Friday, February 4, 2011

St Brigid, Real and True

On the Feast of St Bridget in this county people leave a white cloth in the garden overnight to soak up the power of renewal flowing from our great patroness on her special feast. 'Brat Bride', the cloth, is kept in the house as a store of that grace until the next St Brigid's Day. In the county I lived in before people took care to bring a piece of living green - a plant or a branch - into the house first thing in the morning. It had to be the very first thing done, before the fire was lit or the baby fed. This brought in the power of Brigid, and the grace was in the house while the green twig withered behind the clock or the picture frame, until the next twig was brought in La le Bride twelve months. And of course the St Brigid's Cross, that the children weave from water rushes - we used bind up the ends with thin slivers of the rush skin, but now they all seem to use elastic bands. There's nothing wrong with that, but our old way was the more authentic, the way Brigid herself would have made them.

We know that it was with the weaving of a cross that she converted a dying chieftain. The man was out of his mind with pain, but the rhythmical movement of her fingers and perhaps the intriguing shape being born calmed and diverted him. The stories about Brigid, from the mundane to the fanciful, all speak of a real, revered, beloved person. I take no notice of 'New Age' maundering about female deities and nature goddesses. I have the sense to turn down the invitations to 'wise woman colloquies' and 'earth spirit dances' that fly about at this time of year - not, I would have to say, just because they're blasphemous, they're also very boring and involve lots of wine and cribbing about men. Brigid was not a figment, or a metaphor, or even a traditional belief - she was a wonderful person who impressed all who met her, who won souls for heaven. She is rightly revered as a Christian saint.