As Imbolc Approaches

Imbolc/Candlemas Comments
As Imbolc Approaches

a guide to the Sabbat’s symbolism

by Arwynn MacFeylynnd

Date: February 1 or 2.

Alternative names: Imbolg, Candlemas, Oimelc, Brighid’s Day, Lupercus, the Feast of Lights, Groundhog’s Day

Primary meanings: The name “Imbolc” derives from the word “oimelc,” meaning sheep’s milk. It is considered a time of purification, preparation and celebration for new life stirring, anticipating spring. The holiday is also known as Candlemas; the custom of blessing candles at this time signifies awakening of life and honors the Celtic goddess Brighid, to whom fire is sacred. This Sabbat also celebrates banishing winter.

Symbols: Candle wheels, grain dollies and Sun wheels, a besom (witch’s broom), a sprig of evergreen, a bowl of snow and small Goddess statues representing her in the maiden aspect.

Colors: White, yellow, pink, light blue, light green; also, red and brown.

Gemstones: Amethyst, aquamarine, turquoise, garnet and onyx.

Herbs: Angelica, basil, bay, benzoin, clover, dill, evergreens, heather, myrrh, rosemary, willows and all yellow flowers.

Gods and goddesses: Brighid, the Celtic goddess of healing, poetry and smithcraft; all virgin and maiden goddesses; all fire and flame gods, connected with the newborn Sun.

Customs and myths: In Irish legends of the Tuatha De Danaan, Brighid is the name of three daughters of Dagda who over time were combined into one goddess. She was venerated in Scotland, Wales, on the Isle of Man and in the Hebrides. When celebrating Candlemas or Imbolc, spellwork for fertility, inspiration and protection are appropriate, defining and focusing on spiritual and physical desires for the future. Imbolc is a good time to get your life in order — physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally. Make plans, organize, clean out drawers and closets to bring in the new and clearing out the old. Make and bless candles; light one in each room in honor of the Sun’s rebirth. Carry out rites of self-purification. Burn mistletoe, holly and ivy decorations from Yule to signify the end of harsh weather and old ways.

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Imbolc: A Midwinter Festival

Imbolc: A Midwinter Festival

Spring is stirring just beneath the surface at Imbolc, a Wiccan holiday when we anticipate the earth’s rebirth.

BY: Kaatryn MacMorgan

On January 31st, many Wiccans, practitioners of the religion of Modern Wicca, will celebrate Imbolc, a midwinter festival halfway between the beginning of winter, at the Winter Solstice, and the beginning of spring, at the Spring Equinox in March. The actual date of Imbolc varies within the many sects of Wicca, falling as early as January 29th and as late as February 3rd, but like all Wiccan holidays, it begins the moment the sun sets and ends just before sunset on the following day.

Wiccan holidays celebrate transitions, the passage from spring to summer, and from winter to spring, for example, so it is not surprising that the name of this holiday, also called Imbolg, the feast of Brighid, and the Calends of February, found its way into Wicca from its native Celtic peoples. Of course, it is not only the Wiccans who have decided to honor this holiday, as its main focus–the change from winter to spring–is most assuredly the point of our secular “Groundhog Day.”

The ancient Romans, Celts, Greeks, Chinese and many Native Americans all have similar holidays at this time of year, and many Reconstructionist, followers of ancient religions being resurrected through a combination of faith, scholastic research and imagination, practice Imbolc in forms far closer to the originals than the modern holiday practiced in Wicca.

For Wiccans the holiday is a break from the gloom of winter, a macroscopic version of the Wednesday parties that celebrate having more of the workweek behind you than before you. It is the day when spring begins to appear like the light at the end of a long tunnel, not really perceptible at first, but affecting the earth nonetheless.

Though we can’t see it through the cover of white, at Imbolc we know the spring bulbs have sent runners into the earth, that the ice floes on our lakes and rivers have begun to thin and move, and that the first of the young animals due in spring have been born. Many Wiccans celebrate this holiday as a group by standing in a dark room, with one small candle flame lighting their way, each Wiccan then lights their candle from that flame, until everyone in the room is bathed in the great light of their community’s bounty. Prayers are said for a gentle spring, and that stores of food and money, greatly depleted by the festivities of the winter solstice, last long enough to be supplemented by the first crops.

It is a holiday of preparedness. The houses of Wiccans are scrubbed floor to ceiling, bills are paid, and taxes are filed, so that none of the business of the winter interferes with the pure joy of the earth’s rebirth. When this has been done, we determine, by logic, by divination, or just an educated guess, what will not last until spring, or what excess is present in our houses. These things become a great feast, in my house, a huge kettle of “stone soup,” soup made by what is brought to it by those that would eat it. We share together in this great pot of soup, complete with a version of the stone soup story and send everyone home with a jar of it as a reminder of how the simplest things can become fantastic with the addition of one magic ingredient–community.

—beliefnet

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