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 History/Culture: Imbolc

HolidaysBy Rhiannonbrighid

Imbolc is the Pagan festival that celebrates the coming of spring. Imbolc is also known as Candlemas, Oimealg, Imbolg, Brigantia, Lupercus, Disting, and Lupercalia. The festival is celebrated on February 1st or 2nd, or when the sun is at 15 degrees Aquarius.

In Celtic lore, the dark winter months were ruled by a wicked old hag named Cailleach. By the time Imbolc rolls around, she leaves, and the goddess, Brighid, awakens. There is an old myth that the people would pour milk on the ground to put Cailleach to rest and welcome Brighid. February is a very cold month where food ran low, fire wood was harder to obtain, and hunting usually proved to be unsuccessful. Keeping the hearth was very important to families. Brighid, a fire goddess, was a deity that families paid homage to in hopes that she would protect their hearth and fire. ...

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Many Pagans and Wiccans still pay homage to Brighid. They decorate their altars, sing songs and chants, and hold ceremonies in her honor.

Imbolc shares this day with another popular "holiday," Groundhog Day. An old tradition still takes place today, while many people tune in to their local news channel to watch it take place. A few men with stove hats take a groundhog out of his dwelling (or cage) and check to see if the groundhog can see its shadow. Whether the groundhog sees the shadow or not determines how many more weeks of winter are left.

The other holiday celebrated at the same time is Candlemas, which is a Christian holiday. The Christians have Christianized Brighid into St. Brighid, the supposed midwife to the Virgin Mary. Midwives are symbolic of birth and new life. This day is also to remember Jesus being presented at the temple and the ritual purification of the Virgin (apparently, Jewish law states that women were considered to be unclean after giving birth). If you are a Christian (as I used to be), you might remember attending church on Candlemas and having your throat blessed with candles. This ritual was started because throat illness was very common in February, and it still is today.

Brighid, whether you recognize her as a goddess or a saint, is the protectress of all in the harsh winter months. She takes time every year to send you love and to keep you safe and warm. Make sure that you, too, remember her at this time of the year and to say something as simple as "thank you" to her.

Here are just a few simple ways to decorate your altar (or table) in honor of Brighid, or St. Brighid:

- set out white candles
- make paper snowflakes
- set out a bowl/glass of milk
- keep a picture of Brighid or St. Brghid near your altar or table
- light a fire in your fireplace, if at all possible

Have a safe and beautiful Imbolc, everyone!

Works Cited

1. Cabot, Laurie. "Power of the Witch." pages 122-123.
2. Ravenwolf, Silver. "Solitary Witch." pages 80-81.


01 February 2016 [previously posted]

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