Any of you that grew up in Ireland will remember the tradition of making the St. Brigid's cross in school on Saint Brigid's Day. The crosses consists of reeds or straw woven into to a square in the centre with four radials tied at each end. Every year before the 1st February, our teachers would ask us to collect rushes. We would then bring them to school to make St. Brigid's cross on the first day of February each year. Once our crosses were made, we'd bring them home to be hung over a doorway. We would replace the cross with a fresh one once a year. The crosses were hung to protect the home from fire, ward off evil and to bring good luck. Saint Brigid, also known as St Brigit, is one of three patron saints of Ireland along with Saint Patrick and Saint Columba. She is celebrated as a saint, scholar and humanitarian in Christianity, paganism and in Celtic spiritualty. She was known for championing education, reconciliation and peace as she spread the word of her faith. It is also said she maintained special connection for animals and the land.
Born in 450AD in Faughart Co. Louth, she is best known for her work in Co. Kildare. It was here she founded her monastery which was to become a center for early Christian learning that would continue to flourish after her death. When searching for a location to build her church, Brigid went to the King of Leinster to ask for land. According to legend, the King initially refused Brigid's request. Not to be deterred, Brigid persisted. She returned to the Curragh to ask the king if he would allow her to use only as much land as her cloak would cover. The King agreed to her request. When she spread out her cloak, it miraculously covered acres of land. This is the story of how Brigid came to build her monastery on land gifted to her by the King of Leinster in County Kildare.
The story of the St Brigid's cross describes how the first cross was woven as a tool to teach Christianity. It is believed Brigid was asked to visit a pagan chieftain who was gravely ill. While offering prayers at his beside, she picked up rushes from the floor. Rushes would have been commonly used as flooring material in Irish homes at the time. She plaited the rushes into a cross. The chieftain asked her to explain it's meaning. On hearing the story, the chieftain converted to Christianity and was baptized before he died. Today, children across Ireland continue the tradition of making St Brigid's day crosses. If you receive one, you will now know a little more about this ancient tradition. Her life and work continues to be celebrated as a Christian saint, pagan goddess and through Celtic spiritualty.
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