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The wheel of the year is turning toward the light: Imbolc

on February 1, 2017


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Imbolc

The wheel of the year is turning toward light, the sun gaining strength through the lengthening days. The festival of Imbolc, in early Febuary, marks the birth of lambs, the thawing of streams, and the first stirrings of Spring. Ostara, the Spring Equinox, marks the moment of balance between light and dark, as the sun prevails and light and life return.

Roughly halfway between the Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox. Throughout the British Isles, February was a harsh, bitter month for the rural folk to survive. In Scotland, this time was called “Faoilleach” – the Wolf Month, and also “Marbh mhio`s” – the Dead Month. But it was at this most trying time that the first small, undeniable signs of new life would begin to appear. Lambs would be born, soft rains encouraging the growth of new green grass shoots, Blackthorns and crocuses would blossom, ravens would begin to build their nests, and the clear voices of the larks could be heard calling across the snow laden fields. In Ireland, the farmers would now begin to prepare the land for new seed, while fishermen began to look forward to the end of the winter storms and rough sea conditions to launch their boats again.

While the Horned God, who reined over Autumn and Winter, still held power, The Old Woman of Winter, Cailleach, as she was known in Scotland, was reborn as Bride (Brigid the Light-Bringer, Bright One, Brighid, Brid) – Young Maiden of Spring, fragile, yet growing with strength each day as the sun warmed. She was honoured as the Goddess of healing and fertility, fire, keeper of the sacred flame, and guardian of home & hearth. In another version in which the God was reborn at Yule, and the Goddess was Crone, sees the Goddess as mother to the God at Imbolc, feeding him from her own body as the energy of Spring builds.
This festival was central to hearth and home – a celebration involving lighting the hearth fires and bringing out the last of the special foods, like butter and milk, that had been eked out through the hard winter months. Fires – lighting candles, hearths and bonfires, were very symbolic at this time – both in the sense of encouraging the return of the sun’s warmth and increasing power, and in the sense of purification for the new cycle ahead. With winter stores running low, it was important to the people who lived off the land to ensure a good season ahead and a steady supply of food. The Imbolc rituals were performed to bring in this divine energy.
So how does this translate into our modern times? As Pagans, we strive to rekindle our connection with the land, the changing of the seasons – learning to live back in rhythm with natural life. So at this time, we would apply the same philosophies and symbolisms (think on all four planes – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual) – in terms of welcoming back the beginning of Spring, purifying ourselves and our space, perhaps going through the kitchen larder, having a feast with loved ones, lighting candles / a fire, and generally preparing to come out of “winter hibernation”. What seeds will you be planting for the season ahead? What would you like to call energy into as the Sun slowly builds in power and warmth?

KEYWORDS/THEMES
Return of the light, renewal of the Maiden, start of Spring, increasing the light, hearth fire, creative fire, healing fire, women and the Goddess, purification, purity, growth, reunion of Goddess and God, renewal of maidenhood, renewal of the land, waking of the earth, returning to work on the land after the winter lull, renewal of fertility, letting go of the old and making way for the new.

ENERGY
Waxing

DATES
February 2nd (Northern hemisphere)

ASSOCIATED GODS
Gods of Love and Fertility, the Horned God, Aengus Og, Eros

ASSOCIATED GODDESSES
All Virgin/Maiden Goddesses – especially Brigid. Aradia, Athena, Inanna, Gaia, Februa

Below are more correspondences for the Imbolc festival. Use these for inspiration rather than hard and fast rules. You can choose to mark the change in season however you want – ultimately it is about your connection with nature, so do what resonates with you and your loved ones.

PLANTS, FLOWERS, HERBS, INCENSE
Angelica, Basil, Bay Laurel, Cinnamon, Coltsfoot, Heather, Iris, Myrrh, Tansy, Vanilla, Violet, Wisteria

CRYSTALS
Amethyst, Bloodstone, Garnet, Ruby, Onyx, Turquoise

COLOURS
White, yellow, pink, red, green, brown

FOOD
Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, poppyseed cakes, muffins, scones, breads, dairy products, peppers, onions, garlic, raisins, soups, spiced wines, herbal teas

IMBOLC ALTAR/DECORATIONS

Besoms
White and yellow flowers
Candle wheels
Brigid’s Crosses

The link below will take you to a site for a Brigid’s Cross Tutorial

http://colorful-crafts.com/brigids-cross-tutorial/

I do quite a bit of projects with fabric I thought I would share this little blessing, I have finished the embroidery for the Brigid’s Cloth just in time, I just need to press it.

On midwinter’s eve (Imbolc) place a piece of linen or cloth outside. It is said that on this night Brigid travels all over the land and if she sees this cloth she will bless it and give it healing powers with this prayer: Let the cloth of life be mended. Let the thread be linked again, restored, cleansed – the forests growing, native plants in field and fen. Let the cloth of life, in beauty, be restored by will to be. People with the plants and creatures, tending earth and sky and sea.

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