Bridget, also called Brigantia, Brigit, Bhride, Bride, and Brid, was the beloved Goddess of the Celtic people. She was called the "Triple Bridget" as one of her aspects ruled poetry, writing, and inspiration, another one ruled healing, herbolgy, and midwifery, and the third aspect ruled the fires of the hearth, and of the smith, and the arts of smithcraft.
There are many wells, and springs dedicated to Bridget, where the devout would go to bathe and be healed. Legends tell of lepers who washed in these sacred waters and were cured of their leprosy.
This Goddess was so well loved by the people of Ireland, that they refused to stop worshipping her even after the coming of Saint Patrick, and the Christianization of the island. Therefore, the Catholic Church, to keep the people happy, declared her to be Saint Bridget, saying that she had been the daughter of a Druid who predicted Chrisitanity and was baptized by Saint Patrick himself.
At her shrine at Kildare, there was kept a perpetual flame by 19 of her Priestesses. Later, after the Christianization of Ireland, this same flame was tended by the nuns of the Abbey at Kildare, when Bridget became Saint Bridget. These nuns kept themselves totally aloof from men, and even had food and supplies brought to them from women in the nearby village.
In 1220 AD, the Bishop in charge of the area ordered that the Abbey would have to allow a Priest to come and inspect. The Abbess begged that he send a woman instead, but the Bishop declared that the nuns, as women, must be subservient to the male Priests. He then prohibited the keeping of the sacred flame stating that it was a Pagan custom and must be stopped. In 1960, the Catholic church took away Bridget's sainthood, saying that there was not enough proof that she had even lived, let alone performed any miracles!
The festival honoring Bridget is still kept today by Wiccans everywhere on or about February 2nd, and is called Imbolc, or Imbolg, or Oimelc, or Candlemass - depending on the culture of the group's tradition. We continue to honor the Triple Bridget, and the virtues and knowledge that she represents. To learn more about Imbolc, see in this webpage where you can download "A Pagan's Ritual Planner", free software developed as an offering to Bridget, Goddess of writing, poetry, and therefore also - software!
(I have recently read that the eternal flame to Brigdet has been relit both in Kildare, and also here in the United States. It was relit in 1996, and should serve as a beacon of religious freedom to everyone. Lady B)