Monday 2 February 2015

Of 'Imbolc' (St Brigid's Day)

St Brigid's Cross made from rushes. 
In these parts the first day of Spring is traditionally 1st Feb, St Brigid's Day. Houses and shops are decorated with square crosses made of soft rushes and we have joined in with this each year; 2015 was no different. St Brigid is one of the three Patron Saints of Ireland (with Patrick and Columba); she covers the female side of things being associated with the first day of Spring, a Christianised version of the pre Christian festival of 'Imbolc'.

An ominous sky brought us another dusting of snow.
Imbolc is Irish for 'from the womb' or giving birth so as you'd expect it has all the good pagan re-birth, new season and fertility associations and if you put up your cross(es) you protect your house, land, crops and livestock from all ills. One version of the legend includes protection from fire, but this seems to be an exclusively pre-Christian story and does not feature in the Christian legend, which is mainly about crops and animals. You would put up your cross at doorways of house and also of byres and barns. Each year, when the new cross was made, the old could be taken down, broken up and spread all around your grounds, the better to spread the straw, by then blessed by St Brigid across all your fields. We've been putting ours on the compost we hope that works too.

The young Buffs like to stand on the terrace table. The boys
are now up for sale through 'classified ads' website,
Crosses would also be given to newly weds to give them a good start in life, and might be pinned up into the under-thatch (no ceilings in those days) of the house, where they would add a new cross each year so that you could tell how long the couple had lived in that house by counting the crosses. In Mayo, they put out a piece of red ribbon to be blessed by Brigid as she passes over.We also read that we have been wrong in making the cross on The Day. The festival would have formerly included the 'Eve' before and the family would be making their crosses then, on the 31st January. Ah well.

There are, as you'd also expect, a wealth of stories around St Brigid's life and the miracles she has performed.

Muck spreading for Bob again. 
In one, says 'Wikipedia', "A pagan chieftain from the neighborhood of Kildare was dying. Christians in his household sent for Brigid to talk to him about Christ. When she arrived, the chieftain was raving. As it was impossible to instruct this delirious man, hopes for his conversion seemed doubtful. Brigid sat down at his bedside and began consoling him. As was customary, the dirt floor was strewn with rushes both for warmth and cleanliness. Brigid stooped down and started to weave them into a cross, fastening the points together. The sick man asked what she was doing. She began to explain the cross, and as she talked, his delirium quieted and he questioned her with growing interest. Through her weaving, he converted and was baptized at the point of death. Since then, the cross of rushes has existed in Ireland". 

Spread muck.
In a second she was pleading with the King of Leinster for land on which to build a Nunnery, but he just laughed at her. She prayed to God to soften his heart and then asked for just as much land as her cloak would cover. He agreed. She got four assistant nuns to each grab a corner of the square cloth and to start running north, south, east and west and (Lo! ?) her cloak expanded as if to cover the whole province. "Whoa!" shouts the King, knowing he's been had but relents and gives her good plot for the building. Soon he also agrees to be converted to Christianity.

Bob's trusty John Deere 5310.
In dozens of other stories she does healing or giving to the poor, converting people and plenty of other saintly stuff but if you are interested in that then I'll let you away and do your own research. We are busy here with First Day of Spring type jobs, spring cleaning and the like. I seem to have become JD Bob's mucker-out of choice. I'm not sure how this happened, but I don't mind and I do get to play with the tractor. Getting a mucky barn clean and ready for new straw is a job I love, which may make me a bit odd and it was a chance to give real help to Bob while he had 'flu'.

The range gets a 'blacking'. It's like new!
He's over the 'flu' now but obviously has no problem with his nutty neighbour forking poo about for him even though this year I don't actually want the muck myself as I still have a great heap of 2014 muck not yet spread on the garden and veg plot. This stuff is getting spread on Bob's "medder" (the small 'meadow' field just by the house) the old fashion way, flinging forkfulls across the grass in between short trundles of the tractor or, in the case of the sloppy stuff, letting it dribble off the 'link-box' as I drive along with it gently tipped backwards.

Meanwhile, as well as blitzing the house (possibly because we thought we were going to have a visit!) Liz has given the range a once-over with 'black'. It looks as good as new. Not so good, our ever-faithful little Fiat car may be going sick on us. It seems to falter once in a while as if there is an ignition problem and on Saturday, when Liz went to start it, it fired up on only 3 cylinders and did that white smoke, unburnt fuel thing that gives you the FEAR and makes you dread open-engine type faults like burnt valves and head gasket leaks. It recovered as it warmed up. This morning, though, we have had it down to our marvellous local village garage where Jimmy H has examined it and plugged in his fancy disgnostic gadget. This found a coil/circuit problem but he cleared that code and the engine seems now to be fine. We have been sent off to drive it round for a few days normally and see if the fault comes back. We are re-assured that if the fault can come and go, then it is "probably not" burnt valves or the head gasket. Valves tend to burn out and stay burned out. Fingers crossed, 'Timbuktu' (the car's name, derived from the old UK registration).

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