I love St. Brigid’s day, especially when making a Brigid’s cross from field rushes each year. The crosses are easy to make and quite fun to do once you get the hang of it. They look quite pretty and are nice to hang on your wall. But before we get to that, we’ll look at both the goddess and the saint briefly.
Brigid’s story is one of ancient traditions and stories intertwined. One is of the Celtic goddess Brigid and the other is of St. Brigid of Kildare. A good example perhaps of how the early church mixed saints with ancient pagan traditions.
There are many variations to the Celtic goddesses’ name and various associations with her.
The Celtic Goddess
Brigid is a solar deity and is associated with the element of fire. She is the goddess of poetry, healing and smithcrafting. She represents fertility, childbirth, midwifery, poetry, healing, cattle, medicine, arts and crafts. She represents the season of spring and of sacred wells, many of which throughout the British Isles are associated with her.
Brigid is also represented as Brigantia and they are considered to be the same deity. Brigantia was the patron goddess of the Brigantes tribe of northern England.
St Brigid of Kildare
Saint Brigid of Kildare shares many qualities with the Celtic goddess. Her feast day falls on the pagan festival of Imbolc and she is also associated with the sacred flame.
The story goes that St Brigid was born a slave and subsequently freed. She was born on February 1st 453 AD. She took a vow to stay chaste and entered the church. Brigid was the Abbess of the first convent in Ireland. She founded a monastery in Kildare called the Church of the Oak, which was built above a pagan shrine dedicated to the Celtic goddess Brigid. It is said that St. Brigid healed many, performing many miracles, and she is often depicted holding the Brigid’s cross. After her death a perpetual flame was kept burning in her honour.
Making a Brigid’s Cross
To celebrate St. Brigid’s day, people make St. Brigid’s crosses out of field rushes or reeds, traditionally on January 31st, the day before her feast day. These are then put in homes for protection and luck. When making the cross, one should think about the paths that one is to take during the course of the year ahead. The old cross is taken down and burnt and replaced with the new cross.
I discovered Brigid as a Celtic goddess a couple of years ago; previously I had known her as a Catholic saint, not knowing the similarities and intermingling of the deity and the saint. I also find the goddess fascinating with her association of the Celtic tribe Brigantes who were the prevalent tribe in the North of England, the area where I come from.
Every year I make a Brigid’s cross and put it in my meditation/healing room. As I make the cross I think of the paths I am to take in the year ahead, and ask for clear guidance. The cross itself is dedicated both to the goddess and the saint.
I’ve put a link to a video on how to make Brigid’s cross, it’s very easy to make and the finished cross looks wonderful. I’ve found that green field rushes are the best to use as reeds are generally too brittle. I collect them from the fields near my home and they are prevalent on local moorland.
So, have a go at making a Brigid’s cross, they’re easy to make and look very effective!!