As witches prepare for the Grand Sabbat of Imbolc, it is customary to weave a Brigid’s cross out of reeds or grasses, as a talisman of blessing, and an amulet against disease in the household. This bit of folk-magick comes to us from the Celts, and the traditions associated with Brigid (1), who is venerated by pagans as a Goddess and by Catholics as the Patron Saint of Ireland.
Just about all of the Imbolc traditions come to modern witchery via the mythology and devotion of Brigid. Imbolc is one of the Celtic Fire festivals, and Candlemas – the Catholic equivalent of this holiday – is her feast day. For more information, check out The Birth of Fire – A History of Imbolc Traditions, over at Nature’s Path.
D.C. McBride wrote:
“While there are many different Imbolc traditions recorded, all of them hinge on the idea of Her divine presence gracing and blessing the household and its’ occupants. One of the most common is that of the Crios Bhríde, or Brighid’s (1) Cross. This is a woven talisman made out of straw or rushes… In some areas, it was hung on the front door to let Brighid know to visit the home (and bless the talisman) on Her return from the Otherworld.” Source at Nature’s Path
Weaving a Brigid’s Cross
The Goddess Brigid is associated with fire, the forge and smithcraft. She’s honored for healing, herblore, midwifery, dairy animals and trades; with poetry and learning, among many other accolades. The legend that links Brigid with a reed cross and disease prevention was mentioned here:
“Brigid’s cross…origin comes from Saint Brigid weaving one while attending to an ailing pagan chieftain, who was healed. Brigit, being known for her generosity and her healing, is called upon to protect a dwelling from disease with the hanging of Brigid’s cross above the entryway. This cross… is often made and hung on Brigit’s Day, February 1st, the first day of spring in Ireland.” Source
As I researched this tradition, finding many excellent videos and articles on line, I noticed a suggestion somewhere to brew tea and paint that onto the finished woven cross to stain it darker. This kick-started my creative process. If we have to soak the reeds for two hours in hot water, anyway, we might as well make those waters into an herbal tea and infuse their powers into the reeds themselves! If we are already charging water with herbs, we may as well throw in a few stones and crystals to tune it up even further to the desired frequency. So I looked up the correspondences to Brigid among our plant and mineral allies, and found these suggestions at goddessgift.com:
Stones and Metals of Brigid:
Gold, brass, silver, carnelian, agate, copper, amethyst, jasper, and quartz.
Plants and scents sacred to Brigid:
Dandelion, snowdrops, crocus, trillium, acorns and oak tree, corn, oats, sage, pumpkin seeds, chamomile, broom, shamrock, rushes, straw, and all field flowers: heather, wisteria, violet, lavender, lemon verbena, and heliotrope. (Source)
Step 1: Gather your Materials
I’ve attempted to use broomcorn for this project in the past and the round, straw shape of the material was problematic. This year I’ve created mine out of 1/4″ flat reed sourced from Peerless Rattan. This material is typically sold for baskets and cane seating. 1 pound of reed is enough for the whole coven for many Imbolcs to come, and set me back $13.99 plus shipping.
- 14 Flat basket weaving reed that is 1/4-inch wide, cut to 14-inch lengths.
- I used heavy wire cutters to snip the reeds
- Four 6-inch lengths of string or 22 gauge florist wire (my preference.)
- If using wire, needle nose pliers
- Pan of boiling water for soaking the reeds.
- A few tablespoons of your choice of herbs.
- I used a tablespoon each of white oak bark, chamomile flowers, dandelion leaf, lavender flowers and an acorn that had been previously blessed at an Imbolc rite a few years back..
- Any stones or metals sacred to Brigid that you may have.
- I added a copper penny, amethyst, blue lace agate, carnelian (red agate) red jasper, a clear and rose quartz.
- Ribbons or decorations of your choice.
- A clothes pin or two.
Step 2: Soak the ReedsIn pan of hot water, soak herbs, stones and reeds for two hours. I use a large, shallow pyrex casserole dish. To minimize the mess, I stapled closed a home-made teabag full of the herbs. If you’d like to stain the reeds a darker color, you could potentially add a bag of black tea. Remember, that to create magick with these plants and stones, it is important to connect to each one, and awaken it to it’s powers and necessity on the “team of allies” you are creating with this spell. Don’t just chuck it all in and hope for the best; git yer witch on!
Step 3: Weave the Cross
Place two reeds together in a cross pattern and pinch the center with your left hand. Fold another reed in half over the right arm of the horizontal reed, then pinch it down. Keep the reed snug to the center cross.
Turn the entire piece 90 degrees to the left. Fold a 4th reed in the same fashion over the right arm again, pinch it down.
Keep working your way around: rotating counter-clockwise, and folding a new reed in half over all the reeds sticking out to the right. Keep them pinched snugly to the cross as you go, eventually forming 3 square formations.
Continue on this way until you have only the 14th reed left to use. Start folding this reed over the right arm in the same way as before, but this time we have to capture the final reed to finish. Start by pulling out the bottom loop (see image above) about a half inch. After you’ve folded the last reed over, tuck the ends through the loop below. (See image above.) Tighten both of the loops by pulling the ends tight. This should secure the woven square together.
Carefully adjust and tighten any loose reeds into an organized woven square, then use the clothes-pin or clip to hold them securely (see image below).
Step 4: Bind the arms
Tie string or wrap florist wire around the ends of the four arms of the cross, tightening with needle-nose pliers. Snip any uneven reeds.
Step 5: Dry and decorate
Allow the cross to dry thoroughly. It is complete!
However, should you feel inspired, I think you can adorn your cross with any ribbons, stones, or other decorations that bring to mind Brigid, Imbolc, healing and purification.
Step 6: Hang over the doorway of your home!
I’m going to leave mine drying on the altar during this time of preparation, and throughout my rituals on the actual Sabbat. Should you make one for your home, I suggest that you begin with the Home Cleansing Ritual I posted last time. As part of that rite, consecrate the Brigid Cross in the incense smoke, and anoint with the oil recipes for Imbolc that I posted there. Then conclude your Sabbat by hanging it on or over the front doorway as a blessing for the household.
May good health fill your homes this season!
- There are so many variations of spelling of Brigid, Brid, Brighid… Brigit, Brigid or Bríg…everywhere I looked, there were differing variations. Here is a wikipedia article with some more info.