St Brigid’s Lake of Beer

by maggi dawn


Early February sees the conflation of a number of feast days: tomorrow is both Candlemas and (in the USA) Groundhog Day; soon it will be Lunar New Year, but today, on February 1st, it is St Brigid’s Day.

St Brigid’s day is a time for purification and the rediscovery of creativity. Most of Brigid’s miracles had a maternal quality, often involving milk.  But she is also known for the poem attributed to her longing for a lake of beer to share with women, men and God.

One should, perhaps, bear in mind that ale, in Brigid’s time, was far weaker than it is today, and that as water was not always safe for drinking ale, for those who could afford it, was the drink of choice. So her prayer is not so much a Dionysian dream, more a vision of safe food and nurture for all. Still, an eternal party without a hangover is a pretty nice image of church. And, as it coincides with the Super Bowl this evening, I think one or two celebratory beers may be drunk.

I wish I had a great lake of ale for the King of kings,
and the family of heaven to drink it through time eternal.
I wish I had the meats of belief and genuine piety,
the flails of repentance, and the men of heaven in my house.
I would like vats of peace to be at their disposal,
vessels of charity for distribution,
caves of mercy for their company,
and cheerfulness to be in their drinking.
I would want Jesus also to be in their midst,
together with the three Marys of illustrious renown,
and the people of heaven from all parts.
I would like to be a tenant to the Lord,
so if I should suffer distress,
he would confer on me a blessing. Amen.