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Author Topic: Brighid's Cross  (Read 5960 times)
Aster Breo
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« Topic Start: August 16, 2009, 01:42:13 pm »

I've been thinking a lot about the origin of the Brighid's Cross symbol.

Basically, I'm wondering if there is any strong evidence to show that this cross is pre-christian.

I know the stories about how St. Brigit wove the cross while converting a dying druid.  And, although the shape of the cross is notably different from the Christian cross (the bottom leg is not elongated), I can kinda see how it might have developed through the stories of the saint.

I don't know of any instances of this exact symbol showing up in pre-christian art.  (If anyone else does, please point me to them!!)  Of course, it's very similar to the triskele (3-armed version) and the solar symbol (4-armed version), and I can also see how this cross might have developed as an attempt to render a trisk or solar symbol in woven rushes -- or something like that.

But, being me, I'm looking for proof.  And not finding it.

So I'm starting to question my use of the cross as a symbol of the *goddess* Brighid.

Any thoughts on this?

~MI
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« Reply #1: August 16, 2009, 08:11:49 pm »

I've been thinking a lot about the origin of the Brighid's Cross symbol.

I'd have to do some digging on a source, since I heard this several years ago, but I remember reading that evidence of three-legged Brighid's crosses had been found, indicating that the cross pre-existed Christianity in Ireland. It might take me a while to find that source though, it was ages ago.
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« Reply #2: August 16, 2009, 11:05:33 pm »

I'd have to do some digging on a source, since I heard this several years ago, but I remember reading that evidence of three-legged Brighid's crosses had been found, indicating that the cross pre-existed Christianity in Ireland. It might take me a while to find that source though, it was ages ago.

If you can find it, that would be awesome!  As you know, I've been collecting books and resources on Brighid for years now.  But none of what I have in my library addresses the question of whether the cross pre-dates Christianity in Ireland.  It's all focused on how the cross is used traditionally for Imbolc celebrations.

Thanks, Juni!
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« Reply #3: September 07, 2009, 08:25:02 am »

I've been thinking a lot about the origin of the Brighid's Cross symbol.

Basically, I'm wondering if there is any strong evidence to show that this cross is pre-christian.



At some point earlier in my researching, I remember reading that Brighid's cross is just a type of solar cross and represented the journey of the sun with the "legs" of the cross representing the solstices and the gaps in between representing the seasons.  There were similar cross shapes found in many other ancient cultures (Native American, Asian, etc.)  I don't know.  It's one of those things where the line between pre-Christian pagan practices and Christian conversion practices gets blurred.  I've also heard many times that Jesus was actually crucified on a pole with his hands above him and the whole idea of the cross was just another way an ancient pagan symbol was re-purposed for Christianity.
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« Reply #4: October 01, 2009, 10:00:31 pm »

I've also heard many times that Jesus was actually crucified on a pole with his hands above him and the whole idea of the cross was just another way an ancient pagan symbol was re-purposed for Christianity.

From what I've seen on History Channel documentaries about ancient torture methods (I'm NOT weird... they've been on a lot lately!) people were crucified on an apparatus shaped like a "T" with the arms outstretched along the top part of the "T". I don't think hands above would support the body's weight properly, from my engineering sense. All that weight hanging down would probably rip right through hands or wrists.

Karen
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« Reply #5: October 26, 2009, 01:54:45 am »

From what I've seen on History Channel documentaries about ancient torture methods (I'm NOT weird... they've been on a lot lately!) people were crucified on an apparatus shaped like a "T" with the arms outstretched along the top part of the "T". I don't think hands above would support the body's weight properly, from my engineering sense. All that weight hanging down would probably rip right through hands or wrists.

Karen

I'm probably wrong, but weren't one's feet also nailed to the cross when one was crucified?  That would help support the weight.

And I agree with folksymama - I've also heard something similar.
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« Reply #6: October 26, 2009, 04:15:00 am »

From what I've seen on History Channel documentaries about ancient torture methods (I'm NOT weird... they've been on a lot lately!) people were crucified on an apparatus shaped like a "T" with the arms outstretched along the top part of the "T". I don't think hands above would support the body's weight properly, from my engineering sense. All that weight hanging down would probably rip right through hands or wrists.

The other way that it was done was on a 'X' shape as it distributed the weight better. When people were crucified (according to some of the many torture books I possess-don't ask  Wink ) they were also tied to the apparatus at the wrists and ankles to make sure that the weight was supported properly and the nails would not rip through their hands and feet. This also made sure that the people being tortured would not die that quickly. Tying the wrists also made certain that no-one deliberately pulled their hands off the nail as there is no way that any bones in the hands would be able to support any real weight.

Apparently, in some areas, if people were being nailed to a cross of any shape, the nails were put through the wrists and ankles instead of hands and feet to overcome the weight problem. Whichever way you slice it, this is going to HURT!  Shocked
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« Reply #7: November 07, 2009, 04:49:03 pm »


I found a site that was using a three-legged version of the Brighid's Cross and I was wondering if there was any historical accuracy in that?  I mean, it would make sense with the three aspects of Brighid, but I've only ever seen it there.  I'll have to go searching to see which site it is.
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« Reply #8: November 07, 2009, 05:34:39 pm »

I found a site that was using a three-legged version of the Brighid's Cross and I was wondering if there was any historical accuracy in that?  I mean, it would make sense with the three aspects of Brighid, but I've only ever seen it there.  I'll have to go searching to see which site it is.

It's a regional variation - different parts of Ireland have different styles of cross. Sean O Duinn lists them as:

   1. The four-armed or 'swastika' type
   2. The three-armed type
   3. The diamond or 'lozenge' type
   4. The interwoven type
   5. St Brigid's Bow
   6. St Brigid's bare cross
   7. The Sheaf cross

In his book The Rites of Brigid. E Estyn Evans suggests that the three-armed style is evidence of their pagan heritage, being reminiscent of the triskele - he has lots of photos too, in Irish Folk Ways. The earliest recorded evidence, as far as I'm aware, is from the early 18th century, though (which is not to say they didn't, or couldn't, have been used before then...).
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Aster Breo
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« Reply #9: November 07, 2009, 06:35:36 pm »

In his book The Rites of Brigid. E Estyn Evans suggests that the three-armed style is evidence of their pagan heritage, being reminiscent of the triskele - he has lots of photos too, in Irish Folk Ways.

This is available online here:   http://brigitssparklingflame.blogspot.com/2007/03/brigets-crosses-biddy-boys.html
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« Reply #10: November 08, 2009, 05:18:01 pm »

It's a regional variation - different parts of Ireland have different styles of cross. Sean O Duinn lists them as:

   1. The four-armed or 'swastika' type
   2. The three-armed type
   3. The diamond or 'lozenge' type
   4. The interwoven type
   5. St Brigid's Bow
   6. St Brigid's bare cross
   7. The Sheaf cross

In his book The Rites of Brigid. E Estyn Evans suggests that the three-armed style is evidence of their pagan heritage, being reminiscent of the triskele - he has lots of photos too, in Irish Folk Ways. The earliest recorded evidence, as far as I'm aware, is from the early 18th century, though (which is not to say they didn't, or couldn't, have been used before then...).


Thank you, that's pretty much exactly what I needed! I have a couple of friends who do metalwork and make chain maille who are going to be making me a necklace soon and I wanted to do some research before I told them exactly what I wanted.  I just put those books on my must get list as well Smiley
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« Reply #11: November 09, 2009, 05:59:39 am »

Thank you, that's pretty much exactly what I needed! I have a couple of friends who do metalwork and make chain maille who are going to be making me a necklace soon and I wanted to do some research before I told them exactly what I wanted.  I just put those books on my must get list as well Smiley

No worries Smiley They're both very good, but I should warn you that Evans' Irish Folk Ways is probably more than you ever wanted to know about the minutest of details regarding pots, pans, shovels...But there are some good illustrations and quite a few hidden gems in there.
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« Reply #12: November 09, 2009, 06:00:17 am »

This is available online here:   http://brigitssparklingflame.blogspot.com/2007/03/brigets-crosses-biddy-boys.html

Very handy, thank you!
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« Reply #13: November 09, 2009, 08:17:31 pm »

I have a couple of friends who do metalwork and make chain maille who are going to be making me a necklace soon and I wanted to do some research before I told them exactly what I wanted.


Ooooooooooooo! 

Custom-made jewelry!  My favorite.  Please post pics when you get the necklace.
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« Reply #14: November 16, 2009, 10:05:53 pm »

Custom-made jewelry!  My favorite.  Please post pics when you get the necklace.

Psst... I make chainmail jewelry, too. Wink

Karen
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