Imbolc (February 2)

Candlemas involves celebration if banishing the winter and welcoming the spring. Light a candle in every room of the house to welcome back the sun. At the time of Candlemas, the newborn sun god is seen as a small child nursing from his mother. At this phase of the cycle, winter is swept away and new beginnings are nurtured. Some Wiccan traditions and groups favor this time of year to initiations into the craft. The goddess becomes the maiden again as the wheel turns towards spring. This holiday is also known as Candlemas, or Brigid’s (pronounced BREED) Day. It is the day that we celebrate the passing of Winter and make way for Spring. It is the day we honor the rebirth of the Sun and we may visualize the baby sun nursing from the Goddess’s breast. It is also a day of celebrating the Celtic Goddess Brigid. Brigid is the Goddess of Poetry, Healing, Smithcraft, 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. This is a time for communing with her, and tending the lighting of her sacred flame. At this time of year, Wiccans will light multiple candles, white for Brigid, for the god usually yellow or red, to remind us of the passing of winter and the entrance into spring, the time of the Sun. This is a good time for initiations, be they into covens or self-initiations. Also known as Imbolc and Disting. It is a celebration of banishing the winter season, welcoming the change from old to new. Here we plant the “seeds” of our hopes and dreams for the coming summer months. Lavender and white candles can be burned in honor, good time for “spring” cleaning. This is a good time to restock your magical cabinet for what you will need in the coming months.

The “Feast of Lights” is one of the four pagan Greater Sabbats. It is also known as Candlemas or Imbolc. It is dedicated to the Goddess Brigid, the goddess of fire and inspiration.

Brigid ( Bride, Brigantia, Brighid and other variations of the name pronounced ‘Breed’) and the other goddesses including Dana, Anu, Arianrhod, Cerridwen, Modron, Epona, and others, all were originally one Great Mother. This is particularly the case in Celtic cultures. Incidentally there is much similarity between Brigid and Dana in Celtic mythology.

In Britain, Brigantia was a supreme, all embracing deity of the North Kingdom. She most closely kept her Great Mother form, that of earth, fertility, love, and war among other things. On the continent she was known as Brigindo or Berecyntia. In Gaelic areas she was the Goddess of fire, inspiration, healing, craftsmanship and childbirth. She was the patron of poets, smiths, doctors, of the heath, and of priest (both Druid and later Christian). Brigid was an expert in poetry, divination and prophecy.

Brigid was the daughter of Daghdha (Dagda) “The Good God” of the Tuatha. She was born at sunrise and fed by a supernatural cow. She was married to Bres of the Fomors and bore him one son Ruadam. When her son was killed in battle “Was the first time Ireland heard crying & shrieking”. She was one of the few Goddesses who was a very outspoken critic of war. She had two sisters both named Brigid and from their common name a single goddess to be called Brigid. This is an excellent example of the three fold goddess.

Despite her firm pagan roots, it is the Christian “St. Brighid” that is remembered the best. This is due to the lack of written word during the early Celtic Culture and may be also due to the Church of later days. However it is assumed that there is no clear cut distinction between the goddess and the saint as the two have been completely merged over the years.

The saints life infers a close contact with nature. Her feast day February 1, Candlemas, coincides with Imbolg, the pagan festival of spring. Legend has it that nineteen of her nuns and herself guarded a sacred fire, surrounded by hedges so that no man could enter. St. Bridget was said to have died about 525. Historical fact about her life consist mainly of anecdotes and miracle stories deeply rooted in pagan folklore. The fire goddess aspect appears in one story when a man accuse her of not being holy. To prove a point she puts a burning coal on her breast and walks from Ardagh to Killen without being burnt. One version also says that were she dropped the coal a spring appeared. She also had the power to multiply food and drink and could change her bath water into ale. These stories show a definite command over the elements. It’s also not surprising that Bridget’s cross is the swastika or fire wheel which is a central piece used at many Imbolg Sabbats.

Brigid is an excellent example of a goddess that cannot be banished from the dreams of men and women. An aspect of the Great Mother in which we can turn to in need or for inspiration. You may wonder why, in an article on Imbolg, I have included so much material on Brigid. The reason is, that it is her festival and in order to understand the significance of Imbolg we must have a better understanding of the Goddess involved.

To continue, Imbolg is the quickening of the year. The first stirrings inside the womb of the Earth Mother. The emphasis is on light as it begins to pierce the dark gloom of winter. It is a fire ritual too, but mainly a light ritual as it is the midpoint in the dark half of the year (the halfway point in the God’s predominance). Although it is in this the God’s segment of the year’s cycle, it is still very much a festival of the Goddess. A time of fertility of the earth and it’s creatures, a time of inspiration, and of the quickening of spirit that Spring brings. All these are features of the Goddess Brigid.

Today St. Brigid crosses are made of rushes or straw, a ceremony connected with the preparation of the seed grain for the growing season. This is a time to prepare for the new crops and to do the first plowing. In Scotland on St. Brigid’s Day, the women dress up a sheaf of oats in women’s clothing and place it in a basket, called “Brigid’s Bed”, beside a phallic club. The symbolism being, to create a proper place for the Goddess to be welcomed and an invitation for the fertilizing God to come and impregnate her. In Irish homes a person gathers rushes and upon entering the house is greeted “Welcome Brigid”. Holy water is sprinkled on the rushes and crosses are made. The remains are buried and the crosses from the previous year are burned. Ireland is also noted for its thousands of Brigid’s wells, near each, cloth can be seen tied to trees to invoke Brid’s help.

In ancient Rome, a fertility rite was also held in February (the month of ritual purification). At the beginning came Lupercalia when the priests of Pan, The Luperci, ran naked through the streets striking everyone with goatskin thongs. Those struck were believed to be made fertile.

The tradition of cleansing is still strong when it comes to Imbolg. It is a time of cleansing. A time to burn all holly, ivy, mistletoe, bay, and rosemary from the Yule season. It is a time to look to the future and clean up the past. A good time to burn all remains of previous work such as leftover wax and such. In Ireland the Christmas tree was kept until Candlemas to be burnt. If the needles were still green it was a sign of good luck in the year ahead. Another belief in Britain, Spain, France and Germany is that if the weather is good on Candlemas then more winter is yet to come. If it is a bad day then winter is over. Imbolg is the turning point between winter and spring and to be impatient is unlucky.

During most Imbolg rituals, the High Priestess invokes the God into the High Priest, instead of the High Priest invoking the Goddess into the High Priestess. This too, like Bride’s Bed, is symbolic of the seasonal invitation to the God to impregnate the Goddess. In Christian traditions a young girl wears a crown of lights to symbolize the extreme youth of the season. In many pagan circles it is the High Priestess who wears the crown because she represents the fertility of the Great Earth Mother.

I have spent over two decades researching Paganism, and more specifically Wicca, and have combined that information in my own personal Grimoire. Back then, I had never thought to share my knowledge with anyone other than my own children, so I never kept track of where my information came from specifically.  Now that I am sharing my knowledge with you, I want that known up front.  If I have included information that is yours, please contact me so we can work things out.  Again, no copyright infringement is intended on this site.