This is part of a Wednesday series on Goddess spirituality and political activism.
Lammas (loaf mass) is the midpoint between the summer solstice and the autumn equinox. It’s a time of anticipation: the work of planting and tending the crops is mostly done, but the harvest is not yet certain. Lammas is connected with a number of Celtic Goddesses, including Brigid .
Brigid (or Bride) is the Irish Goddess of fire. She appears in triple form as the poet, the healer and the smith. She is most strongly connected with the fire festival of Imbolc (Candlemas) in February, but is also revered at Lammas. When Christianity arrived in Ireland, Brigid was rewritten as a Catholic saint, said to be the midwife for the Virgin Mary. (How Saint Brigid got from Ireland to a stable in Bethlehem, I don’t exactly know.) The Goddess’s symbols, holy sites, and probably her stories were given to the saint.
As the Goddess of healing, Brigid is associated with sacred wells, and especially hot springs. One story is told about two men afflicted with leprosy, who turned to Brigid for help. She had them bathe in her spring, and told one of the men to wash the other. As he did, the second man’s sores disappeared, and he was cured.
Brigid told the second man to wash his companion.
The newly cured man looked at his friend, still covered with grotesque lesions, and he was repulsed. He said, "I can’t."
Brigid replied, "Then you are not truly healed." And with a wave of her hand, he was stricken with leprosy again, and his companion was healed.
Health care is probably the best example of the saying that, "All of us do better when ALL of us do better." That’s the thinking behind vaccinations, safe-sex campaigns, and anti-smoking rules. On a broader level, vegetarianism is good for individual health, but also good for the environment, which impacts all of our health. (I’m still working on the self-discipline for that one, but even getting there in stages is better than not getting there at all. Every meatless meal means a little more grain to go around, and a little less carbon in the atmosphere.)
Here in California, several years ago some bright sparks came up with Proposition 187, cutely nicknamed Save Our State or SOS. Among other things, it forbade providing any "non-emergency" health care without proof of the patient’s citizenship or legal presence in the United States. Had this been enacted, it would have meant no vaccinations for anyone undocumented, no medication for contagious diseases, no treatment for pretty much anything short of a heart attack.
The harm would have been greatest to undocumented people, but it wouldn’t have stopped there, just like smoke doesn’t stay in the smoking section. Emergency rooms would have far more overcrowded, since problems that could have been treated earlier would have been literally left to fester. When a Prop 187 supporter inevitably got hepatitis because the person handling their food couldn’t get treatment, I promise you, that same Prop 187 supporter would never have seen their own part in creating the problem. Fortunately, the State Supreme Court struck down the law. Now, with California’s budget crisis, the anti-immigrant crowd is gearing up again, trying to find a way around the court’s ruling.
I'd be remiss if I didn't link to the video of Jon Stewart's recent interview with Bill Kristol, where Jon cornered Kristol into admitting that the gevernment can indeed run a first-class health care system, and does so for the military. Kristol then went on to make the brain-implodingly bizzarre argument that if we bring everyone else's health care up to the same standard, that somehow devalues the care the troops are getting, even though the troops' care would be exactly the same as before.
There are times when health care becomes a zero-sum phenomenon, like when you have one defibrillator available and two patients in your overcrowded emergency room who need it right now. But a lot of those situations could be avoided with quality universal preventive care that keeps people out of emergency rooms. Better care for you spirals back around into better care for me. Brigid's well has enough for all of us.
Happy Lammas, y'all.