How To Make St Brigid Cross With Rushessay
Making a St Bridget’s Cross is a custom in Ireland. The St Bridget’s Cross is made out of plants called rushes for hanging above the entrances to dwellings to invoke the help of St Bridget in warding off disease.
St Bridget’s Day is celebrated on the 1st February each year and the crosses are made at that time. Rushes were traditionally used to make the St Bridget’s Cross. These were collected from wetlands and cut into pieces, 8-12 inches long. Rushes can be hard to get for city dwellers so ordinary drinking straws are a good substitute. Use rubber bands to tie up the ends.
You Will Need
- 16 Reeds (or Straws)
- 4 small rubber bands
What to Do
- Hold one of the reeds vertically. Fold a second reed in half as in the diagram.
- Place the first vertical reed in the centre of the folded second reed.
- Hold the centre overlap tightly between thumb and forefinger.
- Turn the two rushes held together 90 degrees anti-clockwise so that the open ends of the second reed are pointing vertically upwards.
- Fold a third reed in half and over both parts of the second reed to lie horizontally from left to right against the first straw. Hold tight.
- Holding the centre tightly, turn the three reeds 90 degrees anti-clockwise so that the open ends of the third reed are pointing upwards.
- Fold a new reed in half over and across all the rushes pointing upwards.
- Repeat the process of rotating all the rushes 90 degrees anti-clockwise, adding a new folded reed each time until all rushes have been used up to make the cross.
- Secure the arms of the cross with elastic bands. Trim the ends to make them all the same length. The St Bridget’s Cross is now ready to hang.
Check out our video of one of Scoil Bhride’s students making a St. Brigid’s Cross below:
How to Make a St Brigids Cross from Scoil Bhride on Vimeo.
February 1 marks St. Brigid's Day, when Ireland remembers the celtic goddess Brigid and her immense power in Irish mythological and religious imagination by making a St. Brigid's cross.
The goddess Brigid was the daughter of the Dagda and one of the Tuatha Dé Danann before she was melded with the Christian saint of the same name in the Middle Ages.
February 1 or 2 is a day claimed by Celtic seasonal thinkers. They called the holiday Imbolc to celebrate Bríd in the form of a cailleach ("witch") becoming a maiden, who collects kindling to make a fire in the winter that will warm the spring and make her young again.
A statue of St. Brigid of Kildare (Via:Flickr / Fiona MacGinty O'Neill)
The holiday is understood through the stories of the incredible Brighid. She was the inventor of the mourning songs called caoineadh or "keening." In the story, she keens to mourn the death of her son Ruadán and so invents the art form. Brighid's caoineadh is like the Tibetan ritual of ushering souls to nirvana in the Book of the Dead.
The true meaning behind St. Brigid's Cross
The Irish tradition of making crosses on Imbolc or Lá Fhéile Bhríde (St. Brigid's Day) is remembered as a Christian ritual and has become that for most Irish people.
The spiral of the Brighid cross invokes the North Star and the pattern that the Big Dipper makes in the sky over the course off a year. As the night sky turns around the North Star, the Big Dipper turns through the seasonal year like the hand of a clock.
Brigid is the fire-keeper of that flame of life that mothers tend to so that we don't die in the winter, and so the lines of family are not broken by the trauma of the cold months. In the winter, Brighid becomes the cailleach, the woman in agedness, and on Imbolc she collected the kindling of the fires that get her to the spring of regeneration.
Christian interpretation in Ireland makes Brigid into a nun, and children occupy themselves by taking bits of straw and weaving this potential-kindling into the shape of spiraling Brigid's crosses.
A homemade St Brigid's cross.
St. Brigid is said to have invented the cross herself while attending a sickbed and picking up rushes from the floor to craft them into a sacred cross.
Taking up the tradition in its many forms focuses the mind in the meditation of craft, and connects our winter minds mad at the cold to the great wheel that turns and is slowly bringing us into the spring of renewal.
Do you or family mark St. Brigid's Day? Let us know how you mark it in the comment section below.
Share this with one of her namesake's in your life ahead of their blessed feast day.
Read more: The enduring traditions of St. Brigid's Day
* Originally published in 2012.