(Note from Daven: As you know, I am a member of Ancientsites, and as such, and being a Druid there, I sometimes have to do research on different holidays for the celebrations going on there. This is the compiled information on Imbolic. I gave this to my superior, one Ninian Cuchulainn for use in writing the celebration for use on the public boards.)
Compiled Imbolic Information
Credit this to Shannon Iceni
A good book on the Druids…’The World of the Druids” by Green has a little bit about Imbolic.
Celebrated Feb 1st it Celebrates the first sign of spring the lactation of the ewes. Imbolic means purification. This Sabbat was closely associated with the Irish Goddess Brigit who later became a Christian saint. So it is closely related to purification and possibly connected to luring the sun back to the earth using fire as a tool in sympathetic magic.
Another reference, although not as scholarly (sp?) , is McCoy’s “The Sabbats”. There is a reference to a lit wheel of the year later mutating to a crown of flowers on the maids head. ..
There really isn’t a lot that was recorded about this Sabbat. At least in the literature that I have. Mc Coy has a lot of fun ideas about how to celebrate this Sabbat. I don’t know how authentic you would like to get.
and credit this to Cornovius Parisii
Imbolic may be the beginning of spring, in theory, but it seems much more like “the deepest of winter” in terms of current Irish and Scottish weather. There have been climactic shifts, but these occurred very early in Celtic times (pre-700bc, ie Halstat).
Imbolic (along with the other three “fire” festivals conventionally called by their Irish names of Beltane, Lughnassagh and Samhain) is indeed marked on the Coligny calendar, a 1st century ad five-year bronze calendar discovered at Coligny in the Jura mountains and now displayed at the Gallo-Roman museum in Lyon (Gallo-Roman Lugdunnum, the capital of Gaul). Since this was a luni-solar calendar, the date of Imbolc and the other festivals shifted a bit from year to year – in a purely solar calendar they would have been on the same date (there is a school of thought that ties these to lunar phases, though, making them fixed ina lunar calendar and variable in a solar calendar).
These dates have persisted into Scots law, where they are the four quarter days (for example, quarterly rend is due on these days, they are ,arked as “red letter days” in a legal calendar, and so on.
These same four festivals are also repeatedly referred to in the 9th-12th century ad) Irish mythological sources, as Imbolc, Oimelc, Imbolg, etc. Note that the “b” is silent so these all have much the same pronunciation in practice.
According to the historian Ronald Hutton, the derivation from the name “sheeps milk” id “linguistically impossible” but there we are. Most other folks seem to accept that derivation, and it is around the time of year when sheep begin to lactate. Hutton also notes that there is a school of thought that links the Irish words for “milk” and “milking” with Indo-European word for purification, and this theory seems to be borne out by ritual (both Pagan and Christian – associated with Saint Brigid) which has accreted around this date.
The hagiography of Saint Brigid (who apparently has no hoistorical basis at all as a physical person and is very clearly a light Christianization of a pre-existing pagan Goddess) has purification aspects and also milk aspects (she was said to be the wet-nurse of Christ, in Irish Christian mythology). There is a particular four-armed cross, made of rushes, which is used in Ireland to mark St Brigids day, and is also used in Pagan ritual as well. Similar equal-armed crosses of Rowan (mountain ash), bound with red thread, are made in Lowland Scotland and in Cumbria. The arms in the Irish version are offset from the central portion, giving it a spiralling or sunwheel aspect.
The goddess Brigid was associated with smithcraft, poetry, and healing. She also had other aspects, for example in leinster where she was a battle goddess. In this, there was a fairly clear parallel with Minerva, and some Romano-British carvings use (?deliberate) ambiguity to represent either Brigid or Minerva (depending, presumably, on who was doing the looking).
There is a Romano-British carving on a rock outcrop in Chester, England, of Minerva which is also clearly a Brigid. It was later preserved during the middle ages sincce it was believed at that time to nbe a depiction of the Virgin Mary (who is not normally depicted with an owl and a spear, but there we are). (As an aside, it was in front of this ancient Pagan statue that I got married)
There are linguistic links between Brigid, Brigantia (goddes of the Brigantes) and Britannia (Goddess of the whole island of Mainland Britain).
Scots folklore has preserved a Christianised but still somewhat Pagan ritual for Brigid (which has been widely adapted and incorporated by assorted modern pagan groups): on Imbolc eve, a doll is made from rushes (or straw), dressed in a dress and a bonnet, and laid on the floor by the fire. The door of the house is opened, and three times is said “failte na bride” (bridget is welcome). Offerings of food and drink are left out. The fire is banked up and covered over (smoored), again with a prayer to Brigid, to keep its heat in for the next day.
And credit this to me: (I found it on the Internet)
Sementivae or Paganalia (Rom., Jan. 24) (Ancient: a.d. IX. Kal. Feb. This was a movable feast, however.)
This is the Festival of Sowing (Sementivae) after the seed has been sown and the land fertilized. There is a celebration in the villages (pagi) by which they are purified, and cakes are dedicated on the village hearths (pagani foci). Cakes of spelt and of the pork of the sow are offered to Tellus (Mother Earth), and to Ceres seven days later (Feb. 2). Ovid explains that Ceres gives the corn its vital power and Tellus gives it a place to grow. He presents a prayer to Them that the seeds grow and not be harmed by the weather or pests (an abbreviated version based on Frazer’s translation):
Partners in labor, Ye who reformed the days of old, And who replaced the acorns of the oak by better food, O satisfy the eager husbandman with boundless crops, That they may reap the due reward of all their tilling!
He observes that Ceres was nursed by Pax (Peace) and is Her foster child, and he thanks these Godesses for permitting swords to be beaten into plough shares. Also at this time folk may hang oscilla (little swinging figures for protection) in the trees. [OF I.657-700; SFC 68]
–Apollonius Sophistes (c) 1995
CANDLEMAS: The Light Returns
It seems quite impossible that the holiday of Candlemas should be considered the beginning of Spring. Here in the Heartland, February 2nd may see a blanket of snow mantling the Mother. Or, if the snows have gone, you may be sure the days are filled with drizzle, slush, and steel-grey skies — the dreariest weather of the year. In short, the perfect time for a Pagan Festival of Lights. And as for Spring, although this may seem a tenuous beginning, all the little buds, flowers and leaves will have arrived on schedule before Spring runs its course to Beltane.
‘Candlemas’ is the Christianized name for the holiday, of course. The older Pagan names were Imbolc and Oimelc. ‘Imbolc’ means, literally, ‘in the belly’ (of the Mother). For in the womb of Mother Earth, hidden from our mundane sight but sensed by a keener vision, there are stirrings. The seed that was planted in her womb at the solstice is quickening and the new year grows. ‘Oimelc’ means ‘milk of ewes’, for it is also lambing season.
The holiday is also called ‘Brigit’s Day’, in honor of the great Irish Goddess Brigit. At her shrine, the ancient Irish capitol of Kildare, a group of 19 priestesses (no men allowed) kept a perpetual flame burning in her honor. She was considered a goddess of fire, patroness of smithcraft, poetry and healing (especially the healing touch of midwifery). This tripartite symbolism was occasionally expressed by saying that Brigit had two sisters, also named Brigit. (Incidentally, another form of the name Brigit is Bride, and it is thus She bestows her special patronage on any woman about to be married or handfasted, the woman being called ‘bride’ in her honor.)
Stars light your path