The secret of making a good St Brigid’s cross, The Irish Catholic learned last Sunday, is to hold it at the bottom as you weave. This discovery was made at a weaving workshop on the first day of the annual Feile Brid in Kildare town, where the Brigidine sisters extended the hospitality of St Brigid to an enthusiastic group of tourists and locals, young and old.
Thanks to the initiative of the Brigidine sisters and an organising committee from the town, Feile Brid has expanded from one day to a whole week of activities of spiritual, cultural and historical interest.
”It’s not just in Kildare, there is interest around the world,” said Sr Rita Minehan CSB. ”Brigid has left us a wonderful legacy. People are looking for a deeper meaning, for a spiritual purpose in their lives, and I think we have something to offer them here in Kildare by unfolding this wonderful legacy of St Brigid.”
‘Ancient wisdom for new times’ is the theme of this celebration of St Brigid, a pre-Christian Celtic and Christian icon, world renowned as a spiritual leader, peacemaker, woman of the land, advocate for the poor and a woman of legendary hospitality.
”There is a wealth of wisdom, stories and legends of Brigid and all the rituals associated with her feast day,” Margaret Walsh explained in a brief talk, before the cross weaving began.
Margaret revealed supernatural stories of the eve of St Brigid’s Day (Feb 1) when no work or turning of a wheel was allowed. It was a time when the ”veil between worlds became thin” and Brigid would return to bestow her blessings. On St Brigid’s Day the man of the house would traditionally gather the rushes, which were weaved into crosses after a family meal, and sometimes leftover rushes were used to make a bed for St Brigid at the hearth of the house.
There are actually various forms of St Brigid’s crosses but our most commonly recognised design was made popular by RTE¨, who filmed one being made for their launch in the 1960s. The cross was weaved by Lucey Hannon from Kildare and her daughter, Carmel Kindregan now teaches in the weaving workshop every year for Feile Brid.
”RTE¨ came down and filmed my mother making the cross, and it was one of the opening pictures when they launched in 1961,” said Carmel. ”Because we are from Kildare town, it’s part of our heritage – I was brought up to make St Brigid’s Crosses, tell the story and promote the town.”
Maud Cuniffe from Kildare town said she came to the class because she was interested in getting to know more about St Brigid and her heritage.
”Feile Brid has been wonderful for the town – a real revival of our ancient traditions and heritage.”
David Southern and his daughter Kirsten came because they wanted to do an activity together. ”It’s fun,” said Kirsten. ”It was hard at the start, but once you get into it it’s really easy. We are going to give them as gifts for people to put up in their house for St Brigid’s Day.”
Feile Brid concludes on Sunday, Feb 5.