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Copyright Lady Bridget 1997
Imbolc, Oimelc, Imbolg, or Candlemass (the Christianized version of the name) is the celebration that occurs when the Sun reaches 15 E Aquarius, and is therefore considered a Major Sabbat. This date was traditionally celebrated on Feb 1st or 2nd, and is still noted today in our country as "Ground Hog's Day", which marks that there is only 6 more weeks of winter; we have reached the half-way point. There are some traditions that may say this holiday marks the beginning of Spring, but this doesn't hold up under scrutiny. Imbolc marks the middle of the winter season, just as Yule marked 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 very powerful and meaningful Goddess, and there was no way to force the populace to give her up, therefore they canonized her as "Saint Brigit" and up until 1220 BCE, her shrine at Kildare had a perpetual fire that was constantly tended by virgins, by the Priestesses of the Goddess, and after Christianity took over, it was continued by the virgin nuns. In the 1960's after Vatican II, it was decided that Saint Brigit did not have enough evidence to canonize her and then she was decanonized. However, in Ireland, she is still very much reverenced, 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, the Feast of the Purification of Mary, for it was believed that women were "unclean" for six weeks after giving birth. So since she had given birth at the Winter Solstice, this is the date when she would be purified. We look upon this as the time when the Goddess who gave birth 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 freshening of sheep and goats, the Feast of Milk. Brigit's feast day was called "La Feill Bhride" and represents the seed that is waiting to stir again. It is a time of great anticipation and the celebration of possibilities. New life is about to awaken in the earth, the earth is furrowed and prepared to receive the seed. The Valentine's Day festivities were also connected to this time, being celebrated now on Feb 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 ancient Greece used to perform illegal Christian weddings and he was sacrificed to the lions on this date and became Saint Valentine. Therefore, hearts and flowers are exchanged to honor the love that he had and the love of the Christian couples he joined in matrimony. The folklorists attribute this holiday to the "gallant" or "galantine" young men who pursued their sweethearts at this time, since some Latin languages pronounced "g" as a "v" in earlier 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. The Priests of Pan ran through the streets insuring women's fertility by spanking them with thongs made from goatskin and blessed by the local Strega. There are many cultures which had similar holiday practices at similar times. So much so that one has to wonder if this was due primarily to an agricultural society having a tendency to celebrate the same things at the same times of the year, or to an more universal religion or culture, having roots far in antiquity and being handed down over the centuries, changing only slightly over the generations? Our tradition celebrates with a Brid's Bed, in which our Brid's Doll, made of corn, or straw, 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, sized according to the Doll's size, which represents the penis, the regenerative male force in nature. We tell Brid our secret dreams and wishes that we want to see manifest. This is a time when we look to the future and dream! This is the Sabbat where we can plan ahead for what "seeds" we will "sow" in the coming year, and how we plan to nurture our seeds for a successful harvest later. Other customs include lit candles in every window of the house, and keeping a perpetual candle on the Altar to Brid. Seeds are brought into circle to be blessed by the Goddess and the Gods and to absorb the circle's vibrant energy. Chant, dance, and sing, and send energy back into the earth to help her awaken, so that Spring may once more bloom. Straw can be woven into "Brid's Cross", "Bridget's Knot", or "Corn Maiden" and hung in the corners of rooms, over doorways, and over beds, for fertility, prosperity, and for the blessings of the Goddess. Remember - fertility doesn't necessarily mean having babies! Fertility of the mind, imagination, and of projects you are working to bring to "birth" are also desired manifestations, and will be blessed by fertility rituals. If you are of child-bearing ability and 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, a lunar number, representing herself as the Maiden of Light. Some covens have a crown made 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 so bonfires are especially appropriate as well. In ages past, people jumped the bonefires to be cured of winter colds and flu. This is the holiday to bring your candles to circle, to have them be blessed by the Sabbat energies. We have small candles of each color in circle, and we mark them appropriately with symbols. Then during the year, when we dress any candle for any purpose, we add a few drops from our Imbolc candles, so that the Sabbat blessings and energy will also be added to the working. The candles, the bonefires, and the lights are all symbolically adding energy to the waxing sun. In addition, they have another purpose. For remember at Samhain, Persephone went to the Underworld, to greet and care for the spirits of the dead? That was three months ago, 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 into first degree. This makes this holiday a special one for us as it marks our "birthday" into the Craft! We always have a birthday cake for ourselves, and we celebrate together our inititation 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 thereafter until it is burned out. This candle is special to us, and among other things is a symbol of the Light 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 the spectrum, and therefore embodies all colors, and is a symbol of all possibilities; the beginning, the new. Yellow has always been the color associated with the Sun, along with gold, and is a call to the Sun to continue strengthening, and chase winter away. Traditional foods include potatoes, carrots, and any root vegetables, as people in ancient times were getting 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 born around this time, and so lamb was also served at this holiday, along with rabbits, which were easy to trap, and other wild animals who stayed above ground during the cold months. We serve a hearty red wine during the God's half of the year, but you can also serve milk, since this was a celebration of the "freshening" of the goats as well. Indeed, it was 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 as blessing seeds for your garden, blessing the water for the seeds, and blessing your candles for the coming year, to name just a few. In our tradition, we don't do personal magick on the Sabbats. We save that for the remaining 357 days of the year! Sabbats are for returning energy to the Gods and Goddesses, for being thankful for our blessings, and for blessing our dreams, wishes, and hopes. We make plans for the development of our lives on a spiritual level; for example: a happy home, healthy environment, peaceful country, and the renewal of the earth would be appropriate blessings for the Sabbat, and wonderful ideals to give 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 "Wheel of the Year", and also Scott Cunningham's "Spell Crafts". These books give you how-to illustrated instructions on a variety of holiday themes, and the Campanelli books also give you 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
Copyright Lady Bridget 1997
For this ritual, we had at least 4 people to perform the Myth of Persephone and also a HP and HPS, but they can double up and do some of the Myth parts as well. Also, you will need 1 white candle for each person. We suggest using the small "hurricane tapers" or the kosher candles that are about 4" long. Cut paper circles out and stick the candles through them ahead of time so that no one gets burned by wax, or if you have sufficient candlesticks, of course use those! For Brid's Bed, please refer to "Ancient Ways" and "Wheel of the Year" by Dan and Pauline Campanelli, they are usually in the local library. These are excellent books on the traditions and practices associated with all the old holidays and with the seasons. Well researched and easy to read and understand, these are highly recommended to add to your research library! If you are not "crafty" then you can sometimes purchase a doll made from straw that is ok to use. Making your own doll from corn or wheat and the clothes to fit her are a great coven project! Her bed can be a basket that has been decorated and lined. This doll can be used over and over each Imbolc, as ours is, and the wishes from the previous year stay with her in the bed until the following year, when we read our own, reflect on how it has manifested for us, and then burn the old wishes. So for this part of the ritual you will need, either in addition to or instead of Brid's Bed, a small cauldron, parchment paper, and pens. If you wish, you can have people bring their own candles for blessing. We usually have one person bring the white candles, one buys some packages of seeds, one brings parchment squares and pens, and then cakes and/or wine is assigned to others. Seeds can now be purchased at discount stores for very little money, and are a wonderful symbolic tool. You will notice there is no initiation ceremony in this ritual. Ours is done privately and individually, and so has no place in an outer court circle. By the way, in the myth, we explain that Persephone ate three seeds so she stays away in the underworld for three months. If your winter season is longer than that, please amend this so it is correct for your area. We have used the adaptation of the patriarchal myth in this case for our Sabbat, but you can certainly redo the myth to use the matriarchal version if you desire, or change to whatever myth suites you. These are presented only in the spirit of sharing and of teaching, and are not meant to be taken as the absolute gospel of what a coven should do for ritual. We change our outer court Sabbats from year to year, and rewrite them, or do entirely new ones when it suits us. Thank you for allowing us to share ours with you!
by Lady Bridget and Lady Therese 1997
Cast the circle in your usual manner. Ground and center the participants. Bless each person as you normally would. INVOKE WATCHTOWERS EAST - Hail to thee, Guardian of the Watchtower of the East, the powers of water. We see the sun's rays bouncing off the ocean tides, smashing into the rocks. Our emotions are high as we get ready for Spring, in the anticipation of the Sun's return. Waters of Life, give us birth, and the knowledge to grow as the seeds grow in the Earth from your nourishment. Join the children of the light as we celebrate. So Mote It Be. SOUTH - Hail to thee, Guardian of the Watchtower of the South, the powers of Air, you who blow crisp, clean, and cold, with swirls of blistery winds. Bring the warm, soft breezes that herald the beginning of Spring. Smell the sweet scent of lilacs. Breathe in th air. Become refreshed with new thoughs, new knowledge, new projects. Join the cildren of the light as we celebrate. So Mote It Be. WEST - Hail to thee, Guardian of the Watchtower of the West, the powers of Fire. Now as we stand in the fullness of winter, yet on the threshold of Spring, we await the seed which is awakening in the Earth. We ask for your Divine spark to ignite our Sacred Fires as we gather this night to rejuvenate the flames of the sun. Join the children of the light as we celebrate. So Mote It Be. NORTH - Hail to thee, Guardian of the Watchtower of the North, the powers of Earth. Now the time has come to call for the powers of mountains and of trees, celebrate with us the things that are to be. The warming of Spring will soon bring the abundance of summer. The breezes will be warmer and the days longer. Powers of leaf and flower and thorn, join the children of the light as we celebrate. So Mote It Be. INVITE THE HORNED ONE: HP: We call upon you O Horned One, at this time of the feast of torches, when every lamp blazes and shines to welcome your rebirth as the Sun. All the land is wrapped in winter. The air is chilled and the Earth lies barren beneath her mantle of sleep. We call upon you to return, Lord of the Sun. The spark of life is within you, as is the darkness of death. For you are the gatekeeper at the end of time. We call upon you whom all must face at the appointed hour. Yet you are not to be feared, for you are brother, lover, and son. You teach us that death is but the beginning of life and we honor you. You who holds the key of life and death. Blessed Be. (light the candle for the God)
INVITE BRIDGET: HPS: By the flowers of the field, O Lady of delight, by the crops thy blessings yield, Oh Maiden clear and bright. We evoke thy presence in kernels and sheaves. We see thy face in the moonlit leaves. Come now to us, extend thy grace, come into our circle within this holy place. Daughter of the Earth, drinking sunlight. Queen of plants, sister of night. By leaf and twig, by root and bough, by water and earth. Come to us now! Bring us your grain, the staff of our lives. Bring us your fruit, wherever it thrives. Mistress of herbs unlock your power and lead us into your leafy bower. In love and joy we call your name, with comforting hope, you ease our pain. We see thee in the swelling bud, we feel thy stirring in our blood. O Lady clear, we feel thee near. In Spring a Maiden with flowers crowned, in summer and harvest, the Mother renewed, in fall and winter the Hag holds sway, yet the Maiden remains but months away. Great Triple Goddess, the seasons flow and eff to thy will as you come and go. Blessed Be. (light the candle for the Goddess) THE MYTH Narrator - As the scene unfolds, we find Persephone in the underworld having been abducted by Hades to be his Queen. Demeter, in her grief has allowed the earth to be barren. Zeus, taking pity on humankind's suffering, sends Hermes to the underworld to tell Hades to free Persephone. Having overheard the conversation, Persephone confronts Hades..... Persephone - I, Persephone, have heard the voice of Hermes, messenger of Zeus. I have heard him command you to set me free. And indeed, I am fully ready to go. I, who am the flower of Maidenhood and delight in the newness of life, yet will I ever be burdened with the memory of the restful sadness that is your realm. Forever I will see the shadow of the dying flower even in the fullness of it's bloom. Hades - (aside) If I can get her to eat some of these seeds, she must return to me. (to Persephone) My Lovely Queen, my love for you is so strong that I would risk the wrath of my brother, Zeus, and of Demeter, by bringing you here. Please don't leave me for I am only the reaper. I free the old, the tired and torn so that She can make them fresh and whole again. Death is a thing in which to rejoice, for after Death comes renewal. In me they find rest and peace. But if you must leave me, please my Lady, have this for your journey. (holding out closed hand) Persephone - I will take only a token bit to acknowledge your hospitality, and then I shall be gone. (Eats one bite) Demeter - Children. light your candles so that my daughter may find her way. (At this point, Demeter lights her candle from the God and Goddess candles on the altar, then goes to the person in the West and lights theirs. Each person lights the candle of the person next to them, and as the light travels deosil around the circle, Persephone slowly comes along following the light. When she reaches the end, she greets Dememter with a hug and kiss. They murmer greetings and such until suddenly Demeter exclaims in a very loud voice....)
Demeter - YOU ATE WHAT? Persephone - It was only a few seeds! Narrator - Persephone was told not to eat anything in the underworld or she would not be able to return above. But Persephone ate a few pommegranate seeds. Zues decreed a compromise for the sharing of Persephone. She must return 3 months of the year to the underworld to reside with her husband, with the remainder of the year to be spent with her mother in the land of the living. HPS - Behold the three-formed Goddess, she who is ever three, Maid, Mother, Crone. Yet She is ever one. We welcome now the Maiden Persepnone. For without spring there can be no summer, without summer, no winter, and no new spring. Thus we look forward to the end of winter. We lit the candles to light the way for Persephone's return from the darkness, and to lend strength to the Sun as He grows in power. Blessed Be. (People can extinguish their candles and take them home, or leave them lit on the altar, if there is space, or around the circle if that is possible.) (At this time, pass around the parchment paper and pens so everyone can write what spiritual goals they wish to reach during the coming year. These are place in Brid's Bed, or can be burned to send the wished to the Goddess. They should first be charged, by raising energy while each person holds their paper, either through dance and chanting, humming, or meditation channeling, or whatever your group does. Then each person will either put the parchment in and tell Brid what she desires, or put into the Cauldron to be transformed and burned.) (Also this is the time, if you wish, to charge seeds for the spring planting later. Herbs and flowers are appropriate, get ones that grow in your area so your participants can plant them. We also bless our candles now, one of each color, to be used during our magickal year. A few drops of wax from these candles will add the Goddess energy and blessing from this Sabbat to whatever candles we dress. Or people can simply use the white candles they lit for Persephone's return, since white contains all colors within it. Charging is done as above.) GREAT RITE (Perform in your usual manner) DISMISS WATCHTOWERS EAST - Hail to thee Guardian of the Watchtower of the East, the powers of Water. We felt your presence this evening as you washed away the winter's chill. Stay with us as we grow in the coming months. Continue to water our plants and our minds so they grow to be strong and healthy. As ye depart to your mighty realms, we bid thee Hail and Farewell, and harm ye none on your way. So Mote It Be. SOUTH - Hail to thee Guardian of the Watchtower of the South, the powers of Air. We thank you for the truning of the seasons, the cold of winter, the growth of spring, and fall harvests. As you leave us, leave us with new inspiration for the new spring. As you depart to your mighty realms, we bid thee Hail and Farewell, and harm ye none on your way. So Mote It Be.
WEST - Hail to thee Guardians of the Watchtower of the West, the powers of Fire. We thank you for the smoldering embers that have lain dormant through the winter and are now on the verge of flaring forth into flowering spring. We thank you for your participation and your protection. As you depart to your mighty realms, we bid thee Hail and Farewell, and harm ye none on your way. So Mote It Be. NORTH - Hail to thee Guardian of the Watchtower of the North, the powers of Earth. The powers of mountains and trees, you have celebrated with us the things that are to be. Powers of leaf and of thorn, we look forward to longer days and warmer days. We thank you for joining us in our rites. As you depart to your mighty realms, we bid thee, Hail and Farewell, and harm ye none on your way. So Mote It Be. CLOSE CIRCLE.
Bibliography: "A Witches Bible Compleat" by Janet and Stewart Farrar "The Crafted Cup" by Shadwynn "Wicca For the Solitary Practitioner" by Scott Cunningham "Spokes of the Wheel" by Seleneicthon "Ancient Ways" and "Wheel of the Year" by Dan and Pauline Campanelli "Magickal Rites from the Crystal Well" by Ed Fitch
Email Lady Bridget at email@example.com
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