St Brigid’s Cross Making

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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.

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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!

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You begin with two rushes, bending one over the other.

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Now add one rush at a time, crossing the last set, turning the cross with each addition, whilst keeping everything as tight as possible.

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The centre of the cross begins to take shape.

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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…

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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.


53 thoughts on “St Brigid’s Cross Making

      1. Not here in Cincinnati – we are expecting snow! We usually can’t expect what I think of as Spring weather here until mid-April, in any case (although we do get a tease or two earlier).

        I set myself the challenge of visiting and commenting on every blog in this week’s Senior Salon. I saved yours for last, I must admit, since my life does not allow for crafts at present. I was so pleased when I got here that I had followed through on my challenge.

        My religious upbringing was sporadic at best, since my mother was forced to pack, move and unpack an Air Force family of 7 practically yearly, while my father put in long hours at work. We were a Protestant family, so I’d have learned little of saints in any case. Base Chaplains already have their work cut out — attempting to serve all Protestant denominations in a single service.

        This was a wonderful history lesson for me – and I so appreciate the underlying value of keeping the old traditions alive. Thanks for a great read.
        xx,
        mgh
        (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
        ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
        “It takes a village to educate a world!”

        Liked by 2 people

  1. This post emitted coziness in your accounting of the craft and increased my knowledge of your local folklore. Really made my day, thank you.
    I wonder, do persons in your culture greet one another with a “Happy St. Brigids Day” on February 1st as well?

    Liked by 3 people

  2. [J] Where we stay in South Uist is Cille Bhrighde: on the small beach by our walled garden, Birgid stepped ashore in the Outer Hebrides for the first time (some believe that Hebrides is derived from Isle of Birgid), an oyster-catcher (Gille Bhrighde – servant boy of Birgid) perched symbolically on each wrist. Later a Celtic Chrisian chapel was built here, named after her, and though the chapel is long gone, to this day the place is known as Cille Bhrighde – the chapel of Birgid.

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      1. There was indeed. Also ribbons on trees, though with few trees that was less practiced here. However traditions like that are dyeing out – it’s so often incomers like us who tend to see these things and say, wow, that’s good, and keep them alive.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh wow that is so cool. I love the third one too that is my favorite also. Yum mashed potatoes my tummy would have been happy too!! So Spring starts Feb 1 for you? Huh, I like it…when does summer start?

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Huh, ours are the 21st of every three months, like summer is June 21, Fall Sept 21, Winter Dec 21 and Spring March 21. Funny I just assumed everyone’s seasons started on that same day whether it be summer in the southern hemisphere or winter in the northern hemisphere it still started on Dec 21. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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