Imbolc, or Imbolg as it is sometimes called, is an ancient Pagan festival, celebrated on 1-2 February, to mark that winter is beginning to transform into spring. Although at this time of year it can feel as if the Earth is still firmly in the grip of icy winter, underneath the frozen soil, seeds are stirring, and the first bulbs are breaking the surface. Snowdrops, so prolific at this time of year, are one of my favourite flowers, bringing that promise of Spring on its way.

This festival, also known in some parts as the Feast of the Maiden, is where the first steps of the young Goddess are celebrated as she stirs the land into wakefulness once more. It is also known as Candlemas or Brigid’s Day (pronounced Breed). It is one of the four Celtic Fire festivals, commemorating the changing of the Goddess from the Crone (winter) to the Maiden (spring). It is celebrating the passing of winter and the first signs that spring is on its way. It is a time for planting new crops, ewes are lactating ready for the birth of their lambs, and to celebrate the re-birth of the sun.

The Celtic Goddess, Brigid, is the Goddess of fertility, midwifery, poetry, healing, smithcraft; basically anything you create with your hands, Brigid is the Goddess to be called upon to help. Imbolc marks the recovery time of the Goddess following the birth of the son at Yule. The sun/son-God is now a young boy, ready to start the year of growth again. The sun warms the earth and causes the seeds to sprout. The lengthening days waken the earth Goddess and everything begins to wake up again after the winter slumber.

This Sabbat is a purification time following winter, using the light of the sun. It is a time of both personal purification and transformation as well as that of the land. Traditionally, candles were lit in houses across the land to represent the coming of the light/sun and welcome both Brigid and the returning sun; white to represent Bridid and yellow for the sun. The ashes from the previous night’s hearthfire would be examined for any messages from the Goddess Brigid.
Nowadays it is traditional to light every lamp or light in the house at dusk on Imbolc, even if it is just for a few moments, to welcome Brigid and the return of the sun God. In old English, Imbolc represents ewes’ milk and also melting snows. A celebration feast themed around dairy products is appropriate at this time of year, as Imbolc is associated with milk for the newborn livestock, and also corn cakes, made with corn from the first and last harvests of the previous year.

Imbolc marks the mid-way point between winter and the spring solstice. In ancient times it must have felt that winter was never going to end; it is the coldest, darkest time of the year. So Imbolc is a reminder to everyone that winter does not last forever, and spring will soon be here. If we look hard, brush that layer of snow away, we can see shoots starting to grow, and hardy snowdrops flowering away.

Traditionally, corn dollies were made at this time of year, representing a hoped-for successful harvest for the coming year. The maiden aspect of the Goddess is honoured with the corn dollies and crosses, which would be placed in a basket with white flowers called Brigid’s bed, and then the young girls would take them around the village, receiving gifts from the householders. They represented prosperity and good fortune, and wishes for a bountiful harvest. Seeds would be blessed and the ground honoured ready for the new harvest.

On a personal level, it is a time of rebirth, growth and for planting the seeds of plans for the year, which have been planned during the winter slumber. It’s a wonderful time to meditate or do a path working to ensure a successful and prosperous coming year, for personal growth and for starting anew. If you would like to give it a try, click on this link Imbolc meditation and let me know how you get on!

Andrea Wisden

Founder Holistic Blogger & Soul Path Awakening

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