St Brigid's Mantle

A long time ago, the Celtic Saint Brigid asked the King of Leinster for fertile land in the county of Kildare, upon which to build her monastery.  And a long time before that she known as the Celtic Goddess of Fertility.  He refused.  Brigid prayed that his heart may soften on the matter and requested again, asking for "..as much land as my cloak will cover".  When she saw the small size of her cloak, which was also referred to as a mantle, he laughed and agreed.  St Brigid asked four of her people to help her take a corner each of the manlte and to walk in the directions of north, south, east and west with it.  The cloak spread out across many acres, plenty to build her monastery on.  The King, amazed, could see that she was blessed.

On her feast day, also known as Biddy's, Bridie's Day, the first of February, the belief in Irish folklore is that she would have travelled around the country on the eve of her Feast day, blessing both people and livestock.  The folk would leave pieces of cake, or bread and butter out on their windowsills for her as a sign that she was welcome.  They would also leave a sheaf of corn for her favourite white cow who would travel with her on her journeys.

The young people would dress up in costume and go from door to door, singing and dancing, carrying a straw doll, known as a 'Brídeog'.

If you travelled around Ireland on the eve of her Feastaday, the traveller would see numerous white handkerchiefs or pieces of linen hanging out in the line, or lying the the grass waiting for the morning dew of St Brigids Day.  The belief was that if St Brigid on her travels with her white cow, happened to touch this piece of cloth, it would have curative powers for the coming year, and they would have a plentiful year in the fields.  This piece of white cloth is known as 'An Bata Bán'.

'Anois teacht an Earriagh
beidh an lá dul chun shíneadh
Is tar éis na Féil Bríde
ardoigh mé mo sheol
Go Choillte Mach Rachad
Ní stopfaidh mé cloiche
Go seasfaidh mé síos
i lár Chondae Maigh Eo'

An File Raifteirí, The Poet Raftery, Blind





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