Sunday, November 25, 2012

The following post is reprinted from 
Woman Spirit Ireland, the site belonging to The Institute of Feminism and Religion. I reprint it here because it is rare to find instructions on how to actually gather the rushes you use to make Brigit's Cross. See below for the skinny!

Brigit(The Institute for Feminism and Religion aims to explore a prophetic approach to feminism and religion, inclusive of many traditions and emerging consciousness in Ireland. We do this by providing opportunities for women to reclaim religion by engaging theoretically and experientially with the issues or feminist theology, ethics, spirituality and ritual.)

Making Brigit’s Crosses 

Merovee Guerin

Tiny Crosses

The traditional cross is made from either field or lake rushes. Made from field rushes, it loses its freshness as it dries. The lake rushes are more sturdy, and the cross a bit bigger. I also found a way to make a cross which looks from the front exactly like the traditional cross but has the advantage to keep its shape when finished. It comes from the Maori tradition. 

Field Rushes

For the Brigit celebrations the rushes are pulled (not cut). One does not need a lot of rushes never more than 40).  So I think it is worth pulling them with awareness.

Place your hand very low on the stem of the rush and pull steadily.  When the rush does not break it has a beautiful white/cream/yellow part which contrasts nicely with the deep green.  I often use this for effect in a cross.
Field rushes are the rushes one can see in any field.  But in February it is difficult to find beautiful rushes as they are often burnt by the gales.
Sometimes one might be lucky and find rushes tucked in the hedge at the edge of a field, or in a low part away from the wind.

In general I go to the forest.  It needs to be low lands forestry.  There are often big ditches in the forestry and there, are the lush rushes which will be pliable.

Wear wellies and gloves.


Harvesting Lake

Lake rushes must be harvested in June or July.  Do not leave too late as they lose their pliability and get spotted.Find a lake with shallow water.  The rushes grow in 2 feet the water.  Cut the rush as low as possible.

I usually bring a rope which floats on the water and keep the cut rushes together. Dry rushes in a well aired area. Turn them from time to time.  Keep away from direct sun.

Store in a dry place.

Before using the rushes I usually lay them in water for a few minutes and wrap them in  plastic to allow the water to soften the outside fibres and make the rush more pliable.

Go with someone.  Someone stays on the shore.

Wear some kind of foot protection.

Have fun.
Traditional Brigit's Cross
Maori Cross

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