|Location||Mid Kerry region|
Social practices, rituals and festive events
|Keywords||Crafts, religion, performance|
|Contact organisation||Biddy’s Day Festival|
The Biddy is honoured every year in the mid-Kerry region, with Biddy groups visiting rural houses and public houses. The Biddy’s carry a Brídeóg effigy/doll with them, to ensure evil spirits are kept away from humans and animals alike for the coming year. The Biddy is an ancient tradition with its heritage being a mixture of Christianity (St Brigid) and ancient celtic traditions (Imbolc)
Traditionally, a visit from the Biddy guaranteed good luck, fertility, prosperity and to not receive a visit was considered a terrible slight.
The Biddy is an ancient tradition whose origins have been lost in history; It is believed the practice first took place to celebrate Imbolc. Imbolc (Feb 1st) is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals—along with Beltaine, Lughnasadh and Samhain. Imbolc celebrated the goddess Bridgid. When early Christianity came to Ireland Imbolc was transformed to Brigit’s Day.
The Biddy is an ancient tradition associated with Mid Kerry, Ireland. A Biddy group consists of masked men and women dressed in white and wearing elaborate straw hats. Biddy groups visit rural and public houses. They carry a Brídeóg (effigy/doll of brigid the goddess as a child) with them to ensure evil spirits are kept away from humans and animals alike for the coming year. In each establishment, they will play music and put on displays of dancing and singing.
Some of the ancient crafts unique to the Biddy tradition is the straw hat making, Brigid cross making, Brídeóg making and the brush dance.
As of 2016 there was only two active Biddy groups left in Mid Kerry (All Ireland) this had seen a serious decline with many traditional groups hanging up their hats in the previous twenty years. Thankfully due to the work of a small group of volunteers a one day festival was created to put on displays and a parade of the tradition and tech the skills.
In 2018 there were eleven active traditional groups and two more reforming.
Practice and practitioners
A Biddy group consists of masked men and women dressed in white and wearing elaborate straw hats. Biddy groups visit rural and public houses. They carry a Brídeóg (effigy/doll of brigid the goddess as a child) with them to ensure evil spirits are kept away from humans and animals alike for the coming year. In each establishment, they will play music and put on displays of dancing and singing.
The Biddy is active during Imbolc (the 1st of February).
Townlands in Mid Kerry would have their own biddy group/troupe. The group can consist of 10 to 50 members depending on the popularity.
Some townlands with groups – Kilgobnet, Glenbeigh, Ceannoveree, Glencar, Callinafercy, Acose Lake, Dunloe, Killorglin, Milltown, Cromaine, Caragh Lake.
Development, transmission and safeguarding
This is a multigenerational tradition. Some Biddy groups consist of three generations of families who still don the hats and visit their neighbours to play music and dance for them.
The Biddy’s Day festival was created and took place in 2017 & 2018.
During the festival lectures were held on the history and tradition of the Biddy.
Tradition craft classes were held to teach;
- Hat Making
- Cross Making
- BrideOg Making
A king of the Biddies competition is held free to the public where each group displays their skills
Kilgobnet national school teach Biddy skills to their children.
Killorglin Comhaltas hold preparation classes for Biddy’s Day.
We have held straw workshops throughout the year.
Local historians and writers where approached and have completed work on the biddy tradition.
K-fest art festival held a special biddy event to bolster the tradition.
In 2017 the Mid Kerry Biddys featured in news sites in UAE, India, Australia, UK, and the US.
Biddy’s Day Festival
Related and supporting organisations
Killorgin Chamber Alliance
Killorglin Community Council
K-Fest Art Festival