gillybirds

What came first- the chickens or the blog?

The Patron Saint of Hen Keepers

on August 6, 2012

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Years ago on holiday I bought myself a little souvenir that has hung in my kitchen ever since. It is a Saint Brigid’s cross, made from traditional reeds. Now I have discovered that not only is Brigid the woman who set up the first Christian community for women here in Ireland, but she is also the patron saint of hen keepers (and has saintly patronage of loads of other things too). She is allegedly buried in Downpatrick, County Down, with our very own national saint – Patrick, whose grave we have visited many times. In this part of the world it’s a school trip certainty.

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Brigid and her mother were said to have been slaves in fifth-century Ireland; her father was believed to have been an Irish chieftain. As a young girl, one of Brigid’s responsibilities was to care for the dairy farm on the property. After Brigid milked the cows, she gave the milk away to the poor. She gave the needy the eggs she collected from the hens and churned cream into butter to share with the hungry. When her master protested that she was giving away all his profits, Brigid reportedly replied, “Christ lives in every creature.” She was telling her master that God wants us to share our blessings with others.
With my four girls firing out three or four eggs a day now, it gives me great pleasure to be giving away boxes of fresh eggs, passing on blessings to others. During a discussion with a friend about patron saints, she suggested I put the Brigid cross, or a picture of St Brigid in the coop to encourage laying. I think they are doing fine and dandy without any saintly intervention just for now.
This lovely depiction of St Brigid even has hens in it!

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