Monday, February 24, 2014

Book Review: The Clann Bhride Book of Hours

Logo for Clann Bhride
It's no big secret that my home-away-from-home on the internet is the eCauldron forums - there's always interesting discussion and good people to talk to.  I'm also a member of the Cauldron's Cill, a group of people devoted to flametending for the Goddess Brighid.  Some members there have been working on beginning a Brighid-specific religious group separate from the forums for awhile, and recently they launched - the group is called Clann Bhride.  It's not what I'm looking for in a religious group, but I very much respect the people behind it and their tremendous efforts; so when they released a book of prayers, rituals, and essays surrounding Brighid and Her lore, I immediately downloaded it.

The Clann Bhride Book of Hours, written by Aster Breo, Finn, Gilbride and Sage, is a fantastic resource (and free!) for anyone interested in the Goddess Brighid (and may be of interest to many others, for reasons I'll get to in a moment).   It's a fairly quick read, clocking in at around 140-some pages on my Kindle, but is absolutely packed with prayers, rituals, lore, and reflective essays.  It is a very practical guide to a spiritual practice devoted to Brigid.  The book begins with a dedication ritual, and then gives possible prayers that can be used throughout the day; and then goes on to describe occasional prayers and practices, such as flametending.  A new concept that I hadn't heard of before is called well tending - caring for or donating towards the care of a body of water.  Of all the possible practices laid out in the book, this was my absolute favorite, and I'm already thinking of how to incorporate it into my life.  Various festivals (generally Celtic) and their relation to Brigid are discussed, and some possible rituals and prayers for life events such as births, deaths, and rites of passage are given.  In the second part of the book, there are some wonderful essays discussing both practical practice and theology surrounding Brigid.  My personal favorite was "Brigid: Lady of Our Hearths, Lady of Our Hearts", in which the authors present a wonderful list of all the different deities, saints, and mortal women in the Celtic lore who bore a name or title etymologically related to Brigid; and the general idea of their stories and attributes.

The main issue I had with the book - and it can hardly be called an issue, as for some it will certainly be a positive point - is the tendency of the authors to universalize Brigid, associating Her with Goddesses such as Vesta and Minerva.  This is not necessarily a problem - and happily makes the book applicable to those who worship a hearth or fire related Goddess - but is far enough from my personal view of the divine that many of the prayers would need some modification to work in my personal practice.  She is also often associated with the creation of the cosmos, and also the moon and stars; which doesn't apply to my experience of Her.  I want to reiterate that these things are only a drawback for me personally - I imagine these aspects of the book will actually open it up to many others who aren't drawn to honor Brigid in a Celtic-specific or hard polytheist manner.

Overall, I think the Clann Bhride Book of Hours is an excellent resource, and I can't say enough good things about the people behind it.  Full of beautifully-written prayers, wonderful practice concepts, and brilliant essays; it's absolutely worth a download - especially at its current price of FREE.  There's also a paperback version available for a small fee to cover printing a shipping.  If you're even remotely interested, pick it up!  It's absolutely worth the time.

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