February 2, 2017 will mark the Imbolc Sabbat. This is the first of the four major fire festivities celebrated every year. The other three being: Ostara, Beltaine and Litha. Each of these representing the rising, growing, maturing Sun until his peak on Litha. Marking the beginning of the Sun’s reign is when we celebrate the waking up of Mother Earth. The dark days are now behind us and we prepare to step into the light of spring. The Sabbat often gets confused with similar celebrations this time of year such as Candlemas, Ground Hogs Day, and Valentine’s Day. Candlemas and Ground Hog’s Day are nature based holidays used for predicting the coming seasons. Our Imbolc was transformed into Candlemas by the churches decades ago and American’s put their twist on that forming Groundhog’s Day. Valentine’s Day, years ago, was confused with Ground Hogs day because they were both celebrated on Feb. 14 by older generations.
It is this time of the year when we celebrate the Goddess as Maiden. She is fertile, she is pregnant and soon she will have her child. She is young, beautiful, slightly naive but very strong. She is in her prime. She is a goddess of fire, of home, light, healing, fertility, etc. Depending on your tradition she may take many different names. Celtic traditions put a strong emphasis on Brigid. However, this is also the season (in Greek traditions) when Demeter is happiest as a mother because her daughter Persephone is allowed to return from the underworld of Hedes to be with her. Others include Freya, Diana, Gaia, Hera, Hestia, Athena, Artemis, Selene, etc. In Ireland, as Christianity began to take hold and Imbolc was transformed into Candlemas, many believe that the St. Brigid, as in the celebration of Feast of St. Brigid, actually derived from our goddess Brigid.
Our Sun is still incredibly young, not yet mature. He is growing and getting stronger, and his strength will continue to build as he is the Oak King. Seeds have been planted and there is a stirring of life just below the surface. In some climates, it still may be difficult to see, visually, but it is there and if you try hard enough, you can feel it. We are strong right now. We have nurtured ourselves throughout the winter and prepared ourselves for the long hard days of work that lies ahead of us this summer. Sun is calling you outdoors to soak in his energy and to allow it to work inside you for growth inside and outside. Our Sun gods are those of fertility, forest, nature, and of love. They include the god Eros, Pan, Priapus, Cernunnos, etc.
Many customs associated with the goddess Brigid existed in ancient days as they do now. It was said that during Imbolc, the goddess was to come and visit each home and offer her blessings in areas of home, hearth, fertility, prosperity, protection of land and livestock, etc. Her blessing was very critical in early days and so people would make offerings in order to receive these blessings. Some customs included the making of the Brigid cross, Brigid bed or the Brigid doll. This is one reason our corn doll in the shop was so popular. She was brought in from the fields, made from the grown corn leaves and tassel, she was offered a home during the cold months and then she is returned to her home in the fields in the spring to bless it. Many feasts were had to celebrate the Sabbat. Other than making her bed and other crafty material, offerings of food and drink were given.
The meaning of the word Imbolc is not completely clear. Some have traced it back into Irish, British and even European meanings with some similarities. These include things like “the birth of Ewes”, “the mother’s milk”, “to begin anew”, “cleansing or purifying”, “in the belly”, etc. The common thread that we see here over many different years of different customs is that it has a strong significance with birth or rebirth. As a baby is born they are pure, untouched, and clean emerging from the mother’s womb into a world where their survival rests on nourishment from their mother’s milk. It’s a beautiful, natural part of life in the physical world of man and in the spiritual world as well. A reminder that with death…there is always rebirth. So death isn’t a final thought, or a destination, it’s a milestone that leads to new things. Something to not only not fear but to rejoice in. Blessed Imbolc!
Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/41190630@N05/3798227560/