The Celts would, in mid-May, honor the warrior queen Maeve of Connacht. She was often depicted dressed in red with a pet bird perched on one shoulder, and a pet squirrel on the other.
She was known for having three criteria in the men she would consider for marriage: they couldn’t be stingy, they couldn’t be jealous, and they couldn’t have any fear.
She was half lore and half reality, like all interesting people, and her name came from the pre-Christian Celtic goddess, Sovereignty, who was said to be the one who would approve a royal’s right to rule. Should a royal be overthrown, it was because Sovereignty had deemed them unworthy (stingy, jealous, or afraid).
Today the church remembers an Irish saint who honors the ancient truth that the Celts love the word “story” within “hiSTORY”: Saint Brendan the Navigator, Abbot and Pioneer.
Saint Brendan was born around the year 484 in County Kerry. He was trained by those ancient Irish monks and, at the age of 26, ordained a priest. He then began to travel the island, founding monastery after monastery as he went. He was known for being kind and adventurous, and from his early life longed to answer the siren call that the sea had placed on his heart.
Believing that the Garden of Eden could be found just somewhere off the coast of Ireland (most of us of Celtic ancestry believe this to be true because you’d be hard to find a more perfect spot of land, right?), he took to the sea.
And this is how legend about him grew and grew. His sea adventures were passed down through oral tradition, and the first written accounts of it date around the 900’s, though the voyages themselves took place in the early 6th Century.
Saint Brendan was said to have fought with sea monsters in his boat of eager monks. One legend has him finding an island of lush vegetation, only to discover it was the back of a great monster all along!
Tales of his travels mark Irish bookshelves and drip from Celtic tongues, not because these voyages actually happened, but because they are all true.
Saint Brendan eventually grew tired of the sea voyage life and, after visiting the holy island of Iona in Scotland, retired to the monastery he founded at Annaghdown, though his “retirement” was simply more rounds of travel around Ireland and Britain, visiting this community or that. He died in 577 in Annaghdown while visiting his sister, and fellow monastic, Brigid.
Some actually think (and provide some shaky, but present, evidence to the idea) that Saint Brendan made it as far as Greenland, or even the coast of Canada in his voyages. Others think he made it to the Azores or the Canary Islands. Regardless of how far he made it, though, his tales of faith and voyage have sparked, and continue to spark, the imagination of so many. Like all good saints, he refuses to die.
Saint Brendan is a reminder for me, and should be for the whole church, that sometimes very true things just never happened.
-historical bits from publicly available sites
-icon written by Theophilia, and can be purchased at Deviantart.com