'Feill na Bride, feis na finne.' - the Death of St Brigid of Kildare

1 February 523, St Brigit died in Kildare in Ireland, her death-day being remembered as the Feast Day of St Brigit of Kildare.

'Feill na Bride, feis na finne.'

'Bride binn nam bas ban.'

'A Bhride chaoin cheanail,
Is caoimh liom anail do bheoil,
’D uair reidhinn air m’ aineol
Bu to fein ceann eisdeachd mo sgeoil.'

Feast of the Bride, feast of the maiden.

Melodious Bride of the fair palms.

Thou Bride fair charming,
Pleasant to me the breath of thy mouth,
When I would go among strangers
'Thou thyself wert the hearer of my tale 

(from the “Carmina Gadelica“by Alexander Carmicheal)

A Saint Brigid's cross made of reeds*

If the old goddess Brigid, daughter of the Dagda and inventress of “keening”, a blend of weeping and singing, was transformed into a saint or if Brigit of Kildare was a historical personality of if, as some claim, the daughter of the Tuatha Dé Danann and patron of poetry, Breo-saighit, a “fiery arrow" was invented to give Saint Brigit a pagan taint and eradicate her as a powerful competitor of ubiquitous St Pats in Ireland is open to debate. Her official hagiography states that she was a an Irish princess, daughter of the King of Leinster and a Christian Pict, baptised by St Patrick, enraging her pagan fa, mind you, not her Caledonian mother, with her generosity, took the veil and founded the legendary Kildare Abbey where a holy fire burned until the days of Queen Elizabeth I.

An image of the lost Gray Abbey of Kildare** 

Her feast day was usually celebrated as Imbolc in pre-Christian days – other sources date the quarter-day of the pagan Irish year to February 2nd – the beginning of spring, a date that is significant probably since the Neolithic period in Ireland, and traceable for example at the Mound of Hostages, a passage tomb from around 3000 BCE on the Hill of Tara, that is flooded with light on February 1st – and February 1st marks the traditional date of lambing and Imbolc might actually mean to latch on a lamb to an ewe. Besides that there were probably bonfires and prophesies and eating of specially prepared foot climaxing in a magic cheese that is supposed to protect from the Sidhè, the elves living under the hills. One custom has survived to this day, the making of lucky and apotropaic figures from straw or rushes, in the form of the Brigid’s Cross.

Joseph Tuohy (1894 - 1930): "Saint Brigid" (before 1930)

Legend has it that St Brigit was called to the deathbed of a pagan lord who laid raving in his death throes, but the saint calmed him and made a cross from the straw on the floor and the dying lord asked what she was doing and she explained Christianity to him and the man was baptised at the point of his death. The symbol is older than Christianity, though, and people in rural Ireland would have understood its meaning well into the 20th century, namely to protect a house from fire and evil.

* The image of the Saint Brigid's cross, made from rushes from County Down, was taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Saint_Brigid%27s_cross.jpg

And if you want to make your own, here is a construction manual


** The Image was found on http://kildare.ie/heritage/Grose-Antiquities-1792/kildare-abbey-kildare.asp with lots of more information on Kildare Abbey

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