January 31st, the eve of St. Brigid’s Day, was once known as “Oidhe na Cruha” the night of the crosses. Her memory is honored by people who weave crosses from rushes or straw. A St. Brigid’s Cross made from new straw is hung above the door, and the old one is burned in the hearth. Just as the shamrock is associated with St. Patrick, so is the tiny cross made of rushes linked to St. Brigid. While explaining the Passion to a dying pagan, she wove a cross from the rushes thrown about the floor. The man was baptized before he died.These “Saint Brigid” crosses are believed to bestow the Saint’s special blessings on your households.
A favorite Kildare story concerns the founding of Her abbey. It seems that St. Brigid had acquired such a reputation for good works that the local king was obligated to reward her. To prove his magnanimity, he offered Brigid as much land as her mantle could cover. With a knowing smile, the good woman spread her cloak on the ground. Much to the chieftain’s dismay, the garment grew until it covered the entire hill!
In very traditional homes, two devout practices are still observed on the Eve of St. Brigid’s Feast Day (February 1st). A strip of cloth called “brat Bhride” (Brigid’s mantle) is hung outside the door. A loaf of oat bread baked in the shape of a cross and a sheaf of straw are left on the windowsill. For on that night, Brigid travels through the land with her red-eared cow bestowing blessings on those who keep the old ways.
On St. Brigid’s Day pilgrims visit the numerous holy wells, which are associated with the saint.
There is a St. Brigid’s Well in Ardagh in County Longford. Here, in order to demonstrate her prowess as a miracle worker to Saint Patrick, she carried a burning coal in her apron and in the spot where she dropped it the holy well sprang up.
Legend holds it that the saint placed her foot in a spring outside the village of Liscannor by the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare. Waters warmed; weather improved. Cows filled with milk; butter production expanded. To this day, pilgrims gather at Lisconnor’s well on Brigid’s feast Day to beseech the saint’s blessing.
From the Kildare scriptorium came the wondrous book of the Gospels, which elicited unbounded praise, but which has disappeared since the Reformation. According to a twelfth-century ecclesiastic, nothing that he had ever seen was at all comparable to the “Book of Kildare”. Every page of which was gorgeously illuminated, and he concludes a most laudatory notice by saying that the interlaced work and the harmony of the colours left the impression that “all this is the work of angelic, and not human skills”. Small wonder that it was assumed the Book to have been written night after night as St. Brigid prayed, “an angel furnishing the designs, the scribe copying”.
One of the most prettiest legends concerning Saint Brigid tells us that as St. Bride she was the patroness of the Knights of Chivalry. They began the custom of calling the girls they married their brides; and that from the Knights of Chivalry the word bride came into general usage in the English language.
I would like to have the men of Heaven
in my own house;
with vats of good cheer
laid out for them.
I would like to have the three Marys,
their fame is so great.
I would like people
from every corner of Heaven.
I would like them to be cheerful
in their drinking.
I would like to have Jesus, too,
here amongst them.
I would like a great lake of beer
for the King of Kings.
I would like to be watching Heaven’s family
Drinking it through all eternity.
About the year 470, St. Brigid founded a double monastery at Cill-Dara (Kildare) and was Abbess of the convent, the first in Ireland. The foundation developed into a center of learning and spirituality, and around it grew up the Cathedral City of Kildare. She founded a school of art at Kildare and its illuminated manuscripts became famous, notably the Book of Kildare, which was praised as one of the finest of all illuminated Irish manuscripts before its disappearance three centuries ago.
St. Brigid is the Patroness of:
The people of Ireland, since the sixth century, have declared St. Brigid their’s, second only to St Patrick.She was formally named a Patroness of Ireland in 1962.
Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians:
It is St. Brigid that we emulate when we pursue our motto, “Friendship, Unity, and Christian Charity.”
Once a leprous woman asking for milk, there being none at hand, St. Brigid gave her cold water, but the water was turned into milk, and when she had drunk it the woman was healed.
Beer and Brewers:
Like her mentor St. Patrick, she was fond of ale and is reputed to have been the best brewer in the land. Thus, she supplied beer out of one barrel to eighteen churches, which sufficed from Maundy Thursday to the end of the Paschal time.
She is also the Patron Saint of poets, students, blacksmiths, healers, cattle, dairymaids, midwives, fugitives, and children born out of wedlock.
The Saint of Kildare enjoys a remarkable popularity all over the world. There is a Bride’s Peak in the Himalayan Mountains, an island named Bride off the coast of Japan, St. Bride’s Bay in Dyfed, Wales. Not to mention the numerous churches and schools named in Her honor throughout the world. Two Bride Rivers grace Ireland, and names like Kilbride bear her impression. Thousands of girls adopt her name annually, and “Biddy” was once a synonym for young colleens. Places associated with Brigid have become shrines and attract throngs of pilgrims.
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