The Story Of The Saint Brigid’s Cross

Today is St. Brigid’s Day and all across Ireland people still adhere to the old
tradition of mounting a St Brigid’s cross in a place of honor in their home, to protect against fire and evil spirits.  The origins of the cross are the topic of today’s post.

St. Brigid is attributed with creating the distinctive form of the cross which bears her name.  Known as an Irish christian symbol, the original design was probably inspired by the pagan sunwheel.

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The cross is most frequently made from rushes, but sometimes straw is used.  A distinctive square of woven rushes is the centerpiece, from which four radials extend, each tied at the end.

As a school child in Ireland in the 1970’s we learned an old legend about how this cross came into existence.  St. Brigid took on mythical significance in our young imaginations.  We grew to love and admire her independent spirit, her determination and dedication to God.  Here’s how the old tale goes.

An old pagan chieftan lay delirious on his deathbed in Kildare.  In some versions of the story this chieftan is her father.  His servants summoned Brigid to his bedside, in the hope this saintly woman might be able to calm his restless spirit.

As she sat by his bedside, trying to calm and console him, she picked up some of the rushes which were strewn across the floor of the room.  As her fingers played with the dry strands, she started weaving them together, eventually forming a cross.

As she worked she explained the meaning of the cross to the sick man.  Her calming words brought peace to his soul. The chieftan’s fever broke, and he grew quiet.  Captivated by her lesson of love and enlightenment, the old chieftan was baptized as a christian, just before his death.

Once word of his conversion reached beyond his lands, news spread fast.  Ever since, Irish people have made rush crosses to commemorate the occasion.

Boxty Pancakes – A St. Brigid’s Day Tradition

Happy St. Brigid’s Day to all.  You may want to celebrate by making Boxty pancakes, a traditional food served on this day.


Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)


Irish American Mom


  1. I decided to make boxty to go with our dinner tonight! What a lucky coincidence!

  2. Thank you for your posting on St. Bridget. It is a cross and a saint I always admired, but needed to refresh my information. My sister returned from a recent visit to Ireland, and sent me a surprise. The CROSS. I am delighted to have this wonderful Irish treasure~I will have to try the boxty, too. Thank YOU!

    • Dear Katie – How wonderful your sister picked a St. Brigid’s Cross for you on her trip to Ireland. May St. Brigid bless you and watch over you, now and always. Thanks so much for visiting my website.
      Best wishes,

  3. Brigid McGrath says:

    I give a St. Brigid’s cross to anyone moving into a new home.
    I love my Patron Saint and my name. People more often say to me that I spell
    my name wrong or oh, B-r-i-g-i-d what an odd spelling.

    We know that is not true.

    Best to all,

  4. Hi, Thank you for remembering Bridget’s Day. I am so happy to know that people still celebrate the ancient ways. Yes, you are accurate in stating that her cross has Pagan origins. It really has nothing to do with Christian traditions. Bridget’s Cross represents the cycling of the sun through the heavens. As Christianity began assimilating Celtic holidays and traditions as a means of converting Celts to Christianity, this myth, most likely originating from the reigning pope at the time, was used to expedite the process. Similarly, the myth of St. Patrick and the three leaf clover as a means he used to explain the trinity to Pagans in Ireland.
    Myths are quite common in every religion and spirituality, even Druidism. They do serve many purposes and have been used for centuries.

    Druid Carraig (pronounced “Karick” which is a Gaelic name)
    Princeton, NJ

    • Hi Druid – thanks for adding such interesting facts to this little discussion about St. Brigid. Stories of this favorite daughter of Ireland are definitely a mixture of loose facts, peppered with myths and legends. She is celebrated to this very day in Ireland and in parts of County Kerry the locals go “on the Biddy”. They dress up in straw costumes and go from house to house with a statue of St. Brigid. They sing and dance and perform at each stop along the way.
      Best wishes and thanks for stopping by.

    • karen m. o'connell says:

      Druid: thank you for your entry. i have worn the ”irish cross” to the exclusion of all other symbols for the past 15 years. my choice has very little to do with my irish-american ethnicity. for me, the cross is the symbol of ”continuity” in our eons long search for the Lord’s presence among us. i believe that before Bridget, the cross was a sign of the Goddess of Spring (name escapes me) and i have also read that the cross became a way for christians to surreptitiously identify themselves during the Viking/Norsemen invasion.


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