Tuesday 1 February 2011

Imbolc - St Brigid's Day - The Pagan Festival of Lights

Celebrated on the 1st of February, the pagen feast of Imbolc is the festival of Spring, the coming of fertility back to the land. Another name for this day is Candlemas, the Christianised name for the holiday.

Imbolc means "in the belly" of Mother Earth. It is a time to remember that deep in the earth lie the dormant seeds of new life and creativity which will soon be making their way upwards and outwards. A time to celebrate renewal and rebirth, out of the darkness, comes the light. Candlemas has as part of its tradition, candle making and candle burning, bringing in more light.

St Brigid is also known as the Goddess of fire - a group of ninteen priestesses kept a perpetual flame burning in her honor. She was the patroness of smithcraft, poetry and healing, especially midwifery. There is debate as to whether St Brigid was also the Celtic Goddess Brid. The Cross of St Brigid seems to represent the sunshine, with rays of light coming from it, in shape of the arms of the Catholic Cross. Some people say she had two sisters, also called Brigid, so they could pass the blame from one to the other I'd imagine! Another name for Brigid is Bride, and a woman being married is a "bride" in her honour.

The Catholic church could not call Brigid a demon as she did many good works during her life so they made her into the patron saint of smithcraft, poetry and healing. The holiday of St Brigid is chielfy marked by kindling sacred fires, since she symbolises the fire of birth and healing, the fire of the forge and the fire of poetic inspiration.

A Candlemass tradition held by Witches to this day involves placing a lighted candle in each and every window of the house beginning at sundown and allowing them to continue burning until sunrise. If you like making candles, Candlemas Day is the day for doing it. Some witches covens hold candle-making parties and try to make and bless all the candles they’ll be using for the whole year on this day.

Other customs for this day include weaving “Brigit’s crosses” from straw or wheat to hang around the house for protection, performing rites of spiritual cleansing and purification, making “Brigit’s beds” to ensure fertility of mind and spirit (and body, if desired), and making “crowns of light” (i.e., of candles) for the high priestess to wear for the Candlemas Circle, similar to those worn on St. Lucy’s Day in Scandinavian countries.

Spend some time today acknowledging where you have been all winter. Recognise the seeds of creativity that lie in you, whether they have been dormant during the dark, cold days, or have been active in you. There is more to come. Give thanks to Mother Earth for holding us all so sweetly during the winter, and know that as the sunshine shines down just moments longer every day, there will be a re-birth of creativity, of life, of joy in all of us. Let's invite it in!

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