10 things you may want to learn about, Imbolc
‘Take pleasure in the journey, for arriving, is its end.’
10 things you may wish to learn about this beautiful, gentle time of year that is celebrated on the 1st or 2nd February depending on how you personally feel. I celebrate this day on the 2nd. The lights that I put up to bring light over the Christmas period on my tree outside and around my living space, have remained up and are put on at night, to remind us that the light is coming.
On the 2nd February, they are taken down. The light, is obvious now with extra daylight, and the coming of the spring is everywhere with snowdrops popping their heads out, in some cases through thick snow; but they are there, along with crocus’ and daffodils and buds on the trees. The world is waking up after its long dark slumber.
- Imbolc, also known as, Oimelc, Festival of Bride (pronounced Breed), Festival of Bridgit & Candlemas.
- The word, ‘Imbolc’ means, ‘In the belly’ whilst, ‘Oimelc’ means, ‘ewe’s milk’. These words refer to the fact that many ewes are pregnant at this time, and many have early lambs in January if it has been a mild winter. Imbolc is the awakening of the earth to new life.
- During this time, in Pagan belief, the Mother lets go of her crone role and becomes a maiden again, dressed in white to symbolise her purity. The Sun God who was reborn at Yule and regained his powers from his brother, the Holly King, is now raised as a young man, full of vigour and he begins his wooing of the maiden.
- In ancient Rome, this festival was known as ‘the festival of Pan’ and the priests of Pan, known as, Luperci would run through the streets dressed in goatskins, whipping the people as they went, offering this as a blessing from the gods. The women would make sure they were whipped by these priests, who hoped this would make them fertile for the coming year.
- In many parts of Britain, you will find wells dedicated to Bridgit or Bride that were Christianised and became St Bridgit. Originally, these healing wells would have been worshipped and used by women to connect with the Goddess. Offerings were given during this time especially, and in some parts of the country, the wells are still decorated and offerings given. If there is a tree nearby, they may be adorned with scraps of fabric as ‘wishes’ and ‘blessings’.
I personally never do such a thing as these are not friendly to the environment. I offer a hair from my head which I tie on the tree or something that can go back into nature, like flowers or leaves, woven into a plait, before given to the well or tree.
- Many people will do a ‘spring clean’ during this time of year. It not only cleanses old, stagnant energy from your home, it tells the universe that you are ready to release the old, and invite the new into your life. I recommend doing it on a bright, sunny day. Light a white candle and get rid of everything that does not serve your best interest – yes, even the dress you’ve save for years, believing you will fit into it again! Get rid. It is old energy that is not helping your flow. IF you do lose weight, buy yourself something else! Open all the windows and doors once you’ve cleaned and recycled and thank your house for being your home.
- Imbolc is an ‘old Irish’ word, coming from, Imb-fholc which means to wash one’s self, as many would ritually cleanse themselves during this time for the coming year.
- February 2nd is celebrated in America and is known as, ‘Groundhog day’. Beginning in 1887 it is believed that a groundhog can predict the coming weather by its actions on exiting its burrow. If it sees its own shadow then that decides if winter stays or spring comes. A film with Bill Murray was a big hit in the 1990’s and tells the story of ‘Punxsutawney Phil’ in Pennsylvania
- Candlemas is the Christianised version of Imbolc and is celebrated on 2nd February. As with all Christian celebrations, they incorporated Pagan rituals and symbols to help convert the early Pagans, and they remain to this day. Candlemas can be traced back to the 4th Century as a purifying ceremony to cleanse the people for the coming light after winter’s darkness. Candles were lit to honour the light and Candlemas may be adapted from the Roman festival, Februalia, in which purification and cleansing were the major components.
- Brigid the Goddess was worshiped during this time of year specifically, invoking fertility blessings for both the land and the people. Brigid was worshipped by the Celts, but particularly the order of the Filid, the poets and historians of the tribes of Ireland and Britain. She is considered one of the most powerful Celtic gods, being the daughter of the oldest god, Dagda of the Tuatha du Danann. It is said that she was born with flames in her hair (ouch!) and drank the milk from a mystical cow.