Saint Brigids Eve: The Cross, Shield and VeilBelow is an extremely interesting account of the rituals of Saint Brigids eve as they were practiced in Omeath, County Louth, presumably up until the nineteenth century. I was struck by the strongly Christian aspects of the ritual here, the emphasis is on being girded with the cross and shield the better to fight the good fight, rather than on fighting rival groups or on corn dollies. The Brideog here is more of what the Americans would call a homecoming queen type of figure, and there is a strongly moralistic tone to the ritual.ST. BRIGID’S CROSS AND SHIELDI intend to describe one of the old religious customs of Omeath which, unfortunately, has been allowed to fall into disuse.The ceremony, which took place on St. Brigid’s Eve is now remembered by only a few of the older people in Omeath. Nicholas O’Kearney gives a good description of it in one of his manuscripts, and to him I am indebted for the following account:It was the universal custom to prepare the Cros Bhrighite, the Sgaith Bhrighite and the Crothan Bhrighite -i.e., the Cross, Shield and Veil of St. Brigid, on the eve of the Saint’s festival. They were generally platted from the strong grass which grows in morasses or about lakes, and they were done with great ingenuity, for the inhabitants of the different townlands vied with one another in producing the neatest and most ingeniously wrought shield and cross. In the evening, the people of each townland assembled into one place to perform the pious ceremony. The most exemplary virgin in the townland was always chosen as An Bhrideog, to bear the cross, shield and veil, and if her name was Brigid it was an additional recommendation.The maiden thus selected put on the veil, took the cross in her right hand and the shield in her left and proceeded to each house, followed by the people who were engaged in humble prayer, invoking the Almighty Ruler of the universe to fill, with His Holy Spirit, those of His servants who dwelt in that house, and to enable them to keep His commandments according to the example of the great St. Brigid. When the procession reached the house, the Brideog put the question to those inside: “Are you resolved, with Gods assistance, to obey His laws and those of His Church and to lead blameless lives like the great St. Brigid?” The answer was usually in the affirmative, upon which the Brideog presented the cross made for that house. with the words, “Take the sword with which the great St. Brigid fought against her enemies, the world, the flesh and the devil, and remember to bear the crosses of this life with true Christian fortitude after the example of the great St. Brigid.”On presenting the shield, she said, “ Take ye this shield, the shield of Faith; remember the many victories gained by St. Brigid under its protecting influence, and bravely follow her example.” On presenting the veil, she asked, “Will you follow the rules of virtue. piety and general good conduct laid down for your guidance by St. Brigid ?” The mistress of the house then called on the daughters and female domestics to answer in the sincerity of their hearts, and she presented the veil, saying, ” Be modest, chaste, and virtuous according to the example which the saint, whose festival we celebrate, has left for your imitation.” Then the cross was held up, and the whole assembly were called on to remember their redemption on that instrument, upon which exhortation, all would fall on their knees and join in fervent prayer to Almighty God that with the assistance of His divine aid, they might spend the coming year in piety and virtue.
Trias Thaumaturga: Saint Bridget customs