Imbolc / Candlemas

Winter Moon above Glastonbury Tor

Imbolc, in the Celtic seasonal calendar marked the beginning of the lambing season and signaled the beginning of Spring and the stirrings of new life. It is Feile Brighde, the ‘quickening of the year’. The original word Imbolg means ‘in the belly’, and therein you have the underlying energy. All is pregnant and expectant – and only just visible if at all, like the gentle curve of a ‘just-showing’ pregnancy. It is the promise of renewal, of hidden potential, of earth awakening and life-force stirring. Here is hope. We welcome the growth of the returning light and witness Life’s insatiable appetite for rebirth.

It is time to let go of the past and to look to the future, clearing out the old, making both outer and inner space for new beginnings. This can be done in numerous ways, from spring cleaning your home to clearing the mind and heart to allow inspiration to enter for the new cycle. (‘Spring cleaning was originally a nature ritual’ – Doreen Valiente). it’s a good time for wish-making or making a dedication.

Imbolc is traditionally the great festival and honouring of Brigid (Brighid, Bride, Brigit), so loved as a pagan Goddess that her worship was woven into the Christian church as St Bridget. She is a Goddess of healing, poetry and smithcraft. She is a Goddess of Fire, of the Sun and of the Hearth. She brings fertility to the land and its people and is closely connected to midwives and new-born babies. She is the Triple Goddess, but at Imbolc she is in her Maiden aspect.

Some of the symbols attributed to Brigid are:

The Snowdrop The first gift of Spring in the bleakness of Winter.

The Swan The swan mates for life and represents loyalty, fidelity and faithfulness. Swan feathers are a powerful amulet.

The Flame Imbolc is a Fire Festival and fire of all kinds is associated with Brigid – the fire of creativity, the protective hearth fire, and her fire wheel – the Brigid Cross, which heralds her as a Sun Goddess.

Brigid’s Cross This is a traditional fire wheel symbol – found at the hearths of homes throughout Ireland and beyond as a symbol of protection. A customer in the shop recounted finding a hearth in Ireland, in recent years, adorned with over 200 Brigid Crosses – 200 years in the life of a hearth and a family, overlit and protected by Brigid.

Brigid Doll A very old tradition involved the making of a Brigid doll which can be included in ceremony and/or placed in ‘Bride’s Bed’ to bring fertility and good fortune to the home.

The Serpent In Celtic mythology Brigid was associated with an awakening hibernating serpent which emerged from its lair at Imbolc. Traditionally serpents were associated with creativity and inspiration – the powerful Kundalini energy of the Eastern Mysteries. Paths of earth energy were called serpent paths and at Imbolc they are stirred from their slumber.

Sheep Brigid’s festival is at the beginning of lambing – eat ewe’s milk cheese!

Imbolc Colours White and silver for purity, green for the fresh burst of life.


1 Comment

  1. Alison Leonard said,

    February 15, 2010 at 9:24 am

    Dear Friends,

    Some years ago I wrote a poem about Bridget, the Celtic goddess of smith-craft, healing and poetry whose time of the year this is – Imbolc.

    The poem is a sonnet – a very traditional, literary form of 14 lines with a strict rhyme scheme. (For the poetry students among you, the rhyme-scheme here is ABBA, ABBA, CD, CD, EE – though some of them are half-rhymes).

    This strict form seems wonderfully inappropriate for the rebellious pagan heart, and I like the contrariness of that.

    Full Moon Bridget

    Pregnant as she is with silver fire
    gently she takes as gift my molten soul
    and channels it into her waiting mould.
    High above, the stars present a choir
    to sing the labour rising like a smoke
    from all the sweated achings of my heart
    there in the smelt: the rusted rock, the fraught
    old ore from my beginnings, each break
    of hope, each abandonment and fear.
    Pouring, melding in the silver air,
    it settles in her mould, and cools, and stills.
    Then she prises it, and hurls. It falls
    clang! on her anvil… I am taut, and taught
    that I was wracked, and now I can be wrought.

    Alison Leonard.

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