For this last #writingwednesday of January is an article, slightly edited from a previous overview of the festival sometimes referred to as Imbolc.
Imbolc, also known/celebrated as Imbolg, Oimelc, Candlemas, (St) Brigid’s Day, Groundhog Day, and the Festival of Nut, takes place around the 1st/2nd of February and is a festival marking a cross-quarter day in the wheel of the year, heralding the first signs of spring.
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This is a festival particularly associated with Brighid (Brigit, Bride, or Brigid), goddess of healing, smith craft, and poetry. She shares many aspects, some going so far as to say she was Christianised as St Brigid of Kildare.
Brighid of the sunrise, Rising in the morning, Rising with the springtime, Greening all the land Brighid’s Kiss, La Lugh, lyrics here
Imbolc is a festival associated with candles, milk, new beginnings, and poetry. The emphasis is on warmth and light and burgeoning spring, being the halfway point between Yule and the Spring Exquinox.
A few ideas on how to celebrate Imbolc:
Make and drink a milkshake
Buy and plant some spring flowers, such as crocuses and early daffodils
Take a photo of something that signifies approaching spring to you
Write a poem
Clean part or all of your home
Scatter nuts, a sign of prosperity, in a garden
Make a candle – try making ice candles. Bless your candles. Burn a candle and think about what you’re grateful for and what your plans are.
This article gives some background about the history of Imbolc and some of the other festivals taking place at this time.
In the Southern Hemisphere, it is the time of Lammas/Lughnasadh, which is the first of the harvest holidays.
More about Imbolc, symbolism, and ways to celebrate, under the cut
While winter is not yet over, early signs of spring can be seen. The natural world is reawakening.
“Now is the time to spot foxes foraging at dusk and dawn, even in towns and cities, and late at night, badgers may wander briefly from their dens in hopes of food or drink, and will welcome finding peanuts on their circuit. For those in the country, brown hares begin their mating rituals now to continue until spring is underway, with unreceptive females boxing off suitors, sometimes several at a time, and lapwings can sometimes be seen flocking in the fields.” Wise Woman’s Imbolc
This is a festival of milk, since Imbolc derives from the Gaelic word “oimelc” which means “ewes milk”. Herd animals have either given birth, or are about to birth, the first offspring of the year and hence have milk to give.
The Goddess Brighid (Brigid, Bride, etc) is honoured by many at this festival. She is known for healing, smith craft, and poetry. Imbolc was incorporated into the Church calendar as Candelmas and Brighid became Saint Brigid, renowned for her healing gifts; many wells and springs are named after her. About.com has an article about her Who Is Brighid and the History and Lore of Brighid’s Mantle.
There’s a list of other deities associated with Imbolc here
Lupercalia is also celebrated in February, 13-15th. Named for the She-Wolf who suckled Romulus and Remus it too is focused on cleansing and fertility – the pagan origins of Valentine’s day
Correspondences: Brighid’s cross, candles, poetry, agricultural tools, smith craft, milk, renewal, purification, fertility, yellow, pink, green, Basil, Rosemary, Bay, Oak, Strawberry.
There’s a longer list of correspondences here.
Sources and Further Reading
Previous Imbolc posts
Brigit of Kildare
Wise Woman’s Imbolc
About.com guide to Imbolc
the pagan origins of Valentine’s day