Today, in Ireland, we commemorate the feast day of St. Brigid. Brigid, or Bríd in Modern Irish, was an iconic woman and one of the greatest heroines in Irish history. However, most people are unaware of who she was or why the Irish celebrate her on this day.
Saint Brigid’s Day celebration originates from the Celtic festival of Imbolc. Imbolc marked the beginning of Spring and end of the cold and dark winter days in Ireland. Ancient Irish people celebrated the date with a special supper and custom rituals. The aim was to ensure a prosperous year and get St. Brigid’s protection.
Speculation has it that Brigid founded a school of art that included metalwork and illumination, and Conleth oversaw it. The Kildare scriptorium crafted the Book of Kildare. This book garnered high praise from Gerald of Wales for its gorgeous illumination and interlaced work. However, the book disappeared during the Reformation.
Curious as to the source of her exceptional nature? Let’s dig deeper into her story and how she became such an iconic figure in Irish culture.
Who was St. Brigid?
St. Brigid was the first abbess of Kildare, the only female patron saint of Ireland and the only female bishop in Ireland’s early Christianity. This female saint of Ireland has the same name and qualities as an ancient Celtic Goddess. Her attributes included poetry, healing, fertility, protection, and the forge, in Celtic mythology.
— cian mccormack (@cian_mccormack) February 1, 2018
Saint Brigid of Ireland was born in Dundalk around 450 AD and founded the first monastery in County Kildare, Ireland. Brigid established her monastery beneath a large oak tree, located over an area that used to be a pagan shrine, thus earning it the moniker “the church of the oak”.
Saint Brigid, daughter of a pagan Leinster chieftain and a Christian mother, was encouraged by Saint Patrick to learn more about Christianity and spread the gospel. Through St. Patrick and St. Brigid, Christ performed many great deeds, as both had one heart and one mind toward aiding the poor.
Young Brigid started life in slavery and was later sold back as a servant to her father. Her father was an affluent pagan, but Brigid frequently shared his wealth with the poor. This saint of Ireland had a great friendship of charity and performed many great works from a young age.
St Brigid of Ireland died in Kildare on February 1, 525, after Saint Ninnidh gave her last rites. Her second abbess, Darlugdach, was very devoted to Brigid and wished to die with her, but Brigid told her she would die on the anniversary of her death.
The Catholic Church recognizes Brigid’s death as happening in 521 and Darlugdach’s in 522, and they both have a feast day on February 1. The high altar of Kildare cathedral is dedicated to these two saints.
The Saint’s most well known miracle
Saint Brigid rose to fame as a devout Christian and miracle worker. Her miracles turned many people to Christianity. The most well-known feat credited to Saint Brigid is told most frequently on Lá Fhéile Bríd. This feat is how she obtained the property on which she later built a convent.
According to Irish mythology, saint Brigid approached King Leinster. She requested property, claiming that the spot where she stood was ideal for a convent. She pleaded to God to soften the King’s heart, and God responded.
Brigid requested the King to give her as much land as her cloak could cover. Entertained by the proposal, the King consented. However, upon the unveiling of the cloak by Brigid’s four sisters, it expanded dramatically. It grew to an extraordinary extent, covering a vast area of land.
The King was then convinced of the power of God and converted to Christianity, generously granting Brigid the land necessary to construct her convent.
The story behind Saint Brigids Cross
St. Brigid was born about 15 years before the somewhat official fall of the Roman Empire. As one can imagine, these were periods characterized by great darkness. For her, one particular night, this darkness included the impending death of a loved one that some believe to be her father.
As Brigid wove rushes together into a specific pattern, she imparted her faith to the man. This design later became known as St. Brigid’s Cross. By dawn, the man was cured of his delusions and converted to the same faith that Brigid had shared with him. Thus, they established the beginnings of Saint Brigid’s Cross.
A traditional Brigid’s Cross has four arms knotted at each edge and a woven square at its center. Early Celtic history also suggests the existence of another version of the cross with three arms instead.
Irish families traditionally make crosses on St Brigid’s Day, which are placed over doorways and windows to ward off intruders. Keeping the cross of each year under the roof serves as a way to show the age of the house or the length of time a family has lived there.
How to make your own cross?
St. Brigid’s crosses are unique because you can make your own every year using rushes, and the internet is full of instructions to guide you. Here is a highly recommended tutorial on how to weave a Saint Brigid’s Cross.
No time to make one?
Obtaining rushes can be challenging, and there is often a shortage of time for weaving. As a result, we have created our own Sterling Silver St. Brigid Cross. The design is inspired by the intricate design of the original Saint Brigid’s Cross.
The cross features 14-karat gold sections in the center and sterling silver haystacks at each of the four points. Although not a replica, the cross captures the essence of the original symbol and serves as a creative representation.
Slán go fóill