Like shamrock and harp, the Saint Brigid’s cross has become a symbol of Ireland. For those who wish to know the symbolism behind this cross, SpiritualRay comes forward to shed light on its meaning and origin.
Did You Know?
The word ‘cross’ has derived from the Latin word crux, which was a Roman torture device. Regardless of the origin of the word, it is one of the ancient symbols, which is used in different religions around the world.
There are variations of cross symbols in different religions, and the Saint Brigid’s cross is one of the variations. This cross has four protruding arms with a woven square in the middle. It is said that the cross has a pre-Christian origin. It is also considered that it is related to sun-cross and swastika.
However, this particular cross is famous among masses in close association with Christian saint Brigid of Kildare, Ireland. She was one of the patron saints. It is a tradition in Ireland to make these crosses on Saint Brigid’s feast day on 1 February.
About Saint Brigid’s Cross
The cross is usually made with rushes. However, reed or any other material is used if rushes aren’t available. Once the cross is woven, it is blessed with holy water and a blessing, “May the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost be on this Cross and on the place where it hangs and on everyone who looks on it.” Then, it is hung on the front doors of homes throughout the year. It is burned and replaced by freshly woven cross next year.
The origin of this tradition is hidden in a story of St. Brigid’s cross. Though there are several versions of the story, we have elucidated the most prevalent one.
Goddess Brigid was one of main deities of the pre-Christian Gaelic Ireland. The first day of February was known as her feast day, which was called Imbolc. The day used to mark the beginning of the spring season.
The Christian version of the origin of the tradition revolves around Saint Brigid. She shares her name with the Celtic goddess Brigid, and her feast day was formerly celebrated as the goddess Brigid’s feast day. She was also known as “Mary of the Gael.” She was a founder and abbess of several Christian monasteries like Kildare. She was known for her kindness and generosity. There are several miracle stories associated with her name as well.
There are several versions of the story of how Saint Brigid created this unique cross. However, the most common version is as follows:
Saint Brigid was summoned to the deathbed of an old pagan chieftain (in some versions, her own father) who was suffering from hallucinations. Others believed that Brigid would be able to calm him. However, the restless chieftain was not in condition to listen to anyone. Brigid kept talking to him and consoling him. While talking, she started weaving rushes that were spread on the floor. She weaved a unique and beautiful cross pattern from the rushes. The sick chieftain took interest in the pattern she was weaving and asked her about it. As she explained about Christ and the cross, the chieftain’s restless mind calmed down, and his interest began to grow. Later, he was converted and baptized at the point of his death. Since then, the Saint Brigid’s cross is made to recall this incident.
Meaning of the Saint Brigid’s Cross
◆ Placing the cross over the doors and windows indicates protection of homes from any kind of harm.
◆ Placed on the cowshed, it is thought to protect animals. It also ensures that cows will give plenty of milk.
◆ The Saint Brigid’s cross symbolizes peace, good will, and friendship.
◆ The cross also symbolizes endurance and survival through tough times of hunger, oppression, and ill-treatment.
The cross can be seen on the doors February 1st each year as the reminder of Saint Brigid and all the good things associated with the symbol. Nowadays, several people have started adopting the cross while designing their jewelry. The cross is used in gifts as well. However, the crosses are made from different materials and may not be able to retain the flow of creativity and mental peace that one gets while weaving the Saint Brigid’s cross out of rashes.