Monday, February 01, 2010

Feast day of St Brigid of Ireland

Today according to Australian Eastern Standard Time when this item was posted
Feast day of St Brigid of Ireland (Brigid of Kildare), patroness of Ireland

(Brighid; Bride of the Isles; Bridget of Ireland; Bridget; Brigid of Kildare; Brigit; Ffraid; Mary of the Gael)

(Bay laurel, Laurus nobilis, is today's plant, dedicated to this saint. Bay Laurel is the source of the bay leaves which are used for their flavour in cooking. It was also the source of the laurel wreath of ancient Greece, and therefore the expression of 'resting on one's laurels'. A wreath of bay laurels was given as the prize at the Pythian Games because the games were in honour of Apollo and the laurel was one of his symbols ever since his unsuccessful pursuit of Daphne. In the Bible, the Sweet bay is often an emblem of prosperity and fame. In Christianity it is said to symbolize the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the triumph of humanity thereby. It is also the source of the word 'baccalaureate' (laurel berry), and of 'poet laureate'.)

Historical facts about St Brigid's life are few, and suppositions are often contradictory, but traditionally she was born in 453 at Faughart (where the old well of St Brigid's adjoining the ruined church founded by St Morienna in her honour still attracts pilgrims), County Louth, Ireland. She was the daughter of Dubtach, a pagan Scottish king of Leinster, and Brocca, a Christian Pictish slave who had been baptized by St Patrick. Her name means fiery arrow (a pagan solar symbol as a fiery arrow was shot at the sun, although generally at solstices rather than cross-quarter days), but it has been suggested that 'Bridie' might have a Sanskrit derivation: Brahti or 'high one' ...

Brigid's cross
A well-known custom connected with this saint is the plaiting of reed crosses ('Brigid's crosses') today, and these are supposed to protect the home, the harvest and farm animals. The tradition derives from the story that she was plaiting rush crosses while nursing a dying pagan chieftain. He asked her about this and her explanation led to his conversion to Christianity.

Her symbolism as a probable sun goddess may be found in the form of these Brigid's crosses, which are widdershins swastikas, found widely around the world as home-protecting talismans, reaching Ireland by the second century, BCE.

In the Scottish Highlands, an effigy corn dolly of Bride made by the young woman from the previous year's corn sheaf would be carried around the village, and gifts were collected for the Bride Feast. The ritual was completely matriarchal, the door of the feasting place being barred to the men of the community who had to plead humbly to honour Bride ...

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