A doctor can hang a scarf outside their door too

Published date07 February 2023
Publication titleIrish Times (Dublin, Ireland)
Along with other saints, Brigid is associated with a number of "folk cures". Last week, professional mixed martial artist Conor McGregor reminded his many Instagram followers of the potential benefits of hanging a scarf or cloth outside their door on St Brigid's Eve. The Crumlin native posted a picture of himself at a church service alongside his son Conor jnr with a message celebrating the eve of the Irish saint

"Before you go to bed tonight hang a scarf or a cloth outside your door," he wrote. They are known as a "Bratog" and it is said the saint will pass and bless them. "And in the morning this special garment will protect the wearer from ill-health and also has been known to cure headaches and sore throats."

Folklorist Michael Fortune, writing on the RTÉ News website, says the tradition involves the hanging out of a cloth/rag/ribbon on your washing line, "so that when St Brigid would pass it that evening after sunset, she would bless it. The colour varied around the country, some used blue, more white and others green This rag/cloth is also known as Brat Bríde (Brigid's Cloak) and these would be kept up and used for cures, mostly headaches, over the coming 12 months."


Some folk cures have a regional emphasis. The website duchas.ie has a description of a St Brigid's well in Clondalkin, Co Dublin. The contributor says it is situated in a lane called Brideswell Lane about 200 yards from the road. "Many people have been cured of sore eyes by going to this well three times and bathing the eyes three times at each visit. When finished they hang the cloth up on the bush," they write. Whether the cloth refers to a Brat Bríde isn't made clear.

But the description helps emphasise a tension that can exist between modern medicine and folk (or indigenous) medicine. A doctor hearing the story of the St Brigid's Well cure would wince at the thought of infection from conjunctivitis being readily passed from "cure" recipient...

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