As Imbolc Approaches

Imbolc/Candlemas Comments
As Imbolc Approaches

a guide to the Sabbat’s symbolism

by Arwynn MacFeylynnd

Date: February 1 or 2.

Alternative names: Imbolg, Candlemas, Oimelc, Brighid’s Day, Lupercus, the Feast of Lights, Groundhog’s Day

Primary meanings: The name “Imbolc” derives from the word “oimelc,” meaning sheep’s milk. It is considered a time of purification, preparation and celebration for new life stirring, anticipating spring. The holiday is also known as Candlemas; the custom of blessing candles at this time signifies awakening of life and honors the Celtic goddess Brighid, to whom fire is sacred. This Sabbat also celebrates banishing winter.

Symbols: Candle wheels, grain dollies and Sun wheels, a besom (witch’s broom), a sprig of evergreen, a bowl of snow and small Goddess statues representing her in the maiden aspect.

Colors: White, yellow, pink, light blue, light green; also, red and brown.

Gemstones: Amethyst, aquamarine, turquoise, garnet and onyx.

Herbs: Angelica, basil, bay, benzoin, clover, dill, evergreens, heather, myrrh, rosemary, willows and all yellow flowers.

Gods and goddesses: Brighid, the Celtic goddess of healing, poetry and smithcraft; all virgin and maiden goddesses; all fire and flame gods, connected with the newborn Sun.

Customs and myths: In Irish legends of the Tuatha De Danaan, Brighid is the name of three daughters of Dagda who over time were combined into one goddess. She was venerated in Scotland, Wales, on the Isle of Man and in the Hebrides. When celebrating Candlemas or Imbolc, spellwork for fertility, inspiration and protection are appropriate, defining and focusing on spiritual and physical desires for the future. Imbolc is a good time to get your life in order — physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally. Make plans, organize, clean out drawers and closets to bring in the new and clearing out the old. Make and bless candles; light one in each room in honor of the Sun’s rebirth. Carry out rites of self-purification. Burn mistletoe, holly and ivy decorations from Yule to signify the end of harsh weather and old ways.

Setting Up Your Imbolc Altar

Setting Up Your Imbolc Altar

By , About.com

It’s Imbolc, and that’s the Sabbat where many Wiccans and Pagans choose to honor the Celtic goddess Brighid, in her many aspects. However, other than having a giant statue of Brighid on your altar, there are a number of ways you can set up for the season. Depending on how much space you have, you can try some or even all of these ideas — obviously, someone using a bookshelf as an altar will have less flexibility than someone using a table, but use what calls to you most.

Colors

Traditionally, the colors of red and white are associated with Brighid. The white is the color of the blanket of snow, and the red symbolizes the rising sun. In some traditions, the red is connected with the blood of life. Brighid is also tied to the color green, both for the green mantle she wears and for the life growing beneath the earth. Decorate your altar with a white cloth, and drape a swath of red across it. Add green candles in candleholders.

The Beginnings of New Life

Altar decor should reflect the theme of the Sabbat. Because Imbolc is a harbinger of spring, any plants that symbolize the new growth are appropriate. Add potted bulbs — don’t worry if they’re blooming yet — and spring flowers such as forsythia, crocus, daffodils, and snowdrops. If you don’t have much luck planting bulbs, think about making a Brighid’s crown as a centerpiece — it combines flowers and candles together.

Celtic Designs

Brighid is, after all, a goddess of the Celtic peoples, so it’s always appropriate to add some sort of Celtic design to your altar. Consider adding a Brighid’s cross6 or any other item incoporating Celtic knotwork. If you happen to have a Celtic cross, don’t worry about the fact that it’s also a Christian symbol — if it feels right on your altar, go ahead and add it.

Other Symbols of Brighid

  • Cauldrons or chalices — she’s often connected to sacred wells and springs
  • A small anvil or hammer — Brighid is the goddess of smithcraft
  • A Brighid corn doll and Priapic wand
  • Sacred animals such as cows, sheep or swans
  • A goddess statue
  • A book of poetry, or a poem you’ve written — Brighid is the patroness of poets
  • Faeries — in some traditions, Brighid is the sister of the Fae
  • Healing herbs — she’s often connected to healing rites
  • Lots of candles, or a cauldron with a small fire in it
Enhanced by Zemanta

Giving Thanks to Brighid – Meal Blessing

Giving Thanks to Brighid – Meal Blessing

By , About.com

 
 
Giving Thanks to Brighid – Meal Blessing
 
This is the season of Brighid,
She who protects our hearth and home.
We honor her and thank her, for keeping us warm as we eat this meal.
Great Lady, bless us and this food,
and protect us in your name.

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Imbolc: Traditional Celebrations for a Modern Time

Imbolc: Traditional Celebrations for a Modern Time

Author:   Morgan 

This holiday is called many names including Imbolc, Oímealg, Lá Fhéile Bríde, Laa’l Breeshey, and Gwyl Mair Dechrau’r Gwanwyn and was originally celebrated when the ewes first began to lactate. Some older sources mention Imbolc being celebrated on February 13th, although now the date is fixed on February 2nd. This holiday is a celebration of the loosening of winters hold on the land and the first signs of spring’s immanent arrival. Three main types of ceremonies could be undertaken – purification with water, blessing with fire, and consecration of talismans or charms. In addition, the main ritual theme centered on inviting the goddess Brighid into the home, either in effigy or in the form of a person acting the part.

The fire represents the growing light of the sun. Candles are lit to celebrate the increased daylight, and often candles were blessed for use in the year to come; this connection to candles offers another alternate name for the holiday, Candlemas. In my personal practice I light special “sun” candles, and bless my candleholders for the year to come.

Ritual washing was done to cleanse and prepare the people for the agricultural work of the coming seasons. Water was blessed and then used to ceremonially wash the head, hands, and feet. Each year when I do this, I dip my fingers in the blessed water and run them over the body parts in question, asking that I be cleansed of winter’s cold and filled with summer’s warmth to work towards a new season. Then I pour the remaining water out onto the earth thanking Brighid for her blessing.

The main charms and talismans of Imbolc are related to Brighid. First there is the Brighid’s cross, a woven sun wheel shape which represented the cycle of the year and the four main holy days, according to the book Apple Branch. On Imbolc, you can weave new Brighid’s crosses, or bless ones you already have, although it may be better to burn the old and weave new each year when possible. A Brighid’s cross is protective and healing to have in the home.

A second talisman is the brídeóg, or “little Brighid” a small cloth or straw doll wearing white clothes which is an effigy of the goddess. In some cases, the brídeóg would be made from straw saved from the previous Lughnasadh. This doll played a role in ritual after being brought outside, usually carried by the eldest daughter, then invited to enter the home where it was led with all ceremony to a specially prepared little bed. The doll was left in the bed over night and its presence was believed to bless all those in the household.

Another talisman connected to Imbolc is Brigid’s mantle, or an brat Bríd, a length of cloth left out on the window sill over the course of the holy day and night. It is believed that this cloth absorbs the energy of the goddess during the ritual, and can be used for healing and protection throughout the year. This talisman would be kept and recharged every year, attaining full power after seven years.

The ritual for Brighid on Imbolc centers on inviting the goddess in and offering her hospitality. In some cases a woman was chosen to play the part of the goddess, in other cases the brídeóg was used. The door would be opened to her and she would loudly be invited in, shown to her “bed” and offered specially baked bread. Candles would be lit at the windows and next to her “bed”, songs would be sung and prayers said calling on Brighid to bless all present in the coming seasons, and grant health and protection to the household.

A small broom or white wand would be placed next to the “bed”, and the ashes from the fire would be smoothed down in the hopes that the morning would reveal the marks of the wand, or better yet, the footprints of the goddess herself, either of which would be a sign of blessing. Placing the doll in her bed at night would be followed by a large family meal.

In Scotland a hundred years ago when entire communities still celebrated Imbolc in the old way, a sheaf of corn would be dressed as Brighid and taken from house to house by the young girls. The girls would carry the doll from home to home where the “goddess” would be greeted and offered food and gifts. After visiting each home, the girls would return to the house they started from where a party would be held with music, dancing, and feasting until dawn; all the leftover food would be handed out to the poor the next day.

Other rituals involve blessing the forge fires for blacksmiths and Otherworld divinations. In some Scottish mythologies, it is believed that Brighid is held by the Cailleach Bhur during the winter months but escapes, or is rescued by her brother Aonghus mac óg, on Imbolc. In others, it is said the Cailleach drinks from a hidden spring and transforms into Brighid on this day.

For modern people seeking to celebrate Imbolc in a traditional way, there are many options. Rituals can be adapted to feature the brídeóg. If you celebrate in a group, you could have one person wait outside with the doll while the other members prepare her bed, and then the group leader could go to the doorway and invite the goddess in. This could even be modified for use in an urban setting with the brídeóg “waiting” out in a hallway or separate room to be invited in.

Once invited in the goddess can be offered food and gifts as was done in Scotland and stories about Brighid from mythology could be told. Water can be used for purification; blessing with fire or of candles can be done, as well as making and consecrating the charms associated with Brighid. After ritual, the doll could be left in the bed while the group celebrates with a party; to keep the spirit of the way this was done for a modern time all members should bring food to donate to a local food pantry. A solitary celebration could still include inviting the goddess in, placing the brídeóg in her bed, making offerings to her, and a private celebration and food donations.

Imbolc is a powerful holy day with many beautiful traditions. By understanding how this day was celebrated in the past, we can find ways to incorporate those methods into modern practice and preserve the traditions that have surrounded Brighid’s day for so many generations

____________________________

Footnotes:
Carmichael, A. (1900) . Carmina Gadelica. Floris books. ISBN-10 0-86315-520-0
Evert Hopman, E. (1995) . A Druid’s Herbal of the Sacred Earth Year. Destiny Books ISBN 0-89281-501-9
Kondrariev. K. (1998) . The Apple Branch: A Path to Celtic Ritual. Citadel Press ISBN 0-8065-2502-9
McNeill, F. (1959) . The Silver Bough, volume 2. McLellan and Co.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Imbolc: A Midwinter Festival

Imbolc: A Midwinter Festival

Spring is stirring just beneath the surface at Imbolc, a Wiccan holiday when we anticipate the earth’s rebirth.

BY: Kaatryn MacMorgan

On January 31st, many Wiccans, practitioners of the religion of Modern Wicca, will celebrate Imbolc, a midwinter festival halfway between the beginning of winter, at the Winter Solstice, and the beginning of spring, at the Spring Equinox in March. The actual date of Imbolc varies within the many sects of Wicca, falling as early as January 29th and as late as February 3rd, but like all Wiccan holidays, it begins the moment the sun sets and ends just before sunset on the following day.

Wiccan holidays celebrate transitions, the passage from spring to summer, and from winter to spring, for example, so it is not surprising that the name of this holiday, also called Imbolg, the feast of Brighid, and the Calends of February, found its way into Wicca from its native Celtic peoples. Of course, it is not only the Wiccans who have decided to honor this holiday, as its main focus–the change from winter to spring–is most assuredly the point of our secular “Groundhog Day.”

The ancient Romans, Celts, Greeks, Chinese and many Native Americans all have similar holidays at this time of year, and many Reconstructionist, followers of ancient religions being resurrected through a combination of faith, scholastic research and imagination, practice Imbolc in forms far closer to the originals than the modern holiday practiced in Wicca.

For Wiccans the holiday is a break from the gloom of winter, a macroscopic version of the Wednesday parties that celebrate having more of the workweek behind you than before you. It is the day when spring begins to appear like the light at the end of a long tunnel, not really perceptible at first, but affecting the earth nonetheless.

Though we can’t see it through the cover of white, at Imbolc we know the spring bulbs have sent runners into the earth, that the ice floes on our lakes and rivers have begun to thin and move, and that the first of the young animals due in spring have been born. Many Wiccans celebrate this holiday as a group by standing in a dark room, with one small candle flame lighting their way, each Wiccan then lights their candle from that flame, until everyone in the room is bathed in the great light of their community’s bounty. Prayers are said for a gentle spring, and that stores of food and money, greatly depleted by the festivities of the winter solstice, last long enough to be supplemented by the first crops.

It is a holiday of preparedness. The houses of Wiccans are scrubbed floor to ceiling, bills are paid, and taxes are filed, so that none of the business of the winter interferes with the pure joy of the earth’s rebirth. When this has been done, we determine, by logic, by divination, or just an educated guess, what will not last until spring, or what excess is present in our houses. These things become a great feast, in my house, a huge kettle of “stone soup,” soup made by what is brought to it by those that would eat it. We share together in this great pot of soup, complete with a version of the stone soup story and send everyone home with a jar of it as a reminder of how the simplest things can become fantastic with the addition of one magic ingredient–community.

—beliefnet

Enhanced by Zemanta

Brighid’s Crossroads Divination

Brighid’s Crossroads Divination

By , About.com

Imbolc is a time when the Wheel of the Year has reached a crossroads between light and dark. The earth is about to quicken, and yet no one knows exactly what lies ahead of us. There are twists and turns on the path to come, although where it leads is anyone’s guess.

Among her many aspects, Brighid is considered a goddess of the crossroads. She is said to be able to see where we’ve been, and where each road might take us, should we choose to follow it. A Brighid’s Cross unites the four elements, and creates paths which travel in the four directions. Because of this, Imbolc is an ideal time for divination. Not sure where your headed this year, or what choices lie before you? Let Brighid help guide you as you weave a crossroads of your own in her honor. As you create a Brighid’s Cross as part of this divination, ask her to inspire you, and guide you towards the right path in the coming months.

For this divination, you’ll want to find a place where you can be alone and undisturbed. If it’s warm enough, try to get outside, perhaps out in the woods where two paths intersect. Before you begin, read the instructions here on how to Make a Brighid’s Cross. Have all your supplies on hand prior to beginning your divination ritual.

Begin by closing your eyes, and thinking about where you’ve been in the past year, spiritually, emotionally, even physically. What things have you done that bring your regret? What things have brought you joy? Is there anything you wanted to do, but didn’t get a chance to? Picture yourself wandering along a path, out of the past and into the present. Let your mind roam freely, and visualize yourself approaching a crossroads. Perhaps it’s a place in a forest, where a pair of deer trails run together. Maybe it’s in the mountains, where streams intersect. Or maybe you picture yourself out in a wide open space, with roads connected in the middle of nowhere.

Regardless, see yourself at that crossroads. You are at the center, and branching out from where you stand are many paths. Each leads in a different direction. Each path will take you to something new. Begin creating your Make a Brighid’s Cross, and as you weave the straws together, think about what may lie in each direction. As you look out over your choices, thinking about which way to travel, Brighid herself is standing beside you. Continue weaving your cross, and watch her. She points out one of the roads.

When you’ve finished your cross, close your eyes once more, and meditate on the path which Brighid indicated for you. What lies in that direction? Is it something familiar and comforting? Something new and unknown? Focus on the cross you’ve made, and let this newly chosen path inspire you. Know that it will ultimately bring you to something good and positive and strong.

When you’ve finished, you may wish to make an offering to Brighid as a gesture of thanks for her guidance.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Brighid’s Mantle – History and Lore

Brighid’s Mantle – History and Lore

By , About.com

Brighid is the Celtic goddess who is the keeper of the hearth, the deity who watches over nursing mothers and pregnant women, and who is the overseer of all things domestic. She is also connected to healing and wisdom. One commonly found symbol of Brighid is her green mantle, or cloak. In Gaelic, the mantle is known as the brat Bhride.

Although her origins are that of a Pagan goddess, at one point she became associated with Christianity and St. Brighid of Kildare. The legend has it that Brighid was the daughter of a Pictish chieftain who went to Ireland to learn from St. Patrick. In one story, the girl who later became St. Brighid went to the King of Leinster, and petitioned him for land so she could build an abbey. The King, who still held to the old Pagan practices of Ireland, told her he’d be happy to give her as much land as she could cover with her cloak. Naturally, her cloak grew and grew until it covered as much property as Brighid needed, and she got her abbey. Thanks to her roles as both a Pagan goddess and a Christian saint, Brighid is often seen as being of both worlds; a bridge between the old ways and the new.

In Celtic Pagan stories, Brighid’s mantle carries with it blessings and powers of healing. Many people believe that if you place a piece of cloth out upon your hearth at Imbolc, Brighid will bless it in the night. Use the same cloth as your mantle each year, and it will gain strength and power each time Brighid passes by. The mantle can be used to comfort and heal a sick person, and to provide protection for women in labor. A newborn baby can be wrapped in the mantle to help them sleep through the night without fussing.

To make a Brighid’s mantle of your own, find a piece of green cloth long enough to comfortably wrap around your shoulders. Leave it on your doorstep on the night of Imbolc, and Brighid will bless it for you. In the morning, wrap yourself in her healing energy.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Brighid – Hearth Goddess of Ireland

Brighid – Hearth Goddess of Ireland

By , About.com

Origins of Brighid:

In Irish mythological cycles, Brighid (or Brighit), whose name is derived from the Celtic brig or “exalted one”, is the daughter of the Dagda, and therefore one of the Tuatha de Dannan. Her two sisters were also called Brighid, and were associated with healing and crafts. The three Brighids were typically treated as three aspects of a single deity, making her a classic Celtic triple goddess.

Patron and Protector:

Brighid was the patron of poets and bards, as well as healers and magicians. She was especially honored when it came to matters of prophecy and divination. She was honored with a sacred flame maintained by a group of priestesses, and her sanctuary at Kildare, Ireland, later became the home of the Christian variant of Brighid, St. Brigid of Kildare. Kildare is also the location of one of several sacred wells in the Celtic regions, many of which are connected to Brighid. Even today, it’s not uncommon to see ribbons and other offerings tied to trees near a well as a petition to this healing goddess.

Celebrating Brighid:

There are a variety of ways to celebrate the many aspects of Brighid at Imbolc. If you’re part of a group practice or a coven, why not try Honoring Brighid With a Group Ceremony? You can also incorporate prayers to Brighid into your rites and rituals for the season. Having trouble figuring out what direction you’re headed? Ask Brighid for assistance and guidance with a Brighid’s Crossroads Divination Ritual.

Brighid’s Many Forms:

In Britain, Brighid’s counterpart was Brigantia, a warlike figure of the Brigantes tribe near Yorkshire, England. She is similar to the Greek goddess Athena and the Roman Minerva. Later, as Christianity moved into the Celtic lands, St. Brigid was the daughter of a Pictish slave who was baptized by St. Patrick, and founded a community of nuns at Kildare.

In addition to her position as a goddess of magic, Brighid was known to watch over women in childbirth, and thus evolved into a goddess of hearth and home. Today, many Pagans and Wiccans honor her on February 2, which has become known as Imbolc or Candlemas.

Crafts to Honor Brighid:

In many Pagan traditions today, Brighid is celebrated with crafts that honor her role as the protector of the hearth. You can make a Brighid corn doll, as well as a Bride’s Bed for her to sleep in. Perhaps the best known decoration is the Brighid’s Cross, whose arms represent the place where a crossroads comes together, the space between light and dark.

Brighid and Imbolc:

Like many Pagan holidays, Imbolc has a Celtic connection, although it wasn’t celebrated in non-Gaelic Celtic societies. The early Celts celebrated a purification festival by honoring Brighid. In some parts of the Scottish Highlands, Brighid was viewed as a sister of Cailleach Bheur, a woman with mystical powers who was older than the land itself. In modern Wicca and Paganism, Brighid is sometimes viewed as the maiden aspect of the maiden/mother/crone cycle, although it might be more accurate for her to be the mother, given her connection with home and childbirth.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Today Begins The Celtic Tree Month of Rowan

Celtic Tree Months

By , About.com

Rowan Moon: January 21 – February 17

The Rowan Moon is associated with Brighid, the Celtic goddess of hearth and home. Honored on February 1, at Imbolc, Brighid is a fire goddess who offers protection to mothers and families, as well as watching over the hearthfires. This is a good time of year to perform initiations (or, if you’re not part of a group, do a self-dedication). Known by the Celts as Luis (pronounced loush), the Rowan is associated with astral travel, personal power, and success. A charm carved into a bit of a Rowan twig will protect the wearer from harm. The Norsemen  were known to have used Rowan branches as rune staves of protection. In some countries, Rowan is planted in graveyards to prevent the dead from lingering around too long.

Enhanced by Zemanta