Light has returned to the world and the first signs of spring are upon us. During Imbolc we celebrate the passing of winter and the start of the new agricultural year; the trees are budding, crocus flowers are popping up through the snow and the birds are beginning their journey home. Today we will discuss the history of the fire festival, how it’s celebrated today and how you can join in at home!
HISTORY AND LORE.
Imbolc goes by many times; Brigid’s Day, Candlemas and more. It’s primies is always the same though, Imbolc is one of the four Celtic fire festivals, this fire festival is one of purification and renewal after the shut-in life of winter. It is the day that we celebrate the passing of Winter and make way for Spring. Today we honor our returning Sun through celebration.
Imbolc marks the recovery of the Goddess after giving birth to the young God. The lengthening periods of light awaken Her. By the time she awakens the God is a young, lusty boy, but His power is felt in the longer days. The warmth and light He brings to the world fertilizes the Earth (the Goddess), and causes seeds to germinate and sprout and so the earliest beginnings of Spring occur.
This is a Sabbat of purification after the shut-in life of Winter, through the renewing power of the Sun. It is also a festival of light and of fertility, once marked in Europe with huge blazes, torches and fire in every form.
Fire here represents our own illumination and inspiration as much as light and warmth. Some female Witches follow the old Scandinavian custom of wearing crowns of lit candles, but many more carry tapers during their invocations.
Imbolc is also a day of celebrating the Celtic Goddess Brigid. Brigid is the Goddess of Poetry, Healing, Smithcraft, and Midwifery. If you can make it with your hands, Brigid rules it. She is a triple Goddess, so we honor her in all her aspects – maiden, mother and crone.
Around 432 AD when the Irish were convered to Christianity, the church began to find thatit was hard to convince Pagans to get rid of their old gods, so the church allowed them to worship the Celtic Goddess Brigid as a saint–thus the creation of the Christian counterpart to Imbolc “St. Brigid’s Day” was born.
You can see this history in the names of many churches which bear her name. For many Christians, February 2nd continues to be celebrated as Candlemas, 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 is February 2nd. Candles were blessed, there was much feasting to be had, and the drab days of February suddenly seemed a little brighter. In Catholic churches, the focus of this celebration is St. Brighid.
RITUAL AND OBSERVANCE.
It is traditional upon Imbolc, at sunset or just after ritual, to light every lamp in the house – if only for a few moments. Or, light candles in each room in honour of the Sun’s rebirth. Alternately, light a kerosene lamp with a red chimney and place this in a prominent part of the home or in a window.
If snow lies on the ground outside, walk in it for a moment, recalling the warmth of summer, with your projective hand, trace an image of the Sun on the snow.
Other ways to celebrate include:
- Decorate the alter with the colors and herbs of Imbolc
- Take a walk at sunrise or sunset and contemplate your plans for spring
- Make a Brigid doll or Brigids cross
- Spring clean your home
- Host a bonfire and invite your friends and family to celebrate winters end
- Sweep the home (out the front door only)
SYMBOLS: The sun, lightblubs, candles, torches, Brigid’s cross
COLORS: Gold, red, orange, yellow, white, pink
ANIMALS: Bears, deer, lamb, sheep, goats, cow
GODDESSES: Brigid, Cerridwen. Persephone, Demeter, Venus, Gaia
GODS: Apollo, Dionysus, the Green Man, Eros, Pan
INCENSE: Jasmine, Frankincense, Lavender, Gardenia and other floral scents.
CANDLES: Gold, white, orange, red, yellow
PLANTS: Bay. lavender, blueberries, rosemary, thyme, basil
STONE: Topaz, garnet, ruby, emerald, opal
ALTAR DECOR: Milk jars, crafts, fresh flowers, candles, incense, acorns, snow in a jar, sun dials
FOODS: Spiced wine, curry, cheese, cakes, dairy products, white meats