St. Brigid, a female Saint in Christianity, stood for many things, but is known in particular for prosperity, fertility and protection. Her name means ‘fiery arrow’ and her greatness was prophesied when she was in the womb. Brigid was born in 450 A.D. to a pagan chieftain father, Dubthach, and a Christian slave mother. Her life demonstrates well the Irish spirit and the transition from Celtic paganism to Catholicism in her lifetime. She kept some wild pets including a duck and a fox.
As a Saint there are many customs associated with her:
A woven cross made from reeds (descendent from a pagan symbol). These would be made in Ireland the day before St Brigid’s feast day, 1 February, which was formerly celebrated as a pagan festival (Imbolc) marking the beginning of spring. Traditionally they were set over doorways and windows to protect the home from any kind of harm. The old Cross would be reverently burned or buried to make way for the newly woven one. The Irish believe that these crosses bring many blessing including protection from lightning, fire, animal diseases and evil spirits. The Brigid’s cross has become one of the main symbols of Ireland, along with the shamrock and harp.
Brigid’s cross https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brigid%27s_cross
St Brigid’s Feast Day
Girls and unmarried women would make an effigy of St.Brigid know as the Biddy or Brídeóg – a life sized doll made of straw, rags or a butter churn. Some people even use their great grandmothers hair for the doll and dressed in relatives clothing such as christening gowns. On the eve of the feast the Irish wives baked spiced breads known as Bairn brack.
Biddy boys or Mummers (Mummer is a general term for a person in disguise). The men would dress with veils, masks and straw hats, parading door to door with the Biddy dolls, singing, playing instruments and dancing. Any money collected was used to host a party with traditional dancing at the village dance hall.
They would sing:
“Here is Saint Brigid dressed in white, give us some money to honor the night”
Biddy Boys video – https://www.rte.ie/archives/2015/0130/676775-biddy-boys/?fbclid=IwAR15xaOJm_N5DNwT2cYgUiRTEMpdTHCJj-NWIOJ3ipIw4fJyJvDSVDczHdA
Cloth, handkerchiefs and ribbons were left outside, along with the crosses, for St. Brigid to bless as she passes on her feast day. These later would be used to cure headaches and other ailments.