Today February 1 is the Feast Day of St Brigid of Ireland, often called Mary of the Gael. She is one of the great patron saints of Ireland along with St. Patrick and St. Columba. Named for Druid goddess Brid, and though she served in the pagan sanctuary in Cill Dar, Brigid converted to Christianity. She then converted Cill Dar into a into a Christian shrine. Brigid’s wisdom and generosity became legend and people traveled from all over the country to share her wisdom. Her monastery at Kildare became one of the greatest centers of learning in Europe. Brigit’s small oratory at Cill-Dara (Kildare) developed into a cathedral city. She founded two monastic institutions, one for men, and the other for women. She continued her holy and charitable work until her death when her casket was enshrined at Kil Dara. In 835, her remains were moved to protect them from Norse invaders and interred in the same grave that holds the remains of St. Patrick and St. Columcille at Downpatrick.
As with other traditions, the Christian St. Brigid has become blended in some quarter with the pagan goddess Brid.Her feast day is also known as Imbolc, a day that celebrates the arrival of longer, warmer days and the early signs of spring. It is one of the four major “fire” festivals (quarter days), referred to in Irish mythology from medieval Irish texts. The other three festivals on the old Irish calendar are Beltane, Lughnasadh and Samhain. In ancient Irish mythology Brigid was a fire goddess. The canonization of St. Brigid is celebrated with a perpetual flame at her shrine in Kildare.
Miracles are attributed to St. Brigid. Most of her miracles were related to healing and domestic tasks usually attributed to women. St. Brigid is the parton saint of babies; blacksmiths; boatmen; cattle; chicken farmers; children whose parents are not married; children with abusive fathers; children born into abusive unions; dairymaids; dairy workers; fugitives; infants; Ireland; Leinster, mariners; midwives; milk maids; nuns; poets; poor; poultry farmers; poultry raisers; printing presses; sailors; scholars; travellers; watermen.
Making a St. Brigid’s cross is one of the traditional rituals in Ireland to celebrate the beginning of early spring, 1st February. The crosses are made of rushes that are pulled rather than cut. They are hung by the door and in the rafters to protect the house from fire and evil.
Happy St. Brigid’s Day to one and all!