The 1st of February is the feast of St Brigid, one of Ireland’s patron saints. It also marks the first day of spring, also known as Imbolc.
Brigid was born in 451 AD, and was destined to become a nun and an abbess. She founded several convents, the most famous at Kildare, on the site of a shrine to the Celtic goddess Brigid.
Saint Brigid is said to have woven a cross from the rushes of a floor mat, as she taught a dying man about Christianity. Thus, the tradition of making crosses from rushes or straw to mark Brigid’s feast day was born…
On Sunday I joined a local gathering to learn more about cross making, among some very experienced weavers.
A cross made from straw by a local craftsman
Rushes lay ready prepared in neat bundles on the floor, and were then distributed along a series of tables. I was taught by an experienced hand, who had me weaving in no time.
The basic cross making technique is simple – once you have had a few practices!
You begin with two rushes, bending one over the other.
Now add one rush at a time, crossing the last set, turning the cross with each addition, whilst keeping everything as tight as possible.
The centre of the cross begins to take shape.
When you are happy with the size, tie the ends with wool or string. I added extra ties around the central square, as I liked the finished effect, plus it keeps everything extra secure…
And here is my first completed cross.
I became rather enthusiastic, and made another two in the same design.
Then I moved onto a triangular version
Finally, I made a very simple cross, woven with two sets of six rushes. I think it is my favourite.
Half way through the proceedings, we were treated to bowls of mashed potatoes and chopped scallions, topped off with butter and warm milk. This is a traditional Irish dish known as bruitin (pronounced broo-cheen). My tummy was incredibly happy!
I thoroughly enjoyed my afternoon, and delivered one of my offspring to my auntie before heading homewards.
Tonight, I will take the remaining crosses to our local church to be blessed; I will then hang one in my home and one in my car; I will give the others away as gifts.