St. Brigid also known as “Mary of the Gael” is an abbess and patroness of Ireland, and she is also the founder of the first Irish monastery in Kildare. Born in Dundalk in 450 A.D, St Brigid is accredited with first creating the unique cross that bears her name, which is normally made from rushes but occasionally from straw.
The distinctive St Brigid’s Cross design made from woven rushes is thought to keep evil, fire and hunger from the homes in which it is displayed, however the tale of its creation is somewhat confused, and there is not one definitive version.
The tale as we know it is as follows: There was an old pagan Chieftain who lay delirious on his deathbed in Kildare (some believe this was her father) and his servants summoned Brigid to his beside in the hope that the saintly woman may calm his restless spirit. Brigid is said to have sat by his bed, consoling and calming him and it is here that she picked up the rushes from the floor and began weaving them into the distinctive cross pattern. Whilst she weaved, she explained the meaning of the cross to the sick Chieftain and it is thought her calming words brought peace to his soul, and that he was so enamoured by her words that the old Chieftain requested he was baptized as a Christian just before his passing.
Since that day and for the centuries that followed, it has been customary on the eve of her Feast Day (1st February) for the Irish to fashion a St Brigid Cross of straw or rushes and place it inside the house over the door.
This rush cross, which became St Brigid’s emblem, has been used in Irish designs throughout history, with many modern stylists using this now popular Irish symbol within the designs of Irish jewelry and Irish gifts.