Pray to the Moon when She is round,
Luck with you will then abound,
What you seek for shall be found
On the sea or solid ground.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Crafty: Lá Fhéile Bhríde/Imbolc Décor

Yarn & twigs. Stuff to make stuff.

Every so often something happens to me & I make stuff.

This time, it was a request for submissions to our quarterly Pagan community rag up in Alaska. Our fearless leader & editor, the Amazon Druid, asked if we could come up with something clever for the "Family Corner." The result was very clever. I am pretty sure we might have been channeling those clever Nidulariales I wrote about yesterday. This undertaking, which ended up much like an entry at Instructables was so epic, that I am going to post it here if for no other reason than to get a bit more mileage out of it than just the Alaskan newsletter readership. (By the way, if you are interested in receiving a pdf. copy of Roots & Wings via email, contact the editor over at Birch Goddess. You don't have to be Alaskan & I am sure she would be happy to hook you up.)

Before I get to the copy & paste ad nauseam, I must give credit where credit is due. We adapted our design from this Etsy Listing. Alaska is not a place to obtain the traditional materials for this project & the alternatives we found around the internet were, um, tacky. Pipe cleaners? Um, no. So when I came across this gal's design I figured it could be very helpful for Alaskans who won't be finding any straw or rushes out there under the ocean of snow. Of course, if you are not of the mind to make your own, perhaps you would like to purchase one from Nicole, the Etsy shop owner. She is part of Etsy's Team for Animals, "a group of 200 independent artists, independent craftspeople, independent vintage suppliers, and independent art and craft suppliers that combine their efforts to provide charitable relief to animals." Good girl.

Whether you wish to honor Brigid the Saint, or Brighid the goddess (or perhaps you see her as one in the same), this is a very satisfying project. So, without further ado, here is our family's Imbolc Décor "instructable." Please enjoy. (If you make some, feel free to send me some photos, I would love to see your results.)

Making Brigid’s Crosses for Household Protection & Family Fun

St. Brigid of Kildare @ Wiki.
A Brigid's Cross (called Cros Bríde, Crosóg Bríde or Bogha Bríde, in Irish Gaelic) is a traditional Irish symbol associated with Brigid of Kildare, one of the a patron saints of Ireland. Though it is generally regarded as a Christian symbol, it is likely a pagan remnant. Its design is reminiscent of a sunwheel while Saint Brighid is regarded by many as representative of the ancient Celtic goddess Brighid/Brìde (both pronounced “breed”) or, in more modern parlance, Brigid.

Brighid is said to walk the earth on the eve of her feast. Thus, Brigid’s Crosses were traditionally made from rushes or straw which were gathered on January 31st, the eve of St. Brigit’s Day (Lá Fhéile Bhríde). The crosses were then assembled on 1 February (sometimes February 2nd, or 12th by the old calendar), the day of her honor. 

Brighid by celticseaturtle @ DeviantArt
The significance of this for modern Pagans is obvious. St. Brigit’s Day/Lá Fhéile Bhríde occurs simultaneously with the pagan festival, Imbolc/Imbolg (“in the belly”), a traditional agrarian celebration of the pregnancy & lactation of ewes, observed by many modern Pagans, most notably Celtic reconstructionists, Druids and Wiccans. It has been speculated that ancient Imbolc celebrations were also associated with the goddess Brighid. Historical uncertainty aside, Imbolc has most decidedly become Brighid’s feast and it is this we honor.

Brigid Crosses are solar symbols: a woven square with four equal radials extending to the four directions. There are many traditions associated with the making and keeping of the crosses. Most people agree that they act as a talisman for the home, bringing protection to the house and its inhabitants. Many feel they are particularly effective against fire & evil. In Ireland, they are usually hung in the kitchen specifically for their fireproofing prowess. Others prefer to hang them above the inside of the front door or near the hearth. In some traditions, Crosses from the previous year are burned and replaced to affirm the saying: “Out with the old, and in with the new.”

Because traditional materials are unavailable in Alaska during the Imbolc season, we will be working with twigs. We have selected apple twigs since Brigid (allegedly, see interesting debate/discussion here) possessed an apple orchard in the Otherworld, but Birch, Rowan, Alder or other native Alaskan woods will also work nicely. Make sure to trim terminal twigs if possible: they look better and are more pliable. Each cross will require 12 relatively straight cuttings, approximately 4 to 7 inches long. Collect more than you think you will need in case of breakage. Make sure to keep your garden snips handy after you have collected the twigs. They will be needed for trimming at the end of the project.

You will also need scissors & yarn, sisal, raffia, embroidery floss or hemp of your choice to bind the twigs. A needle is very helpful, but not necessary.

  • Assemble your best twigs into four bundles of three & wrap one end with yarn. You can use one color, or many. You might want to use the colors of the Celtic quarters; black, red, yellow, grey, or the colors of the directions according to Ceremonial/Wiccan traditions; green, yellow, red, blue. 

    • Lay out your bundles in the order you will want for the finished design. Cut a very generous length of yarn, twice as long as you think you will need. Fold it in half. If you are using a thick yarn, or multiple colors/strands, you will need extra length. Have your needle nearby if you will be using one. 

      • Take up your first two radials: left vertical and lower horizontal, holding them at right angles with the bottom/horizontal radial overlapping the left/vertical. Pick up your yarn holding the radials with one hand and lace the loop end of your yarn around the center twig near the free end of the horizontal radial bundle. Bring the two ends of the yarn through the loop to create a kind of slipknot. Tighten it down on the center twig and pull the loose strings to the back:

        • If you are using a needle, thread it with your loose ends now.  Begin lacing the yarn through the three twigs in the pattern shown below. We have learned from experience that it is more important to make sure your lacing is tight and symmetrical than in what order you sew the sections. Find the sequence that works best for you and for the material you are using:

          • Add the next radial using the method above, insuring that you create right angles. Check the images to be sure you have it layered properly: each successive radial should overlap the previous. As you move along, you may need to adjust your radial alignment to make sure that your cross will be symmetrical. To do this, simply measure the distance from the angle to the end of the radial. Remember, you will be trimming the unbound ends of the twigs at the end, so make your adjustments by assessing the symmetry of the bound ends. Also, be sure to keep your stitches tight and even, especially as you move from one section to the next.


              • Repeat the process with the last radial, measuring for symmetry and making adjustments. The unbound end of the last radial will need to be place under and at right angles to the left vertical radial. 

              • The last set of stitches should be pulled tight and ended with a knot on the backside. If you have extra yarn length afterwards, you can trim it, or you may choose to use it to hang your Brigid’s Cross.

              • Finally, square your angles, make any final adjustments to your radial alignment and symmetry trim the excess off the unbound ends to complete your Brigid’s Cross. Remember, once the radials are trimmed it will be difficult to make any more adjustments.

              Final Notes:

              The backside will not be perfect and does not need to be. As long as there are no dangling strings or bulging tangles, your cross is fine. 

              Little hands will need some extra help.

              Children can participate in most of this project with proper supervision and a little assistance. Take them on a hike and talk to them about the tress you find. You may want to take this time to talk about Imbolc or the Feast of St. Brigid, what it means to you and how you will celebrate it. When you get home, let them select their own twigs, perhaps even making a counting game out of it. Let them make their own color choices and have them wrap their bundles themselves. If they do not yet know how to tie a knot, this is a great opportunity to learn and practice! Depending on your child and your comfort level, you may want to help them do some of the sewing. Your hands will be of great help to them if they are smaller. The final product is a great prize and will give them a great sense of achievement. You can honor them by using their cross as your house protection talisman, or you might suggest that they deliver it to a friend or family member on Imbolc. This project was a wonderful way for us to spend time together as a family. We hope you will enjoy and share it with your loved ones too!

              Crafty! Brigid's Crosses. A joyful creation.


              Anonymous said...

              I am so in love with your talent! You will have to post the link to the Instructables page so I can find your project.

              Was this what you wanted the sticks for? I'll have to go collect some of the rushes in the swamp for you.

              Moma Fauna said...

              Awww... well Hubby & Little Lad get credit too. I didn't *actually* post this to Instructables b/c I am not OCD enough for Instructables.

              This actually is NOT the project for which I need the sticks. I keep starting a message to you, but then get interrupted... imagine that. I'll get the details to you today or tomorrow. ;)

              Carol said...

              Why thank you ma'am! This was an AWESOME article - it fit in perfectly into the newsletter! They came out pretty darn beautiful I have to say.

              Have I told you lately how terrific you are (and the rest of the fan as well) ???? ;)

              Happy Imbolc!

              April G. said...

              This is AWESOME!!! Thanks for sharing this Moma Fauna! Happy Imbolc!!! <3

              Moma Fauna said...

              Awww... well I hurleth the Boomerang of Awesomeness right back atcha' sister!
              Happy Imbolc to you as well. May you be blessed by Brighid's bright blessings. :)

              Moma Fauna said...

              Well, it's all part of the Circle-of-Awesomeness, isn't it? Your piece was no less than awesome too! I'm so happy you remain with us, even across the distance. :)

              Happy Imbolc to you as well. May you & yours be blessed by Brighid's bright blessings. :)

              Connie Mitan said...

              Very cool write-up of your project - thanks for sharing it with us at Pagan Blog Prompts.

              Kourtney said...

              I absolutely love this project! Going to bookmark it for the little ones! Your finished ones are beautiful! Thank you for sharing and linking up to PPBH!


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