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.

History

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…

St Brigid Cross Making

On 31 January 2017, 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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Once you are happy with the size of your cross, 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…

Here is my first completed cross:

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My enthusiasm knew no bounds, and I made two more crosses in the same design:

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Followed by a triangular version:

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Finally, I made a very simple cross, woven with two sets of six rushes:

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Bruitin

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 shall be making more St Brigid’s Crosses again tonight – a beautiful Celtic tradition.

Brigid P. Gallagher

Memoir: “Watching the Daisies – Life Lessons on the Importance of Slow” is available from   Amazon    Barnes and Noble    Kobo   and all good online bookstores.

Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/r5GCjaetgZk

Twitter: @watchingthedai1

Facebook: https://facebook.com/watchingthedaisies/

Goodreads: https://goodreads.com/author/show/16119226.Brigid_P_Gallagher


112 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 3 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.

    Liked by 2 people

      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

  4. Brigid, wow, a fascinating post and I just want to rush out and try this! I am so impressed with your crosses and am particularly taken with the last simpler version. What a wonderful tradition and despite having visited Ireland numerous times, I’ve never heard of this particular skill. Wishing you many happy meditative hours making your creations. 😀 Ps. do you mark the saint’s day of your name at all?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It is here too but already some plants are starting to peak out and the birds are definitely tweeting more. 🙂
        Also lovely to find out about St Brigid, even though the first thing I saw when I started to scroll down was ‘Brigid was born in 451 AD’ – you’re the only Brigid I know so I was abit confused for a moment! 🙂 🙂 xxx

        Liked by 1 person

  5. When I was young I lived in a village where most activities centred around the parish church and thechurch calendar. At age 11 I became a bell-ringer, having to stand on an orange box to reach the bellrope, my brothers were choirboys and I remember the annual gathering at the vicarage to make palm crosses for Palm Sunday. These were given out to the congregation during the service.
    Lovely post 💜

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Unfortunately our vicar was not well-liked, he had replaced a long-standing elderly man who was well-loved in the parish and the new one was not much of a smiler! He was eventually banned from the bell-ringing group! 😄

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I so enjoyed your story and your weaving! The beginning is always the hardest because there is so much in a small area. Is Imbolc.the official date for Spring or is that a Celtic tradition? I love it when we learn from each other.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Terri. Yes the beginning is rather fiddly! Imbolc is a Celtic tradition that many people still regard as the first day of spring in Ireland. Others go with 1 March or even 21 March so it gets rather confusing…
      The bulbs here are well up this year so I will go with 1 February for 2018.

      Like

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