Notes on Some Implications in Chapters II;4 and III;1
by the Riverend Clarence Sterling © 2000

"St Bridget's Crosses . . . must be made on St Bridget's Eve,
after sunset on the last day of January. St Bridget's Day
marks the commencement of the pastoral year."
Pennick, Nigel. The Celtic Cross.

"Wee, cumfused the Gripes limply, shall not even be the
last of the first, wee hope, when oust are visitated by the
Veiled Horror."
Finnegans Wake. 156.31-33.

From James Joyce, the genius who placed the portmanteau word among the stars, comes (inevitably) the portmanteau number (saints preserve us). So while reaching into the 1132 satchel, I want to emphasize that what I shall pull out will in no way contradict the other outstanding interpretations extant. My lemma should rather reinforce others, and gild our appreciation of James Joyce's awesome skill at making numbers and ideas mesh and reverberate. There is however a smoking gun significance for 1132. This stumbling student of Mr Joyce's required some time to discover it. Clues, however, confirm my radix for 1132 in Finnegans Wake once dug (-- at least it's within the Heisenberg parameter stating that "an area of uncertainty can never be reduced to zero").

What we know quickly from the text is worth reviewing at this point. Most germane is that Mr Joyce wants us to realize that 1132 is a date, a year. Surveying what might be called the 1132 section of FW (pp. 387-420), we note references to:
1) <the year of the flood 1132> (387.23);

2) <the freebutter year of Notre Dame 1132> (388.20);

3) <around about the year of buy in disgrace 1132> (391.02);

4) <old year's eve 1132> (397.30);
and in the final page featuring 1132 (as a numeral anyway), we have what seems the dénouement -- not only a year, but a specific day in history,
5) <31 Jan. 1132 A.D.> (420.20).
The other 1132 entries in this section of FW largely involve playing upon the numeral as part of a street address, by which we are instructed perhaps that not only is a specific time in mind, but a specific place as well.

Let us then take time and space to be the vertical and horizontal planes of a Cartesian grid. Each intersection of time and space will mark some particular event. But what? Again, it's worth iterating that hints abound, but their value is mostly post facto. These clues are esoteric and encrypted to the extent that we are as in a dark room and unlit signs pointing to the light switch are of little use. But even after the light becomes present, to be intelligible the signs must be in a language we know. This means escaping from the wind of my extended metaphor to a much more pleasant focus of discussion, and that is the patron saint and guardian spirit of Ireland, Saint Brighid, so respected as to be called The Mary of the Gael.

One should like to spend a great long time on the subject of Saint Brighid, but she still would not be done justice by such meager skills as I muster, and I suspect she will pardon me for appearing crass in bringing to the table only a handful of knowledge chosen because it applies to our search:
a) yes, Ireland is blessed to have three patron saints in all, including (with Brighid), Pátric (Patrick) and Colum Cille (Columba);

b) yes, some scholars within and without the pale of the Church are disturbed by the fact that Brighid reappears in various guises in various times and seems part historic, part mythic -- part Christian, part pagan -- part here, part there, and so on -- but that is no problem for Joyceans and other such simple-hearted souls of the laity;

c) one of her dualities is that she is herself; -- but also an incarnate representative of Mary of Nazareth;

d) as a saint, Brighid is the protectress of dairymaids; as a Celtic supernatural lady, her attributive associates are the cow and lamb;

e) as a saint, her feast-day is February 01; as a Celtic supernatural lady, she is associated with February 02, lambing day (one of the four primary Gaelic holy days, Imbolc, meaning bag of cream or butter-womb) -- and due to the standard lunar calendrics of Celtic Ireland, which began a "day" at the sunset of its preceding eve, Saint Brighid's Day has some right to being seen as beginning on Saint Brighid's Eve (the sunset of January the 31st), and extending from there to encompass both the 1st and 2nd of February, so that various celebrations in Brighid's honor will occur over a period of 48 hours plus the tilly if we include in our survey Eire, Scotland, and the Hebrides;

f) as a saint, she founded the Cella Roblorum, or Church of the Oak (Cill-daur > Kill-dara > Kildare), which I think (therefore I am probably wrong) is not too far from the Liffey headwaters; as an ancient Celtic goddess and representative of the Bona Dea, Brighid has never left us and is capable of appearing anywhere anytime in any guise;

g) as the first abbess of Kildare, she was followed by an unbroken line of abbesses who commanded great respect from the people and were responsible through Brighid's order for maintaining by precise ritualistic means a continuous fire ignited by Saint Brighid before her death ca 522. The abbesses were assisted in this by a self-replenishing school, comprised at all times of exactly 19 nuns.
In 1132, a truly horrid and disgusting event occurred which one does not care to have to relate, but it must be confronted, and that is the rape of the Abbess of Kildare by a soldier -- allegedly ordered by Dermot MacMurrough of Leinster for the purpose of destroying the sanctity of that abbess, and thus rendering her unfit for her office. This is said to have been done so that MacMurrough might enhance his power by imposing in her place a kinswoman of his own. The travesty was amplified by depredations on the monastery of Kildare.

The rape of the Abbess of Kildare is an especially disturbing instance of that aspect of Irish politics (perhaps endemic to most politics) which Joyce naturally despised - the ugly face of internal betrayals evoked by the image of an old sow eating her children. (It has a savage resonance with the issue which awoke in childhood Joyce's passionate disdain for the banality of evil, and that was the verbal assault on Katharine O'Shea by the clergy through which the political power of Charles Stewart Parnell was broken). Meant as an opening move in MacMurrough's checkered rise to power, the rape of the Abbess of Kildare threw open the gate on a hellish path which led to the Norman occupation of Ireland. Saint Brighid's house had been purposefully shattered because it bred harmony. We are still fitting together the broken shards -- or trying, at least.

James Joyce was intensely proud of being born on February 02, lambing day, that is on Imbolc, which by the old reckoning shares the claim for being Saint Brighid's Day along with February 01. Joyce considered Saint Brighid to be his muse and liked to have his works first issued on February 02 to honor her. She is invoked in all post-Chamber Music work. As St Bride, Brighid continues to maintain her abbey in FW, where it is become a Finishing Establishment for the <THE FLORAS> . . . <a month's bunch of pretty maidens> (220.03-04).

Brighid is Maria in Clay, the moocow in Portrait, the old milk woman in Ulysses, the maids in Portrait and Exiles (don't miss the milk truck), and perhaps the broken branch in Tilly (one means allowed to stoke the sacred fire at Kildare was to wave air over it with a branch) -- plus a thousand references to milk and bovine things in the Joycean oeuvre.

Brighid was born herself by manifesting from a bucket of milk being carried out the door by her mother, a milkmaid. And the Irish Catholic Church, before it came under the foot or aegis, as you will, of the Roman Catholic Church, baptized in milk rather than water. Within our fleeting 20th century, Irish farmers have been seen crossing yet the flanks of their cows by means of milk-dipped fingers.

For those still with me, we return to the clues of our quest:
1) <the year of the flood 1132> (387.23);

In the passage from p 387 through p 420, a character is imparted in steps to the number 1132, whose essential characterization is that it is a year, and 387.23 sets the motif. The reader learns furthermore that 1132 was the year of the flood. In one gloss, <the year of the flood> has the ring of a provincialism, a way of telling time that is too local for modern senses. On a grander note, <the year of the flood> calls the Diluvian chapters of Genesis to mind (cf U 084:06 Random House, 1961). The two inferences enhance one another's conjuring of a Way-Back Machine landing and opening its door to us -- but there is no direct sighting of Brighid's hem as it slips into the astral.

Not until we skip a line to 387.25 and read <Her Grace the bishop Senior>. This is a nearly bald allusion to Saint Brighid, as it has often been alleged that she achieved the unique position of being ordained a female Bishop. Her Catholic apologists have noted that the absurd thought of a woman with a bishopric precludes its possibility, and have explained that Saint Brighid was merely accorded the equivalency in power and respect.

Water. Color. I offer those two entities as forming a soft dichotomy for dividing up the motives and conceits of the Wake. When matched with the moieties space-of-being versus time-for-grace (the polarity fueling the mock-comico-serious dissension of Wyndam Lewis and James Joyce respectively), then time must obviously be assigned to the camp of Water, as the function of time is the tide, and the river its simile. Page 387 provides an imagery of time and the tide through the citation of historic and legendary disasters at sea, the voyage of Noe (the Irish for Noah), the shipwreck of Henry I's son in 1120, the drowning of Pharaoh's army, and the execution of that good submariner, Sir Roger Casement -- all aqueous events which followed variotous improprieties.

The linkage of the flood with the year of 1132 is to establish perhaps that 1132 is not only a time, but a bad time that recapitulates and anticipates crises from other ages, in the allegorical sense resonant with Brighid's having a metempsychotic relationship with Eve and Mary. All in all, good times rarely signal the shift of Viconian gears, and bookwise we are but a dozen pages from the end of the second part (Part Three begins at p 401), and not many more pages again, we hear the 10th and final clap of thunderous repercussion at 414.19-20.

Meanwhile the bride-ship of Yseult sinks slowly in the west, as the heroic voices of the evangelists prepare to yield the floor to Shaun, the Hardware Saint and proper people's voice. This at least is what I have read, for in truth, on my own I rarely can follow a thread of meaning through more than five consecutive words of Finnegans Wake, let alone be carried along by the narrative flow. And you see how I try.

2) <round about the freebutter year Notre Dame 1132> (388.19-20);

By freebutter, we are implied Saint Brighid's dairymaid attributes, and reminded of her primary passage and annual re-origins from the butter-bag (or womb) each Imbolc, but more directly, Mr Joyce's agglutinate, freebutter, acknowledges folkloric testimony to the effect that no one ever went without butter in Kildare when Saint Brighid was there. She had magic (whoops, scratch that) blessèd cows, and the good lady indeed gave away a great deal of free butter to her many happy parishioners;

Notre Dame (Our Lady) points to her as The Mary of the Gael;

<1132 Brian or Bride street> (388.26-27) cites Saint Brighid's common nick name of Bride (sometimes modified to Bridey or Biddy), in conjunction possibly with Brighid's son, Brian, upon whose death Brighid invented keening, and thus to some extent invented the wake itself (and perhaps as well a Brighidine writer is cited, Brian O'Naillgusa -- and inevitably the Brian of all Brians, Brian Boru, the high king slain at the Battle of Clontarf in the early 11th century);

<at or in or about the late No. 1132 or No. 1169> (389.13);

the Norman-Anglo Conquest of Ireland began in 1169, when a mercenary invasion force sailing from Norman-occupied Wales captured Wexford and Waterford. A year later the Normans took Dublin, and over the next century, 75% of Ireland would fall, including virtually all of the vital coastal areas along the eastern banks.

Dermot MacMurrough's wily but rather low-life reign of deceit, beginning in 1132, paved the way for the Norman occupation. Church politics in these affairs is glossed by plays on Kill (church, cf Kill-dara) in lines 389.06-07, eg Killeachother; -- and an allusion to Mary via Fatima (389.15), her Portuguese apparition; -- and to Mary's son, Jesus, as Fitzmary (389.13), meaning "the son of Mary."

<. . . the matther of Erryn . . . was to rule . . . the grandest gynecollege> (389.06-09);

Mr Joyce reminds us: the mother of Ireland (first Brighid, and then later her vicars, the succession of abbesses at Kildare) for centuries ruled a famed, powerful, and beloved clerical assembly whose heart was a corps of 19 nuns and the abbess herself (gyne is Greek for "woman"; collega is Latin for colleague; a college is a body of clergy living together -- it is hard to imagine that there is no intended reference therein to Brighid, and to Kildare and the noble nuns);

3) <year of buy in disgrace 1132 or 1169 or 1768> (391.02);

-- and the treachery of greed echoes for six centuries leading to the Irish agrarian outrages in the latter half of the 18th century. Buy sounds agrarian Anglo-Irish for "boy."

Don't miss the appearance of the villainous MacMurrough on the facing page as Mahmullagh (390.09), followed soon by the poignant: <The good go and the wicked is left over. As evil flows> (390.29-30), and what could be Mac- Murrough's brusque and desperate orders to the soldier-rapist: <Woman. Squash. Part.> (390.32-33);

4) <old year's eve 1132, M.M.L.J. old style> (397.30);

-- the clarification that we are to view the date (when we come to it fully) by the old style, the Celtic moon-based calendar, that is, hidden within what at first glance one assumes to be a reference to the Old Style, or Julian, calendar-system which preceded our modern Gregorian system of calendrics. The old style older than the solar Julian or Gregorian, the lunar, begins each day of record at sunset (old year's eve), blurring our modern distinction between "days" [cf Christmas Eve];

-- now, with the light on, we come to the dénouement:

5) <31 Jan. 1132 AD> (420.20) is henceforward seen blurrily but with some confidence as a finger pointing to the awful rape of the Abbess of Kildare, recorded as occurring in that year (1132) to a woman charged with perpetuating the spirit and ritual and facility and order of the saint whose day is February 01, an extension of the eve of January 31 by the old lunar-calendar style).

<Once Bank of Ireland's> . . . <Now Bunk of England's> (420.32-&-34);

The cynical violation of a holy maid in a soldier's bed made the shores (banks) of Ireland into England's bunk for 750 years.

<Milchbroke. Wrongly spilled> (420.33);

You may cry over the spilling of sacred milk.

Although the Riverend is on record as requesting no followers, I sincerely thank you for attending this discourse, and apologize for its length. Meanwhile, the top of the morning to you, a phrase, by the way, which refers to the cream which rises to the top of a dairy bucket -- just as did once the infant Saint Brighid.

Yours, in her grace's watch, the
Riverend Clarence Sterling

Adapted and developed from my e-mail to the Joycean listgroups --
first to <fwake-l@listserv.heanet.ie> in Sept 1997;
and (in July 1998) to <fwread@lists.colorado.edu>,
and <j-joyce@lists.utah.edu>.


Condren, Mary. The Serpent and the Goddess: Women, Religion, and Power in Celtic Ireland. Harper & Row: San Francisco, 1989. pp. 107 & 112-113.

Curtayne, Alice. Saint Brighid and Ireland. Dublin: Browne & Nolan, 1933.

Dolley, Michael. Anglo-Norman Ireland. Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 1972. p. 30.

Gwynn, Aubrey. The Twelfth Century Reform. Dublin: Gill, 1968. p. 54.
  "      " with R. N. Hadcock. Medieval Religious Houses. London: Longman, 1970. p. 320.

O Duigenan (compiler -- d. 1582). The Annals of Loch Cé: A Chronicle of Irish Affairs, 1014-1590. ed. W. M. Hennessy, 2 vols. (London, 1871; reflex. facs., Dublin: Irish Manuscripts Commission, 1939). A history of the MacDermots of Ireland; comissioned by Brian MacDermot. See the 1132 entry.

Pennick, Nigel. The Celtic Cross. London: Blandford, 1997. pp. 92-93. This is the location of the citation which prefaces this essay. It corroborates the identity in folkloric Ireland of the 31st of January with Saint Brighid, and that it was as a New Year's Eve in the religious lives of the people. As the "last of the first," that is, as the last day of the first month, the 31st of January is the date of the letter described in FW 111.05-24 ["of the last of the first to Dear"]. The letter is found by a hen given a popular form of the name of Brighid, that is, Biddy the Hen.


Ross Chambers helped greatly in locating the above resources.

The Buffalo Notebooks of James Joyce VI.B.10 [1922-1923] have seemingly the earliest appearance of St Brighid in the schemata for Finnegans Wake; p 51, line 12-b.

Scribbledehobble [T. Connolly, ed]: for an early 1132 AD in the schemata, see the list on pages 129-130 (pp. 746-7 of the original) [acc. to Bill Buttler, personal correspondence].

James Joyce wrote the best book on Saint Brighid: Finnegans Wake -- not many pages seem to go by without a reference perceived by the dedicated Brighidine reader.

Gerald of Wales: read the description of Brighid's Book (an illuminated unique edition of Saint Jerome's harmony of the Gospels) as recorded in Gerald's 12th century Irish travelogues. I think that Mr Joyce must have patterned Wakean structure from Gerald's account of the mysterious Brigidine tome Gerald saw at the Kildare Abbey.

Cogitosus, a monk of Kildare in the eighth century, composed a metrical life of Saint Brighid, and versified it in good Latin; known as The Second Life, it is considered to be an excellent example of Irish scholarship in the mid-eighth century.

Most of the lore of Saint Brighid must be followed as a thread wound in and out of works in which she makes all too brief appearances, but the tales are legion once a personal collectanea is assembled. Be prepared to recognize her various faces. She is both a pre-Christian and post-Vatican II pagan supernatural lady and, from the time of her thriving around 500 AD, until 1967 or so, a mainstream, although "non-commissioned," saint of the Church. She spells her names more ways than even the author of Finnegans Wake could have devised! Hardest at first to associate with Saint Brighid is the Welsh version of San Ffraid (cf FW 172.21 where Mr Joyce's Wakean namesake, Shem, is referred to as <fraid born>, indicating that Shem's birthday may be the same as his creator's).

I am including some Brighidine weblinks, and they in turn have weblinks that have weblinks, and those had weblinks before them:

1) < www.chalicecenter.com/imbolc.htm >;

2) < www.cin.org/saints/bridget.html >;

3) < www.clannada.org/docs/brigid.htm >;

4) < www.imbas.org/brighid.htm >;

5) < http://www.joycean.com/essay/riverend1.shtml >;

6) < www.knight.org/advent/cathen/02784b.htm >;

7) < http://www.clannada.org/docs/imbolg.html >;

8) < www.ncf.carleton.ca/~dc920/saintale.html >;

9) < http://www.ncf.carleton.ca/~dc920/saintale.html#1625 >;

10) < www.technovate.org/whiteoak/imbolc.html >; &

11) < www.toad.net/~sticker/thesaint.html >.


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copyright reserved by the author, Clarence R Sterling
2001 january 13
pob 1584 ojai
CA 93024-1584 USA