Brigid's Day (Ireland)

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St. Bridgid's Day (Ireland)

***** Location: Ireland
***** Season: Early Spring
***** Category: Observance


1 February is the Feast of St Brigid, which is also (in Ireland) the first day of spring.

St Brigid is one of the three patron saints of Ireland, together with St Patrick and St Columcille (also known as St Columba). She is much revered, and there are many stories about her. She was a strong and determined woman at a time when Ireland was just becoming Christian.
She became the Abbott of a mixed (male / female) monastery, and was made a bishop (see below).

She is not to be confused with St Birgitta of Sweden.

Isabelle Prondzynski


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St Brigid’s Day
Scots Gaelic Là Fhèill Brìghde,
Irish Lá Fhéile Bríde
the feast day of the goddess Brigid
Imbolc (also Imbolg)
© More in the WIKIPEDIA !

St. Brigid (or Bridget, Brighid, Bridgid or Bríd)
holds a special place for the Irish people. St. Brigid's Day is on February 1st. It is very significant in Dundalk, Co. Louth.
It is said that St. Brigid was born just outside Dundalk, in a place called Faughart.

There are a number of traditions associated with St. Brigid.

The St. Brigids Cross
The most characteristic and most widespread Irish custom connected with St. Brigid's Eve was the making of the "cros Bríde"or "Bogha Bríde" (St. Brigid's Cross) to invoke protection. The most usual type was very simple in design but of course these were variations - one of these in fact, was adopted as its symbol by Radio Telefís Eireann, the Irish broadcasting service.
The making of the crosses was attended with some ceremony.


In the southern half of the country the cross was sprinkled with holy waters, hung up above or close to the entrance door with an appropriate prayer but in the northern of the country the ritual was much more elaborate, especially in Sligo, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon, most parts of Ulster and also in the Dundalk area of Co. Louth: One of the family, a girl, representing the Saint leaves the house and when outside knocks three times to gain admittance. She carries rushes in her hands. Each time on knocking she says:

"Teighidh sibh ar bhus nglúna, déaraidh sibh umhlaíocht, agus ligigidh Bríd Bheannachtach isteach".
(Which means "Go down on your knees, do homage and let Blessed Brigid enter the house").

When this has been said for the third time, those inside respond " O tar isteach, tá céad fáilte romhat". (O, Come in, you are a hundred times welcome).

Then she enters and places the rushes on the table. The supper has already been laid out on the table and the following grace is recited by the father and mother:"Beannaigh sinn, a Dhia, beannaigh ár mbiadh agus ár ndeach, is tú a cheannaigh sinn go daor, soar sinn ar gach olc!"(Bless us, O God, bless our food and our drink; it is Thou who has redeemed us at great price, deliver us form all evil!).When the supper was eaten the parents recite a long thanksgiving prayer.

In explanation of why the crosses were made and put up tradition without hesitation answers 'protection'. Protection against fire, storm and lightening is the most usual reason given but also illness and disease.

Look at more cross types here:

The Candlelight Procession
On the eve of St. Brigid's Day, there is a candlelight procession from Faughart graveyard, the location of St. Brigid's Well, past St. Brigid's Shrine up to Kilcurry Church, approximately 3 miles away. Then prayers are said, including the Rosary.

St. Brigid's Well

The graveyard in Faughart, just outside Dundalk, Co. Louth,is the location of an old well, normally associated with St. Brigid. It is said that the water in the Well rises on her feast day, February 1st. The graveyard is actually at one of the highest points in the area, and therefore so too is the Well. This makes the myth all the more interesting, as a well normally has located at a low point, landwise to get water.

The Brídeóg
In many places of Ireland one of the main features of St. Brigid's Eve was that groups of people went from house to house carrying a symbol of the saint. They were welcomed always by the householders since they announced that they were bringing St. Brigid's blessing to the household. Sometimes they carried numerous Brigid's crosses and they gave one to the head of each house, however usually it was accepted that the girl who carried the symbol was the most beautiful and modest of them all.

In many cases of Co. Louth and Co. Armagh, there were traditions associated with "Brigid's Shield" (Sciath Bhrighid) and Brigid's Crown (Coróin Bhrigid) where the most beautiful girl of a particular area wearing a crown of rushes, a shield on her left arm and a cross in her right hand, was escorted by a group of young girls from house to house on Brigid's Eve - or Brigid's Morning, and that special prayers and ceremonies were observed!

St. Brigid's Ribbon
There was also customs associated with 'ribín Bríghid' (St. Brigid's ribbon) whereby a silk ribbon was placed on the windowsill during the night in honour of the Saint. The general belief was that the Saint going about the country on the Eve of her feast, would touch the ribín and endow it with healing powers. Some believed that the healing powers only improved with age and that its healing power was greatest after it had been kept for seven years. As well as relieving illness, it could cure barrenness, help women in childbirth and ward off evil influences.

There is also a tradition, which believes that hoarfrost, gathered from the grass on the morning of St. Brigid's day, is an infallible cure for headache. Many people also brought water from a well dedicated to the Saint and sprinkled it on the house and its occupants, farm builders, livestock and fields, invoking the blessing of the Saint.

The Folklore around St. Brigid

One Possibility.....
Brigid's story begins in 453 AD. She was born the illegitimate daughter of Brocessa, a slave girl, and Dubthach, a pagan chieftan of Faughart, which is situated just 2 miles from Dundalk. Both Brigid and her mother were banished from Faughart after she was born, but she returned as a young woman to be reclaimed by her father as was customary in those times, but Brigid was never accepted by her stepmother who tried to sell her to the King of Leinster.

The King of Leinster, himself a Christian, persuaded her father to grant her freedom, which he did and on gaining her freedom Brigid went in search of her mother Brocessa. On finding her ill, Brigid insisted on taking over her mother's role as a slave of the household. Her master, a druid, was amazed at this and granted her mother her freedom, so Brigid, having arranged to have her mother looked after, returned to Faughart.

Brigid was extremely beautiful and had many suitors, among them a poet whose rank in Celtic Ireland was next to roytalty. Her father, who was arranging the marriage, would not listen to Brigid's protests, so she prayed that God would take away her beauty and tradition relates that Brigid's skin was destroyed by a horrible disease. Legend has it that she cast her eye and fired it against a stone, which left an imprint.
It is also said that her long hours kneeling in prayer left the marks of her knees in the rock.

The custom of making St. Brigid's crosses may have been a christianised version of a celtic ceremony connected with food production at the beginning of Spring. The crosses were usually made from straw and rushes, although reeds and wood were occasionally used. When Irish people converted to Christianity they sometimes brought ancient traditions with them. Myths surrounding St. Brigid's life have similarities to those of Brigid, the celtic godess of fertility.

Another Possibility....
The main significance of the feast of Saint Brigid's on February 1st would seem to be that it was a christianisation of one of the focal points of the agricultural year in Ireland, the starting point of preparations for the spring sowing. A relaxation of the rigours of winter weather was expected at this time, for, according to tradition, the saint had promised.

"Gach ré lá go maith
ó'm lá - sa arnach
agus leath mo lae féinigh."

Every second day fine
From my day onward
And half of my own day

St. Brigid was one of the great trio of saints - along with Patrick and Columba - who laid the foundations of the Celtic Church. She was born about 453 near Umeras, in Co. Kildare and died about 523. Her father was a pagan prince named Dubthach and her mother was Brocerna, a Christian slave in his household.

The cult of St. Brigid is still vigorous in Ireland. She is known as the patron of farmers, of artists and of students. On the eve of her feast day, February 1st crosses made of rushes woven together are placed in Irish homes, blessed and hung up in cow-sheds or byres to invoke her protection for the following year.

For those who lived near the sea the spring tide nearest to her festival was known as "Rabhastha na féile bride" and was believed to be the greatest spring tide of the year, and the people were quick to take the opportunity of cutting and gathering seaweed to fertilize the crops and collecting shellfish and other shore produce.

Read the rest of her story here:

Other extensive Links about her
St. Brigid of Ireland
(Incorrectly known as BRIDGET)




The King of Leinster at that time was not particularly generous, and St. Brigid found it not easy to make him contribute in a respectable fashion to her many charities. One day when he proved more than usually niggardly, she at last said, as it were in jest: "Well, at least grant me as much land as I can cover with my cloak;" and to get rid of her importunity he consented.

They were at the time standing on the highest point of ground of the Curragh, and she directed four of her sisters to spread out the cloak preparatory to her taking possession. They accordingly took up the garment, but instead of laying it flat on the turf, each virgin, with face turned to a different point of the compass, began to run swiftly, the cloth expanding at their wish in all directions. Other pious ladies, as the border enlarged, seized portions of it to preserve something of a circular shape, and the elastic extension continued till the breadth was a mile at least.

"Oh, St. Brigid!" said the frighted king, "what are you about?" "I am, or rather my cloak is about covering your whole province to punish you for your stinginess to the poor." "Oh, come, come, this won't do. Call your maidens back. I will give you a decent plot of ground, and be more
liberal for the future." The saint was easily persuaded. She obtained some acres, and if the king held his purse-strings tight on any future occasion she had only to allude to her cloak's India-rubber qualities to bring him to reason.

The ancient and beautiful Cathedral in Kildare town is dedicated to St Brigid.

Very important to many women in the Christian Church is the story of her abbotship of a double monastery and her consecration as a bishop :

Worldwide use

Things found on the way


st brigid's day
two butterflies set to fly
on my baggage

Isabelle Prondzynski


this bitter bitter night -
a wild wind warps
St. Brigid's bells

Larry Kimmel


A Hokku on St Brigid's day

St Brigid's day, 1st February, is widely understood hereabouts as the first day of spring. The day has special significance in Ireland where there are thousands of holy wells (or springs), many of which are dedicated to Brigid - nominally the early Christian saint, but in fact the Gaelic goddess of fertility and poetry.
Although superficially christianised, many of the practices associated with the pagan goddess continue, including the collection of water from Brigid's wells on her sacred day, which is then cast onto cattle and fields in the hope of increased fertility.

St Brigid's Day --
the clank of buckets
at the holy well

Norman Darlington
Saint Brigid's Day (Darlington, Prime, Carley),
the first Triparshva to appear in English, was published in 2005 in Kokako, a New Zealand haikai zine.


Adapted from a message of W.J. Higginson to the forum "Haiku Talk 2":
Saint Brigid's Day

It's a bit like Eostre being "converted" to Easter, and English being the (nearly?) lone holdout against the tendency on the Continent to name the Christian holiday after the Jewish Passover.

I'm glad to see that 1 February (St. Brigid's Day) is seen as the beginning of spring, as this practically coincides with the view of the old Sino-Japanese calendar that governs the haiku seasons. In the case of Eire, I'm sure it has to do with the mild climate created by the Gulf Stream, more than astronomical features--e.g., the beginning of traditional "haiku spring" is the midpoint between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox, speaking from a northern-hemisphere perspective. But however it happens, it goes to point up how arbitrary any delineation of the seasons is, and how we need to be somewhat flexible in our approach to them.
(quoted with the author's permission)

Related words

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

go rouse Saint Brigid,
bid her melt her holy well
-- spring is come at last!

Norman Darlington (Ireland)

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