Saturday, March 31, 2012

Brigid's Cross

Do you know about Brigid’s cross?  We have one in our living room.  Our daughter made it when she studied in Ireland a couple of years ago and presented it to us as a Christmas gift.  While it was a thoughtful gift, I suspect it was more for her than for us.  Brigid’s cross, you see, is said to protect the home from fire.  When our daughter was four years old, she began to worry about home fires.

Note: the rubber bands are not traditional fastenings!

It was Halloween.  We had friends with a daughter the same age who lived on a rural road outside town.  They brought their little girl to our house to go trick or treating with our children.  (Our son was only one year old, so he doesn’t remember this at all.)  I stayed home to answer the door and hand out candy while the others went on their rounds. 

The Halloween of the fire -- how appropriate that she was dressed as a devil. 
Everyone returned from trick or treating, and the children sorted their candy loot.  When our friends were leaving, the husband came back in to say he smelled smoke and thought maybe one of the jack-o’-lanterns was burning.  We checked the pumpkins on the porch and both were okay.  My husband and our friend grabbed flashlights and walked all around the house to see if they could figure out what was burning.  Then they noticed smoke seeping out of our neighbors’ attached garage.  Our neighbors were an older couple, Mr. and Mrs. S., maybe in their late 60s or early 70s.  We knocked on their door and got them out of the house.  It turned out their car was on fire.  They had come home not too long before, and their car had evidently developed a short.  Our friends went on home, and we left our children safely in the house while we waited for the fire department and tried to calm down our neighbors.  Mrs. S. was crying and Mr. S., being an old-fashioned man of the house, was determined to take care of things.  He wanted to back the car out to help save the house.

“No,” I told him firmly.  “You can’t move the car.  It’s going to blow up.”  Sure enough, in a couple of minutes, the fire hit the gas tank, and a ball of flame shot out of the garage into the dark night.  About that time, I figured I better check on the little darlings.  I walked in to find our daughter sitting right in front of a large picture window watching the fire, which had really flared up with the gas tank explosion.  The window faced directly onto the neighbors’ garage.  With visions of shattering glass in my head, I snatched her away and hustled both children cattycorner across the street to another house.  Our picture window did not shatter, but a second floor window above did crack from the heat.

I don’t know if I was overly exuberant in my snatching, but ever since, our daughter has been a little wary of fire.  Not terrified or obsessive about it, but she does emphasize that she never wants an attached garage on her house.  And she certainly did latch onto the symbolism of Brigid’s cross.  That’s fine with me.  As talismans go, it’s quite a charming one.

On the living room hutch doors, protecting my flow blue china from fire.


  1. You are a very talented writer - my hands are sweaty - I felt like I was there watching the fire. Very interesting about Brigid's cross.

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  3. Oh wow! Such a spin out! I went to a Catholic Brigidine high school in Australia - Kilbreda College is its name, and of course, we learnt all about Brigid of Kildare and the cross - it was even on our blazer pockets and part of our school emblem! Such a gorgeous cross! Thanks for sharing :) (for some reason my first comment deleted.. blogspot is not liking me tonight!)

  4. Thanks for such an interesting post. I looked up Bridgit's cross on Wikipedia and came up with this ... The Goddess Brigid was one of the Tuatha De Danann. Her feast day was the feast of Imbolc, and the cross made of rushes today is very likely the descendant of a pagan symbol whose original meaning may have been locally understood even into the early 20th century in rural Ireland. One remnant of that tradition in the meaning of the Brigid's Cross today, is that it is said to protect a house from fire. It seems that this is a very ancient legend and I never knew the bit about protecting a house from fire .... I'll have to get one for our house.

    Happiness to all.

  5. What a great post. I think I need one of those crosses because I'm scared to death of fire! I was raised by a fireman too. They are all heros in my eyes. Thank God you got those neighbors out. Yes, a car can go up in no time at all.

    About 10 years ago I watched as my neighbors house burned to the ground. Two things stand out in my mind that I will never forget.

    How loud a fire is. Between the crackling and the glass busting, it's very loud!

    Also, how fast it all went up! It seemed like no time at all from when I first saw the smoke until it was totally engulfed. No one was home at the time except the cat and he got out.

  6. Never heard of this but would love to have one! I have also always been terrified of fire. We have a smoke detector in every room! When I was in grade school one of my classmates died in a fire and I will never forget it...I am glad your neighbors were OK too!

  7. Oh my gosh - how terrifying! I can totally understand your daughter's fear of fire, those images must remain quite vivid in her mind. The cross is beautiful.

  8. I like the Brigid's Cross design. I can imagine the fire left quite an impression on your daughter. I worry about fires too especially with 4 cats in our motorhome.

  9. I can understand her fear, things that happen in our childhood often want to stay attached for life! Very smart of you to keep Mr. S. out of the garage, things could have gone from bad to very worse. I love the Brigid's Cross, it's so simple and rustic. :)


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