Sunday, 9 January 2011


—by Míchealín Daugherty

“And she shall arise like a shining sun”
—The Book of Lismore
Celebrated on February 2
Imbolc, a Celtic word meaning “in the belly,” is a celebration of the first feral stirrings of Mother Earth as She responds to the wake-up call of Spring.  The “belly” being referred to is that of the Great Mother.  
Imbolc is also called Oimelc, Brighid, Imbolg, Imbollgc Brigantia, Lupercus and Wives’ Feast Day.  It is also known as Candlemas or St. Brighid's Day (its Christianized titles) and Groundhog Day.  
Imbolc's primary themes are purification, inspiration and new beginnings.  It is a time of renewal, dedication and purification – a time to rededicate and purify our surroundings and ourselves in preparation for the coming Spring.  Imbolc is also a celebration of knowledge and understanding, and a celebration of the beauty and mysteries of life.    
New Life
This time of year has traditionally been the lactation period of ewes and cows.  Ewes are unable to produce milk until after they bear their young, which occurs at this time.  Since milk was very important to the basic survival of the Celtic tribes, this was a time of great joy, and signified that the end of a long winter was in sight.  At Imbolc, we are one with Nature, as we await the coming of Spring, the Vernal Equinox, when day and night are equal; light has vanquished the dark and a new change is upon the land. 
At sunset on Imbolc, it is traditional to light every lamp or candle in the house in honor of the Earth's rebirth – asleep during the Winter, awakening during the Spring. 
Imbolc Also known as Candlemas or St Brighid's Day (its Christianised titles) and Groundhog Day:
If Candlemas be bright and fair
Winter will have another year
But if it be dark with clouds and rain
Winter is gone, and will not come again
Snowflakes, crystals, lambs, milk, Brighid's Cross, white flowers, orange or yellow candles, alder, hazel, wisteria, myrrh, basil, rowan
Imbolc is  a celebration of knowledge and understanding, and a celebration of the beauty and mysteries of life. Its themes include purification, inspiration, new beginnings.

The Celtic Goddess Brighid (Brid, Bride, Brigante) presides over Imbolc.  She is the radiant triple-Muse Goddess, and she is also a fertility-bringer.  At Imbolc, Brighid is pregnant with the seed of the Sun, ready for new life to awaken within the Earth.  She was later adopted by Christianity as a Saint. 

Brighid's CrossBrid's Bed. In some circles, 'Brid's bed,' the union place of the Goddess and the Sun God, is created and placed within the circle, inviting the fertility of life that begins anew around us. This is done by creating a female figure of straw or a 'Brid's Cross,' and laying it in a basket at the center of the circle with a phallic wand across it to symbolize the impregnation of the Mother.
Snow. Reverence of the snow is also a part of this celebration, and this festival falls during the Snow Moon. Some symbols or tools to have for present for ritual include a representation of a white flower or a snowflake and an orange or yellow candle to symbolise the renewing energy of the Sun’s rebirth.
Candles, Fire. Imbolc is also a fire festival, with significance placed upon the Light of fire, to celebrate the ever-increasing light at this time — symbolic of the Earth working Her way back to Spring. It is tradition for every candle or lamp in the house to be lit for a little while welcoming the return of the Sun. A figure or person representing Brighid is sometimes crowned with a wreath of candles. 
Ceremonies. Some circles make a ceremony of 'charming the plow,' in which they bless a spade or shovel with oil or wine, and then use it to dig a hole in the earth and bury an offering to the Mother.
During the Imbolc ritual, most traditions also pour milk onto the earth as a ‘thanksgiving’ to Brighid; and as an offering of nurturing with hope of the return of fertility to the Earth and its people. According to some sources, alder and hazel are coming into bloom and make great offerings. In the Celtic Tree Calendar, rowan is associated with the festival for Imbolc. It is a member of the apple family, and if you cut across the berries horizontally, a tiny, pentagram-shaped seed container will be revealed, much like a wee version of the one found inside an apple.
Female Bonding. Brighid's Day is perfect day for female bonding.  In some traditions, all the females go to stay at a friend's house and there they light the candles to Brighid. The the eldest participant takes the role of The Great Mother and is festooned in white flower petals beside the fire place; and the milk is presented before the fire to all present.  The Great Mother is blessed by all present; and then they finish up by eating half- moon cakes covered in white icing and sprinkling the remnants in the garden for the wild life to finish up. 'Tis a lovely sacred occasion! 
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