This site has limited support for your browser. We recommend switching to Edge, Chrome, Safari, or Firefox.
Brat Bríde – Harnessing the Power of St Brigid

Brat Bríde – Harnessing the Power of St Brigid

This is a very special blog about how the coming together of women, some friends, some strangers and all with a common goal to up-lift one another, creating a powerful energy which inspires everyone they come in contact with.

Earlier this year we were contacted here at the mill by an initially unassuming but truly inspiring woman Michelle McMahon enquiring about fabric which could be used to make a Saint Brigid’s cloak.  We are often asked for fabric for garments but this query certainly piqued our interest!


Who is Saint Brigid?
Saint Brigid was born in Ireland sometime around 450 AD and both during and after her lifetime many miracles were credited to her including giving away her household’s food to hungry beggars and then the food miraculously replaced for her family; turning a wooden column into a living tree with one touch and hanging her cloak on a sunbeam.  Brigid was venerated a saint for women, shepherds, beggars, refugees and those in childbirth with her feast day, February 1st, celebrating the start of spring, season of fertility.

Brigid - which means “exalted or noble one”, is also a Goddess of the Tuatha Dé Danann, a pre-Celtic mythological race. Like the saint, Brigid the goddess is celebrated at the start of spring, during the Celtic festival of Imbolg. Her goddess attributes include justice, inspiration and protection. She is also associated with poetry, fire, healing, water and metalcraft.


The Brat Bríde Tradition
We have many traditions associated with Brigid here in Ireland, including that of the Brat Bríde – this involves leaving a piece of fabric or ribbon outside on the eve of Brigid’s Day to catch the spring dew. The Brat is brought in before sunrise, and is believed to have curative powers, having being blessed by Brigid in her passing. This fabric, with it’s healing and protection powers, would then be used during the year to cure aliments in humans and animals.


The Brat Bríde Project – a group of inspiring women
In January 2022, the Irish Government announced that Ireland would have a new public holiday to celebrate Saint Brigid, and to mark the Celtic Festival of Imbolg – the start of spring. In the same month, Ireland witnessed the horrific murder of Aisling Murphy, a talented young woman at the start of her teaching career.


This devastating tragedy coupled with the announcement of Ireland’s first ever holiday in honour of a woman prompted Kilkenny based artist Michelle McMahon, to channel her emotions and energy into something positive – this was to become the Brat Bríde Project.

Under Michelle’s creative leadership to date, some 80+ women have participated in the Brat Bríde Project through a number of initiatives, each time getting stronger and more courageous.

In 2022 the women created linoprints on fabric (Brat Brídes) of matriarchal / matrilineal figures whose strength resonated with the individual participant. The Brats were subsequently exhibited at Butler Gallery last February to celebrate St Brigid's inaugural Bank Holiday.

In June 2023 Members of the Kilkenny One Parent Community, the core group of women helming the project, screen-printed a bespoke fabric with the many women’s designs.

In 2024 Michelle reached out to us here at Cushendale to get involved in the Project and bring the folklore of Brigid’s Cloak to life through the handcrafting of a truly Irish cloak.



The outer fabric of the cloak is made with Cushendale superfine tweed which is uniquely made from Irish Wool from Ireland's only protected indigenous sheep. Its dark slate colour made from blue and grey wool reminding us of the many sacred wells and waterways associated with Brigid

The lining is made using Irish linen from Emblem Irish Weavers in Wexford adorned with unique screen prints by over 50 of the participants, hailing from Ireland, England, America, Costa Rica, Germany, France and South Africa.




The clasp which brings the whole piece together was handmade especially for the cloak by Michelle Dunne at Strong Roots Jewellery in Waterford.  The detail of the clasp incorporates symbols linked to Brigid such as the  oak leaves and Brigid’s fire encasing a blue gemstone. 



 After months of planning, creativity and channelling of power and input from so many women, Michelle held an event at Butler Gallery Kilkenny on February 20th to celebrate the finished cloak.

Womens’ circle facilitator Maura Brennan led the celebration, bringing the energy of Brigid into the room.  She invited all the attendees to gather in circle and to note the beauty in their day. Local bard Frances Moore read her poem, The Giving, in honour of Brigid and her powerful cloak.


Fiona Sullivan, lead seamstress on the project, was one of the first to wear the cloak and give it an inaugural whirl.  Many of the other participants followed suit, revelling in the joy of wearing this legacy garment. The morning was one filled with emotion, pride, openness and celebration.  It was a truly moving moment for everyone in the room.



Now with the Cloak assembled, Michelle plans to invite women from across Kilkenny and Ireland to gather in sewing circles and embellish the cloak with embroidered designs associated with Brigid, such as dandelions, fire and oak leaves.  This coming together of women will futher enhance the richness of creativity and energy of the cloak, another opportunity for more women to impart their skills and creativity, adding to the richness of this Cloak.

This Cloak represents everything that is indigenous, strong and powerful of Ireland, St Brigid and women in our community.  From the raw materials used to the many hands that have and will touch it – this cloak embodies the power of human and community spirit to lift and raise one another.





If you would like to hear more about Michelle’s Brat Bríde sewing circles please follow her Instagram page @brat_bride








No more products available for purchase