Happy St Brigid’s Day – Our Matron Saint! Beannachtaí Lá Fhéile Bríde!

St Brigid is also known as Mary of the Gael or Muire na nGael aka Our Lady of the Irish. She is one of the Patron Saints of Ireland, along with St Patrick and St Columcille.

Patron: Babies; blacksmiths; boatmen; cattle; chicken farmers; children whose parents are not married; dairymaids; dairy workers; fugitives; infants; Ireland; Leinster; mariners; midwives; milk maids; newborn babies; nuns; poets; poultry farmers; poultry raisers; printing presses; sailors; scholars; travellers; watermen.

Story of St. Brigid

(From St Brigid’s GNS, Glasnevin, Dublin)

St. Brigid was born in AD 450 in Faughart, near Dundalk in Co. Louth. Her father, Dubhthach, was a pagan chieftain of Leinster and her mother, Broicsech, was a Christian. It was thought that Brigid’s mother was born in Portugal but was kidnapped by Irish pirates and brought to Ireland to work as a slave, just like St. Patrick was. Brigid’s father named her after one of the most powerful goddesses of the pagan religion – the goddess of fire, whose manifestations were song, craftsmanship, and poetry, which the Irish considered the flame of knowledge. He kept Brigid and her mother as slaves even though he was a wealthy man. Brigid spent her earlier life cooking, cleaning, washing and feeding the animals on her father’s farm.

She lived during the time of St.Patrick and was inspired by his preachings and she became a Christian. When Brigid turned eighteen, she stopped working for her father. Brigid’s father wanted her to find a husband but Brigid had decided that she would spend her life working for God by looking after poor, sick and elderly people. Legend says that she prayed that her beauty would be taken away from her so no one would seek her hand in marriage; her prayer was granted. Brigid’s charity angered her father because he thought she was being too generous to the poor. When she finally gave away his jewel-encrusted sword to a leper, her father realised that she would be best suited to the religious life.

Brigid finally got her wish and entered the convent. She received her veil from St. Macaille and made her vows to dedicate her life to God. Legend also says that Brigid regained her beauty after making her vows and that God made her more beautiful than ever. News of Brigid’s good works spread and soon many young girls from all over the country joined her in the convent. Brigid founded many convents all over Ireland; the most famous one was in Co. Kildare. It is said that this convent was built beside an oak tree where the town of Kildare now stands. Around 470 she also founded a double monastery, for nuns and monks, in Kildare. As Abbess of this foundation she wielded considerable power, but was a very wise and prudent superior. The Abbey of Kildare became one of the most prestigious monasteries in Ireland, and was famous throughout Christian Europe.

St. Brigid also founded a school of art, including metal work and illumination, over which St. Conleth presided. In the scriptorium of the monastery, the famous illuminated manuscript the Book of Kildare was created.

St. Brigid’s Cross: Making a St. Brigid’s cross is one of the traditional rituals in Ireland to celebrate the beginning of early spring, 1st February. The crosses are made of rushes that are pulled rather than cut. They are hung by the door and in the rafters to protect the house from fire and evil. According to tradition a new cross is made each St Brigid’s Day, and the old one is burned to keep fire from the house. Many homes have several crosses preserved in the ceiling the oldest blackened by many years of hearth fires. Some believe that keeping a cross in the ceiling or roof is a good way to preserve the home from fire which was always a major threat in houses with thatch and wood roofs. St. Brigid and her cross are linked together by the story that she wove 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 baptised.
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 baptised at the point of death. Since then the cross of rushes has been venerated in Ireland.”

St. Brigid died in AD 525 at the age of 75 and was buried in a tomb before the High Altar of her Abbey church. After some time, her remains were exhumed and transferred to Downpatrick to rest with the two other patron saints of Ireland, St. Patrick and St. Columcille. Her skull was extracted and brought to Lisbon, Portugal by two Irish noblemen, and it remains there to this day St. Brigid is the female patron saint of Ireland. She is also known as Muire na nGael or Mary of the Gael which means Our Lady of the Irish. Her feast day is the 1st of February which is the first day of Spring in Ireland.

St. Brigid’s Cloak: St. Brigid went to the King of Leinster to ask for land to build a convent. She told the king that the place where she stood was the perfect place for a convent. It was beside a forest where they could collect firewood. There was also a lake nearby that would provide water and the land was fertile. The king laughed at her and refused to give her any land. Brigid prayed to God and asked him to soften the king’s heart. Then she smiled at the king and said “will you give me as much land as my cloak will cover?” The king thought that she was joking and because Brigid’s cloak was so small he knew that it would only cover a very small piece of land. The king agreed and Brigid spread her cloak on the ground. She asked her four friends to hold a corner of the cloak and walk in opposite directions. The four friends walked north, south, east and west. The cloak grew immediately and began to cover many acres of land. The king was astonished and he realised that she had been blessed by God. The king fell to the ground and knelt before Brigid and promised her and her friends money, food and supplies. Soon afterwards, the king became a Christian and also started to help the poor. Brigid’s miracle of the cloak was the first of many miracles that she worked for the people of Ireland.


Brigid Buach is a new song which celebrates the multiple gifts of the most illustrious and much loved goddess/saint in the Irish tradition. Brigid is the patron of the arts, craft, healing, fire, alchemy, new life and spring and she heralds the new life of spring.

Composed by Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin from ancient lyrics, it is accompanied by Steve Cooney (bass guitar, acoustic guitars and percussion & vocals) and Dónal O’Connor (fiddle, keyboards, percussion & vocals). Brigid photo: Margaret Roddy. Produced by Dónal O’Connor in RedBox Studios.

Pádraigín says: “This song is at once ancient and new, and is released to raise Brigid’s healing spirit and ours, and to stir us into new energy as we move from one of the most turbulent times on earth to a springtime of new growth and awareness for humanity.”


(Ger Boyle)


Landmarks are being illuminated to promote a campaign to make St Brigid’s Day a national holiday.

The Brigid’s Day the Herstory Light Show, by brand awareness and illumination firm Dodeca, is illuminating landmarks across Ireland in honour of mother and baby home survivors.

The venues include Galway City Museum, St Brigid’s Cathedral in Kildare, Sean Ross Abbey in Roscrea, and Athlone Castle and Belvedere House in Westmeath.

Herstory is calling on the Irish public and the country’s diaspora to sign a petition to make St Brigid’s Day a national holiday.



Minister of State for New Market Development Martin Heydon has submitted a proposal to Government to make St Brigid’s Day on February 1st a new public holiday, which he said could in some way recognise the enormous sacrifices made by Irish people during the Covid pandemic and highlight better times ahead.

Minister Heydon, who represents Kildare South, said: “We all remember the annual making of St Brigid crosses from our school days.

“Her feast day on February 1st marks the first day of spring and it is the season when we celebrate hope and new life on Earth.”


(Roy Donovan)


The current issue of Intercom magazine shows on the front cover an icon of St Brigid by Sr Aloysius McVeigh.


It shows Brigid holding the staff of a bishop.

President Michael D Higgins issued a message for St Brigid’s Day:


One sentence in his message says: “The first of February is the day when we celebrate the life of St. Brigid, who in earlier and ancient times was known as the goddess Brigid.”

While the life of St Brigid echoes in some ways the earlier veneration of the goddess Brigid, this statement by the President would seem to imply that they are one and the same.

The programme on TG4 on Sunday 31 January, “Brighid” also took the predominant line that St Brigid is a reinvention of the goddess.

These approaches seem to have difficulty in recognising that while the veneration of St Brigid may be influenced by earlier mythology, this does not in any way cast doubt on the reality of a real Christian saint with the name Brigid.

(Pádraig McCarthy)


“Anois teach an Earraigh,

beidh an lá ‘dul chun síneadh,

Is tar éis na Féil’ Bríde,

ardóidh mé mo sheol. ……”

So says Raifteirí an file.

I keep trying to cheer people up over here (Scotland) — especially this year — by telling them that this is the beginning of Spring. Nobody seems to want to believe me; apparently Google disagrees with me.

(Paddy Ferry)


Crois crois Bríd ar mo chrios,

Muire is a mac, Bríd is a brat,

Más fearr atá sibh anocht 

Go mba seacht fearr a bheidh sibh bliain ó anocht. 


Rough literal translation:

Brigid’s cross on my belt,

Mary and her Son, Brigid and her cloak,

As well as you all are tonight

May you be seven times better this night next year.

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