Translated as meaning ‘hostels’, the bruidne of ancient Ireland are depicted as centres of hospitality where all were welcome. A great cauldron maintained in each bruiden would feed everyone, no matter how many; feasting, drinking and general merriment were the order of the day. The bruidne were, in fact, temples and mystical centres of certain ancient religions.
The presence of the magical cauldron is evidence enough alone for this, the theme of such cauldrons being at the heart of many world religions. (Christians need look no further than their ‘loaves and fishes’ story for a parallel.) Bruidne tended to be built ‘over’ or on both sides of streams. It is reported that they glowed with a great fire. This combination of fire and water is similar to that at the Persian Zoroastrian fire temples. One of the great stories in Irish Mythology concerns the Bruiden da Derga, ‘Da Derga’s Hostel’. In this the ‘hostel’ is attacked and destroyed by invaders. . . but not before the attackers were confronted by several magical elements. The notion that such a story could be written about the mere sacking of a glorified pub is absurd. This was a religious conflict, doubtless between the old fire worshipping factions and newer ideas. (The site of Da Derga’s ‘Hostel’ is close to the large modern ‘youth hostel’ in Co. Wicklow’s Glencree. But there the similarity ends!)