St. Brigid’s Cross

For those who live outside of Ireland, or upland parts of other parts of the British Isles, the rushes used to weave a new St. Brigid’s Cross each year must seem an oddity. They are greening up even in January, in the snow, which is why they are perfectly symbolic for a season heralding renewal of the land, the new growing season. I know some women who are devotees of the saint and the goddess use old corn to weave them. A friend in Canada caught in the polar vortex made hers from pipe cleaners! And somehow I figure that adaptability and evolution would please the saint. After all, She took on the mantle of the goddess of the same name and has survived as a potent feminine symbol of divinity right into the 21st century. Brighid, whether as goddess or saint, is global.

Yesterday, I read poems and wove St. Brigid’s Crosses with my artist/healer friend Morag Donald at the local open prison, Loughan House. (You can learn more on her blog https://moragdonald.wordpress.com/)

St. Brigid's Cross
Making a St. Brigid’s Cross
St. Brigid's Cross
Forground, a complete woven St. Brigid’s Cross

A Crios Bríd in the basket at the background

St. Brigid is patron (matron?) saint of poets, healers, craftspersons and more…prisoners being one group who received her kind attention in the annals that have come down to us. The St. Brigid’s Cross is a symbol that has survived, been adapted and repeatedly adopted. It is made as four, equal-armed cross with fresh, green rushes that flourish in typically ‘bad’ land. (See, even ‘bad’, i.e. less fertile, land comes good with St. Brigid.)

St. Brigid's Cross

For Siobhán

Its God's eye
never blinks
sees from every angle
east, west, north, south

Its God's eye
has wings flying
in every direction
east, west, north, south

Its God's eye
spirals round as it angles
arms all reaching
east, west, north, south

Its God's eye
aerial views land, sea
brushfire and tree
east, west, north, south

Its God's eye
is a woman's vision
is a man's seeing
east, west, north, south

Its God's eye
sees equally
woman, man
air, sea, fire, tree
east, west, north, south.
This is its prophecy.


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.


This isn’t a new poem written today, but it takes its starting point from St. Brigid as a matron of justice. Several courts and prisons around the British Isles have been called The Bridewell. This goes straight back to Brigid as justice bringer, emancipator of slaves and prisoners. Brigid is associated with sacred springs and holy wells.

 Bridewell
 
If you cannot forge something new
            from forgiveness
you stand there hovering
            on the rim of
what if and what is and
            what is yet to be.
 
Reconciliation is a sacrament,
a woman talking to Jesus at a well.
 
The wise woman Bride holds court
            at the well
where the deep, dark, down below is
            the source, bubbling up
breaking the surface
            rippling out, catching light and shining.
           
Stare down deep. Drink that holy water.
Be healed, not judged, she says.


Copyright © 2017 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.
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