Back to reality

Birth of the Son

copyright 1998 Maggi Rohde

On one chilly day in autumn, the town of Bethlehem in Judea was busy with
activity.  The Emperor Augustus had sent out an order for all the citizens
of the Empire to register themselves for the census.  Disobeying the
Emperor was grounds for severe punishment, and so there were long lines of
people in the streets of every town.  Bethlehem was no exception.  The
line before the registration booth stretched past two inns and the tavern.  

A woman wearing a green dress had been waiting there since midmorning.
She stamped her feet to keep them warm, and kept her hands deep in her
sleeves.  Just as the last man in front of her stepped up to register, a
commotion before one of the inns caught her attention.  The inkeeper was
crossly pushing a man and his wife out the door.  The woman in the green
dress noticed that his wife was very pregnant, and she did not look well.

"I'm very sorry, but we have no space for you," the innkeeper was saying.
"Our rooms are full.  You'll have to check down the street at the Flying

The man turned to go, defeat and weariness showing plainly on his face.
But his wife would have none of it.  Her pale cheeks blazed with fury.
"We have been to three inns in this town, and four in the last," she
growled, her ebony hair slipping loose from its modest habit.  "It has
been more than a day since we have eaten.  Our donkey is lame and -- well,
look at me!  I'm liable to burst in two any moment!  Have you no kindness?
Have you no mercy?" 

"None for those who cannot pay," he replied icily, sneering at her ragged
clothing.  "Take your problems to the magistrate, if you can get an
appointment."  The innkeeper glared at the man.  "And keep control of your
wife, carpenter," he hissed, slamming the door behind him.

The man put his arm around his raging wife and gently led her down the
street.  "May your beds have lice and your ale go sour, you... you pompous
piece of donkey dung!" she swore, swinging her fist threateningly even as
her husband strove to calm her.  

The woman in the green dress hid a smile behind her hand.  She was still
watching the unfortunate couple make their way down the street with their
donkey when the census-taker called her forth.

"Name," he asked in a monotone.

"Brigid," she replied.  "Daughter of Sean, innkeeper."

He wrote this down on his scroll.  "Fine, then... next?"  But she put up a
hand to stay the next person.

"Does not the Emperor wish to know each person's position?" she asked.

He paused, eyeing her distastefully.  Her red curls were immodestly
uncovered; she was alone, with no male escort, and her face bore a
confidence that he clearly thought women should not possess.  "And what
occupation would a woman like you have?" he asked.

"The oldest one," she said.  "I'm a midwife."

Brigid was unsurprised to find the ragged couple when she returned home to
her father's inn, the Flying Hare.  She was, however, surprised to see her
father shaking his head when they asked for shelter.

"With so many returning to their home villages for the census, we have no
room," said Sean, speaking over the din of the other patrons.  "All spaces
are taken.  I'm afraid I can offer you little more than a bit of supper -- 
and we have precious little of that."

The ebon-haired woman tried to glare at the innkeeper, but it was clear
that she was too tired to put up much more of a fight.  "That's more than
we were offered in town at the Stuck Pig," she sighed.  

"My daughter will give you some stew," said Sean, showing the weary couple
to an empty bench by the wall.  "Perhaps the inn at Decapolis will have
space for you."  

Brigid followed her father into the kitchen.  "Father, Decapolis is over a
day's travel," she protested.  "I saw their donkey -- it wouldn't make it
halfway there in the state it's in, and neither would they."

The look Sean gave her was regretful, but firm.  "If I could expand our
rooms to hold even one more, a scor, I would.  But we're double-full as it
is, and there isn't one speck left to offer."

Brigid knew her father was not an unkind man.  He, too, had once been a
visitor from another land, and he had sympathy for those away from their
homes.  "At least let me give them a place in the stable, out of the
wind," she pleaded.  

He sighed.  "Yes, yes -- but this is the last we're taking tonight,
daughter.  Now bring the poor couple some stew before they starve."

It was just after dark when Brigid awoke to the sound of cries from the
stable.  The cries were unmistakably those of a woman laboring with child.
Quickly she put on her dress and took up some rags and her herbal
tinctures, and hurried outside.  

The woman's husband was desperately pleading with his wife to be quiet as
Brigid entered the stable.  The woman was leaning against a post,
breathing quickly and cradling her swollen belly in her hands.  When she
heard Brigid, she looked up with fear in her eyes.  "I am dying," she
said, and gritted her teeth with the next rush of her belly.

"You are not," declared Brigid.  "You are doing precisely what you need to
be doing."  She looked sternly into the woman's scared eyes.  "Anyone who
can stand up to old Abraham the inkeeper like you did can certainly
deliver a baby."  Then she turned to the woman's husband, who was staring
at her, twice as scared as his wife.  "And you -- you can lie down and get
some sleep.  We can handle it from here."

Pregnant Mary 
The cows, chewing contentedly, looked on with interest as Brigid walked
with the woman, holding her hand, petting her sweaty hair, massaging her
back, encouraging her when she faltered and praising her when she
prevailed. Brigid gave her a few drops of herb tincture under her tongue
when her energy began to flag, and that helped revive her enough to manage
to keep going.  For many, many hours, the two women walked and breathed

The woman's rushes became longer and more difficult.  At one point she
rolled her head to look at Brigid, weeping with exhaustion.  "I can't do
it anymore," she sobbed.

"Yes, you can," said Brigid.  And she began to sing to the woman.  She
sang her stories of strong women from her homeland, far across the land
and water, of beautiful babes in the arms of their mothers.  She sang of
hope and love and courage.  She carried the woman and her labor on the
blanket of her song.  Her healing power flowed through her voice and into
the woman, and the woman's own power merged with that of Brigid, and they
glowed with the power of women.

Brigid's singing was so beautiful and so strange that the woman's husband
awoke and began to listen.  The people in the inn, dressing themselves for
the day, came outside at the unearthly sound.  Even the shepherds,
watching their flock in the dim light of very early morning, heard it and
were entranced.  They came toward the stable, listening in wonder.  

Finally the woman's noises began to change.  They came from deep in her
throat, low down in her gut.  Brigid helped her to squat down in the
straw.  Slowly, surely, the woman pushed her baby out of her belly and
into the waiting hands of Brigid, who kept singing to the infant boy as he
came into the world.

The shepherds and innfolk, standing in the door of the stable, watched in
awe as the sun crested the horizon and shone its first rays of light onto
the newborn babe.  He seemed to glow with the same magical light.  His
mother looked down upon him, suddenly calm and complete in herself.  She
smiled the smile of all new mothers, since the beginning of time.

Later it was told by those who had been there that an angel had visited
Mary of Nazareth's birth, that she had sung so sweetly that Mary's babe
must be blessed above all others.  Indeed, he must be the son of God.  

And Brigid knew that the stories were true; that the baby Jesus was indeed
the child of God... and of the Goddess, as are all children born. 

Note: I am a doula, a professional labor assistant. It is partly from my work with birthing women that my inspiration for this story comes. The other part of my inspiration is from the goddess Brigid. All my work is dedicated to Her. Blessed be.

Send Maggi feedback

Back to reality