> In the lecture I will argue that the Virgin in the Virgin and Child page (fol. 7v) in the Book of Kells is a portrait of the Saint Brigit Cogitosus describes in his 7th century Vita Sanctae Brigidae. In particular, I focus on the Virgin’s implied dragon (i.e. serpentine lion) nature and relationship to the mythological hag (cailleach). I demonstrate how the symbolism that connects these two themes was both given systematic expression in the iconography of the Book of Kells and obliquely narrated by Cogitosus.
From Éigse, Volume 5, Issue 1:
“A peculiar allegorical tale is recounted in the Leabhar Breac, and at greater length in the Book of Lismore.22 The tale concerns a game, which, we are told, the youths of Rome were wont to play every Halloween. It was a board game (fidchell) with the figure of a hag at one end and the figure of a girl at the other. The hag releases a dragon towards the girl, and the girl releases a lamb towards the dragon so that the lamb overcomes the dragon. The hag, thereupon, releases a lion towards the girl who releases a ram which conquers the lion. The game is alleged to have been invented by Sybil as prophecy of Christ and the devil. Whether the writer of the tale has any real board game in mind is open to doubt, and if he had it is not the normal fidchell. Besides we are explicitly told that it was a game played by the youths of Rome.”
My understanding of Scottish folklore is that Cailleach and Bride represent seasons of Winter and Summer. Does Cailleach and Brigit have the same seasonal meaning in Ireland?
(The writer Caitlín Matthews sees the Hag as Cailleach and Maiden as Brigit. And I am wondering if the board game spoken of is a representation of the folk tradition of summer having to battle and defeat winter.)
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