This year for Brigid’s Day I made Her sunwise straw cross, symbol of the turning wheel of the year. This cross has equilateral arms, woven deosil around the center upright straw. I was fortunate to be gifted with a sheaf of wheat last May, so saved it away for Februrary, knowing I would want to try this. The wild grass growing along my own creek was far too brittle, so I welcomed this wheat gift as a invitation to do some wheat weaving. It was the symbol for Center on our altar this Imbolc, as we called in the Elements and Spirit to join our circle and mark the turning of the wheel in our lives. On the left is my version of Brigid’s Mantle, gathering Her Blessings on Imbolc Eve from dusk to dawn, as She passes by covering all in Her protective cloak.
The wheat was bundled tightly. I opened it on my grandmother’s old table, and cleaned up the glitter from the fat red bow that had tied it. I sorted the straw by fattest stalk and intact heads, then stored the rest in rolled up newspaper inside a plastic pillow bag for future projects.
Then I covered the table with a waterproof pad and began soaking the straws. They were very dry, and needed to be soaked overnight.
Various combinations of soaking, trimming, weighting with heavy table knives, and finally a complete overnight soaking finally made them flexible enough to work with. I wove several, my hands in water for a very long time and pruny as a result. They got better-looking as I worked, then funkier as I worked with what was left, differing size straws, skinny or short, interwoven with fatter straws for body. I wove one with the fattest straws and the most intact heads for the one we used on the altar.
It was a lovely experience, and reminded me of my younger self, when I used to do a much greater variety of crafting of all kinds. It was a true experience of “handmind” as I wove and considered and sang.
Later, to bring a poem to circle, I memorized this Blessing of Brigid from the Carmina Gadelica by Alexander Carmichael, collected in the rural areas of Ireland and Scotland over a hundred years ago.
I am under the shielding
of good Brigid each day.
I am under the shielding
of good Brigid each night.
I am under the protection
of the nurse of Mary,
Each early and late,
Every dark, every light.
Brigid is my comrade-woman.
Brigid is my maker of song.
Brigid is my helping-woman.
My choicest of women.
My woman of guidance.
The cross-quarter days on the Wheel, in contrast to the solstices and equinoxes, are more subtle in their meaning and celebration, and their traditions come to us mainly from Ireland and the Celtic places. Two of our favorites are May Day and Hallowe’en, but the other two, Imbolc at which the goddess and saint Brigid is honored, and Lughnasadh, named for the sacrifice of the god Lugh at the first harvest, are equally potent, if only we can uncover their intersection with our lives. For me, Brigid’s forge of transformation, Her association with the healing element of water and wells, and Her nourishment of the poetic and bardic arts all resonate deeply within my life and my world (I have written more about Her here). She heralds the return of spring, and the earnest dedication we may feel toward our craft and art for the coming year.