The Sabbats

Healing Arts and Pagan Studies ~ Candles and Christmas Greens

Imbolc/Candlemas Comments

Candles and Christmas Greens

The main element of your decorating scheme for Candlemas is fairly obvious: candles. You can gather all the candles in your home in one room and light them from one central candle. Or place a candle in each window (but watch them carefully).

Candlemas is one of the traditional times for taking down Christmas decorations (Twelfth Night, on January 6th, is the other). If you are very careful (because they are tinder dry), you can burn them. Or, better yet, return them to the earth mother by using them for compost or mulch.

Certain foods are traditional for Candlemas, including crepes, pancakes and cakes, all grain-based foods. Pancakes and crepes are considered symbols of the sun because of their round shape and golden color.

If you have a fireplace, clean out your hearth and then light a new fire. Sit around the fire and reflect on your hopes for the coming year. What do you hope to accomplish? What are you passionate about? What seeds do you wish to plant? Discuss these ideas with others or write them down in a journal but make them concrete in some way so that on Lammas (August 2nd, the festival of the first harvest), you can look back to see what progress you’ve made.
Brigid is the goddess of creative inspiration as well as reproductive fertility. This is a good time for sharing creative work, or, if you don’t think of yourself as especially creative, an idea that worked or a plan that materialized. Thank the Goddess for her inspiration, perhaps by dedicating a future work to her.


Making Pledges and Commitments

Since Candlemas is a time of new beginnings, this is a good day to ritually celebrate all things new. Plan a ceremony to name a new baby, officially welcome a new person into a family or plight your troth to your beloved. Make a commitment to a goal (like a New Years resolution): this would be an especially powerful thing to do in a group.

In San Francisco, the Reclaiming Collective sponsors a big public ritual called Brigid, which focuses on political commitment. After acknowledging despair over the events of the past year, the participants reflect on the source of their own power and then make a pledge in front of the community about the work they intend to do during the coming year. During this ritual, the flames in a cauldron represent Brigid’s Sacred Flame, the fire of inspiration and passion, while a punch bowl filled with waters gathered from all over the world represents Brigid’s Holy Well, the source of healing and purification.
If you plan your own ceremony, use these two powerful symbols: fire and water. For instance, wash your hands and bathe your face in salt water, which is especially good for purification. Light a candle as you make your pledge. Incorporate the third symbol of the holiday — seeds — by planting a seed or bulb in a pot to symbolize your commitment, or by blessing a bowl or packet of seeds that you will plant later.


Purification and Renewal

Have you ever given anything up for Lent? If not, you might consider it. You don’t have to be Catholic to gain spiritual benefits from the voluntary surrender of something you cherish. You can give up something frivolous or something serious, but it should be something you will notice. Folk wisdom says it takes six weeks (or approximately the 40 days of Lent) to establish a new habit, so you may end up with a lifestyle change.

The kids in our neighborhood have eagerly embraced the idea of giving up something for Lent. We know one little girl who gave up TV for Lent and another who gave up catsup, her favorite food. In the last two years, I’ve given up alcohol and coffee for Lent. Forty days is enough time to notice the difference in the way you feel without a favorite substance or distraction.
Since Candlemas is often considered the beginning of spring, you can perform another ritual act of purification: spring cleaning. This would be a good time to do a thorough house cleaning, sweeping the floors with salt water, banishing the gloom of winter and creating a sparkling, shiny new setting for spring.
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From: GrannyMoon’s Morning Feast Archives

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Healing Arts and Pagan Studies ~ Candlemas

Imbolc/Candlemas Comments



A wondrous force and might
Doth in these candels lie…

~ Barnaby Gouge: The Popish Kingdome

In keeping with the policy of the Catholic Church to subsume pagan festivals into Christian feast-days, the Day of Bride became equated with Candlemas on February 2nd, the feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. At this time, forty days after childbirth, Mary was supposed to have gone to the Temple at Jerusalem to make the traditional offering to purify herself. As she entered the temple, an old man named Simeon recognized the baby as the Messiah of Israel, and a “light to lighten the Gentiles.”

So, once again we encounter the archetype of the young Sun or Light come to redeem the darkness, but now in Christian clothing. Certainly, the service most used for this day in the medieval church made much of this symbolism, playing upon images of the appearance of divine light in the darkness of human sin, of renewal and rebirth of light in the dark time of the year, and of the new light of heaven come to transform an old world.

In Britain, Candlemas was celebrated with a festival of lights. In the dark and gloomy days of February, the shadowy recesses of medieval churches twinkled brightly as each member of the congregation carried a lighted candle in procession around the church, to be blessed by the priest. Afterwards, the candles were brought home to be used to keep away storms, demons and other evils. This custom lasted in England until it was banned in the Reformation for promoting the veneration of magical objects. Even so, the symbol of the lighted candles had too strong a hold on the popular imagination to be entirely cast aside. Traces of the festival lingered until quite recently in other areas of the British Isles like little lights that refused to be blown out. In Wales, Candlemas was known as Gwyl Fair y Canhwyllau, Mary’s Festival of the Candles, and was celebrated as late as the 19th century by setting a lighted candle in the windows or at the table on this night. Special Candlemas carols were sung by singers who processed from house to house. One of these contains the lines:

Hail reign a fair maid with gold upon your chin,
Open up the East Gate and let the New year in;

The carolers had to undergo a contest of riddles before being allowed to enter (an example of ritual at a liminal place.) When they were allowed in, they might see a young girl with a baby boy on her lap, surrounded by candles, to whom they sang once more and pledged in drink. She of course personified Virgin and Child, but in a country where Catholicism never had a strong hold, it is not difficult to discern a pre-Christian custom similar to the Scottish welcoming of Bride behind the Christian trappings.

In the county of Shropshire, the snowdrop, first flower of spring, took the place of candles, being named, “Candlemas bells,” “Purification flowers” or – with a faint remembrance of Brigid, perhaps – “Fair Maid of February.” And an interesting survival was noted in Cornwall, where until recently in the town of St. Ives, a silver ball was passed around from 10.30 till noon on this day throughout the streets and on the beach. It was started off by the mayor at the parish church, and whoever holds the ball at noon receives a small prize. The significance and history of this unusual and isolated custom is not known. Does the silver ball represent the pale orb of the returning sun?

Finally, traces of the festival of the growing light can even be traced to modern America in the Groundhog Day custom on February 2. If the groundhog sees his shadow on this morning, it means there will be six more weeks of winter. The custom comes directly from Europe, and Scotland in particular, where an old couplet goes:

If Candlemas Day is bright and clear,
there’ll be two winters in the year.
A Scottish rhyme about the Feast Day of Bride begins:
This is the day of Bride,
The queen will come from the mound…

In other versions it is a “serpent” that will emerge from a hole, an allusion which Professor Séamus Ó Cáthain has linked to Scandinavian customs regarding the reappearance of the hibernating bear. For this is the time when the animal world begins to stir from its winter sleep in the depths of earth, and life and light is ushered in by Brigid, the Queen.
© 1999 Mara Freeman
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From: GrannyMoon’s Morning Feast Archives

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Healing Arts and Pagan Studies ~ Candlemas / Purification /Presentation / Our Lady of Candelaria

Imbolc/Candlemas Comments

Candlemas / Purification /Presentation / Our Lady of Candelaria

First celebrated on February 14th, in 350 at Jerusalem, when it would have coincided with the Roman festival of Lupercalia, it was later moved up to February 2nd. Pope Sergius declared it should be celebrated with processions and candles, to commemorate Simeon’s description of the child Jesus as a light to lighten the Gentiles. Candles blessed on this day were used as a protection from evil.

This is the ostensible reason given for the Catholic custom of bringing candles to church to be blessed by the priest on February 2nd, thus the name Candle-Mass. The candles are then taken home where they serve as talismans and protections from all sorts of disasters, much like Brigid’s crosses. In Hungary, according to Dorothy Spicer, February 2nd is called Blessing of the Candle of the Happy Woman. In Poland, it is called Mother of God who Saves Us From Thunder.

Actually this festival has long been associated with fire. Spicer writes that in ancient Armenia, this was the date of Cvarntarach, a pagan spring festival in honor of Mihr, the God of fire. Originally, fires were built in his honor in open places and a lantern was lit which burned in the temple throughout the year. When Armenia became Christian, the fires were built in church courtyards instead. People danced about the flames, jumped over them and carried home embers to kindle their own fires from the sacred flames.

The motif of fire also shows up in candle processions honoring St Agatha (Feb 5) and the legends of St Brigid (Feb 1). The fire represents the spark of new life, like the seeds blessed in northern Europe on St Blaise’s Day (Feb 3) and carried home to “kindle” the existing seed.

The English have many rhymes which prognosticate about future weather based on the weather on Candlemas Day:

If Candlemas Day bring snow and rain
Winter is gone and won’t come again
If Candlemas Day be clear and bright
Winter will have another flight.

These are all similar to the American custom of predicting the weather on Groundhog’s Day, in that you don’t want the groundhog to see his shadow. In Germany, they say that the shepherd would rather see the wolf enter his stable than the sun on Candlemas Day.

The ancient Armenians used the wind to predict the weather for the coming year by watching the smoke drifting up from the bonfires lit in honor of Mihr. The Scots also observed the wind on Candlemas as recorded in this rhyme:

If this night’s wind blow south
It betokeneth warmth and growth;
If west, much milk and fish in the sea;
If north, much cold and snow there will be;
If east, the trees will bear much fruit;
If north-east, flee it, man, woman and brute.

This was also a holiday for Millers when windmills stand idle. In Crete it is said that they won’t turn even if the miller tries to start them.
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From: GrannyMoon’s Morning Feast Archives

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Imbolc Lore

Imbolc/Candlemas Comments
Imbolc Lore


It is traditional upon Imbolc, at sunset or just after ritual, to light every lamp in the house-if only for a few moments. Or, light candles in each room in honor of the Sun’s rebirth. Alternately, light a kerosene lamp with a red chimney and place this in a prominent part of the home or in a window.


If snow lies on the ground outside, walk in it for a moment, recalling the warmth of summer. With your projective hand, trace an image of the Sun on the snow.


Foods appropriate to eat on this day include those from the dairy, since Imbolc marks the festival of calving. Sour cream dishes are fine. Spicy and full-bodied foods in honor of the Sun are equally attuned. Curries and all dishes made with peppers, onions, leeks, shallots, garlic or chives are appropriate. Spiced wines and dishes containing raisins-all foods symbolic of the Sun-are also traditional.



Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner
Scott Cunningham

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Imbolc Ritual by Scott Cunningham

Imbolc/Candlemas Comments

(February 2)

A symbol of the season, such as a representation of a snowflake, a white flower, or perhaps some snow in a crystal container can be placed on the altar. An orange candle anointed with musk, cinnamon, frankincense or rosemary oil, unlit, should also be there. Snow can be melted and used for the water during the circle casting.


Arrange the altar, light the candles and censer, and cast the Circle of Stones.


Recite the Blessing Chant.


Invoke the Goddess and God.


Say such words as the following:


This is the time of the feast of torches,
when every lamp blazes and shines
to welcome the rebirth of the God.
I celebrate the Goddess,
I celebrate the God;
All the Earth celebrates
Beneath its mantle of sleep.


Light the orange taper from the red candle on the altar (or at the Southern point of the circle). Slowly walk the circle clockwise, bearing the candle before you. Say these or similar words:


All the land is wrapped in winter.
The air is chilled and
frost envelopes the Earth.
But Lord of the Sun,
Horned One of animals and wild places,
Unseen you have been reborn of the gracious
Mother Goddess, Lady of all fertility.
Hail Great God! Hail and welcome!


Stop before the altar, holding aloft the candle. Gaze at its flame. Visualize your life blossoming with creativity, with renewed energy and strength.


If you need to look into the future or past, now is an ideal time.


Works of magic, if necessary, may follow.


Celebrate the Simple Feast.


The circle is released.



—Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner
Scott Cunningham


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Solitary Celebration: Imbolc

Imbolc/Candlemas Comments

Solitary Celebration: Imbolc


Key to the concept of Imbolc are the first stirrings of the potential for life after a period of seeming lifelessness. As the weather varies so drastically among where Wiccans now live, focusing on the return of spring during Imbolc can have less meaning than the concept of purification on your solitary ritual. On the other hand, depending on your locale, perhaps focusing on the promise of coming spring is a welcome concept after you’ve been frozen in snow and ice!


A symbolic action derived from the old Irish Imbolc traditions is to leave a ribbon or a square of cloth outdoors overnight, where it is said that Brigid will bless it as she passes on her feast night. This cloth or ribbon can then be used to aid you in healing spells and rituals during the year.


The purification of the dullness that can come with darkness is one of the popular images found in solitary eclectic Wiccan practice. An Imbolc spring-cleaning ritual may be compared to the steps of cleansing and purifying both the self and your space before a ritual. Wiccans take the opportunity to clean earlier than their secular neighbors. We clean the house, remove Yule decorations, and spiritually purify and bless living space. Imbolc is the perfect time to do a top-to-bottom, wall-to-wall spiritual purification and subsequent house blessing. Refer back to the simple rituals you have created and apply them to your living space.


Imbolc is also a time to purify ourselves of any negative baggage, both spiritual and emotional, we have carried with us through the winter. Take time to meditate on how you would like to sweep away the negativity from your life, and create a ritual to reflect this.


Above all, Imbolc is a wonderful celebration of creativity. Exercising creativity is a life-affirming way to reflect the fertility of our spirits. Creating sacred space and engaging in your favorite creative activity—whether you write, sketch, paint, sing, play an instrument, cook, bake, quilt, knit, or do anything else artistic—is a wonderful way to celebrate Imbolc.


Take the corn dolly made at Lughnassadh (see the section on Lughnassadh for instructions) or wrap a bundle of twigs in a blanket and leave them by the fireplace or your altar with a wand (or some other phallic representation) overnight to encourage fertility in various areas of your life. As Imbolc prepares the way for the return of spring and proof of life in general, such an action symbolizes your desire for that fertile energy to be reflected in your life, and also reflects your faith that spring will indeed return.

Solitary Wicca For Life: Complete Guide to Mastering the Craft on Your Own
Arin Murphy-Hiscock


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Imbolc/Candlemas Comments


February 1 – 2, or when the sun reaches 15 degrees of Aquarius


Imbolc, one of two sabbats associated directly with a specific deity, is a festival to celebrate the beginning of spring. Imbolc’s partner across the Wheel is Lughnassadh, the Feast of Lugh.


The modern eclectic Wiccan perception of Imbolc comes from three very different festivals. Imbolc is one of the clearly Celtic festivals, with no Saxon influence. The Celtic Imbolc is celebrated from sundown on February 1 to sundown on February 2. This agricultural festival marks the lambing and calving season in the British Isles. Candlemas, which is the Catholic festival of the purification of the Virgin and the blessing of candles, is celebrated on February 2. From these two festivals comes the modern Wiccan Imbolc feast of purification and growing light. The third important festival that has influenced Imbolc is La Feile Bhrid, or Brigid’s Feast Day and this influence is perhaps the most popular for modern Wiccans. Celebrated in Ireland and the outer isles of Britain and Scotland, this festival honors the goddess (and later saint) Brigid. Her name is spelled and pronounced in different ways depending on the location in which she was worshiped. The original translation of her name in Irish Gaelic meant “bright flame,” and from this the association of Brigid with fire arose.


Brigid is quite a multipurpose goddess, encapsulating different associations from different cultural and regional affiliations. Over time, her association with poetry and inspirations has led her to be a goddess often invoked for creative purposes. She is often assumed to be a gentle goddess, but one of her cognates, Brigantia, was the martial goddess of a warrior tribe in the British Isles, and any deity associated with smithing has a connection to warcraft (as well as hearthwork).


Brigid is one of the original triple goddesses—not the maiden-mother-crone triptych postulated by Robert Graves in the mid-twentieth century, but the triple-sister form that predates the modern conception of the age-separated Triple Goddess.


In some myths, Brigid is the maiden goddess who seizes control of winter away from the Callieach, the crone goddess of winter. In the climate of the British Isles and in Western Europe, the beginning of February does indeed bring the first real signs of spring. In the British climate, farmers plough and prepare the fields for crops. Cattle and sheep feed on the newly sprung grass, and give birth to young, which results in the production of enriched milk. The new lambs and calves are signs of new life, confirmation of the ongoing life cycle. Brigid is associated with cattle, sheep, and milk; in fact, some of the later saint depictions show her with a churn or pails of milk. For these reasons, milk forms a focal point in many Imbolc rituals.


In the modern Wiccan mythos, the infant God born at Yule is now a child, nicely fitting into the Brigid and Imbolc associations of children and hearth and home. Imbolc is one of the sabbats that revolves around fire, as both a source of warmth and a source of purification. By this point, the returning light has noticeably lengthened the days.



–Solitary Wicca For Life: Complete Guide to Mastering the Craft on Your Own
Arin Murphy-Hiscock


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The Wicca Book of Days – Imbolc and Candlemas

Imbolc/Candlemas Comments
Imbolc and Candlemas


The festival of Candlemas has ancient roots for in Pagan Europe, fires were kindles at this time of year to reflect and encourage the growing strength of the sun. Its name is Christian, however, being derived from the tradition of the future year’s supply of candles being blessed before the first mass of February 2 and then being carried around the church in a pious procession. This is also the feast of the purification of the Virgin Mary and the presentation of the infant Jesus in the “Temple; the parallels between the Virgin Mary and the Goddess in her maiden aspect, and baby Jesus and the solar child of promise, are unmistakable.


Candlemas Creativity

White represents purity, pale gree denotes a fresh start and growth and a flame signifies the kindling of creativity. Light candles of these colors to commemorate the concepts symbolized by Candlemas. As you gaze at the flaming taper, ask the Goddess for inspiration.


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