteric community for many years. Her research on the Goddess Elen is due to come out in book form later this year. Caroline is a regularly featured contributor in the Mirror of Isis. She is a member of the Star of Elen Advisory Board, the Circle of Isis Advisory Board and a founding member of the Muses Symposium.  



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