Fifth Century–Weaving a Saint Brigid’s Cross

No baking today

At the end of my picture book, The Life of Saint Brigid I tell the story of how a certain chieftain was dying…

On one of her journeys she comforted an old pagan chieftain as he lay dying. She found the chieftain in a desperate state, raving so that even the servants feared him. As Brigid sat by his bed, silently braiding the rushes that covered the floor, he became calm and asked, “What are you making?”

“This is a cross,” the abbess said, “which I make in honor of the Virgin’s Son, who died for us upon a cross of wood.”

The sick man listened to Brigid’s words of faith, of how Christ gave His life to save mankind, to save both the rich and the poor, the old and the new. And on that day the chief was baptized and died, one more saint added to heaven because of the work and faith of Saint Brigid, the Abbess of Kildare.

I love this story. This way of telling a story of the heart, through your hands.

I’ve made several St. Brigid’s Crosses this year and last–it’s traditional to do this on the eve of her feast day, the eve being January 31st, her feast day being the 1st of February… I’ve discovered that pipe cleaners are the easiest medium to teach children with–just be careful of the cut, wire ends. Here are some that I’ve made out of sea grass and pine needles, and such…

I’m excited, though, to have finally tried my hand at weaving with wheat. I ordered the wheat specifically for this purpose from Dale Scott a professional wheat weaver in Idaho, who both sells the crosses, and the kits so that you can make your own. It’s a very affordable thing to do, and a great tradition for your home each January 31st.

As you might be able to see in the video, I didn’t realize that the wheat needed to be soaked before weaving. I was all ready, sitting comfortably in the sun, my back to our lovely new stand of raspberries, and as I started folding the wheat in half, each stock snapped in half in my hand. We stopped filming and the only remedy I could think of was to soak the wheat in warm water for a bit. Thankfully it worked! Phew. Though my cross didn’t look nearly as neat and symmetrical as the finished one I purchased from Dale, I liked the homemade outcome of my effort and look forward to putting it up above our door in just a few days.

Here are some online instructions–of a woman in County Sligo, who does it much better than I do: Weaving a St Brigid\’s Cross on YouTube

And here are some written directions online that you might find helpful…

Oh, and one last note. The music accompanying my video is Prayer, sung by Haley Westenra. A favorite artist of ours here at home–a young New Zealand girl, of Irish descent, with a heavenly voice. I know you can’t hear my narration very well in the video; I think Miss Westenra’s song is much more appealing than anything I might ever have to say!!!

Hope you’re enjoying these last few days of January.

Blessings, and cheers…

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17 thoughts on “Fifth Century–Weaving a Saint Brigid’s Cross

  1. Thank you for sharing this. We were hoping to add links for weaving a St. Brigid’s cross during Week Bb of Letters of Grace. This will be a great post to link to.

    • Mary–yes, please share these links with others. Dale Scott, who both makes the crosses and puts together the wheat weaving kits seems to be the best of people. I’ve only met her through a friend, over cyberspace, but already would love to sit and have tea and scones with her…

      And let me know if there’s any other info you might be interested in regarding St. Brigid. There’s so much more I could have shared–so I could always update this post, adding to it if you see or sense something I missed.

      Anyway, blessings to you, Mary!

  2. Jane — I love this music. I looked Hayley up and was amazed at the number of albums to choose from; I didn’t know where to start. Do you have a recommendation?
    Thank you for this lovely video — I am a great believer in using one’s hands as a way of active prayer.

    • I do love the album, Odyssey. There’s a track in particular, maybe number six, or seven (?), a choral piece, that takes me to another world every time I hear it…

      Yes, I just read a poem today about praying by way of your actions–like baking a cake, or just stopping by to sit with someone who’s grieving… My prayer is that my baking is never rushed, and that it’s always about the other–about both praising God, thanking him for the bounty of the earth, and my capable and functioning hands… and about the person that the bread will feed…

      Blessings, Emily.

  3. Thank you for sharing. I think we’ll try this.

    By the way, I read some of your St. Brigid book to my Sophomore English Class during our poetry unit, on the day I taught imagery. The state requires me to teach multi-cultures, so I thought – hey, great opportunity!

    • Wonderful, Monica. I wonder how many of the students knew who she was before hearing her story. Wish I could have baked some soda bread to send in with the book so they could have tasted a bit of Irish culture, too…

      I have a sophomore at home–they’re awesome, and intimidating. Bless you for your work!

  4. Favorite Hayley Westenra song: Dark Waltz. So moving.

    Working with one’s hands is truly a blessed activity. I am about to start making rosary beads for the first time (the necessary items are on their way to me) and can hardly wait :-)

  5. Pingback: The Magic of Candlemas « The Parenting Passageway

  6. Hi Jane!
    I really enjoyed your book. Thanks. I think your cross in the video turned out great! I’ve helped people (mostly kids) weave them with pipe cleaners at Irish festivals when I attend with my book, BRIGID OF IRELAND. I haven’t tried wheat for myself. I’ll have to try it.

    Blessings!
    Cindy

    • Cindy–working with the wheat was really lovely. What a craft wheatweaving is… I’m amazed at the beautiful products the weavers create.

      Besides the pipe cleaners I’ve also tried using Wikki Stiks. They bend easily in little hands, but are a bit more expensive.

      By the way, I’m having fun making my way through your novel. I’ll email you once I’ve finished!

  7. Thanks for sharing a comment on my website about the use of raffia in making St. Brigid crosses. I enjoyed visiting your site, too, and am going to pass it on to others. Thank you!

  8. Thank you for this post! My husband and I are taking our kids to Ireland in a few weeks and this would be a wonderful additional project to add to our study of St. Brigid!

  9. Pingback: St Brigid’s Cross « My Pagan Mother

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