St. Brigid… Ireland’s Other Patron Saint
Ireland’s Other Patron Saint
Besides St. Patrick and St. Columcille (Columba) there is another revered saint. Mary of the Gael, Ireland’s female patron saint, Ireland’s first nun–however you refer to her, today is her feast day and a great day to celebrate!
People often ask me how I got interested in St. Brigid. It’s not a very profound story, but I suppose you can say that she found me. Several years ago I knew little about Irish saints, but I was beginning to get more interested in my Irish heritage. I did what many of you do to connect to your Irish side. I went to an Irish festival, the Dublin Irish Festival in Ohio. I was browsing around in a cultural tent and began to read about St. Brigid.
Who Was St. Brigid?
Briefly, this is what I learned that day at the festival.
Brigid lived from approximately 451 AD to 525 AD. From ancient times Celtic pagans worshipped a goddess named Brigid. Some believe that St. Brigid is actually the goddess adapted by the church as a saint. Others believe that she was a real person named for the goddess. Her father was Dubthach. Her mother a slave girl named Broicsech. Her birth was foretold: she would be special–neither born inside the house nor outside–and she was born on the threshold when her mother slipped on her way inside. She was born a slave to her very own father because her mother was his slave. She was Ireland’s first nun. She was known as a generous soul. She even gave away her father’s jeweled sword to a passing beggar because she had nothing else nearby. If she gave away milk and cheese from her dairy to the poor, it was always returned to her, miraculously. She wove a special cross out of rushes to explain salvation to a dying pagan. She once hung her cloak up on a sunbeam.
I was enthralled. And then my son called. He needed to be picked up from work and couldn’t wait. So, I had to leave the festival, but I hadn’t learned everything I wanted to know about this woman so I continued the research on my own.
That eventually turned into my first novel, Brigid of Ireland. I also wrote a chapter on her in my non fiction book, Celtic Wisdom, Treasures from Ireland. And St. Brigid has continued to fascinate me ever since.
Making a St. Brigid Cross
Especially that odd shaped cross. Traditionally school children in Ireland wove a new Brigid’s cross every Feb. 1. In some parts of Ireland the eldest daughter in a family would play the part of St. Brigid and knock on a door. In Irish she would say, “Go down on your knees, do homage, and let blessed Brigid enter the house.” The people inside would say, “O, Come in, you are a hundred times welcome.” In some places in Ireland (and in Scotland) people hang strips of cloths on a bush on St. Brigid’s Eve in hopes that St. Brigid would pass by and bless them.
You can buy a cross made from authentic Irish rushes at Irish import stores. You can also make your own. Any flexible material will do. I teach people how to weave them using pipe cleaners. You can use straw.
This is one of the best instructional videos I’ve found. This Irish girl shows you how to weave a cross from rushes.
Cindy Thomson is the author of Celtic Wisdom and Brigid of Ireland. She is currently working on a three book historical series set to begin releasing in Feb. 2012. She enjoys exploring Irish history, especially the Early Christian period. She has written numerous articles on Irish genealogy. Visit her blog Celtic Voices and her web site where you can sign up for her monthly newsletter.