“Celebrated between February 1st and February 3rd depending upon tradition. Also known as Imbolg, Candlemas, Brigantia, Lupercus, or Disting, Certain Western European traditions celebrated festivals from sundown to sundown. If you choose to observe Imbolc, your festival would begin at sundown on February 1st. This is one of the cross-quarter holy days, halfway between the winter solstice and the Vernal equinox.” Click here to learn more and watch a video.
“Imbolc has always been a fire festival so far as we know. The old ones did not have the advantages of astronomical understanding and were beset by a sincere concern that the longer, warmer days might not return. The bonfires were intended to encourage the return of summer. Like all good pagan festivals, Imbolc was adopted and adapted by Christian missionary monks. It was brought indoors, reduced to candles and renamed Candlemas (Candle Mass). The Roman version of this goddess festival, Juno Februata, was adapted as the Virgin Purification Feast.”
Excerpt taken from: Seasons of the Witch 2010 Weekly Calendar
A LITTLE HISTORY
“By February, most of us are tired of the cold, snowy season. Imbolc reminds us that spring is coming soon, and that we only have a few more weeks of winter to go. The sun gets a little brighter, the earth gets a little warmer, and we know that life is quickening within the soil. There are a number of different ways to celebrate this Sabbat. Spring is Coming! Imbolc is a holiday with a variety of names, depending on which culture and location you’re looking at. In the Irish Gaelic, it’s called Oimelc, which translates to “ewe’s milk.” It’s a precursor to the end of winter when the ewes are nursing their newly born lambs. Spring and the planting season are right around the corner.”
“To the Romans, this time of year halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox was known as Lupercalia. For them, it was a purification ritual in which a goat was sacrificed and a scourge made of its hide. Thong-clad men ran through the city, whacking people with bits of hide. Those who were struck considered themselves fortunate indeed. This is one of the few Roman celebrations that is not associated with a particular temple or deity. Instead, it focuses on the founding of the city of Rome, by twins Romulus and Remus, who were suckled by a she-wolf — in a cave known as the ‘Lupercale’.”
Although Imbolc isn’t even mentioned in non-Gaelic Celtic traditions, it’s still a time rich in folklore and history. According to the Carmina Gadelica, the Celts celebrated an early version of Groundhog Day on Imbolc too – only with a serpent, singing this poem:
Thig an nathair as an toll
(The serpent will come from the hole)
la donn Bride
(on the brown day of Bride (Brighid)
Ged robh tri traighean dh’an
(though there may be three feet of snow)
Air leachd an lair
(On the surface of the ground.)Among agricultural societies, this time of year was marked by the preparation for the spring lambing, after which the ewes would lactate (hence the term “ewe’s milk” as “Oimelc”). At Neolithic sites in Ireland, underground chambers align perfectly with the rising sun on Imbolc.
Like many Pagan holidays, Imbolc has a Celtic connection as well, although it wasn’t celebrated in non-Gaelic Celtic societies. The Irish goddess Brighid is the keeper of the sacred flame, the guardian of home and hearth. To honor her, purification and cleaning are a wonderful way to get ready for the coming of Spring. In addition to fire, she is a goddess connected to inspiration and creativity.
Brighid is known as one of the Celtic “triune” goddesses — meaning that she is one and three simultaneously. The early Celts celebrated a purification festival by honoring Brighid, or Brid, whose name meant “bright one.” In some parts of the Scottish Highlands, Brighid was viewed as Cailleach Bheur, a woman with mystical powers who was older than the land itself. Brighid was also a warlike figure, Brigantia, in the Brigantes tribe near Yorkshire, England. The Christian St. Brigid was the daughter of a Pictish slave who was baptised by St. Patrick, and founded a community of nuns at Kildare, Ireland.
In modern Wicca and Paganism, Brighid is viewed as the maiden aspect of the maiden/mother/crone cycle. She walks the earth on the eve of her day, and before going to bed each member of the household should leave a piece of clothing outside for Brighid to bless. Smoor your fire as the last thing you do that night, and rake the ashes smooth. When you get up in the morning, look for a mark on the ashes, a sign that Brighid has passed that way in the night or morning. The clothes are brought inside, and now have powers of healing and protection thanks to Brighid.
Excerpt from: http://paganwiccan.about.com