Today is the feast of St. Brigit celebrated for her wisdom and peacemaking. Mary Condren, writing in The Irish Times proposes that she is a saint needed in our time to inspire community activism and the re-weaving of communities:
The whole month of February is also called Mí na Féile Bríde (Month of the Festival of Brigit). In Celtic myth, Brigit was goddess of poetry, healing and smithwork: in Christian history she was an abbess and saint. Her traditions are preserved today in ritual, story, artefacts and her Christian Lives stories.
However, one aspect of Brigit seldom receives attention: Brigit the Weaver. Her cross was made of newly plucked rushes; her crios (girdle or belt), of new straw; and her cloak was of woven material. Now the opening up of Eastern Europe expands our understanding of the importance of this connection.
Before mass media and travel, and great political rallies, societies were held together by fragile threads, and weaving tools signified a key responsibility: that of weaving the precious webs of life and tending the bonds of community.
Throughout European mythology and folklore, the wise women were spinners whose advice was ignored at one’s peril. Images abound of European women leaders holding distaffs, spindles, weaving swords or spears which were not used for war making but for practical and ritual purposes.
Today, weavers and nurturers – community activists, parents, carers, and educators – continue to weave webs of empowerment. Their authority is fragile, rather than heroic. Their work is often unpaid, their views are unrepresented and their perspectives are silenced in the corridors of political or religious power.
Like community activists and nurturers, Brigit wove the fragile threads of life into webs of community. She invented a shriek alarm for vulnerable women travelling alone, she secured women’s property rights when Sencha, the judge, threatened to abolish them and she freed a slave-trafficked woman. Above all, her bountiful nature (23 out of 32 stories in one of her Lives concern generosity) ensured that the neart (life force) was kept moving for the benefit of all and was not stagnated by greed.
Today, the old religious and political structures have crashed all around us. In any new arrangements weavers and nurturers must be represented and their voices heard, loud and clear. No better woman than Brigit to inspire their efforts.