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Imbolc Introduction1

Imbolc Introduction1

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Published by: ericalborgers on Sep 09, 2008
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Imbolc Introduction
Copyright Lady Bridget 1997
Imbolc, Oimelc, Imbolg, or Candlemass (the Christianized version of the name) is thecelebration that occurs when the Sun reaches 15
Aquarius, and is therefore considered aMajor Sabbat. This date was traditionally celebrated on Feb 1st or 2nd, and is still notedtoday in our country as "Ground Hog's Day", which marks that there is only 6 more weeksof winter; we have reached the half-way point.There are some traditions that may say this holiday marks the beginning of Spring, but thisdoesn't hold up under scrutiny. Imbolc marks the middle of the winter season, just as Yulemarked the beginning, and Ostara will mark the beginning of Spring at the Equinox.The Celts marked this holiday as "Brigit's Day" or "Brid's Day" in Irish. Bridget is one of the few Pagan Dieties to have survived as Saints in the Christian religion. She was a verypowerful and meaningful Goddess, and there was no way to force the populace to give herup, therefore they canonized her as "Saint Brigit" and up until 1220 BCE, her shrine atKildare had a perpetual fire that was constantly tended by virgins, by the Priestesses of theGoddess, and after Christianity took over, it was continued by the virgin nuns. In the1960's after Vatican II, it was decided that Saint Brigit did not have enough evidence tocanonize her and then she was decanonized. However, in Ireland, she is still very muchreverenced, as she is by Wiccans, as the triple Goddess. One aspect ruled poetry, writing,inspiration, and music; one ruled healing and midwifery and herbology, and one ruled fire,and the arts of smithcraft. Incidentally, this holiday was also called by the Christians, theFeast of the Purification of Mary, for it was believed that women were "unclean" for sixweeks after giving birth. So since she had given birth at the Winter Solstice, this is the datewhen she would be purified. We look upon this as the time when the Goddess who gavebirth at the Winter Solstice, is now transformed in the Maiden once again.The Imbolc, or Oimelc, was the ancient Celtic festival celebrating the birth and fresheningof sheep and goats, the Feast of Milk. Brigit's feast day was called "La Feill Bhride" andrepresents the seed that is waiting to stir again. It is a time of great anticipation and thecelebration of possibilities. New life is about to awaken in the earth, the earth is furrowedand prepared to receive the seed.The Valentine's Day festivities were also connected to this time, being celebrated now onFeb 14th. There are different explanations for this day, the Christian church having one,and folklorists having another. The Christian version states that a Dr. Valentine in ancientGreece used to perform illegal Christian weddings and he was sacrificed to the lions on thisdate and became Saint Valentine. Therefore, hearts and flowers are exchanged to honor thelove that he had and the love of the Christian couples he joined in matrimony. Thefolklorists attribute this holiday to the "gallant" or "galantine" young men who pursuedtheir sweethearts at this time, since some Latin languages pronounced "g" as a "v" inearlier times. Thus, the "valentine" would be the attentions of a would-be suitor, and
whatever methods he might employ to win the maiden's heart!At this time the Roman's celebrated Lupercalia, which also was a fertility festival. ThePriests of Pan ran through the streets insuring women's fertility by spanking them withthongs made from goatskin and blessed by the local Strega. There are many cultures whichhad similar holiday practices at similar times. So much so that one has to wonder if thiswas due primarily to an agricultural society having a tendency to celebrate the same thingsat the same times of the year, or to an more universal religion or culture, having roots far inantiquity and being handed down over the centuries, changing only slightly over thegenerations?Our tradition celebrates with a Brid's Bed, in which our Brid's Doll, made of corn, orstraw, and dressed very prettily, is placed. She is the Maiden at this time, young, playful,and belonging only to herself, or virginal. Alongside her is placed an acorn wand, sizedaccording to the Doll's size, which represents the penis, the regenerative male force innature. We tell Brid our secret dreams and wishes that we want to see manifest. This is atime when we look to the future and dream! This is the Sabbat where we can plan aheadfor what "seeds" we will "sow" in the coming year, and how we plan to nurture our seedsfor a successful harvest later.Other customs include lit candles in every window of the house, and keeping a perpetualcandle on the Altar to Brid. Seeds are brought into circle to be blessed by the Goddess andthe Gods and to absorb the circle's vibrant energy. Chant, dance, and sing, and send energyback into the earth to help her awaken, so that Spring may once more bloom. Straw can bewoven into "Brid's Cross", "Bridget's Knot", or "Corn Maiden" and hung in the cornersof rooms, over doorways, and over beds, for fertility, prosperity, and for the blessings of theGoddess. Remember - fertility doesn't necessarily mean having babies! Fertility of themind, imagination, and of projects you are working to bring to "birth" are also desiredmanifestations, and will be blessed by fertility rituals. If you are of child-bearing abilityand do not wish to be pregnant, than stress that the fertility you desire is of the mind, or of a certain project, or your creativity, etc, and that is what you will manifest.It is also traditional in some covens for the Priestess to wear a crown of thirteen candles, alunar number, representing herself as the Maiden of Light. Some covens have a crownmade up, others use thirteen small electric bulbs instead of candles (which seems safer!).This is the Feast of Light, as the winter is dying away, and the sun grows stronger, and sobonfires are especially appropriate as well. In ages past, people jumped the bonefires to becured of winter colds and flu. This is the holiday to bring your candles to circle, to havethem be blessed by the Sabbat energies. We have small candles of each color in circle, andwe mark them appropriately with symbols. Then during the year, when we dress anycandle for any purpose, we add a few drops from our Imbolc candles, so that the Sabbatblessings and energy will also be added to the working.The candles, the bonefires, and the lights are all symbolically adding energy to the waxingsun. In addition, they have another purpose. For remember at Samhain, Persephone wentto the Underworld, to greet and care for the spirits of the dead? That was three monthsago, and now, it is time for us to signal to her to return, and bring Spring back to the earth.We light the way for her to see her way back from Hades, and to remind her that we, with
Demeter, are awaiting her here among the living.In our tradition, this Sabbat is the only Sabbat where new coveners can be initiated intofirst degree. This makes this holiday a special one for us as it marks our "birthday" intothe Craft! We always have a birthday cake for ourselves, and we celebrate together ourinititation anniversary. We also use one candle for each covener, a large white candle,which is dressed, blessed, and lit only on Imbolc, and on each succeeding Imbolc thereafteruntil it is burned out. This candle is special to us, and among other things is a symbol of theLight which we are now celebrating, and which we embody.The usual colors for Imbolc are white and yellow. White contains all the other colors in thespectrum, and therefore embodies all colors, and is a symbol of all possibilities; thebeginning, the new. Yellow has always been the color associated with the Sun, along withgold, and is a call to the Sun to continue strengthening, and chase winter away. Traditionalfoods include potatoes, carrots, and any root vegetables, as people in ancient times weregetting near the bottom of their root cellar by now. Also corn, as it is yellow for the Sun,and so many cultures relied on corn as a main staple of their diets. Lambs were being bornaround this time, and so lamb was also served at this holiday, along with rabbits, whichwere easy to trap, and other wild animals who stayed above ground during the coldmonths. We serve a hearty red wine during the God's half of the year, but you can alsoserve milk, since this was a celebration of the "freshening" of the goats as well. Indeed, itwas often a "Milk Festival" and Oimelc means "milk of ewes".Ideas for ritual can be the making of Brid's Beds, Brigit's Knots, Corn Dollies, as well asblessing seeds for your garden, blessing the water for the seeds, and blessing your candlesfor the coming year, to name just a few. In our tradition, we don't do personal magick onthe Sabbats. We save that for the remaining 357 days of the year! Sabbats are for returningenergy to the Gods and Goddesses, for being thankful for our blessings, and for blessingour dreams, wishes, and hopes. We make plans for the development of our lives on aspiritual level; for example: a happy home, healthy environment, peaceful country, and therenewal of the earth would be appropriate blessings for the Sabbat, and wonderful ideals togive your energy towards.For more ideas and instructions on making some projects for Imbolc, or any other holiday,I strongly recommend Dan and Pauline Campanelli's books "Ancient Ways" and "Wheelof the Year", and also Scott Cunningham's "Spell Crafts". These books give you how-toillustrated instructions on a variety of holiday themes, and the Campanelli books also giveyou the historical background and how these projects tie in with each season.Bibliography
"Candlemas: the Light Returns"
by Mike Nichols
"Brigit of the Celts"
by Moning Glory Zell

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