Prayer for Imbolc

Imbolc/Candlemas Comments
Prayer for Imbolc

On this Imbolc day, as I kindle the flame upon my hearth,
I pray that the flame of Brigid may burn in my soul,
and the souls of all I meet today.

I pray that no envy and malice,
no hatred or fear, may smother the flame.
I pray that indifference and apathy,
contempt and pride,
may not pour like cold water on the flame.

Instead, may the spark of Brigid light the love in my soul,
that it may burn brightly through this season.
And may I warm those that are lonely,
whose hearts are cold and lifeless,
so that all may know the comfort of Brigid’s love.

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The Shield of Brigid

Every day, every night
that I praise the goddess,
I know I shall be safe:
I shall not be chased,
I shall not be caught,
I shall not be harmed.
Fire, sun, and moon
cannot burn me. Not
lake nor stream nor sea
can drown me. Fairy
arrow cannot pierce me.
I am safe, safe, safe,
singing her praise.
~The Shield of Brigid, Irish Prayer

Candlemas / Purification /Presentation / Our Lady of Candelaria

Imbolc/Candlemas Comments

Candlemas / Purification /Presentation / Our Lady of Candelaria

Jewish women went through a purification ceremony 40 days after the birth of a male child (80 days after the birth of a female child) and brought a lamb to the temple to be sacrificed. According to Mosaic law, Mary and Joseph would also have brought their first-born son to the temple forty days after his birth to offer him to God, like all first-born sons, along with a pair of turtledoves.

The Presentation was originally celebrated in Jerusalem on November 21st but once Christ’s birth was fixed on December 25th (near the winter solstice), the Presentation and Purification rituals would fall forty days later, in early February when torches were carried around the fields.

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.
Blackburn, Bonnie and Leofranc Holford-Strevens, Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999
Kightly, Charles, The Perpetual Almanack of Folklore, Thames and Hudson 1987
Spicer, Dorothy Gladys, The Book of Festivals, The Woman’s Press 1937

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The Wiccan Book of Days for Feb. 1 – Imbolc & Maiden’s Milk

Imbolc/Candlemas Comments
February 1

Imbolc and Maiden’s Milk

Between February 1 and 2, Wiccans celebrate the Sabbat of Imbolc(also known as Oimelc or Candlemas), and the return of the Goddess from the underworld in her maiden or virginal form, as exemplified by the Celtic Goddess Brigit (“High One”), Bride or Brigid the name under which the Christians sanctified her. In Ireland, Brigit was venerated as a protector of livestock, a bestower of fertility upon the natural world, a promoter of healing and a patron of poetry and the blacksmith’s art. Oimelc means “ewe’s milk,” for this was the day on which ewes usually began to lactate, and the Goddess’s association with milk was preserved in the notion of Saint Brigid of Kildare’s cows producing milk thrice daily.

“Flowery Words”

In northern climes, the emergence of early spring flowers is evidence that nature is awakening and that Brigit is among us again, so pick a posy and pour a glass of cow’s milk on the ground as a libation to the Goddess.

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Happy & Blessed Imbolc, dear friends!

Imbolc/Candlemas Comments

Imbolc (also Imbolg), or St Brigid’s Day (Scots Gaelic Là Fhèill Brìghde, Irish Lá Fhéile Bríde, the feast day of St. Brigid), is an Irish festival marking the beginning of spring. Most commonly it is celebrated on 1 or 2 February (or 12 February, according to the Old Calendar) in the northern hemisphere and 1 August in the southern hemisphere. These dates fall approximately halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. 

The festival was observed in Gaelic Ireland during the Middle Ages. Reference to Imbolc is made in Irish mythology, in the Tochmarc Emire of the Ulster Cycle. Imbolc was one of the four cross-quarter days referred to in Irish mythology, the others being Beltane, Lughnasadh and Samhain. It has been suggested that it was originally a pagan festival associated with the goddess Brigid, who should not be confused with St Brigit of Kildare.

In the modern Irish Calendar, Imbolc is variously known as the Feast of Saint Brigid (Secondary Patron of Ireland), Lá Fhéile Bríde, and Lá Feabhra — the first day of Spring. Christians may call the day “Candlemas”. Long celebrated as “the feast of the Purification of the Virgin”.

One folk tradition that continues in both Christian and Pagan homes on St. Brigid’s Day (or Imbolc) is that of the Brigid’s Bed. The girls and young, unmarried, women of the household or village create a corn dolly to represent Brigid, called the Brideog (“little Brigid” or “young Brigid”), adorning it with ribbons and baubles like shells or stones. They make a bed for the Brideog to lie in. On St. Brigid’s Eve (January 31), the girls and young women gather together in one house to stay up all night with the Brideog, and are later visited by all the young men of the community who must ask permission to enter the home, and then treat them and the corn dolly with respect.

Brigid is said to walk the earth on Imbolc eve. Before going to bed, each member of the household may leave a piece of clothing or strip of cloth outside for Brigid to bless. The head of the household will smother (or “smoor”) the fire and rake the ashes smooth. In the morning, they look for some kind of mark on the ashes, a sign that Brigid has passed that way in the night or morning. The clothes or strips of cloth are brought inside, and believed to now have powers of healing and protection.

On the following day, the girls carry the Brideog through the village or neighborhood, from house to house, where this representation of the Saint/Goddess is welcomed with great honor. Adult women — those who are married or who run a household — stay home to welcome the Brigid procession, perhaps with an offering of coins or a snack. Since Brigid represents the light half of the year, and the power that will bring people from the dark season of winter into spring, her presence is very important at this time of year.

Neopagans of diverse traditions observe this holiday in a variety of ways. As forms of Neopaganism can be quite different and have very different origins, these representations can vary considerably despite the shared name. Some celebrate in a manner as close as possible to how the Ancient Celts are believed to have observed the festival, as well as how these customs have been maintained in the living Celtic cultures. Other types of Neopagans observe the holiday with rituals taken from numerous other unrelated sources, Celtic cultures being only one of the sources used.

Imbolc is usually celebrated by modern Pagans on February 1 or 2nd in the northern hemisphere, and August 1 or 2nd in the southern hemisphere. Some Neopagans time this celebration to the solar midpoint between the winter solstice and spring equinox, which now falls later in the first week or two of February. Since the Celtic year was based on both lunar and solar cycles, it is most likely that the holiday would be celebrated on the full moon nearest the midpoint between the winter solstice and vernal equinox, or when the primroses, dandelions, or other spring flowers rise up through the snow, or when the sun aligned with the passage tombs among the pre-Celtic megaliths.

Wikipedia

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