When it comes to patron Saints, Patrick gets most of the glory. From dyeing the Chicago River green to the lights on Tokyo Tower, St. Patrick's day makes a celebrity of our Saint.
Less well known, outside of Ireland of course, is our other patron, Brigid.
Though her day isn't met with the same swilling enthusiasm as Patrick's, her life and legacy are as important to Irish culture. St Brigids day falls on the 1st of February and marks the beginning of Imbolc, the festival heralding the beginning of the Celtic Spring. Fact and myth are inevitably muddled in the life of an early Saint, but Brigid is known for continuing Patrick's mission of spreading Christianity throughout Ireland.
Her myths and miracles are too many to mention, but her legacy is best summed up by St. Brigid's cross. In Christian tradition, the story goes that a neighbouring pagan chieftain was rambling inconsolably on his deathbed. Upon visiting, Brigid gathered reeds from the floor of his chamber and began to weave the iconic cross. Transfixed, the chieftain enquired about the cross, and made a deathbed conversion after Brigid taught him the gospel.
Many scholars argue the cross has older origins to the pagan goddess Brigid. Whatever the original origin, the cross has been hung in the doorways of Irish homes for centuries. It is still used as a charm to ward off evil and bring luck.
Building the cross of St. Brigid
Although not as commonly used around the vast Irish diaspora as the shamrock or harp, the cross of St. Brigid is an important symbol of Irish cultural heritage. Its significance likely predates both our three leaved clover and Celtic harp. The meaning it held in pre-Christian times has been lost, like so many things, with time. If you remember,in our previous email, Brigid was said to have first woven the cross while converting a pagan chieftain on his deathbed, using only reeds on the floor. It’s a story every child in Ireland remembers.
Most children learned to weave one at some point too. Although some never quite perfected the art…
The diagram will show you the five steps to start making your own St. Brigid's cross. Your first few attempts will surely end in a bundle of crumpled reeds. But don’t be discouraged, with a small bit of practice, you will have your own household charm to encourage luck and good fortune for this coming year..