Saint Brigid

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Brigid as the Abbess of Kildare with her woven cross and a bowl of fire symbolizing the return of the light in early Spring.

Saint Brigid is one of the patron saints of Ireland, alongside Saint Patrick and Saint Columba. Her feast day is February 1st and she is honored in Catholic Churches by the celebration of Candlemas, which is held on the same day.

Little is known about Brigid's life and history. She was born into a noble family in Ireland and it is disputed whether she converted to Christianity from the island's native Pagan religion or if her family was already practicing Christianity when she was born. Some early accounts claim that she converted in the year 468. In her youth she refused several lucrative offers of marriage, choosing to preserve her virginity in honor of the Lord. She founded the first convent in Ireland and continued to create convents and abbeys for many years, culminating with the Abbey at Kildare, a double monastery for both monks and nuns where she served as Abbess and wielded considerable power until her death. The Abbey at Kildare was considered a very holy place. Natural springs there were found to be miraculously healing; the Abbey's milk-producing livestock always seemed to give more milk, butter, and cheese than anywhere else in Ireland; and Brigid herself was renowned for her common sense. Some modern scholars hypothesize that Saint Brigid may be a syncretic figure adapted from the ancient Irish goddess Brigid. The goddess Brigid and Saint Brigid do have certain qualities in common: Both are celebrated at the beginning of Spring, and both are associated with early Spring agrarian events in Ireland like lactating sheep and goats, cheese-making, and the seasonal return of longer periods of daylight.

The most important iconographical symbol of Brigid is her woven cross. Legend says she fashioned this unique cross out of rushes while attending the side of a dying man. He repented for his sins upon the makeshift cross and thereafter it became a potent symbol of Irish Christianity that is still seen in Irish and Irish American churches to this day. Other hagiographic images associated with Brigid are brown cows at pasture, a wooden milking pail, a wooden butter churn, a bowl of coals and fire symbolizing the Springtime return of warmth and light at Candlemas, and the Holy Well of Brigid at Kildare. In the African Diasporic religion religion of Voodoo, which has been syncretized with Catholic practices, including the veneration of Catholic Church saints, Saint Brigid is associated with the lwa Maman Brigitte. spirit workers, and root doctors who are adherents of the Catholic religion call upon Saint Brigid for intercession in matters of blessing, cleansing, and healing, as well as personal power, mastery, and wisdom.

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