The Irish people have a beautiful tradition that surrounds the fifteenth-century Saint Brigid. The saint Brigid’s cross is solidly a Christian symbol. Other writings claim that the cross traces its roots back to the pagan times before the birth of Saint Brigid. The cross is made by weaving together rushes or reeds for the St. Brigid festival.
Who was Saint Brigid?
St. Brigid was also referred to as Mary of the Gael in the ancient Irish county of Kildare. She founded the initial monasteries in Ireland and pioneered Christianity. There are two narratives about St. Brigid.
Brigid of the Celtic Irish Mythology
In Celtic mythology, Brigid was a life-giving goddess. She was known as Brigid of Tuatha De Danaan. Since she was associated with life-giving, the transition from winter to spring was associated with her. Spring marks the beginning of births from new lambs to the blooming of flowers. The festival on the first day of February was initially a pagan festival in honor of the life-giving goddess Brigid. According to Irish mythology, Brigid was a Deity.
St. Brigid in Christianity
In the Christianity version, Brigid was born to a pagan chief and a slave woman. The slave woman later converted to Christianity when Ireland was transitioning from paganism. She raised Brigid into the catholic faith. In her childhood years, Brigid was already known for her generosity to the poor and her healing power to the sick. Her pagan father hated these acts of kindness and sort to sell her off to a king.
Brigid gave her father’s valuables to the King. The chief angrily disagreed, but Brigid said that she had given it to God. Fortunately, the king was a Christian and commended her for this to her father’s annoyance. She later refused to be married off, vowing to remain chaste, and joined the monastery. She continued with her acts of kindness. She was believed to have been born in 450AD and died in 525 AD at the age of 75 years.
The Christian story continues to narrate that St. Brigid’s compassion toward a dying man pioneered modern-day Christianity in Ireland. The saint is said to have consoled a dying man and converted him to Christianity on his deathbed. She explained to him about her faith and the meaning of the cross and the man became a Christian. She was said to be the only person capable of comforting this chief due to her healing abilities and compassion.
The feast of St. Brigid
It’s impossible to separate St. Brigid from the first day of February as this is the day of the feast of St. Brigid. The festival is characterized by: putting bread on windowsills, bonfires, and most importantly the St. Brigid’s cross. After she was canonized, the feast of St. Brigid was turned into a Christian festival and is celebrated in her honor to date.
What is St. Brigid’s Cross?
The St. Brigid’s cross is named after St. Brigid as she was the one who first wove it out of rushes she picked up from the floor. The cross was first woven and used on a dying man in Kildare whom St. Brigid comforted on his deathbed. The dying chief summoned Brigid to his deathbed for counsel and comfort. She picked up rushes and wove a symbol that helped to convert the dying man to Christianity.
The ailing chief began to ask her the meaning of the symbol. After she explained the saving power of Christ through the cross, the pagan chief was converted and baptized before his death. The pagan chief thought that her calm demeanor and the cross as she explained to him brought peace to him in his hour of death.
The cross is believed to keep hunger, evil, and fire away from households where it’s hung. Every first day of February, most homes in Northern Ireland are decorated with this symbolic cross to mark the feast of St. Brigid and the beginning of spring.
What does St. Brigid’s Cross Symbolize?
The cross that is made of rushes or reed is usually temporary. This is because it is only used to mark the beginning of spring on the first day of February. The cross is hung on doorposts or walls of many homes on this day. It symbolizes resilience from evil, hunger, and other calamities. People hang it on windows to keep away these calamities from befalling the believing families.
The crosses are mostly made by children, a tradition that is taught at schools in some parts of Northern Ireland as part of the arts and crafts. The four-armed crosses are then blessed in churches and hanged on the first day of February. The children make them on the 31st of January. The cross is a wonderful tradition among the Irish people for the commemoration of the patron Saint.
The Spiritual Meaning of St. Brigid’s Cross
St. Brigid is said to have had a close relationship with St. Patrick in the fifteenth century. She is said to have helped St. Patrick to introduce Christianity to Ireland. The cross is a symbol of the cross of Jesus Christ that He was hung on at Calvary. It symbolizes the saving grace of God through Jesus Christ.
The cross is blessed in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and is believed to restore the health of those who pray before it. This blessing is carried out by the Parish Priests before it is handed over to the faithful to be hung on doorsteps, windows, and walls.
The two versions of the origin of St. Brigid’s cross are supported by various writings. However, the main version that remains to date is the Christian version. The cross is used as a Christian symbol and is associated with the Biblical story of Jesus Christ. The pagan festival previously held on February first was replaced with the St. Brigid’s feast. This explains why this date is marked by tiny crosses in most homesteads in Ireland.