Anois teacht an Earraigh, Beidh an lá ag dul chun síneadh tar éis na 'féil bhríde, ardóidh mé mo sheol....
Have you ditched the diet? Lost the will to live due to chocolate withdrawal? Given up on mastering the art of spoon whittling? Recycled the magazines that come with attractive and alluring binders? Don't feel too bad most of us have!! Those weird days at the beginning of January have long since passed, the giddy energy you had from too much time off is well gone now but at least it's normal!! Whoever thought January was a good time to change you ways was off their rocker! mind you we must be worse for falling for the New Year...New You mumbo jumbo... the cold wet and relentless storms and dark days of Grian Stad are more likely to make you want to hibernate and wait until it's over!
Mercifully February is on the way, the 31st of January is St. Brigid's Eve, the start of the new year according to the ancient neolithic people (we have something to learn from them there). St. Brigid is the female patron saint of Ireland, she also the patron saint of sailors, cattle farmers and poultry farmers as well as blacksmiths and dairymaids! She was one busy lady! Legend has it that Brigid wanted to found a convent and requested land from the local chieftain as you do, being a clever old fox, he suggested she could have the amount of land that her cloak would cover (we assume she wasn't huge) anyway, she put down the cloak and to the amazement of the chieftain the cloak grew to a considerable size and thus she had plenty land for her convent!
The tradition is that on the 1st of February or in some areas on the 31st of January people would collect rushes or luachra from the bog and use them to make crosses, many areas had their own designs and there are some fine examples in the museum on Cape. I made crosses myself in school (not the ones in the museum!) and we hung them in the house if you had a few you might hang them in the cattle shed, and Brigid would protect you and all your things from fire and destruction. To be sure to welcome Brigid into your house Leaba Bhríde was often made, a bed of rushes with food and drink supplied, and then you left pieces of cloth outside and she would bless them on her way into your house the cloth would then have healing properties.
Lá Fhéile Bhríde was once a pagan festival called Imbolc, symbolising the arrival of spring and new growth at the half way point between the winter and spring equinoxes. It is thought that Brigid was the Goddess of fire. Either way it is lovely to mark the arrival of spring and longer warmer days where seedlings can germinate and bulbs will soon produce lovely daffodils and snowdrops!
It calls to mind the poem by the great Mairtín Ó Direáin, 'An t-Earrach Thiar '
..fear ag glanadh cré de ghimseán spáide sa gciúineas shéimh i mbrothall lae...
Táimid uile ag súil go mór le brothall lae! Ádh Mór!
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