FEBRUARY 1 is a special day in the Irish calendar: St Brigid’s Day.
One of Ireland’s three patron saints alongside St Colmcille and St Patrick, the feast of St Brigid also happens to fall on the Celtic first day of spring, Imbolc.
There are plenty of stories surrounding St Brigid, but few are as famous, fun or fascinating as the tale about how she supposedly turned some ordinary bathwater into beer.
The story goes that one day, while working in a leper colony, she discovered to her horror that they had run out of beer.
It’s important to understand that in those times, centuries ago, beer was consumed on a daily basis as a source of hydration and nourishment.
Back in those times many of the water sources close to villages and towns were often polluted to the point where consumption would likely result in illness or, worse still, death.
Alcohol offered an (almost) germ free alternative and was almost as good as any meal of the era.
So, to be faced with a beer drought was nothing short of disastrous.
Not that it mattered all that much to St Brigid.
Channelling a little divine intervention, she answered the prayers of the thirsty lepers under her charge by turning the water they used to bathe into not just any beer, but a genuinely brilliant beer that was enjoyed by one and all.
Her water-based exploits don’t end there either.
Another part of the legend says St Brigid also succeeded in turning dirty bathwater into beer for the clerics visiting the leper colony where she was based.
There’s even a tale of her supplying some eighteen churches with enough beer to last from Holy Thursday through to the end of Easter despite only having one barrel to her name.
Whether fact or fiction, one thing appears undeniable: St Brigid liked beer.
In any case, her legend lives on through St Brigid’s Day and literature like the famous 10th century poem that speaks of her efforts in giving “a lake of beer to God.” Amen to that.
The poem follows, in full:
I'd like to give a lake of beer to God.
I'd love the heavenly
Host to be tippling there
For all eternity.
I'd love the men of Heaven to live with me,
To dance and sing.
If they wanted, I'd put at their disposal
Vats of suffering.
White cups of love I'd give them
With a heart and a half;
Sweet pitchers of mercy I'd offer
To every man.
I'd make Heaven a cheerful spot
Because the happy heart is true.
I'd make the men contented for their own sake.
I'd like Jesus to love me too.
I'd like the people of heaven to gather
From all the parishes around.
I'd give a special welcome to the women,
The three Marys of great renown.
I'd sit with the men, the women and God
There by the lake of beer.
We'd be drinking good health forever
And every drop would be a prayer.