Brigid Crosses

Donegal-

Charles McGlinchey, Ballyliffin, recounting a tradition of his youth in the 1860s;

Ulster Folklore Elizabeth Andrews-page-044‘Brigid’s Eve was the night for making crosses. Before the people of the house sat down to supper, a girl belonging to the family went out to bring in the rushes. If there was a girl by the name of Brigid in the house she got the privilege. She knocked on the door and the one inside said:

Oiche Bhríde brichíneach

Bain an ceann den croiceanach,

Gabhaigí ar na glúnaí,

Déanaigí umhlú

Is ligigí isteach Bríd Bheannaithe.

‘Sé beatha, ‘sé beatha, sé beatha.

On St Brigid’s night

Take the head off the rushes,

Go on your knees,

Make obeisance

And let St Brigid in.

You’re welcome, you’re welcome, your welcome.

That was the night my father always said the prayer “Bail na gcúig n-arán.The blessing of the five loaves”.

After we took our supper,all the grown-up ones about the house made the rush-crosses. A cross was made for the kitchen and for above the beds and for all the outhouses. The old people always left a rag of cloth outside on a bush that night till morning. It had the blessing of St Brigid and was used for cures, and against dangers of any kind, like the fever, or lightning, or fire, or drowning. It was called the ‘Bratóg Bhríde’.’

The last of a Name

 

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Saint Bridget’s Eve Brideóg Procession

Kildare & Carlow, 31 January –

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Illustration by Niamh Ní Ruairc of Wytchwood Creations

John Canon O’Hanlon (Lageniensis), 1870;

‘In parts of Ireland – especially throughout the dioceses of Kildare and Leighlin – it was customary with the young people to assemble on the eve of St. Bridget’s festival, observed the first day of February, and to carry with them what had been demoninated a Bride-oge, which means in English, The Virgin Brigid. This was formed of a churn-dash, covered with stuff of materials, to fashion it, as near as possible, like a female figure. These materials were usually covered with white calico. A dress of some village belle covered the whole, with an elegant bonnet and fashionable cap surmounting the figure’s head. The Brideoge’s face, however, was round, and perfectly featureless. Frills, tuckers, necklace, and a handsome sash usually decorated this grotesque figure.

A piper and fiddler marched before, playing lively and popular airs; and especially when the crowd of accompanying idlers stopped at each door, in country places and villages, the Bride-oge always obtained an entrance for its bearer.

Young children were often greatly frightened at the unexpected arrival of this unclouth visitant. A lad and lass were told off, footing it merrily to a jig or reel, and, after its conclusion, the director of such proceedings , – his hat decorated with boughs and ribbons – went round with a purse to collect offerings for the Bride-og. These were seldom or ever refused, and they were usually in keeping with the means of liberality of the householder.

Proceeds thus collected were expended on Bridget’s day, in getting up a rustic ball, where tea, cakes, and punch, were in requisition as refreshments. A dance and plays were also organized as part of the evenings amusements. This festive celebration was probably derived from carrying St. Bridget’s shrine in procession, at some remote period. The later travesty, and disorders accompanying it , induced many of the Catholic clergy to discourage such odd practices, and we believe that at present they are almost entirely obsolete.’*

Irish Folk Lore

* Caution should be taken when it is stated that a custom has become, or is becoming obsolete, accounts are often based on personal experience, and customs often decline only to be revived again only to be revived again.

The Bride Oge tradition, described above, continued to be practiced widely throughout Ireland, well into the twentieth-century by both adults and children, with the tradition still continuing in many areas.

Burns’ Night in Dundalk

Louth-

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Burns’ monument in the graveyard of Saint Nicholas Church, Dundalk. Photograph by Nev Swift

John Swift, Dundalk, circa 1900;

‘Among them (tombstones in the graveyard) was one that could have been considered relatively modern. That was the one erected over the grave of Robert Burn’s sister.* This monument, erected by the poet’s admirers in the town, stood prominently in the forefront of the cemetery, and through the railings on the low wall between the cemetery and the Church Street, was easily visible to passers by.

For a few years my father (Patrick Swift) and some of his Templar colleagues had, on the poet’s birthday, the 25th of January, made pilgrimage to the hardly substantial mecca in Church Street. Gathered at the railings near the grave, my father would start a recital of Burns’ poems.

Coming towards the end of the rectial the reciter would turn in the direction of the Roden demesne gate declaiming from A Man’s a Man for a’ That, rendered, not in the Burns Doric but in the plainer English –

 

robert-burns-portrait

You see yon birkie, called a lord,

Who struts and stares an’ a’ that;

Tho’ hundreds worship at his word,

He’s but a coof for a’ that,

For an’ that, an’ a that,

His ribband star, an’ a’ that,

The man of independent mind,

He looks an’ laughs at a’ that.

 

A prince can make a belted knight,

A marquis, duke, an’ a’ that;

But an honest mans above his might,

Good faith he needed for that,

For a’ that, an’ a’ that,

Their dignities an’ a’ that,

The pith o’ sense an’ pride o’ worth,

Are higher rank than a’ that.

 

Then let us pray that come what may,

(As come it will for a’ that);

That sense and worth o’er all the earth,

Shall make the rank an’ a’ that,

For a’ that, an’ a’ that,

It’s coming yet for a’ that,

That man to man, the world o’er,

Shall brothers be for a’ that.

 

Told in Toberona, 2008

*Agnes Burns, 1762-1834, was the sister of Robert Burns. In 1817, along with her husband, she moved  near Knockbridge in  County Louth, and was later buried in Saint Nicholas Graveyard in Dundalk.

John Swift 1896-1990 spent the formative years of his life in Dundalk, County Louth, before moving to Dublin in 1912.

Mondays and Thursdays & A Cure for “the Sinking of the Heart”

Ireland-

sad girl sarah purser 1923
Sarah Purser, Sad Girl, 1923

Lady Wilde, 1890;

“A wise woman, learned in the mysteries, has been known to cure the depression of spirits, called in Irish “the sinking of the heart,” in the following manner. Holding a cup of meal close to the patient, the operator says in Irish : ” Base to the heart, ease to the heart,” at the same time repeating the words of an invocation known only to herself, and which has never been written down. This is done on Monday, Thursday, and the Monday following, each time the meal being cast into the fire after use.

Then a cake is made of the remainder, the patient sitting by till it is baked, taking care that neither cat, nor dog, nor any living thing passes between him and the fire till the cake is baked and the sign of the Cross made over it.

It is then eaten with nine sprigs of watercress, and if any is left, it must be thrown into the fire, so that no animal should touch it, the sign of the blessed Cross being stamped thereon.”

Ancient Cures Charms and Usages in Ireland

 

Tory Island, Marriages & Shrovetide

Donegal-

old-Tory-island

William Le Fanu, 1816-1894;

‘In the south and west of Ireland marriages amongst the peasantry, with rare exceptions, take place during Shrove-tide.* Many of the people think it would not be lucky to be married at any other time of the year; consequently the priest always, when it was possible, visited the island during Shrove for the purpose of solemnizing any weddings which had been arranged. It, however, sometimes happened that the weather was so stormy for weeks together that no boat could approach the island, so it had been arranged that, when this occurred, the engaged couples should at an appointed hour assemble on the east shore of the island, while the priest, standing on the shore of the mainland opposite to them, read the marriage ceremony across the water. As soon as the storm abated he went to the island and did whatever more was necessary to render the marriages valid in the eye of the law and of the Church.

I cannot vouch for the truth of this, though I heard it from a very trustworthy man. He said the young people were not considered really married till after the visit of the priest; but “that they liked to be, at all events, partly married before Shrove was over.”‘

Seventy Years of Life in Ireland, 1893

*Traditionally the period between Christmas and Shrove Tuesday was known as Shrove-tide throughout Ireland. Generally it was the most popular time to get married, as the Catholic Church refused to sanctify marriages during Lent and Advent, both of which were times of abstinence and devotion, while at other seasons the people were generally too busy with farm-work or fishing to contemplate marriage.

Incidentally William Le Fanu was the bother of the Irish Gothic writer Sheridan Le Fanu.

Hansel Monday

Ireland-

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Claddagh, Galway – photograph taken by Margeurite Mespoulet & Madeleine Mignon, 1913

GH Kinahan, 1881;

‘Hansel Monday. – The first Monday in the year when formerly a present or hansel was given by a master or mistress to the servants, and by fathers or mothers to children. On that day people salute one another with “My Hansel on you.”

Anything that comes into your possession that day indicates luck, such as a child, calf, lambs, or money. If you receive on Hansel Monday you will sure to be lucky the rest of the year.’

Folk-lore Record