30 July 2011

Brighid's Cross

Brighid's Cross was a symbol derived from ancient solar symbols known from early times in Europe. There were several regional forms but none resemble the classic Christian cross.  The crosses were made from straw, sheaves of grain, rushes, or grass, depending on the region of origin. They were hung in the house and farm buildings as protection against illness and other misfortune.

In the Scottish Highlands, women also made Brighid crosses before a wedding and placed one in the mattress of the marriage bed to ensure fertility.

Making the crosses themselves was a ritual. The exact procedure varied and in some places the crosses were made ahead of time to be distributed as part of the bríde óg procession. But in most places in Ireland, they weaving material was ceremonially brought into the house and laid under the table where the feasting would occur. After the meal, the household created the crosses. A farmer might also make circlets to hang round the necks of lambs as they were born. Any leftover materials were used to create a bed for Brigid or sprinkled in the byre for good luck. The crosses were hung the next day.

To make a Brighid's Cross, you will need about 28 reed, each approximately 30 cms in length.


Position two reeds across each other so that they make a "+" sign.  Turn the weave 90 degrees and fold the vertical reed down over the top of itself.  Turn the weave 90 degrees again to repeat with the now vertical reed. 

Turn the reeds again 90 degrees and add the third reed, placing it to the right of the vertical folded reed and under the horizontal folded reed.  Fold thee added reed, turning the weave once again to add the fourth and final reed to this round in the same fashion.

Continue to add folded reed.  Avoid letting them bunch up or lie on top of those in a previous round. Build the weave outward, resting the reeds side by side. At first, you may find it difficult to hold the arms together and at right angles, but as the weave gains substance, this will prove easier.  Just remember to watch for gaps and fill them by repositioning and tightening the reeds as necessary.

When all 28 reeds have been incorporated, tie each arm off about 6cms from the centre of the design. Trim the ends of the reeeds and threads.

As the reeds dry, the cross will become loose.  To remedy this, untie the ends, pull the reeds tight again before retying.


Brat Bríde
The brat or cloak or mantle of Brigid was a ribbon, piece of cloth, or an article of clothing. They were left outside on the evening before the feast of Imbolc to receive the blessing of Brigid as she passed through the household. After wards, the cloths and ribbons were used as talismans of protection and healing, particularly aiding childbirth. Ribbons and strips of cloth were sewn into clothing or carried in a pocket. Articles of clothing were worn in times of stress and need; for example, a woman might wear a man’s vest while giving birth. Shawls that had been blessed might be laid on ailing human or animal while a prayer of healing was recited.


Críos Bríde
The críos or girdle of Brigid was a rope of plaited straw or rope three or four meters long and formed into a circle held vertically aloft while those gathered ritually passed through, reciting a charm. The ceremony appears to have symbolized regeneration.

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