It doesn’t look like much, and maybe that’s why it’s so powerful.
Lines cinched together, looking like just another innocuous pattern on West Elm’s newest seasonal lineup for shower curtains, duvet covers and throw pillows.
There’s something so natural about the design, like that seashell swirl of cream in your coffee; the pour begins with your own hand, but what happens next seems eerily choreographed, inevitable, even.
Without getting into a discussion about fractals or the mysteries of π, the folds and lines of the St. Brigid’s Cross do not spontaneously happen in nature. Yet, it’s eerily familiar, that cross. Perhaps this explains how, many years ago, a young woman saved a man’s soul by weaving together such a cross. Or so the story goes.
St. Brigid was born about 15 years before the somewhat official fall of the Roman Empire. As you can imagine, these were very dark times. For young Brigid, on one particular night, this darkness included the impending death of a loved one. As he lay dying, she talked about her faith while weaving rushes together into this peculiar pattern. Over and over she folded the rushes, moving from left to right as does the sunlight to a darkened horizon. A warm glow, itself a flickering weave of light, dark and shadow, must have illuminated her work from a nearby hearth as he lay there, fevered but watchful. “Joy cometh in the morning,” says a book that’s now so much a part of the English language that it seems as natural as the St. Brigid Cross itself. Such was the joy for this man who survived the night that he converted to this same faith that young Brigid spoke of. And so began the story of St. Brigid’s Cross.
You’d think that Steven Spielberg would have made a movie out it by now. Powers to ward off fire and evil spirits, even greater powers promising crops and feasts of plenty with a special nod toward dairy—Hello, cheese!—bacon and beer (uh, yes and yes, please). Then there are the wells that act as portals to another world, the spiritual and healing powers of trees, especially oak, and unearthly providence for both craftsmen and poets alike. For sure, literacy rates in what was the Roman Empire plunged. Chaos ensued, and much of the world slipped under the pall of the Dark Ages. Except in the little corner of Ireland, made safe by the waters of the Atlantic, where St. Brigid and those around her quietly wrote and illustrated the Book of Kildare, a possible (and now lost) precursor to the Book of Kells.
Unfortunately for anyone hoping to see this story on the big screen and play with the action figures, it probably won’t happen. St. Brigid and her cross were never about anything worthy of an archeological dig. This isn’t to say that St. Brigid isn’t worthy of an action figure, by the way.
What is so incredibly peculiar about St. Brigid’s cross is that it’s meant to be woven out of rushes, once a year (or as many times as you’d like) and placed over a door or in the rafters. The internet is full of instructions on how to weave your own, not on the lore and glamour associated with an original cross.
Rushes aren’t easy to come by. And it’s not often that there’s extra time for weaving. And so, inspired by the powerful design of St. Brigid’s Cross is our own Sterling Silver St. Brigid Cross. At the heart, a quartet of pleated 14-karat gold sections. Sterling silver haystacks, counter-textured in appearance and gathered at the ends, terminate each of the four points, giving the St. Brigid Cross its whirligig-like appearance of motion. While evoking the form, observe that it is not an exact duplicate but rather a creative invocation. This is important to note just in case you’re wanting to use Shanore’s version of the St. Brigid Cross for something mentioned even more than weaving your own: scaring away vampires.
To weave your own St. Brigid’s Cross:
Do you weave your own St. Brigid’s cross every February? Or perhaps your connection with St. Brigid has more to do with beer and poems? Let us know!