St Brigid was born in Faughart, Dundalk, Co Louth 450 AD.
Her feast day is the 1st February, which is also the first day of Irish springtime.
Brigid was renowned for her generosity. Even as a child she gave away her family's treasures including her father's prized bejewelled sword.
One day Brigid visited the King of Leinster. Admiring the beautiful harps that hung on his wall she asked
“Who plays the harps?”
She was told that nobody in court was able to play them. Brigid blessed the hands of some of the people and they took down the harps and played the most beautiful music. The King was enchanted and said:
“You may have anything in my power to give you”
Brigid, without hesitation, asked for all prisoners to be released.
The king of Leinster promised Brigid land to build a monastery and a church upon, however he prevaricated. Eventually he agreed to a meeting. The King thought he was smart and agreed to give Brigid as much land as her cloak would cover. It was said that Brigid laid down her cloak and it magically spread across a vast area, the King then realised that Brigid was the chosen one and gifted her the land. He later converted to Christianity.
As a woman of great beauty Brigid received an offer of marriage from a relative, but Brigid refused.
In order to make herself less attractive she gouged out one of her own eyes. Her family assured her she would not have to marry so she laid the palm of her hand over her eye and healed it, hence people with eye conditions often pray to St Brigid.
On the eve of St Brigid’s Day in Ireland, traditionally St Brigid is welcomed into the home.
The head of the household stands at the threshold, knocks on the door and asks to be admitted in the name of Brigid. A straw doll (brideog) is carried into the home.
A family meal, singing and dancing are often part of the festivities, and some of the food is placed outside the door as food for St Brigid as she passes by in the night.
People traditionally place a St Brigid’s cross, woven from rushes or straw, over a door, window or mantle as a sign of welcome and are left in the home or the barn for protection.
Another tradition is ‘the smooring of the hearth’
The process of covering the fire at night was accompanied by this prayer…
I rake the fire like everyone else
Brigid below and Mary on top
Twelve angels of the angels of grace
Protecting my house till dawn.
On St Brigid’s morning the women would examine the ashes for any signs of Brigid’s footprints or fingerprints. If a mark was found this would indicate fertility and new life would be assured.
St Brigid is an extremely busy saint. She is the patron saint of babies, blacksmiths, cattle and chicken farmers, printing presses, sailors, children born out of wedlock, dairymaids, dairy workers, fugitives, midwives, scholars, travellers, watermen, poets, infants and mariners.
St Brigid died on 1st February 523 AD aged 75,
Originally buried in her church in Kildare, her remains were later removed for safe keeping during a Viking invasion and taken to Down Cathedral, Downpatrick.
Supposed burial site of St Patrick and St Brigid at Down Cathedral, Downpatrick.
lá sona St Brigid.