Saints, Feast, Family
- Traditions passed down with Cooking, Crafting, & Caring -
Saint of the day:
Patron Saint of Ireland, dairymaids, cattle, midwives, Irish nuns, and newborn babies
The Feast of Brigid, also known as Imbolc,
celebrates the arrival of longer, warmer days and the early signs of spring.
On Imbolc Eve Brigid visits virtuous households and blesses the inhabitants.
St. Brigid represents
Purity, Protection and Parturition
Saint Brigid's crosses are often hung over doors, windows and stables as a symbol of protection.
It is believed that the spring forecast is predicted by the guidance of a hedgehog on this day.
If he stays out of his burrow this is a sign of a nice spring.
St. Brigid traveled the countryside, blessing households,
with her white red-eared cow so on this day you need to show her that she is welcomed:
have a clean house,
place bread and fresh butter on the window sill outside,
put out a sheaf of corn for the cow,
put out rushes for her to kneel on to bless the household,
set the table in the kitchen on the eve.
give food to the poor
animals should be well taken care of on this day
Brigid is famous for brewing ale and for distributing it,
on this day raise your pint and think of her
It is said that "everything Bridget put her hand to increased and grew beautiful,"
Old stories tell of her feeding her hungry hounds with the table meat,
Brewing ale for the churches,
Baskets filled with apples and fragrant bread are Brigit alms
It is said she left to her countrywomen her gift of simple healing--
for most Irish women have some knowledge of medicine and herbal remedies.
The Story of Saint Bridget
(b. 453, Fochard, Northern Ireland; d. 523, Kildare, Ireland)
Saint Bridget of Ireland was a determined, faithful Catholic who was responsible for starting convents and monasteries throughout Ireland. Bridget’s Celtic name, Brigid, which means “fiery arrow,” can be traced back to the goddess of the same name with whom Bridget is often conflated. Also known as Bride, Bridget of Ireland, Bride of the Isles, and Mary of the Gael, she now reigns as one of the most recognized saints in Ireland; she and Saint Patrick are the only Irish saints to hold a place on the celebrated Catholic Calendar of Saints. (Bridget’s day is February 1st.)
She was born to a Pagan Scottish king and his Christian slave; her mother raised her as a Christian. At a young age she was returned to her father who arranged a marriage for her, which she refused, desiring to keep her virginity.
During her early life, there were no convents or religious houses for women in Ireland, and the local bishop, St. Mel of Armagh, gave St. Bridget permission to start one with seven other nuns. She established what would become known as Kildare, or “the church of the oak,” in 470 at the foot of Croghan Hill, building her own room under a large oak tree. As it was the first of its kind, it was soon filled with like-minded followers. Illuminated manuscripts were also created there, including The Book of Kildare, which was eventually destroyed in religious conflict.
At the invitation of bishops throughout Ireland, Bridget soon founded other convents, as well as the first double monastery, a house with separate lodgings for both nuns and monks called Kildare on the Liffey. Bridget is credited for having initiated the monastic movement, which spread across Ireland, allowing for monks and nuns to live devotional lives of solitude, prayer, and physical labor. The movement would help to define Irish Christianity with convents and monasteries throughout the nation serving as the administrative, legal, intellectual, cultural, and agricultural centers for their areas.
The lore of Bridget is particularly interesting because it demonstrates the adaptation of Celtic and Pagan beliefs to Christianity. Bridget is equated with her Pagan counterpart, Brigid, who was the Celtic goddess of poetry, healing, and metal arts. Christian hagiographers, or biographers, transformed one figure into the other by embellishing the details of Bridget’s life and stressing her virginity and community-building qualities in an effort to appeal to Celtic Pagans and to draw them into the fledgling religion. She eventually developed into the Christian saint of learning, healing, and domestic arts.
After Christian influence ended most sacred marriages, the cult of St Bridget helped it remain a vital part of Celtic life. The spirit of Bridget was kept alive through her memory as a Christian saint and the Christians connected her memory with the Celtic goddess known as Brighde in Ireland.
The goddess Brighde represented warmth, fire, summer, and possibly the sun and in some Celtic cultures she watched "over thermal springs, presumably as the underground Sun" (Jones, p.102). The goddess was celebrated with a shrine in Kildare County (Image to left), where a sacred flame burned and a number of women, possibly like the Vestal Virgins in Rome, tended it. The flame burned through its transition into a Christian nunnery until 1220 AD when Archbishop Henry of Dublin ordered it to be extinguished (Jones, p.102). At the time of its conversion into a nunnery, the Christian order dedicated it soley to the woman known as St Bridget instead of the Pagan goddess whose memory they wanted to disappear.
Bridget's contributed her Celtic beliefs to the changing world of Briton. Although, she converted from the Celtic religion to Christianity to the detriment of most of her fellow Druid and Druidess colleagues, she continued the traditions of equality among men and women in Celtic society in her communities. Her conversion like many others contributed to the fall of Druidism and Celtic religion and is a wonderful example of the conversion of Celtic figures into Christian saints.
31 Fun Facts
Brigid was born in Ireland in 450 AD
She was a disciple of St. Patrick, who baptized her parents, then her.
Brigid’s father was a pagan and married Brigid’s mother, a slave.
As a young child Brigid had compassion for the poor, giving away food and clothing and even her father’s possessions to the poor.
There are many miracles attributed to St. Brigid (I’ve read up to 46!) that happened while she was living.
Brigid was a beautiful girl and her father wanted her to marry King of Ulster.
At age 16, St. Brigid wanted Jesus Christ to be her spouse and she prayed that He would make her unattractive so no one would want to marry her.
Her prayer was answered when St. Brigid lost an eye and then was allowed to enter a monastery.
Miraculously, when St. Brigid took the veil she was healed.
She is known as St. Brigid of Kildare.
Outside of Dublin she received possession of a plain called Curragh.
There she built herself a cell under a large oak tree, called Kill-dara, or Cell of the oak.
A few more girls joined under St. Brigid’s direction establishing the monastery of Kildare.
Today’s cathedral city of Kildare is named from this monastery.
St. Brigid drove out demons by simply gesturing the sign of the cross.
There is a well-known miracle story about St. Birgid and her cloak.
She was looking for land for her community and King Leinster refused her request.
St. Brigid persevered so she then asked for as much land as her cloak would cover.
The King thought surely she was playing a joke since her cloak was so small.
So the King didn’t hesitate to agree to her unconventional request.
Miraculously, when she laid down her cloak it covered acres of land.
A popular way to celebrate St. Brigid’s feast day is by making a St. Brigid cross
The story of her cross originated when St. Brigid was teaching a dying pagan chieftain about Christianity
While her head was bowed she picked up the rushes off the ground and began braiding them into a cross
Rushes were a common floor material in Irish homes
The chieftain asked Brigid about the cross and its meaning.
He (the chieftain) converted to Christianity and was baptized before his death
Brid agus Muire dhuit,” (Brigid and Mary be with you) is a common Irish greeting
Brigid once fell asleep during St. Patrick’s sermon. He found it humorous and forgave her with a smile
Brigid was buried in Kildare Cathedral and an expensive tomb was placed over her
About the year 878, because of the Scandinavian raids, the relics of St. Brigid were taken to Downpatrick, where they were interred in the tomb of St. Patrick and St. Columba
Brigid is the patron saint of Ireland, poets, dairymaids, blacksmiths, healers, cattle, fugitives, Irish nuns, midwives, and new-born babies
Walk Saint Brigid's Trail
St Brigid’s Wells: there are numerous wells associated with the Saint, not alone in Ireland but in Britain also.
Wells were also often the sites of veneration in the Druidic religion. Sometimes the wells had an associated sacred tree, and this is still to be seen in the association of particular trees with holy wells around the country. Votive offerings (still seen nowadays as the custom of hanging rags on trees at holy wells) have been recovered from some of these sacred Celtic wells which seemed to have a healing function, as they still have. St Brigid is associated with healing, her girdle being capable of curing all disease and illness.
Many of the miracles attributed to her are to do with healing – the blind man seeing, the mute girl speaking etc.
When Brigid was looking for land she could use to build her monastery, she asked the reluctant local king to give her only as much land as her cloak would cover, and then prayed for God to miraculously expand her cloak to convince the king to help her out. The story says that Brigid's cloak then grew bigger as the king watched, covering a large area of land that he then donated for her monastery.
Brigid founded a monastery underneath an oak tree in Kildare, Ireland, and it quickly grew to become a full-scale monastery community for both men and women. Her monastery attracted many people who studied religion, writing, and art there. As the leader of a community that became Ireland's center of learning, Brigid became an important female leader in the ancient world and in the church. She eventually assumed the role of a bishop.
At her monastery, Brigid set up an eternal flame of fire to represent the Holy Spirit's constant presence with people. That flame was extinguished several hundred years later during the Reformation, but light again in 1993 and still burns in Kildare. The well that Bridget used to baptize people is outside Kildare, and pilgrims visit the well to say prayers and tie colorful ribbons on a wishing tree beside it.
Strips of cloth and ribbon on a fence outside of St. Brigid's Well... they are called
"St. Brigid's Mantle" and its a tradition to hang these near holy wells for blessings.
Trees and groves of trees were sacred to the Celts and treated with veneration.
Sacred trees and sacred groves as the focal points for ritual and tribal assembly.
One such tree would appear to have been sacred on the hill of Kildare, and it was under this tree that Brigid built her cell.
The stump of this tree is said to have still been there in the 10th century and it was held in great veneration as many miracles were wrought through it.
No one dare cut it, but might break off a bit with the fingers.
Saint Bridget Cross
St. Brigid, also known as “Mary of the Gael”, is an abbess and patroness of Ireland. She is furthermore the founder of the first Irish monastery in County Kildare, Ireland. St. Brigid is accredited with first creating the unique cross which bears her name. This cross is normally hand created from rushes however occasionally straw is also used.
The distinctive St. Brigid’s Cross design, made from woven rushes, is thought to keep evil, fire and hunger from the homes in which it is displayed, however the tale of its creation is somewhat confused, and there is not one definitive version.
The tale as we know it is as follows....
There was an old pagan Chieftain who lay delirious on his deathbed in Kildare (some believe this was her father) and his servants summoned Brigid to his beside in the hope that the saintly woman may calm his restless spirit. Brigid is said to have sat by his bed, consoling and calming him and it is here that she picked up the rushes from the floor and began weaving them into the distinctive cross pattern. Whilst she weaved, she explained the meaning of the cross to the sick Chieftain and it is thought her calming words brought peace to his soul. He was so enamored by her words that the old Chieftain requested he be baptized as a Christian just before his passing.
Since that day, and for the centuries that followed, it has been customary on the eve of her Feast Day (1st February) for the Irish people to fashion a
St. Brigid's Cross of straw or rushes and place it inside the house over the door.
This rush cross, which became St. Brigid’s emblem, has been used in Irish designs throughout history, with many modern stylists using this now popular Irish symbol within the designs of Irish jewelry and Irish gifts.
Saint Brigid's Cross
A special type of cross known as "Saint Brigid's cross" is popular throughout Ireland. It commemorates a famous story in which Brigid went to the home of a pagan leader when people told her that he was dying and needed to hear the Gospel message quickly. When Brigid arrived, the man was delirious and upset, unwilling to listen to what Brigid had to say. So she sat with him and prayed, and while she did, she took some of the straw from the floor and began weaving it into the shape of a cross. Gradually the man quieted down and asked Brigid what she was doing. She then explained the Gospel to him, using her handmade cross as a visual aid. The man then came to faith in Jesus Christ, and Brigid baptized him just before he died. Today, many Irish people display a Saint Brigid's cross in their homes, since it is said to help ward off evil and welcome good.
Bridget died in 525 AD, and after her death people began to venerate her as a saint, praying to her for help seeking to heal from God, since many of the miracles during her lifetime related to healing.
Saint & Goddess:
“She is sometimes mentioned as a triple goddess i.e. three sister goddesses named Brid;
first goddess associated with poetry & traditional learning in general; second associated with the smith’s art; the third associated with healing.”
St. Brigid's Miracles
Bridget was traveling on horseback along with the sisters when the horse Brigid was riding got startled and Brigid fell off, hitting her head on a stone. Brigid's blood from her wound mixed with the water on the ground. Brigid knew of two sisters, nearby, who couldn't hear or talk and asked them to pour the mixture of blood and water onto their necks while praying for healing. One sister did so and was healed, while the other one was healed simply by touching the bloody water when she bent down to the ground to check on Brigid.
In another story, Brigid healed a man afflicted by leprosy by blessing a mug of water and instructing one of the women in her monastery to help the man use the blessed water to wash his skin. The man's skin then completely cleared up.
Brigid was close to animals, and several miracles from her life involve animals. It is believed that she touched a cow that had already been milked dry and blessed it to help hungry and thirsty people. Then, when they milked the cow, they were able to get 10 times the amount of milk from it.
St. Brigid’s Fire vs. The Goddess's Fire
St. Brigid’s Fire
Described by Giraldus Cambrensis in the 12th century, as having been tended by twenty “servants of the Lord”, at the time of St Brigid; Brigid herself being the twentieth. When Brigid died the number stayed at nineteen. Each of the nineteen nuns took their turns at night and on the twentieth night the nineteenth nun puts the logs on the fire and St Brigid miraculously tends the fire, which never goes out. Although the fire had been burning for some 600 years, by the time of Giraldus, the ashes had never had to be cleaned out and had never increased. He goes on to describe the fire being surrounded by a hedge which no man may cross. One archer who was with Strongbow is said by Giraldus to have crossed the hedge, and he went mad. Another had put his leg over the hedge when he was restrained by his companions. However the leg he put across was maimed and he was crippled for the rest of his life. There is another legend associating Brigid with fire. When she was a child, her mother had gone out one day leaving the child asleep. The neighbours saw the house on fire but when they went to rescue the child there was no fire. The cult of fire is very ancient indeed, going back into pre-history. The fire continued to be tended for at least 1,000 years, with one interruption in the 1200s when Henry of London, Norman arch-bishop of Dublin, ordered it to be extinguished as he considered the tending of the fire to be a pagan practice. It was soon re-lit, by the locals, but was finally extinguished at the Reformation.
“Apparently cow’s milk was the original communion but was eventually banned by the Trullan council in 692.
Milk, along with honey, was given to the newly-baptised as a symbol of regeneration.”
Names of the Saint:
Brigitt means the one that breathes life;
in Scottish Gaelic: Brid;
in Welsh: Brigitte;
in the continental pantheon and Brittany: Brigantia / Brigantu;
in Eastern Gaul: Brigindu.
In Celtic mythology,
Great Mother Goddess,
Tuatha de Danaan,
Saint Brigitte, Cailleach,
Cailleach Corca Duibhne,
Goddess of the Poets, Goddess of Herbs ,
Goddess of the Herbalist,
Goddess of Growth,
Goddess of the Brigantes
Whatever the name with which she intends to name her, she is undoubtedly the Great Mother Goddess of the entire Pan-Celtic pantheon, as her influence reaches all corners where there have been Celtic tribes and clans. It is the power of the new Moon and Spring in the cyclic Wheel of the seasons.
Brigid's Relentless Suitors
Her physical beauty (including deep blue eyes) attracted many suitors, but Brigid decided not to get married so she could devote her life fully to Christian ministry as a nun. An ancient story says that when men didn't stop pursuing her romantically, Brigid prayed for God to take away her beauty, and he did so temporarily by afflicting her with facial blemishes and swollen eyes. By the time Brigid's beauty returned, her potential suitors had gone elsewhere to search for a wife.
On Saint Brigid’s Eve, in many areas the Bridie Boys would tour the 'hood, carrying an effigy of the saint, called the Brideog ... basically a doll in white clothes. They had the right to pick up the offerings left out. Coming around they would chant some ancient rhymes like:
Something for poor Biddy!
Her clothes are torn,
Her shoes are worn!
Something for poor Biddy!
Here is Brigid dressed in white,
Give her a penny for her night,
She is deaf, she is dumb,
She cannot talk without a tongue.
In some areas, the Brideog was not a doll but the purest girl of the village. Who selected this? One can just imagine the auditions for this and the reactions of unsuccessful candidates
(and their parents).
On a smaller scale a door ceremony is held in many households. The eldest daughter will represent Saint Brigid, knock and ask to be let inside by intoning: „Go on your knees, open your eyes, and let Brigid in.“ The rest of the household would then answer:
Greetings, greetings to the noble woman.“ Cue a door flung open wide and a family dinner.
The 6th Century abbess of Kildare and the Celtic Goddess Brigid are very closely linked and share many of the same symbols and stories. Nine of these symbols can be seen around the perimeter of the paving.
Fire – the nuns at St. Brigid’s monastery at Kildare are said to have tended a sacred fire that burned from pre- Christian times.
Oak tree – a central symbol for St. Brigid from which Kildare (cill Dara – the church of Oak) takes its name.
Snowdrop – is one of the first signs of spring coming into bloom on 1st February, St Brigid’s Feast Day.
Cow – St. Brigid had a cow that could be milked three times everyday and always have what was needed.
Dandelion- the serrated flower of Brigid. In flower it symbolizes the sun and its seed head, the moon.
Sword – the celts were highly skilled in metal work and weapon making. Brigid was patron of the forge where fire and skill transforms raw materials into sacred objects. Brigid is said to have given her families jewel encrusted sword to a beggar that came calling when she was a girl.
Cloak – St. Brigid went to her bishop to ask for land to build her monastery and he told her she could have as much land as her cloak could cover. She spread her cloak on the ground and it miraculously covered 11 acres of Kildare.
Cross – traditionally made from rushes on the eve of St. Brigid’s day and hung in the home for protection.the design dates. All to prehistoric times and is associated with the ancient sun goddess.
Bell – St. Brigid was patron of poetry and in her honor the chief poet carried a golden branch with tinkling bells. The bell is also the traditional call for prayer in a monastery.
Brigit’s Garden takes you on a magical journey into the heart of Celtic heritage and mythology, making it one of the truly outstanding places to visit in the West of Ireland. The award-winning Celtic Gardens are widely regarded as one of the most spectacular in Ireland, set within 11 acres of native woodland & wildflower meadows. In addition to the Celtic Gardens visitors can enjoy the nature trail, an ancient ring fort (fairy fort), thatched roundhouse and crannog, and the calendar sundial, the largest in Ireland.
The monastery of Clonmacnoise founded in the 6th century by St. Ciaran (who died of yellow plague 7 months later). He never got to see it become a power house of theological thought.
This sixth century monastic site, located on the banks of the River Shannon is home to three high crosses, a cathedral, seven churches and two round towers. This great monastery was founded in 548- 9 by St. Ciarán Mac a tSaor (“son of the carpenter”), who studied under St. Finian at the famous Clonard Abbey. The strategic location of the monastery at a crossroads between the major east-west land route through the bogs of central Ireland and the River Shannon helped it become a major centre of religion, learning, craftsmanship and trade by the 9th century.
Clonmacnoise was a center of learning excellence, and many manuscripts, including the Annals of Tighernach (11th century) and the Book of the Dun Cow (12th century), were written here. The monastery flourished for 600 years as a centre of learning and religious instruction as well as providing much of Ireland’s finest Celtic art and illuminated manuscripts.
Alongside the ruined churches and round towers are three ancient high crosses; two are complete high crosses plus the shaft of another. Now protected from the Irish weather in the visitor centre, convincing replicas stand in their original locations. The most famous is the four-meter Cross of the Scriptures, whose sandstone is skillfully carved with intricate figures on all four sides. The Cross of the Scriptures was mentioned twice in the annals of the Four Masters, first in 957 and later in 1060. At the centre of the head on East face is the Last Judgement, and at the top of the East shaft is a panel showing Christ with Peter and Paul. Below this panel are two more panels bearing iconography that is still open to interpretation. On the base are three riders facing left and two chariots facing right. At the bottom of the shaft is an inscription that has now become almost impossible to see: Or do Colman Dorrro……Crossa ar Rig Flnd, A prayer for Colman who had the cross erected on King Flann.
The Nun’s Chapel
The Nun’s Church is one of Irelands hidden gems. Located 300 metres east of the main complex at Clonmacnoise, it ranks amongst the finest examples of Hiberno-Romanesque architecture in Ireland. We followed the pilgrim path down a lane and it was well worth the detour from the itinerary.
Read Her Story
9 oz all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp Kosher or sea salt
tt black pepper
8 oz mashed potatoes
8 oz grated, raw potato
1 cup buttermilk
butter for the pan
In a small bowl, place the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the mashed potatoes with the grated raw potato, then add the flour and mix well.
Slowly add the buttermilk and stir gently (do not over mix).
The mixture should be a firm thick batter, almost like a dough, add more buttermilk if needed Heat a nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat, and add a pat of butter, just before scooping out some of the boxy batter onto the pan. Flatten and shape into a nice, round pancake shape and fry until golden brown on the bottom. Turn and continue to cook until golden brown on top too, turning the heat down if they are browning too quickly
(remember there is raw potatoes which need to cook).
Continue to add a little butter and fry the boxy until all the batter is finished.
ST. BRIGIDS OATEN BREAD FROM IRELAND
Saint Brigid was known to travel the countryside, blessing households as she went accompanied by a white cow with red ears. You should make her feel welcome, just in case, she passes by - placing bread and fresh butter on the outside windowsill, together with corn for the cow, usually does the trick. Also, remember to lay out some rushes for her. These are to kneel on while blessing the household.
A piece of white cloth or a white silk ribbon was hung on the outside of the front door for the Saint to bless.
One was also advised to make fresh butter for Saint Brigid’s Day, maybe not a practical idea in modern times. You might, however, be willing to prepare a special dinner for Saint Brigid’s Eve. And remember that Saint Brigid’s Day was also a day for those who have to give food to those who haven‘t.
In many regions, a special oat bread was baked for Saint Brigid’s Day
3⁄4 cup flour
1 tablespoon sugar
3⁄4 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄4 teaspoon baking soda
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter, in small pieces
3⁄4 cup uncooked oatmeal (old fashioned)
1⁄2 cup buttermilk
Heat oven to 425 degrees.
Grease baking sheet.
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in bowl and mix.
Add butter bits and cut in with knife until mixture is crumbly.
Add oats and toss to combine.
In other bowl beat egg with buttermilk.
Make a well in the dry ingredients.
Pour in the egg mixture and mix with a fork until crumbs hold together.