Today is St Brigid’s Eve (other spellings available), the night when Imbolc begins. There’s a lot to say about both Brigid and Imbolc but rather than attempt something here, check out the references below or use your finest and friendliest search engine. Instead I’m going to write about the three practices I tried that are associated with the next couple of days. I say three, I could have chosen loads as the Brigid/Imbolc combo is nearly as chock full of folklore as Christmas.
The first is a bit of forward planning as I’m hoping to create a Bratog bride. A Bratog bride is a small piece of material; garments like a scarf, tie or belt, or a ribbon or handkerchief, or a strip of cloth hung outside on St Brigid’s eve. It’s said that should Brigid pass, she will touch the fabric and bless it with healing powers, more specifically powers to heal sore throats and migraines. And as I’m rather prone to both, I thought I should invest in a Bratog bride. While it’s common to hang your potential Bratog bride in trees, bushes and hedgerows, I went the urban route and trapped my ribbon in the bedroom sash.
My next two activities were a bit of craftwork. A Brigid’s cross is a protection charm that brings good luck into the household. Traditionally it’s woven from willow or rush, but pipe cleaners and straws work just as well. I twisted mine out of a butchered heart-shaped wreath made of rattan. As the rattan was shaped and dry, I had to soak it in water for a day and then mellow it in a wet towel for another (I started prepping on Wednesday). Needless to say the smell was a little funky when I unwrapped it this afternoon. To weave the cross you need to bend your sticks in half and then make a kind of slot and turn manoeuvre. You can turn it either way (I went widdershins). After several false starts (even after watching several YouTube tutorials), I finally managed to get the hang of it, finishing by securing the ends with a bit of twine, and then giving them a quick trim. The rattan held up pretty well, if a little frayed at the bends, and only a little bit of bark fell off.
The next stage was to ask Brigid to bless and empower her cross. This involved summoning her, and Calling to the Four Directions. Turns out, quite unexpectedly, that the four corners of my sitting room line up more or less exactly with north, south, east and west. So holding my cross and a burning joss stick aloft, I invoked the goddess and asked for blessings from the four cardinal points. There was so much to visualise that I had to do it several times, and then I forgot to thank everyone, so had to go round again. Felt a bit of a tit, to be honest. Not so much that I was talking to myself (that’s just standard) but that if any entity was listening they wouldn’t have been particularly impressed with my performance. Anyhow, hopefully my cross is now charged and ready for action.
Next and last was crafting a Bridie doll, another traditional make. Bridie dolls can come in many different forms; cloth, doll, straw etc. I looked at the cloth and doll ones, and I’m not entirely sure I’d be able to sleep knowing it was in the house, so I went with raffia. As raffia is very pliable, there was no need to soak it so I just dived in. I vaguely followed a pattern, but then went a bit freestyley when I remembered the fresh thyme in the fridge (luckily it’s garden variety thyme not wild thyme which is very unlucky to bring in the house). There was something very satisfying about making the doll, although the way I’ve incorporated the lavender at the back does give her a slight Maleficent collar vibe. Either that or she’s ready for the Copacabana.
And that was my day. I liked getting my fingers all tangley and the scent of lavender and thyme has made the room smell delicious. The cross is stationed at my desk, and the doll resides on my sideboard next to the juniper. And also, that was January. One month done (well almost one month). I’ll be posting twice tomorrow, the normal one and the #FolkloreFOMO post asking for things to do in February. So get your thinking caps on and recommend me something…
And if you want to see a really exquisite Bridie doll, check out my gorgeous friend Jenifer Toksvig‘s make:
Cooper, Q. and Sullivan, P. (1994) Maypoles, Martyrs & Mayhem: 366 Days of British Myths, Customs & Eccentricities, London, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc
Forest, D. (2016) The Magical Year, Seasonal Celebrations To Honour Nature’s Ever-Turning Wheel, London, Watkins