Imbolc, also known as Brigid’s Day or The Feast of Brigid, is the sabbat (pagan holiday) between the winter solstice, Yule, and the spring equinox, Ostara.
Imbolc is celebrated by some pagans on February 1 and by others on the same day as Candlemas, February 2. Many pagans use the holidays “Candlemas” and “Imbolc” interchangeably, while some believe that Candlemas is a later, Christianized interpretation of the holiday.
Imbolc is the beginning of the transformation of winter into spring. It is a fire festival that has its roots in ancient Celtic practices. In those times, rural farmers would have celebrated—and been encouraged by—reaching the midpoint to spring, after a long, difficult winter.
After Yule, days became increasingly longer and warmer, leading up to the spring equinox. Lambs conceived late in the fall would be born five months later, starting in early February, and this meant additional sustenance in the form of sheep’s milk. Imbolc (pronounced “immol’g”) actually means, “in the belly”, in reference to the pregnancy of the sheep and the upcoming birth of spring.
All of this meant that Imbolc was a harbinger of spring, light, and warmth, a little light at the end of a long, cold, dark tunnel, and a welcome milestone in the wheel of the year.
The Goddess Brigit
Brigit (or Brigid) is a powerful Celtic goddess who is often depicted as the three aspects: maiden, mother, and crone. Among other things, Brigit represents fire, the hearth, fertility and childbirth, and transformation and new beginnings.
Brigit was a central figure in the Celtic belief system, so when the Romans determined to Christianize Ireland, “St. Brigid” was created. It was said that St. Brigid was born on February 1, Candlemas Eve.
As a fire deity associated with hearths, candles, light and flames, Brigit became linked with the fire festival Imbolc, and the growing light at the end of winter. When the Christians created Candlemas, it, too, was associated with fire, flames, and candles (which were welcome in a still dark, dreary winter).
Gradually, Goddess Brigit, Imbolc, Saint Brigid’s Feast, and Candlemas, all merged to become one midwinter fire festival, in the practice of many pagans.
Ways To Celebrate Imbolc
Remember that the theme of Imbolc is: the transformation of winter into spring, fire and light, new beginnings, and the goddess Brigit. Clean your home and/or begin preparing your yard for a spring garden. Make plans for new ventures (or new gardens). Invite friends over for a seasonal potluck feast and light lots of candles. Burn a fire in your fireplace or outside in a fire pit. Create or decorate an altar especially for Brigit. Set out an offering of milk (cow, goat or sheep). Give thanks that winter is halfway over and spring is almost here!
As always, there are no absolutes, rights or wrongs when it comes to personal spirituality. Experiment and develop your own magick practice that feels best to you.
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