Post by Joanna on Jan 30, 2015 0:33:41 GMT -5
Imbolc, a Gaelic Festival
Imbolc is a Gaelic festival marking the beginning of spring. It was generally celebrated on or around February 1st. The festival is believed to date to Neolithic (Stone Age) times. Evidence of this can be found on the Hill of Tara where the Mound of the Hostages was built in 3000 BC so that the sun lit up its chambers on the dates Imbolc and Samhain.
The name Imbolc comes from the old Irish Imbolg which means “in the belly,” a reference to pregnant ewes which gave birth around this time of year. It is also strongly associated with Brighid, the goddess of fertility.
With the coming of Christianity, the goddess Brighid was adopted renamed St. Brighid. In many parts of Ireland, St. Brighid’s day is still celebrated February 1 and many of the old traditions are still kept alive.
Imbolc was a festival closely related to the home and hearth. Traditionally, at Imbolc, Brighid’s crosses were made out of Rushes or Reeds and hung on doors or in the rafters of homes. A large straw doll of Brighid would be made and paraded through the town going from door to door. Brighid was believed to visit people’s abodes on Imbolc and so food, drink and a bed would be laid out especially for her as an offering of hospitality in exchange for her blessing. People would leave items of clothing or cloth outside their doors during the night so that Brighid could bless them. There would also be a great feast and people would visit the holy wells and leave offerings in return for blessings of good health. Fires were lit as a symbol of the return of longer days and warmth.
Imbolc was also a time of weather divination. Gaelic legend has it that on this day, the Cailleach, the ruler of the dark side of the year, would gather her firewood for the remainder of winter. If she decided to make it a long winter, she would make the day warm and sunny so that she could gather as much wood as possible. So everyone would rejoice if Imbolc was accompanied by bad weather as it suggested an early spring.
Another tradition was to wait for serpents or badgers to emerge from their dens, indicating fine weather to come. A similar tradition is still alive in North America where Groundhog Day is celebrated February 2. It is believed if the groundhog emerges from its hole and sees its shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter.
Today Imbolc is generally celebrated in Ireland as St. Brighid’s day February 1st. However, various neo-pagan groups have brought it back, observing many ancient traditions, including feasts and bonfires in celebration of the seasonal changes.
See also “Brigid: Christian Saint or Spring Goddess?”: whatliesbeyond.boards.net/thread/4964/brigid-christian-saint-spring-goddess
“Imbolc Traditions and Foods”: whatliesbeyond.boards.net/thread/4973/imbolc-traditions-foods