Brigid of Kildare

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St. Brigid of Ireland icon by Theophilia
St. Brigid Icon © Cecilia Lawrence, 2015. Tapestry above from House of Brigid.

Brigid of Kildare is the patron saint of Ireland, poets, dairymaids, blacksmiths, healers, cattle, fugitives, Irish nuns, midwives, and new-born babies. We keep her feast day on February 1, the traditional Gaelic festival marking the beginning of spring.

You often see a St Brigid pictured as holding a Bishop's crosier or staff. This was traditional for an abbess, but there is more to the story.

Here is the tale from the Book of Lismore.

"Brigid and certain virgins along with her went to take the veil from Bishop Mel in Telcha Mide. Blithe was he to see them. For humility Brigid stayed so that she might be the last to whom a veil should be given. A fiery pillar rose from her head to the roof ridge of the church. Then said Bishop Mel: "Come, O holy Brigid, that a veil may be sained on thy head before the other virgins." It came to pass then, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, that the form of ordaining a bishop was read out over Brigid. Macaille said that a bishop's order should not be confirmed on a woman. Said Bishop Mel "No power have I in this matter. That dignity hath been given by God unto Brigid, beyond every (other) woman." Wherefore the men of Ireland from that time to this give episcopal honour to Brigid's successor."