Like many Irish Saints, Saint Bridget is said to have had a great love of animals, and like all the best Irish Saints, she had a Kerry connection! In 2017 in Killorglin, that connection was revived, with the recreation of the 'Festival of the Biddys', where Biddy groups visiting rural and public houses. They carry a hay-stuffed Brídeóg doll with them to ensure evil spirits are kept away from humans and animals for the coming year. The Biddy heritage is a mixture of Christianity (St Bridgid) and ancient Celtic traditions. Traditionally, a visit from the Biddy guaranteed good luck, fertility, prosperity and to not receive a visit was considered a slight.
Our own visit from the biddy.
In January of this year, KLAWS was blessed to receive our own visit from the Biddy, but this one had four feet and wasn't made of straw. On the night of Nollaig na mBan (Women's Christmas), I got a phone call to tell me there was a lonely dog loose on the road, not too far from where I live. I threw on my coat, got in my car and drove out to where the dog was supposed to be roaming. As soon as I got out, this lovely gentle girl came up to me. As I bent down to check if she had a collar on her, she looked me straight in the eyes, and licked my hand. She was as well behaved as could be, and getting her into my car was no problem.
As I drove home on that cold and wet road, I thought of how much forgiveness and kindness animals show us all, every day. Like many families in Kerry, our livelihood and wellbeing depends on animals. They feed us, they clothe us, they guard us, they help us and they protect us. As water on the road sprayed under my tyres, I thought how miserable a day this poor dog had been having. It was only a mild rain as I drove past Dereen, but looking at her coat, I thought she'd been outside for quite a while, she seemed soaked through. There might be someone frantically looking for her, but I doubted it. We would notify the Kerry pound up in Tralee, scan for a microchip and wait a week in case anyone came forward, but regardless of the outcome, she was safe now anyway. On that winters night, on Nollaig nMban, I thought I'd name her Bridget in honour of Irish Women. She'd have a warm fire to sleep in front of tonight, and a safe and loving home to welcome her as soon as the team of volunteers at KLAWS could organise it.
No one did come forward to claim her, I suppose she wasn't missed. This February 1st, whether you do or you don't pay any heed to the 'Biddys', maybe you could take a moment to think about this 'Biddy'. She is a beautiful girl, and after some basic medical attention, is on her way to a new home. If you'd like to honour her journey, please consider donating to support our work at KLAWS. That way, we can be there for all the four legged Bridgets at least!