Issue 3, Imbolc 2012
by Natalie O’Shea
In our early conceptualizing of the Celtic Junction, Brigid's Cross was recommended to us by Dáithí Sproule as a symbol for the Junction. Out of a time when I had the great fortune of meeting him weekly for Irish classes and songs, deep and lovely discussions of the most philosophical nature sprang up. Dáithí told me this was an underused emblem, full of meaning as a Pre-Christian symbol, of both creation and destruction. Brigid's Cross also represents the sun, rising and setting upon a world that is both constant and always new.
As a symbol for a traditional arts center, that really fit for us. The traditional arts that come under our roof find an active dialogue between the new and the old. Dance, music, language at work and all the visual arts, Celtic or otherwise, are constantly being taken apart, consciously or unconsciously, only to be remade in some form or another. This is what keeps them alive, vital, and relevant to the current generation. And we can't wait to see what the next generation of Celtic dancers, musicians, writers and artists creates, and what they can teach us about what we think we know.
As well, I like to think of our Brigid’s Cross symbolizing, as we have said before, the weaving together of the various Celtic traditions as they enhance and support each other. That’s a very rich image for me. Perhaps, in choosing this rich symbol at the start, we drew our destiny upon us; by a Serendipity roughly teasing, were we fated to have a fire to push us onwards to a richer, renewed purpose---destruction followed by re-creation?!
What is certain is that, along with you, our Celtic Junction community, Cormac and I will continue to accept that challenge and grow what the Junction is, organically in a constant ebb and flow. Phoenix from the Flame - you bet! Watch this space!
The Children’s Corner: Make You Own Brigid’s Cross
by Siobhán Dugan
The design of Brigid’s Cross links the Irish pagan and Christian worlds, as Brigid was a goddess in pre-Christian Ireland centuries before ‘Mary of the Gaels’ was born in Kildare in the 5th century AD. Her cross is still used in Ireland today to protect the harvest and farm animals and is seen above doorways to protect those who pass within. When I was visiting a village in Donegal, I came upon an elderly man, a retired shepherd and weaver, who was bringing home reeds to make the crosses. Smiling and chatting, he welcomed me to his home, and accompanied by a hot cup of tea and lively talk, I watched him make 3 Brigid’s Crosses. One yet hangs over my front door today.
To pass the tradition on to your kids, here are some printed instructions as well as a charming video of a little Irish girl, Caitlin, demonstrating the ancient art: Caitlin Shows You How to Make Your Brigid's Cross
The crosses are traditionally made from rushes or reeds, but if those aren’t available, natural grasses, straw, wheat, vines or even pipe cleaners or straws can be used.
To make the cross:
1. Take two reeds (or other material) and place them together in a cross pattern. Take another reed and fold it in half over the far right half of the horizontal Keep the reed snug to the center of the cross.
2. Holding the junction tightly, turn the entire piece 90 degrees to the left. Fold another reed in the same fashion over the right half the current horizontal reed. Keep holding it tightly and pushing each new addition on snugly. Think: “Add to the right, turn to the left.”
3. Continue on this way until you have one reed left to use. Start folding this reed over in the manner described above but pull out the folded end of the bottom reed just below and thread the ends of this last reed though it. Then, gently push that prior reed back in place, securing your work. (See the video below for an illustration of this.)
At this point, you should have wrapped three reeds around each of the four directions. Since the reeds are folded in half, this gives you 6 ends, plus the original reed, for a total of 7. In this way, the cross represents the month of February, with four weeks (the 4 radials), each with 7 days (the seven reeds).
If the ends of your cross are uneven or longer than you would like, trim them to equal lengths. Secure each end by wrapping a rubber band around it or tying it with twine.
Put your cross at the entrance to your house as a blessing and protection for your family, friends who visit and for your pets.
Celtic Cuisine: Celebrating the Culinary Arts with Classic and Nouveau Recipes from the Celtic World
Guest Columnists Teresa McCormick and John Dingley
John Dingley was raised on a hill farm in Wales and with grand national pride, has agreed to share his favorite, and delicious, Welsh Leek Soup recipe. The Leek is the national symbol of Wales and is actually worn by Welshmen on March 1st to commemorate St. David’s Day.
As the story goes, Saint David was a Christian monk popularly supposed to have been a nephew of King Arthur. Traveling among the pagan Celtic tribes, he spread Christianity, became an archbishop, founded monasteries and performed many miracles. He died March 1, 589 AD and was buried without mention of any leek at all.
It wasn’t until 640 AD that the leek was linked with Saint David who in a divine revelation told the Welsh soldiers who were fighting against the invading Saxons to wear a leek in their hats. In this way, the two enemies could be distinguished from one another and the battle was a success, Wales was victorious.
Since that time, the Welsh have prized leeks, identified them with St. David, and have eaten them with pleasure and as a matter of national pride. There is plenty of time to practice making this soup before March 1st so enjoy it.
Dingley’s Favorite Cawl Cennin (Welsh Leek Soup)
Servings: 4-6 Prep Time: 25 minutes, Cook Time: 90 minutes
- 1 pound Leeks -- trimmed of the roots and outer-edge dark green
- 4 Tablespoons Butter
- 2 stalks Celery, diced
- 1 large Onion, diced
- 6 cups Chicken broth
- 1 ounce parsley, roughly chopped
- 2/3 cup Heavy Cream
- Salt and pepper to taste
Cooked and diced lamb or chicken can be added.
- Clean the leeks thoroughly. Finely chop the large portion. Chop the remaining greens rather coarsely. Set aside some of the chopped greens for garnish.
- Melt the butter in a large saucepan.
- Add the finely-chopped leek, celery, and onions.
- Cook until just soft without browning them.
- Add the broth, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer about one hour. Allow to cool slightly.
- Carefully puree the soup (in small batches) in a food processor.
- Reheat, stir in the parsley, green of leeks (and diced cooked meat if used).
- Simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Allow to cool slightly.
- Whisk in the cream.
Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm. Garnish with crumbled crisp bacon, a few circles of sliced leek, parsley or croutons as desired. As the weather turns cooler, serve it warm with bread.
The Written Word
This anonymous ancient winter’s poem from 9th or 10th century Ireland is fresh with its vivid directness. In the spirit o St. Brigid’s Day, we wish you a wonderful winter full of beauty and contemplation as we prepare for the time of renewal in the coming spring.
News from me for you,
the stag bells,
summer has gone.
wind high and cold,
short its course,
the sea runs fast.
deep red the bracken,
its shape has been hidden,
common to be heard
the cry of the barnacle goose.
cold has seized
the wings of birds,
season of ice,
that is my news.
Scél lem dúib,
ro fáith sam.
Gáeth ard úar,
gair a rrith,
ro cleth cruth,
ro gab gnáth
Ro gab úacht
é mo scél.