Brigid's cross

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Brigid's cross
Brigid's cross on a gravestone in Ireland

Brigid's cross, Brighid's cross or Brigit's cross (Irish: Cros Bríde, Crosóg Bríde or Bogha Bríde) is a small cross cruciform usually made from rushes or, less often, straw. It comprises a woven square in the centre and four radials tied at the ends. Originally a pagan symbol correctly known as the sun Cross. Though a Christian symbol, it possibly derives from the pagan sunwheel.

Brigid's crosses are associated with Brigid of Kildare, who is venerated as one of the patron saints of Ireland. The crosses are traditionally made on 1 February, which in the Irish language is called Lá Fhéile Bhríde (St Brigid's feast day), the day of her liturgical celebration.

Many rituals are associated with the making of the crosses.[1] It was traditionally believed that a Brigid's Cross protects the house from fire and evil.[2] It is hung in many Irish and Irish-American kitchens for this purpose.

Brigid's cross (sometimes stylized) was used to represent Irish radio network Telefís Éireann and RTÉ 1 (later RTÉ One); in 1961 to 1987 and 1993 to 2000.

Story of the Christian St. Brigid and Her Cross[edit]

In Christian religion, St. Brigid and her cross are linked together by a story about her weaving this form of cross at the death bed of either her father or a pagan lord, who upon hearing what the cross meant, asked to be baptized. One version goes as follows:

A pagan chieftain from the neighbourhood of Kildare was dying. Christians in his household sent for Brigid to talk to him about Christ. When she arrived, the chieftain was raving. As it was impossible to instruct this delirious man, hopes for his conversion seemed doubtful. Brigid sat down at his bedside and began consoling him. As was customary, the dirt floor was strewn with rushes both for warmth and cleanliness. Brigid stooped down and started to weave them into a cross, fastening the points together. The sick man asked what she was doing. She began to explain the cross, and as she talked, his delirium quieted and he questioned her with growing interest. Through her weaving, he converted and was baptized at the point of death. Since then, the cross of rushes has existed in Ireland.

Pagan origins[edit]

The presence of the Brigid's cross in Ireland is likely far older than Christianity. The Goddess Brigid was one of the Tuatha Dé Danann. Her feast day was the feast of Imbolc, and the cross made of rushes today is very likely the descendant of a pagan symbol whose original meaning may have been locally understood even into the early 20th century in rural Ireland. One remnant of that tradition in the meaning of the Brigid's Cross today, is that it is said to protect a house from fire. This does not fit with any part of the Christian story of St. Brigid, and so is likely a part of the older polytheistic tradition behind the feast day.

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