Saturday 20 January 2018

Mary Kenny: The first Irish feminist?

St Brigid's Cross is a symbol of a powerful, independent woman

Mary Kenny
Mary Kenny

Tourists in Ireland this summer will observe, and even purchase, many examples of 'St Brigid's Cross' - that rather unusual variation of a conventional cross, fashioned out of straw.

Despite a decline in religious practice - humanist weddings are growing, church weddings declining - the St Brigid's cross retains its revered place in Irish life. But is St Brigid more legend than fact?

The standard dictionary of the saints sniffily says that "ascertainable facts about her life are few", and written accounts are merely anecdotes, "sometimes very far-fetched and not unmixed with folklore". There are even suggestions that the identity of Brigid of Faughart, who died in 523AD, is really a continuation of some remote Celtic pagan goddesses, who, in Druidic style, would also have been associated with wells and water, as Brigid is.

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