St Brigid’s Day
Imbolc or Imbolg, also called Brigid’s Day, is a Gaelic traditional festival marking the beginning of spring. It was traditionally held on 1 February.
Many Christian feast days in Ireland were built upon older pre-Christian quarter calendar dates. The 1st of February marks the start of Spring or Imbolg, the 1st of May/Bealtaine marks the start of Summer, the 1st of August/Lughnasa marks the start of Autumn, while the 1st of November/Samhain marks the start of Winter.
The term Imbolc derives from the old Irish ‘i mbolg’ meaning in the belly, a time when sheep began to lactate and their udders filled and the grass began to grow. Imbolc was one of the cornerstones of the Celtic calendar. For them the success of the new farming season was of great importance. As winter stores of food were getting low, Imbolc rituals were performed to harness divine energy that would ensure a steady supply of food until the harvest six months later. For many in Ireland today, it is the time of year associated with Saint Brigid and the making of crosses from soft rushes.
The Saint Brigid’s Cross is one of the archetypal symbols of Ireland. While it is considered a Christian symbol, it may well have its roots in the pre-Christian goddess Brigid. It is usually made from rushes and comprises a woven square in the centre and four radials tied at the ends. The picture shown above is drawn from a cross that we received in the post from my mother in 2020. An annual tradition in our family. Until this year. This picture was sent to grandad this year. A new tradition. Brigid is still closely associated with dairies, cows and animals in Ireland to this day, and every year new crosses are placed in barns and cowsheds.
Rushes are a scourge on farmland. Although associated with wet soils, clumps of rushes are now a common sight in pasture fields in drier areas. Soft rush is controlled with herbicides such as MCPA or 2, 4-D applied in June or July when growth conditions are good. High levels of MCPA have been found in some drinking water sources. Roundup products are also recommended for use on rushes. These contain glyphosate, “with a unique, biactivator system which imparts new standards of operator and environmental safety, as well as significant performance benefits.” This is according to product details.
Needless to say it is effective on the plants, but not good for the environment. Let’s think about this now on February 1st in the future. Let’s go chemical free!