Imbolc (“IM-mbolg”) is celebrated on the eve of February 1, halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. “Imbolc” is derived from i mbolg, an Irish Gaelic term meaning “in the belly” and is sometimes named Oimelc (“ewe’s milk”). This Major Sabbat marks the beginning of the Celtic Spring. This is a time for acknowledging the Deities associated with fire and for cleaning the home.
Imbolc is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature and there is evidence it has been an important date since ancient times. It was originally a Pagan festival associated with the goddess Brighid and was later Christianized as a festival for Saint Brigid. For the Celts, Imbolc was symbolized with fire, and this was a time for processions with candles to honor to the Triple Goddess Brighid. Brighid’s Crosses were made and a doll-like figure, called a Brídeóg (“Young Brighid”), would be paraded from house-to-house. Brighid was said to visit one’s home at Imbolc. To receive her blessings, people would make a bed for Brighid and leave her food and drink, while items of clothing would be left outside for her to bless. Brighid was also invoked to protect homes and livestock. Special feasts were had, holy wells were visited and it was also a time for purification and spring cleaning. Weather divination was performed by the Celts with the help of a hedgehog to know if winter was to end before April. The Gaulish celebrated during a feast called Usmolgos/Ambivolcios in honor of Brigantia.
Like many modern Pagans, I always do a spring cleaning during Imbolc’s eve. I never tried to use straw or rushes to create dolls and Brighid’s Crosses to protect my home, but it is in my future plans. An Imbolc tradition involves placing a lighted candle in each and every window (or every room) of the house, beginning at sundown, and allowing them to continue burning until sunrise in honor of Brighid. I do have many candles lit during Imbolc, but not in every room. I like to make my own candles during this time of the year and I always use beeswax or soy wax, as they are the most ecological waxes that I can find in store for this crafting project.
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