Imbolc (a.k.a. Candlemas, Imbolg, St. Brighid's Day, et cetera)

(February 2--some traditions, February 1)

Imbolc is a Pagan Sabbat: a holiday celebrated by Wiccans, Witches, and many others whose religions fall under the umbrella of Earth spirituality and Paganism. It's a Goddess-honoring holiday that usually coincided with the first lactations of the livestock. This is the opening of spring and the origin of the popular "Groundhog Day."

Imbolc lore:

The Goddess recovers from the birth and the God is young. Imbolc is a purification, and a festival of light and fertility. It is a time to honor the Maiden aspect of life and to help call back the light to springtime.

Imbolc sentiments:

This is a time to celebrate the light and to honor the Maiden aspect of the Goddess, as well as the child aspect of the God. It is a time to purify, of new beginnings and such. It is a very joyous time, with much in the future to look forward to and sort of a playful feeling in the air. This is a time for making plans for the future, which will be encouraged to develop in future Sabbats.

Imbolc practices:

Imbolc is celebrated with symbolic new beginnings and sweeping out of the old. Many like to have self-dedication rituals and reinitiations at this time. Traditional activities are making candles, lighting a candle in a window and burning it until morning, using candles in magick and divination, doing a "spring cleaning" of the house, blessing seeds that are hoped to produce good plants for food and other things, re-stocking the magickal cabinet, and going out looking for signs of spring, collecting pebbles and other natural trinkets. Some people like to put a wheel symbol on their altar at this time of the year.

Some Imbolc Recipes:

Check out other Sabbats: Ostara¤Beltane¤Litha¤Lughnasadh¤Mabon¤Samhain¤Yule

Imbolc is originally an Irish holiday, celebrating the beginning of spring, and associated with the goddess Brigit, and thus later Saint Brigit.

There may have been a prescendent on the Coligny calendar; the month wherein Imbolc would fall is called Ogronios, possibly meaning "end of the cold". According to Cormac's Glossary, it’s also the feast of the goddess Brigit, patron of poets, smiths, and healers—one of the triple goddesses of Irish mythology, and a goddess of sovereignty who, in her marriage to Bres, stood as a bond between the Fomorians and the Tuatha Dé Danann, her own people. She is also one of the pan-Celtic goddesses of the ancient world, appearing also as Brigantia in Roman Britain, and in place names in Europe and the Isles.

In the Christian era, the time was associated with the feasts of Candlemas and St. Blaise’s Day—both of which involved the use of candles and their flames as blessings. When I was a child in the Catholic Church, February 3rd meant a special Mass that involved being blessed around the throat by crossed candles; in former times, these candles were lit. Meanwhile, Candlemas is associated with the purification of the Virgin Mary after giving birth to Jesus. The connection of Mary and Brigit can also be tied to the idea of Brigit as Jesus’ wet nurse—and so it’s not surprising that Brigit would eventually share her holiday with Mary.

Going further with the idea of purification, I’ve seen research—-I think it was in the journal Ériu—-that the word Imbolc, from Oimlec, may originally refer to purification, possibly through bathing in milk. It does not refer to the lactating of ewes or the birth of lambs, despite the folk etymology. This connection to milk and cows again connects to Saint Brigit, to whom the cow was sacred.

The idea of purification in early February can be tied to other IE cultures, particularly the Roman februum—-the time of purification, which gave its name to February. To have a goddess of healing associated with this holiday is not surprising—-Imbolc is a time of healing, of purifying, of preparations for spring.

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