The myths and lores behind Saint Brigid’s cross have stood the test of time. Her magical little crosses made from rushes or straw are still made to this day in Ireland. Locals will tell you that St Brigid’s cross will protect you and your animals from ill health and harm. Every year on or before the 31st January rushes are sought and gathered. They are then woven by hand into crosses. On the 1st of February the crosses are shared out to local people and farmers.
The farmers will place St Brigid’s cross in their cow sheds or barns, following the traditional belief that the cross will protect their animals from any harm. Farmers may also lay a cross in every corner of their meadows. It is known that a farmer will never remove an old cross, he will lay the new cross on top of or aside of the old cross. If you ever look into an old barn or cow shed you may find many St Brigid’s crosses hanging on hooks or tucked into rafters.
This Irish tradition dates back to Saint Brigid who is one of Ireland’s patron saints. It is said that her name comes from the Celtic goddess Brigid, who was the Celtic goddess of healing, fertility and poetry. Every year on the 1st of February she celebrated feast day, which is also known as Imbolc. A celebration which welcomed the start of spring. A four armed Celtic cross representing the north, east, south, west, was crafted and given away during the Imbolc celebrations.
Saint Brigid of Kildare was reportedly born in Dundalk around 451ad. She dedicated her life to the church and charity. It is said she passed away on the 1st of February 523ad. Irish people have remembered her over the century’s and honoured her by weaving the St Brigid’s cross every year.
Written by Athey Thompson
Picture of St Brigid’s cross kindly taken by Pat Noone from Green Hills Farm in Ireland.