Thursday, 20 January 2011
Imbolc translates as 'in the belly', so this should give you some idea of what this festival is about - the early stirrings of Spring in the womb of the Earth. The seeds are starting to stir in the ground, despite the cold.
This is the festival that celebrates the beginning of spring, the first signs of life now beginning to emerge. Also spelled Imbolg, pronounced im-olk, or Oimelc in Gaelic, it is often known as Brighid's Day.
Oimelc, means 'in milk' This refers to the beginning of lactation in cows and ewes, as this is the time of year that calves and lambs are born. It is a Fire festival but with the emphasis on Light, celebrating it's return as the days grow longer with the return of the Sun.
To the Romans, this time of year halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox was known as Lupercalia.
The ancient Egyptians celebrated this time of year as the Feast of Nut, whose birthday falls on February 2 (Gregorian calendar). According to the Book of the Dead, Nut was seen as a mother-figure to the sun god Ra, who at sunrise was known as Khepera and took the form of a scarab beetle.
When Ireland converted to Christianity, it was hard to convince people to get rid of their old gods, so the church allowed them to worship the goddess Brighid as a saint, thus the creation of St. Brighid's Day.
For Christians, February 2nd continues to be celebrated as Candelmas, the feast of purification of the Virgin. By Jewish law, it took forty days after a birth for a woman to be cleansed following the birth of a son. Forty days after Christmas, the birth of Jesus is February 2nd. Candles were blessed and there was much feasting to be had.
February is known as a month when love begins anew, in part to the widespread celebration of Valentine's Day. In some parts of Europe, there was a belief that February 14th was the day that birds and animals began their annual hunt for a mate. Valentine's Day is named for the Christian priest who defied Emperor Claudius II's edict banning young soldiers from marrying. In secret, Valentine "tied the knot" for many young couples. Eventually, he was captured and executed on Feb. 14, 269 C.E. Before his death, he smuggled a message to a girl he had befriended while imprisoned - the first Valentine's Day card.
According to the Carmina Gadelica, the Celts celebrated an early version of Groundhog Day on Imbolc too – only with a serpent.
The Irish goddess Brighid is the keeper of the sacred flame, the guardian of home and hearth. To honor her, purification and cleaning are a wonderful way to get ready for the coming of Spring. In addition to fire, she is a goddess connected to inspiration and creativity.
Imbolc is traditionally a time for purification, which has given rise to spring-cleaning! Brush those cobwebs away and start afresh.
Bring the Light in to your home! Lighting candles in every window is traditional, as is leaving them to burn down.
Colours - white, pale blue, pale green, yellow, orange, red, brown
Stones - quartz, tigers eye, amber, fire opal, rubellite, topaz, coral, amethyst, ruby
Herbs - chamomile, coltsfoot, coriander, dragons blood, sage, garlic, iris, lemon, rosehips, vervain, voilet
Deity - Aradia, Aenghus Og, Bast, Brighid, Ceres, Cerridwn, Eros, Faunus, Gaia, Hestia, Pan, Venus, Vestia
Symbols - sheep, besoms, white flowers, candles, Brighids crosses, ploughs.