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St. Brigid and Imbolc

How Ireland Blended Paganism and Catholicism

By Emily Marie ConcannonPublished 2 months ago 6 min read
St. Brigid and Imbolc
Photo by Nick Castelli on Unsplash

We praise the Lord Jesus Christ who led St. Brigid along the paths of Justice and holiness; and pray that we may follow his way.

Response; Lord, be our light and salvation.

Through your resurrection, Lord Jesus, new light came into our darkness – let your Church be a light to the world.

Response; Lord, be our light and salvation.

At the springtime of the year we renew our hope – give us the grace to encourage all whom we meet today.

Response; Lord, be our light and salvation.

Brigid dedicated her life to prayer and service – bring many more women to give their lives to the dedicated service and holiness of religious life.

Response; Lord, be our light and salvation.

Lord Jesus, you gave Brigid the desire to serve and not be served – may we spend our lives in the service of others.

Response; Lord, be our light and salvation.

You made the word of St. Brigid fruitful; – give success to the work of our hands.

Response; Lord, be our light and salvation.

-Prayer of Saint Brigid

Who Was Saint Brigid of Ireland?

There is little known about the historical personhood of Saint Brigid. Many believe she was a first-century abbess of Ireland who was incremental in the creation of many convents throughout Kildare (Cill Dara). Other scholars believe she might have been the sanctified version of a pagan goddess.

According to legend, Brigid was born in Kildare (Cill Dara), Ireland, around 450 or 451 A.D (C.E). She was known for her compassion, intellect, and devotion from a very early age.

Today, Saint Brigid is a consecrated saint of the Catholic Church of Ireland. There seems to be some disagreement regarding her sainthood by the Roman Catholic Church, but she's been adored by the Irish Church for centuries.

She's honored with prayers on February first. Adherents to her tradition praise her as a bringer of light and dispeller of darkness.

While little has been historically proven about Brigid's personality and life, these stories have been preserved in tradition:

  • She was the daughter of Dubhthach and Broicsech
  • Her father was a chieftain of the Fothairt peoples in Leinster
  • Her mother was a slave who was later given to a druid
  • Saint Patrick baptized her mother

Her spiritual life was exemplified by devotion as a consecrated virgin of Christ. She was the spiritual head of Kildare from an early age, where she led both men and women closer to the tradition of holiness.

She's held in equally high esteem as Saint Patrick by the Irish Catholic Church:

Between St. Patrick and St. Brigid, the pillars of the Irish people, there was so great a friendship of charity that they had but one heart and one mind. Through him and through her Christ performed many great works....

Book of Armagh

By Lukas Meier on Unsplash

What is Saint Brigid's Cross?

Saint Brigid's Cross is a woven cross created every year by adherents to her tradition. These crosses represent her connection to Christ, fire, and poverty. Since the crosses are made from common grasses found in Ireland, they can be made by anyone, no matter how poor.

Saint Brigid's Cross is woven from rushes or straw and resembles the Hindu cross of good luck.

Sadly, most of us only know of this cross because of the Nazis. But I think it's important to remember this cross for what it was originally created and what it meant to the cultures who created it.

The connection between Hindu and Gaelic cultures isn't surprising since the Gaelic language derives from the Indo-European languages. Indo-European languages bear a strong connection to the Vedic languages of India, and the two cultures share a lot of familiarities.

Unfortunately, I can't go into detail about their connection in this piece. I have an article in the works on this stunning connection between these cultures, but I can't go into it here.

For now, the artistic and symbolic connection between the crosses is too striking to ignore. Saint Brigid's cross is created from highly flammable materials for a reason: Brigid represents light.

Her light connects her to the transition from winter to spring. However, it also represents the association between her and fire, warmth, and mental illumination.

To the ancient world, the movements in nature were a reflection of the illuminated mind. Brigid represented a liberating force for women and humanity as a whole in her ability to subdue her passions and pursue mental and spiritual growth.

The spiraling nature of the woven cross represents the rolling behavior of nature. The cyclical way the season's transition is embodied in Saint Brigid's Cross and is likely the remnant of a pagan tradition.

By Aldo De La Paz on Unsplash

What is Saint Brigid's Connection With Brid?

Saint Brigid is closely tied with the traditional Celtic observation of the coming of Spring. Pagans today still observe this traditional holiday as Imbolc or Imbolg. This day represented the halfway point between winter's bitterness and the warmth of spring.

So much of Imbolc's symbolism was adopted in the adoration of Saint Brigid. The most notable way her imagery preserves Imbolc is in her connection to fire.

Brigid's name comes from Brid, and ancient Gaelic goddess of fire. Brid, or Brigit, was the ancient goddess of enlightenment, fire, and rebirth. She's closely connected with the Greek goddess Athena and Roman goddess Minerva.

All three of these goddesses were associated with poetry, art, music, and philosophy.

Imbolc is also associated with ewes or elderly female sheep. According to 10th-century sources, the ancient Celtic people would use ewe's milk to purify themselves.

This is tied to the Virgin Mary, who was believed to have purified milk. Saint Brigid is commonly called the Virgin of Ireland, and her light is associated with the purifying nature of the ewe's and mother Mary's milk.

By Aaron Burden on Unsplash

What Do Imbolc and Saint Brigid Mean to The Irish?

Saint Brigid preserves much of the traditions of the ancient Gaelic people. She represents a turning point in Irish history where the people of the land began shifting their beliefs. However, she also represents the enduring nature of the Irish people who feel deeply connected to their past.

Saint Brigid is deeply connected to Irish tradition. She represents how the Irish Catholic Church developed from its pagan roots.

The Irish were not as hesitant to preserve their pagan ideas as many other cultures. The fact they tied Saint Brigid to Druidism shows they honored their shamanistic roots rather than disavowing them.

The Irish are a proud people with a deep heritage. They've endured many traumatic events in the past, yet their faith and enduring connection to their ancestors make them indestructible.

Erin Go Bragh!!

By Heather Mount on Unsplash


Thank you so much for reading this article. I was deeply touched by the legend of Saint Brigid when I first read it years ago. I was not raised Catholic, but my Jesuit grand uncle helped me better understand the faith of the Irish people.

While there is debate over the connections between Gaelic and Indian Vedic language groups, there seem to be some significant connections. While they have been separated for centuries, the connections are most obviously seen in Gaelic since it's one of the oldest European tongues still in use.

And the use of the lucky cross is shared between these cultures. This image dates back tens of thousands of years for both cultures and might have been a connective force between the peoples across millenias!

Here are my sources:,Saint%20Brigid%2C%20Ireland's%20patroness%20saint.,in%20their%20artifacts%20as%20well.

Thank you again! I hope you enjoy and please let me know your thoughts :),be%20our%20light%20and%20salvation.


About the Creator

Emily Marie Concannon

I am a world nomad with a passion for vegan food, history, coffee, and equality.

You can find my first novel on Kindle Vella here: :) I appreciate all your support and engagement! :)

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Comments (6)

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  • The Invisible Writer2 months ago

    Very interesting and insightful read. Enjoyed thoroughly

  • Lilly Cooper2 months ago

    I researched the legends of St Patrick for a short story last year and found the combination of Christian beliefs and pagan beliefs combined into one story unlike the way other cultures take the pagan element out of theor stories. I love the Irish legends, they are beautiful :) I enjoyed this article about St Brigid.

  • Cathy holmes2 months ago

    Very informative. I was raised Catholic, in a family with Irish roots, but never knew there was a difference between Irish Catholic and Roman Catholic. Interesting

  • Babs Iverson2 months ago

    Awesome!!! Wonderful and informative!!!💕💖

  • Daniel Jeyaraman2 months ago

    This is something new for me, Emily. Informative and well written. Good one.

  • Moe Radosevich2 months ago

    Very interesting and packed with info that I raised as a Catholic never knew, including Saint Brigid and the cross sounds very intriguing nice job 😀

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