Posted by George Morrison

With the 1st February, the Celtic feast day of Imbolc is upon us. The light is returning and the snowdrops are blooming. Let us escape from the current financial crises and turn our thoughts to St Brigid whose day it is. It is interesting that there seems to have been a Brigit (the old spelling) before there was a Brigid. She was said to be a pagan goddess of fire, smith-craft, healing, childbirth and poetry. One of the customs associated with her is the Bridie Doll. This is a sheaf of oats, dressed in women’s clothing and placed in the earth as part of a fertility rite. History is silent as to whether the pagan Brigit was converted to Christ and became St Brigid but the latter is renowned in Kildare for her negotiating skills. In dealing with the High King of Leinster for a place to build her monastery he said, dismissively, she could have the area covered by her cloak. This she readily agreed to and the deal was done. To the King’s dismay the cloak grew and grew until it covered an area of 5,000 acres in Co Kildare known today as the Curragh. Another feature of the times was the conversion of the old pagan wells, which were associated with fertility rites to holy wells, many called after St Brigid. Some of them were used to baptise converts to Christianity. It is perhaps for the St Brigid’s cross that the Saint is best remembered. This is a plaited four pronged cross made from reeds and is often fixed to the wall of a house in honour of the Saint. Legend has it she made the cross from rushes she found on the ground beside a dying man in order to convert him. I wonder if she used St Paul’s words from Colossians chapter 2, “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.” The cross was where Christ carried our sins. Did St Brigid use her cross to get the gospel message across to the dying man? There is probably no better use for it today.