For US Mother’s Day, I thought I’d talk about the only mother in my life. (My mom passed in 1992.) My relationship with Maman Brigitte is strange from almost any angle you can look at it, but it works.
I knew her as Maman first, in New Orleans. Mari told me she was there with me, watching over me, and had been for a long time. She had an interest in me, but wasn’t calling on me to initiate (which she still hasn’t done). Mari also told me her story, including about her being the New World guise of Brighid. Not all traditions believe that, but Mari’s most certainly does.
Getting to know Maman was a slow, careful process; we were approaching each other in ways that were different for us both. She has never ridden me, as I’m not an initiate; and I’ve been unable to reach her through journeying. As far as I’ve been able to figure out, the place where the lwa live isn’t reachable by human beings, even through shamanic means. Dreamwork and divination have been the most effective ways for us, a kind of meeting halfway.
I’ve also come to know her as Brighid, especially after moving here. I am able to reach her shamanically in that form, as well as through divination. The two have their different realms of concern, but they overlap. Brighid’s presence is stronger where healing and creative work are concerned, but Maman is there, too; Maman is the stronger where working with and honoring the dead is concerned, but Brighid’s hand is on that work, as well.
This is where it all gets complicated. They are separate beings in that they can be engaged with individually, in different ways, and for different purposes — and yet, they’re the same. I think she’s what she’s needed to be by her devotees in the different places she’s taken hold, and as I have strong ties with both places, I’ve come to know both guises. They blend in some ways — Maman as I know her has a touch more decorum, and Brighid as I know her has a touch more rowdiness — but there’s no doubt that they are far from identical personalities. I still have a lot to learn about both, especially as my shamanic work becomes increasingly directly involved with the dead, one again mingling both guises’ realms. That seems to be the way she/they/we are meant to engage.
(photos: original work — They are cross-stitched versions of Maman’s veve and Brigid’s cross, done by me; they stand on my altar in a double frame. I modified the veve slightly so that it would be a symbol rather than a working tool, as a full veve is meant to call a lwa, and I use the modified version to represent her on my altar, not to invoke her.)