St. Brigid was born in AD 450 in Dundalk, Co. Louth. Her father, Dubhthach, was a pagan chieftain of Leinster and her mother, Broicsech, was a Christian. Legend says that Brigid’s mother was born in Portugal but was kidnapped by Irish pirates and brought to Ireland to work as a slave. Brigid was named after one of the most powerful goddesses of the pagan religion, the goddess of fire, whose manifestations were song, craftsmanship, and poetry. Brigid’s Father kept Brigid and her mother as slaves, even though he was a wealthy man.
Brigid lived during the time of St. Patrick and was inspired by his preachings. When Brigid became an adult, she stopped working for her father and decided to dedicate her life to God by looking after the poor, sick and elderly. Brigid finally got her wish, when she received here veil from St. Macaille and made her vows to dedicate her life to God.
Making a St. Bridid’s cross is one of the traditional rituals in Ireland to celebrate the beginning of early spring, 1 February. The crosses are made from rushes that are pulled rather than cut. They are hung by the door and in the rafters to protect the house from fire and evil. According to tradition a new cross is made each St. Brigid’s Day, and the old one is burned to keep fire from the house. Legend says that St.Brigid and the cross are linked together by a story that she wove this form of cross at the death bed of either her father or a pagan lord, who upon hearing what the cross meant, asked to be baptised.
St. Brigid died in AD 525 at the age of 75 and was buried in a tomb before the High Altar of her Abbey church. After many years, her remains were transferred to Downpatrick to rest with the two other patron saints of Ireland, St. Patrick and St. Columcille. Her skull was brought to Lisbon, Portugal by two Irish Noblemen, and it remains there to this day. St. Brigid is the female patron saint of Ireland. She is also known as Muire na nGael or Mary of the Gael which means Our Lady of the Irish.