Traditionally, the brat bhríde, or Brigidís Cloak, was laid outside before sunset on the eve of Brigidís Feastday, 1st February, and brought back in before sunrise. Blessed by Brigid, ancient Spring goddess and saint, the dew which fell that night imbued the cloth with powers of healing and protection which lasted throughout the year.
It would then be kept in a special place in the house and brought out as needed when illness occurred. It could be wrapped around the head to cure a headache; it was widely used by midwives to help women in childbirth, for Brigid was especially known as being the patron of healers and midwives. It was used on sick animals also, especially cows and sheep for which Brigid had a special affinity.
Brigid’s Cross, now usually associated with the 5th Century Christian saint, was made annually from straw or rushes and hung above the door. In pre-Christian times, it was probably a sun symbol and celebrated the power of the goddess to bring back the light at the Celtic feast of Imbolc. It holds the promise of fertility and abundance.
In 2006 I was inspired to help restore the custom of Brigid's Cloak. Last year on the 31st Jan these small, beautifully embroidered 100% Irish linen cloths were already in: Australia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada (snow photo at right), Denmark, England, France, India, Japan, Romania, Spain, Switzerland and the U.S as well as in Ireland.
They have been used to aid conception, during childbirth, by a seven year old girl “to keep bad dreams away”, in homes, in therapy rooms, hospitals and hospices…the ritual has been carried out by people in groups or alone with a joyful consciousness of the powerful collective energy generated by this simple act.
It encourages one and all to be up before sunrise on the first day of the celtic Spring to welcome the goddess and saint who brings the light back after the long winter and to ask her for healing and protection through the coming year. Please join us!