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Thursday, 31 January 2013

Imbolc



IMBOLC

Most commonly it is held on 31 January–1 February, or halfway between the winter solstice and the Spring equinox. It is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals, along with Beltane, Lughnasadh and Samhain. It was observed in Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. Kindred festivals were held at the same time of year in other Celtic lands; for example the Welsh Gŵyl Fair y Canhwyllau. Imbolc is a festival of purification and a celebration of the first signs of spring. It is the time when the milk begins to engorge the udders of the livestock in preparation for the first births of spring. It is an important date in the beginning of the agricultural year. Preparations for spring sowing, hiring of farm workers for the coming season, fishermen taking out their boats after staying in for the winter season, seaweed gathering on the coast to be used for fertilizer, and the gathering of shellfish all begin at that this time. The larder of the housewife and the hay stores of the farmer were also checked to make sure that only half had been consumed.
Most of the elements of the traditional celebration can be seen, as referring to sexual intercourse and fertility: the men, having the charge of making the "little Brid doll" often from the phallic dasher of a churn; the women preparing the "bed" for the don; the churning of butter; the emphasis on birth and milking; and the use of straw, which was the traditional material for the birthing bed for human and beast alike, etc.
In folk practice, it appears mostly as a holiday centered on the household, but it can easily be turned into a community celebration as well.


BRIGID - THE GODDESS OF IMBOLC AND CELTIC EUROPE
The Pagan goddess Brigid is perhaps one of the oldest goddesses ofCeltic Europe still recognized and worshipped. In fact, until themid-twentieth century in Scotland, she was still welcomed in at Imbolc by the symbolic rekindling of the hearth fire afterthe house had been cleaned from top to bottom for spring.
Brighid has been known by many names, mostly depending upon the specificlocation or time period. Worshipped in Ireland, Wales, Spain, France, and Britain, she was called Brighde in Ireland, Bride in Scotland, Brigantia in Northern Britain, Brigandu in France, and alsoknown as Brid, Brig and Brighid. The name Bridget is the Christianizationof these pre-Christian goddess names.
Her name is taken to mean "Power," "Renown" and "Fiery Arrow of Power." In the Celtic myth cycles, she is an aspect of Danu, the daughter of theDagda. She is a triple goddess. However, she is not of themaiden, mother, crone variety; she has three different aspects which are allparts of the same ageless goddess.One aspect of Brighid is of poetess and muse, goddess ofinspiration, learning, poetry, divination, witchcraft, occult knowledge.
A second aspect of Brighid was as goddess of smithcraft, carrying a famous cauldron for this purpose.
The third aspect of Brighid was that of healer, goddess ofhealing and medicine. These three aspects were united through the symbolof fire; thus here appellation as a fire goddess. In various places shewas also know as goddess of fertility, the hearth, all feminine arts andcrafts, and the martial arts. She was identified with the changing moon andthe ox, boar and ram. Her sacred number is 19 (the Celtic Great year --the number of years it takes for the new moon to coincide with theSun's winter solstice).
Some clues to her association with fire, and possibly the Sun, canbe found in an Irish legend that states that in Winter Brighid was imprisonedin an icy mountain by a one-eyed hag. In some places, she presided over thermal springs (i.e. water warmed by an underground Sun...?). But these are speculative. Brighid may even pre-date the Celtic period, being a remembrance of a more ancient seasonal goddess of Ireland and Scotland.
Gwydion

Saint Brighid  by ibgreenie3
   
 I look ahead, as the cold, rainy days of January go by. Day after day, after cloudy day. I plan & look for the small light under the earth that is waiting to peek its head out.
Its Imbolc, St.Brighid’s day. In my old belief system, Roman Catholism, its Candlemas day or the Presentation at the Temple of the baby Jesus. Candlemas day it was called before the Vatican II reform. We would be given candles and light them at Mass. But this feastday goes back to Bridhid’s day. Because She brought the Light back to us at Imbolc. Imbolc is when nature stirs after the long, cold winter. Sheep are getting ready to give birth to their lambs. Seeds are trying to push their way through the soil, still partly frozen underground. Brighid has several symbols that are linked to Her. Light, at Imbolc we notice the day’s are getting longer. The Sun’s rays feel warm on our faces. Fire, for She is master of the smith’s art. She gives the gift of inspiration for writers & poets. Brighid’s gift of healing is well known, whether She is known as the Saint or the Goddess.
So, the Light at the end of my tunnel is Brighid. Brighid as my Goddess, Her arms are open wide to receive all who look for Her arrival. I have a hand-made a Sun-wheel, a symbol of the Goddess. Some call it Brighid’s cross. In Kildare, Ireland, Brighid has a monastery that has nuns who tend Her perpetual fire. I am a flame-keeper for Brighid also. What a grace to keep a light burning for Her for 24 hrs. During this time, I pray for the sick, people & animals, and those who has passed over the veil. I am not alone in this. Hundreds of thousands keep Brighid’s flame too. I will be making a corn dolly in honor of Brighid. There is a custom that Brighid’s cloak is a healing garment. If you leave a cloth on your store step, as Brighid passes, She blesses your cloth. Then, your cloth has healing abilites also. Each year Brighid passes, leave your cloth on your porch. It becomes stronger with the gift of healing that Brighid gives.
Winter is still here, but slowing there are signs of hope. Especially for those who long for more Sun, light & fire. May the coming of the Goddess & Saint Brighid be the Light you are looking & waiting for, like me.
ibgreenie3