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Brigid's Cross--Straw Craft and Practice

Updated: Dec 6, 2023


The symbol you see on this site and others is Brigid's Cross. Legend tells us that St. Brigid from Kildare wove a cross from rushes while at the deathbed of a pagan chieftain, thus converting him to Christianity. St. Brigid is a particular favorite of mine--I love her stories and songs, the spirit captured in her memory of a powerful, faithful woman.


Woven crafts are part of many cultural traditions. Brigid's woven crosses were traditionally crafted on or near her feast day in early February, and hung over the door of the home as a protection and blessing. Her feast day was also the time for traditionally planting early grain crops, with an acknowledgement of harvest the year before.


In the wonderful book Irish Folk Ways, E. Estyn Evans explores the variation of Brigid's crosses and relationship with woven crafts in other countries.


Estyn also discusses the variety of woven crafts shown here:


This past moon I harvested my tiny oat patch with prayers from the Carmina Gadelica.


I use the oats and oatstraw through the year as a tonic tea for soothing my central nervous system. Having this tiny agricultural practice helps me feel relationship with the land where I live, with my ancestors.


I had intended to preserve the sheaves of oats through the winter, but my foster kittens kept attacking them and tearing them apart. Here are the bad kitties below:


I knew I wanted to make a Brigid's Cross with the oat straw. I have a chronic health issue that causes neurological inflammation, and I've been in a flare, so I was reluctant to try any sort of new hand craft--multi-step projects with non-tactile directions flummox me. This is one of the elements of Olden Practice I hope to reclaim--in-person craft tutorials!


But I found two helpful step by step guides--linked below--and after soaking the straw in my bathtub for 30 minutes I began the craft.


And it was as if my hands remembered. A quick and vital weaving.


These simple traditions are the things that call me now.

The honoring that is tangible.

The blessing that is handmade.

The devotion that is practice.

I decided to use the Brigid's cross as a symbol for this work of Olden Practice, a synthesis of old ways and new.


 

Olden Practice Oatstraw Infusion


In a quart jar take one loose handful of oatstraw, add a half handful of raspberry leaf and a pinch of spearmint. Cover with boiling water and let steep for four hours or overnight, or cover with room temperature water and let sit in the sun for the day. Strain and drink hot or cold--this is my favorite tonic, I drink it all year round.


 

Resources


Evans, Estyn E. Irish Folk Ways. 1957. London: Routlidge & Kegan Paul, Ltd.

Brigid's Cross Tutorials:


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