Milk Symbolism in the ‘Bethu Brigte’

Milk Symbolism in the ‘Bethu Brigte’

Torma, Thomas

The Heroic Age Issue 7 Spring 2004


Of particular importance to the Brigidine hagiographers was Brigit’s close association with dairy products. This article explores the role that dairy products play in the Bethu Brigte, the ninth century Old Irish biography of St. Brigit. In particular this article focuses on the relationship between milk and purity in these lives.

In early Irish hagiography, Brigit exerts patronage over production and supply of milk and other dairy products. This article will focus on the ninth century Bethu Brigte, the earliest vernacular life of Brigit or of any Irish saint. This article seeks to explore the role that dairy products play in the Bethu Brigte while treating the text as a work of literature, a work that is whole and complete in itself. Much as we are able to find many examples of milk symbolizing purity in other works of Irish literature, we also find that milk demonstrates and exemplifies Brigit’s holy purity.

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