“Art as a Mystical Experience is from the Samhain (November 1997 – January 1998) issue of Brigit’s Freast: The Journal of Celtic Thopught, Culture, History & Folklore. It explores the idea that all Celtic artwork is mystical in nature.
St. Brigid, also known as “Mary of the Gael”, is an abbess and patroness of Ireland. She is furthermore the founder of the first Irish monastery in County Kildare, Ireland. Born in Dundalk in 450 AD, St Brigid is accredited with first creating the unique cross which bears her name. This cross is normally hand created from rushes however occasionally straw is also used.
The distinctive St. Brigid’s Cross design, made from woven rushes, is thought to keep evil, fire and hunger from the homes in which it is displayed, however the tale of its creation is somewhat confused, and there is not one definitive version.
One tale is that she merely picked up rushes while walking and used them to explain Christianity and Christianity Community, showing how it is woven together as a web and with equal arms. Another story of the origin of the cross is as follows…
There was an old pagan Chieftain who lay on his deathbed in Kildare (some legends say it was her father). The Chieftain’s servants summoned Brigid to his beside to try to calm his restless spirit. It is said, that as Brigid sat by his bedside she picked up the rushes from the floor and began weaving them into the distinctive cross pattern, explaining as she weaved the meaning of the cross to the sick Chieftain. Supposedly, Brigid’s calming words caused the Chieftain to request to be baptized as as Christian before he died.
It is customary on the eve of her Feast Day (1st February) for the Irish to fashion a St. Brigid’s Cross of straw or rushes and place it inside the house over the door.