Brigit’s Day Word on the Week 4th February 2023.
We have a new Public Holiday. February 1st has been decreed. This brings us into line with the bulk of the EU with the same number of public holidays.
Historically this was St Brigit’s Day. The name Brigit means different things to different people! She is claimed both by Christian and pagan sources. Her trademark cross, woven with reeds, adorns many homes. Her witches profile is becoming more prominent. So symbolically, is she to be known by her cross or cauldron?
In Wales she was known by fire. It was a Welshman, the historian Gerald of Wales (1146-1243) to whom we owe a valuable account of “the fire of St Brigit”, believed to have burned continuously in Kildare for centuries.
Today this seems to have morphed into the 1st February pagan Festival of Light replete with fire-dancers, music and storytellers. A portrait of Brigit has been painted on the ‘Wonderful Barn’ Leixlip showing her in a green cloak representing her Irish origins.
Brigit was born around the year 450 in Faughart near the border with Northern Ireland. Her name is incorporated in a variety of places. There is the Bridewell which was a prison in Dublin and is now a Garda station. St Bride’s in London, also started as a prison, has now become a church with a Holy Well.
The girls name Brigit lost its popularity when it was abbreviated to Biddy. This occurred largely through the hugely popular RTE ‘soap’ Glenroe (1983 – 2000) where the leading character’s wife was nicknamed Biddy. This concerned Archbishop Tomás Ó Fiaich who lamented the loss of patronage to St Brigit and encouraged women to name their daughters after the Saint!
It is now widely doubted that St Brigid was a Christian Saint at all (the Catholic Church delisted her in 1969) but rather a Pagan goddess appropriated by Irish neo-pagans. Her cult was a powerful one, and remains so in 2023, having just inspired Ireland’s newest holiday.
Legend has it she made her first cross from rushes she found on the ground beside a dying man in order to convert him to Christianity. I wonder if she used Jesus’ words “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son (on the cross), that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (St John Chapter 3 verse 16).
The cross was where Jesus carried our sins and dealt with them once and for all. Was Brigid’s cross used as a visual aid to get the dying man to put his faith in what Jesus did when he died for him?
There is probably no better use for her cross today than to show that Jesus died for others and now lives for them.