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Brigit - Part 5
The Sacred Flame

By: Aisling Bronach of House Shadow Drake

Article Index

Part One: Introduction
Part Two: Early Immigrations
Part Three: Celtic Mythology and Legends
Part Four: The Goddess Brigit
Part Five: The Brigantes
Part Six: St. Brigit
Part Seven: Modern Practices
Part Eight: Conclusion and Bibliography

The Brigantes

According to legend, there was once a king by the name of Mil. He had an uncle by the name of Ith who lived within the town of Brigantia. One day Ith climbed to the top of his tower and saw another land across the sea in the distance. The land that he saw in the distance was Ireland. Overcome by curiosity and fascination, he set sail for Ireland against the will of his family. He set sail with 90 warriors, and eventually arrived at Corca Duibhne in southwestern Ireland.

Ith and his followers could find no inhabitants upon the coast and so decided to travel north. Eventually, they came to Ailech in what is now Co. Donegal There they found that the island was ruled jointly by three kings: Mac Cuill, Mac Cecht, and Mac Greine, the grandsons of the Dagda. The wives of these kings were the triple goddess of the land of Ireland itself: Banba, Fotla, and Eriu.

Neit, the god of war, had fallen in a battle with the Fomorii, and thus these three kings were quarreling over how the succession should be split among them. Ith was asked to stand as a judge over the matter. In his wisdom, he decided that all the goods should be equally divided among the three kings. The three kings found this judgement to be satisfactory between them. Overwhelm with enthusiasm at this triumph, Ith went on to praise the land of Ireland in such detail that the kings felt that if he were to return to his land, invaders would come and attempt to overtake the land because of Ith's wondrous description alone. Plans were then made to kill Ith. He was commanded to leave Ireland, and as he made his preparations for departure he was promptly assassinated on what is now called Mag Itha. When the followers of Ith escaped from this foreign island and returned home, they brought with them the grievous news of Ith's demise. Immediately, a plan was made to extract vengeance and they set sail for the land across the sea.

A question must then be raised as to where this mysterious town of Brigantia originated. We must then take a closer look into the family of Ith, and the tower that he ascended. In the book of Invasions, we learn that Bregon, the grandfather of Mil, built a tower. Now, it has long since been questioned as to whether this same tower might have been the same as Conann's Tower that we are familiar with during the Second Battle of Mag-Tured. From the Book of Leinster, we are given a genealogy that states that Bregoin had a son by the name of Bile the Great, who in turn had a son named Brath, who then had a son named Mil. In the eleventh century, the maps indicate a town in Spain called Bregon. Today, the name of that same town is Bragance. In many instances, though, this town is called Brigantia.

The first thoroughly documented tribe of the Brigantes comes from Britain. It was thought by Baudeu that this particular tribe of Brigantes were actually the Phrygians of Gaul. He also believed that the Seat of the Mother Goddesses, Samothrace, was in the Gaul. Because of this, he also believed that the Phrygians were the first race, and thus were the ones who first brought art and science into the world.

Outside of the archaeological record, all other information regarding the Brigantes comes from writings made after the Roman invasion of Britain in 43 AD It is thought that the Brigantes were actually made up of many smaller tribes such as the Setantii, Corvetii, Gabrantovices, Tectoverdi, Lopocares, and Latenses. The name of the Brigantes comes from the singular form Brigans, which is the derived from the Celtic root word for The High Ones.

During the Iron Age, the northern sects of the Brigantes were predominately pastoral, while their southern counterparts survived by hunting and used very little agriculture. Very little cereal surplus existed, and so it is believed that they found their sustenance mostly in meat and only used the cereals to supplement their diets. The livestock that was kept was usually slaughtered after one or two winters, which shows that they were able to feed the animals throughout winter without having to do mass killings. A stranger aspect of their culture involves the making of pots and bowels. Even though they possessed the knowledge of making pottery and such, the Brigantes preferred wood and leather. This form of pots continued into the Roman inhabitation of Brigantian territory, and thus shows that the preference was due to culture rather than lack of technology ore poor economy.

After the invasion of Britain by the Emperor Claudius, the queen of the Brigantes, Cartimandua, decides to ally herself with the Roman Empire. Although there was nothing to gain by this action, it is believed that the motivating factor in this allegiance may have been influenced by her husband, Venutius. Venutius is described by Tacitus to have been long faithful to Rome.

By 47 AD, the first Roman governor, Aulus Plautinus, was in place without any Brigantian opposition. Because of her decision to ally with Rome, Cartimandua was always in fear that the Brigantians would revolt against her. When she and Venutius began to quarrel with one another, Cartimandua become more and more dependant on the Roman legion to support her.

When Boudiccea, queen of the Icenii, decided to rebel against the Romans in 61 AD, Cartimandua refused to support her. As always, she remained faithful to Rome. But, the troubles continued between her and Venutius. In 69 AD she decided to divorce him and eloped with his armor-bearer, Vellocatus. The two sides fought against one another, fighting for the control of the Brigantes. Both Cartimandua and Venutius called for the aid of the Romans, and soon it became a battle between the Romans themselves. Eventually, Cartimandua escapes from the entire conflict and flees with her lover, Vellocatus. She is never heard from again.

Venutius is defeated in 71 AD, and is pushed from the Vale of York to Stanwick. During the next year, Petillus is able to reach Venutius. The Romans take advantage of the political situation of the Brigantes and attempt to establish governship over them. The Brigantes were unhappy with the current situation, and probably made attempts to revolt from the Romans. It is possible that small groups of the Brigantes attempted to flee the from the Romans and headed west across the Irish channel.

By this time, the ninth Roman legion was firmly established inside of Brigantian territory. In 74 AD , Cerialis withdraws from Britain and instead focuses on Wales. Julius Agricola becomes the governor from 79-81 AD, during which he is able to completely garrison the Brigantian territory. A centurio regionis is established and continued to exist from AD 95-105 at Carlisle.

In 117 AD, Hadrian succeeds as the Emperor of the Roman Empire. It is reported to him that the Britons could not be kept under control by the Romans. Hadrian's Wall is then built to ensure the Romanization of the Brigantians. The Brigantian towns are slowly overtaken by the Romans, and thus Aldborough emerges as the Brigantian tribal administrative center. No evidence of the of an Aldborough settlement existed prior to the Romans. It is suggested that the area was a religious site of some sort, as it is marked by a high concentration of stone henges. We know that Aldborough did exist because of three entrees in the Antonine Itenerary where it is described as the civitas capitol of the Brigantes. Here it is listed as Isurium, Isuriam, and Isubrigantum.

During the second century, Ptolemy recorded on a map that a group of Brigantes were inhabiting the southeastern portion of Ireland. This is the only real documentation of the Brigantes occupying Ireland. The burials on the island of Lambay in the Irish Channel may pose as the only evidence of the Brigantes in Ireland. During the construction of a harbor on the island of Lambay in 1927, a series of inhumation burials were discovered. The skeletons were buried in shallow graves in a flexed position, and then covered with clean silver sand. There was at least one grave of what appeared to be an important warrior of some kind. Together with the skeleton were found fragments of a parallel-sided sword, a shield made of a bronze sub-conical boss with a disc-shaped projection, a scabbard with openwork ornament, an iron mirror, five fibulae, two bronze and jet bracelets, a beaded torc, decorate sheet bronze, and a circular diskette with bears, bronze rosette studs, and beaded edges. All of these objects suggest a culture that was influenced by the Romans. The beaded torc was an item that was utilized exclusively by the Brigantes, and thus seems to heavily suggest that these inhabitants might very well have been a group of Brigantes fleeing the Romans. Dating of the site indicates that the time of occupation was probably around the end of the first century, which would coincide with what we know about the British Brigantes.

Therefore the Brigantian occupation of Ireland is entirely possible. With them they would have brought their religion, thus establishing a following of the goddess Brigantia.

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