Imbolc…the time between Winter & Spring!

February 1 through sundown February 2. Based on a Celtic tradition, Imbolc was meant to mark the halfway point between winter solstice and the spring equinox in Neolithic Ireland and Scotland. The holiday is celebrated by Wiccans and other practitioners of neopagan or pagan-influenced religions. Imbolc is just one of several pre-Christian holidays highlighting some aspect of winter and sunlight, and heralding the change of seasons.

ORIGINS OF IMBOLC

The celebration of Imbolc dates back to the pre-Christian era in the British Isles.

The earliest mentions of Imbolc in Irish literature date back to the 10th century. Poetry from that time relates the holiday to ewe’s milk, with the implication of purification.

It’s been speculated that this stems from the breeding cycle of sheep and the beginning of lactation. The holiday was traditionally aligned with the first day of spring and the idea of rebirth.

We honor the goddess Brigid at this time of the year goddess of fertility and life.

This holiday is also known as Candlemas, or Brigid’s (pronounced BREED) Day. One of the 4 Celtic “Fire Festivals. Commemorates the changing of the Goddess from the Crone to the Maiden. Celebrates the first signs of Spring. Also called “Imbolc” (the old Celtic name). Brigid, who was evoked in fertility rites and oversaw poetry, crafts and prophecy. Brigid was worshipped by the Filid, a class of poets and historians among the Celts of ancient Ireland and Britain. Brigid was considered one of the most powerful Celtic gods, the daughter of the Dagda, the oldest god in the Celtic pantheon Tuatha du Danann. She had two sisters also named Brigid (though it’s speculated that these sisters are meant to symbolize different aspects of the same goddess.)

It is traditional upon Imbolc, at sunset or just after ritual, to light every lamp in the house – if only for a few moments. Or, light candles in each room in honour of the Sun’s rebirth. Alternately, light a kerosene lamp with a red chimney and place this in a prominent part of the home or in a window. If snow lies on the ground outside, walk in it for a moment, recalling the warmth of summer. With your projective hand, trace an image of the Sun on the snow.

This is the seasonal change where the first signs of spring and the return of the sun are noted, i.e. the first sprouting of leaves, the sprouting of the Crocus flowers etc. In other words, it is the festival commemorating the successful passing of winter and the beginning of the agricultural year. This Festival also marks the transition point of the threefold Goddess energies from those of Crone to Maiden.

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Ritual for Imbolc/Candlemas

Supplies: Symbol of the season, such as a white flower, snow in a crystal container, also needed, an orange candle anointed with cinnamon, frankincense or rosemary oil (unlit), red candle to represent the elements, and your ritual supplies.

Arrange the altar, light the candles and censer, and cast the Circle.

Invoke the Goddess and God.

Say such words as the following:
“This is the time of the feast of torches,
When every lamp blazes and shines
To welcome the rebirth of the God.
I/we celebrate the Goddess,
I/we celebrate the God;
All the Earth celebrates
Beneath its mantle of sleep.”

Light the orange taper from the red candle on the altar. Slowly walk the circle clockwise, bearing the candle before you. Say these or similar words:

“All the land is wrapped in winter.
The air is chilled and
Frost envelopes the Earth.
But Lord of the Sun,
Horned One of animals and wild places,
Unseen you have been reborn
Of the gracious Mother Goddess,
Lady of all fertility.
Hail Great God!
Hail and welcome!”

Stop before the altar, holding aloft the candle. Gaze at its flame. Visualize your life blossoming with creativity, with renewed energy and strength.

If you need to look into the future or past, now is an ideal time.

Works of magic, if necessary, may follow.

Celebrate the Simple Feast.

Thank the Goddess and God.

Release the Circle.

Imbolc Traditions and Symbols

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Brigid Corn Dolly – a very old custom involved making a “Brigid” corn dolly that can be placed in a “Bride’s bed” to bring fertility and good fortune to the home.  If you made a “Corn Mother” at Lammas, you may simply re-use it.  Dress the Corn Mother as a bride in colours of white, red and or gold, and your Harvest Crone transforms herself into the Brigit Spring Bride. Place the Bride in a “Brigit’s bed” along with a priapic wand to symbolize fertility.  A priapic wand is a be-ribboned fruitwood wand with a pine cone on the end which symbolizes the God.

Brigid’s Bed – to show your hospitality and to encourage the Goddess to spend the night at your home, create a “Brigid’s Bed” near the hearth fire.  By inviting Brigid to stay overnight in your home you’re symbolically asking that her powers of fertility, blessing and healing be with your family all year long.  A Brigid’s bed can be a pretty wooden or cardboard box, a wicker basket or anything large enough to hold your Brigit corn dolly.  Be sure to decorate it with ribbons, flowers, herbs etc. and place a comfy blanket on the bottom of the bed. Don’t forget to place the priapic wand in the bed so that the Goddess will not be lonely.

Hearthfire  – the hearth fire is sacred to Brigid and is her altar in every home.  At Candlemas, in the depth of winter, the fire was more important than ever.  It was not allowed to go out and in the evening the fire was smoored ( covered with ash to preserve the hot coals) by the lady of the house.

Brigid’s Crosses – are a form of woven straw or rushes symbolizing the Sun and used as talismans to bring fertility, prosperity and protection to the home.  They would be created at Candlemas and hung on the door, near the hearth, under the eaves or in the barn to bring luck and protection.

Burning the Yule Greens– the evergreens for Yuletide decoration are gathered and burned by Candlemas.  It is a symbolic way to let go of the old year and make way for the new.

Red and White – white symbolize snow, red symbolizes the hearth fire, red and while may also symbolize the ewe’s birthing blood on the snow.  White is the colour of the Maiden Goddess and Red the colour of the Mother Goddess.  White stands for purity, red for courage.

Springs and Wells – toss coins in wells springs, fountains or any running water as an offering to the Goddess Brigid

Herbs – Angelica, basil, bay laurel, blackberry, celandine, coltsfoot, heather, iris, myrrh, snowdrops, tansy, violets, and all white or yellow flowers.

Incense – Basil, myrrh, frankincense, wisteria, jasmine, camphor, cinnamon, and lotus.

Stones – Amethyst, bloodstone, garnet, onyx, ruby, turquoise

Colours –  White, red, pink, yellow

So how will you be celebrating Imbolc for all our Northern Hemisphere folks…..I know I am re setting up my alter and looking to bring bits of light into the house to represent the coming of spring…I am excited that after all the hiccups I can finally have a space for all our things and unbox them now that were all settled in.

Resource and information from:

  1. https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/imbolc
  2. https://sacredwicca.com/imbolc
  3. http://www.thewhitegoddess.co.uk/the_wheel_of_the_year/imbolc.asp

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