MYTH*ING LINKS
An Annotated & Illustrated Collection of Worldwide Links to Mythologies,
Fairy Tales & Folklore, Sacred Arts & Sacred Traditions
by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.

Imbolc
(Celtic),
Candlemas
(Catholic)

Also:
Lupercus (Strega),
Thryphon Zarezan(Bulgarian),
Disting (Teutonic, Feb 14th)
Valentine's Day (Feb 14th)

Author's Note:

Imbolc arrives in early February in what feels like the dead of winter in much of the Northern Hemisphere -- cold and white during the days, and with long bluish shadows falling over the snow as twilight nears.  Nevertheless, this day marks the first seed of springtide (whose midpoint will be celebrated later in March).

At this time, sacred pagan rituals were held across Europe.  The Celtic name, which is the most well known of many ancient names, is Imbolc, a time to celebrate the goddess Brigid in her lively, creative maiden-aspect.  In the Catholic Church, the feast is Candlemas ("Mass of the Candles"), for in earlier times churches and monasteries were filled with tiers of burning candles to mark the end of the Yule season with a celebration commemorating the Virgin Mary's ritual purification forty days after giving birth.

***********************************************
http://www.applewarrior.com/celticwell/ejournal/imbolc/about_imbolc.htm
[Added 31 January 2009; expanded 30 January 2010]: This 1999 Celtic Well e-Journal essay, "Imbolc: Feeding the Body & Soul," by Francine Nicholson takes a scholarly look at various practices associated with Imbolc and the goddess Brigid. Nicholson looks at the Celtic year, social roles of the quarter-days and seasons, and specific Imbolc issues. On etymology, she makes a useful connection with smithing:
...It may be worth noting that the Irish verb imbolgaid means to blow a bellows. Smithing was another aspect of Brigid, the goddess and saint often associated with Imbolc. One could visualize a ritual image of blowing the bellows to increase the fire that would warm the cold earth....
On Brigid, she notes:
Most of the Imbolc customs collected by folklorists are specifically associated with St. Brigid, the reputed founder and abbess of the double monastery at Kildare in Ireland. Modern popular writers have followed the lead of scholars such as Mac Cána and Sjoestedt in suggesting that these customs were originally associated with a pre-Christian Celtic goddess named Bríg or Bríd, and that such a goddess was one of the dominant figures in pre-Christian Ireland. More recently, scholars have questioned whether the pre-eminence of St. Brigid was due more to the vigorous public relations efforts of the medieval rulers of Leinster and the leaders of the monastery at Kildare than to the pre-Christian role of the goddess. (Herbert, p. 146) It is also likely that many of the known Imbolc ritual sites and customs were originally focused on other goddess figures, possibly the various forms of the Cailleach. The relation between the Cailleach and Bríg continues to be discussed....
The essay is footnoted with fine references for those who wish to explore further.
http://www.applewarrior.com/celticwell/ejournal/imbolc/yesterdays.htm
[Added 30 January 2010]: This is another scholarly essay from 1999, "Imbolc in Yesterday's Ireland & Scotland," by Francine Nicholson. Especially interesting -- and not mentioned elsewhere -- is the intriguing suggestion that Imbolc originally involved "a cult of bears, honey, and mead." Here is that passage along with related "rebirth" issues:
...In his carefully documented study, Ó Catháin suggests that the rituals originally associated with Imbolc were part of a cult of bears, honey, and mead. Figures of bears were made in Ireland long after the animals ceased to live there. All of these elements have associations with inspiration and knowledge. Also, because of their hibernation habits, bears were closely associated with the rebirth of the earth. It is difficult to say now what those early rituals might have been, but Ó Catháinís suggestions deserve more study.

Séamas Ó Catháin has also noted the parallels between Imbolc rituals and those that traditionally accompanied childbirth in rural Scandinavia. The ritual of stepping through the críos or girdle of Bríg may be a symbolic re-enactment of birth. At this point, it is unclear exactly what well rituals of rebirth were once associated with Imbolc to ensure the fertility of the awakening land. However, at a time when the natural world was coming out of its wintry sleep, one would expect rituals to dramatically re-enact this fact. It is probably not accidental that the holy well at Liscannor is situated underground; perhaps devotees once descended into the well chamber and re-emerged ritually. (Brenneman & Brenneman, 104) MacNeill notes that Liscannor was primarily a site of pilgrimage at Lughnasa, but two of her sources attest that it was also a site used at Imbolc. (Mac Neill, p. 276-277)

This highlights the basic theme of Imbolc: the rebirth of the land from its wintry, death-like sleep into new life. Itís unclear whether the associated goddess was thought to be reborn herself or whether she was the agent for regenerating the land....

Though their evidence is fragmentary, the aura of fertility hangs about many of the rituals folklorists have collected: the churning of butter with the dash, the bedding of Brigid by the fire, the night-long revelry of young people, and so on. However, one key element is missing: a male counterpart to Brigid, for the saint is a virgin. Surely, a male deity once partnered the goddess in the Imbolc rituals, but almost all trace of him has been lost or suppressed. One Scots traditional story gives us a hint: it tells of Aengus mac ind Óg rescuing Bride from a hag and bringing spring in the process. This is an intriguing story, but offers too little evidence for certainty.

http://www.knibbworld.com/rae/ae2004.htm: [Link updated 1/31/07, and again 1/31/09]
[Added 30 January 2005]:....This is a page from a lovely website by England's "hedge witch," Rae Beth.  While this page isn't specifically on Imbolc (it's actually for Autumn Equinox 2004), her "Familiar Spirit" offers a wonderful spell that's very appropriate for this time of year.  This is that Spirit speaking:
..."We dont really need many more words about magic. We need words that are magical.  Spells that restore harmony in countless ways, by banishing what is ill or invoking what makes well.  Spells are most needed for the wholeness of the world. For a rejoining of the separate threads in the cloth of the world's existance. Gashes have been made in it- like those in the ozone layer. Threads have been broken, such as those connecting an animal or a plant species with a locality or with each other. Stains have been placed in it by toxic waste. Before this cloth disintegrates, sing to it, to mend it. Sing something like this.

              SPELL

              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."

Rae Beth suggests various magical rites that could be used in conjunction with this spell.  Then she adds:

...We are harvesting a realisation, collectively, that it is our world that is endangered. Not certain species but all of it, ourselves as well. Anyone's spell might be a crucial one, starting a chain of events that bring massive changes. So anyone's tiny magical rhyme might be extremely important. We need magical words in huge quantities. And that means words with a magical purpose (never mind the literary value)...
Here is her site's Main page where she explains her views on being a witch and offers information on books she has written.  Near the bottom, you'll find a lovely poem from her Familiar Spirit to her, which may speak to many.  You'll also find her appealing definition of a hedge witch:
The work of the hedge witch is to take the insights of the wildwood mystic and apply them in the service of life, through spells that help and heal the land, other people or creatures, or our own selves.  We have many ways of achieving this, and we are guided by familiar spirits who assist us with magic. Though simple to tread, the Way is still challenging with many twists and turns, and faces peering from behind old oaks (sometimes our own face) and seas to cross to reach magical islands. Fear not, it is a Way of enchantment and beauty....
http://web.archive.org/web/20070611214102/http://www.knibb.org/rae/i2003.htm: [updated 1/31/09, now on WebArchive]
[Added 30 January 2005]:This is Rae Beth's Imbolc 2003 page -- my favorite of the three Imbolc pages she offers [see below for the earlier two]:  The focus is on fire and healing -- here are several excerpts:
The three-aspected springtime fire of the Goddess Brighid, especially linked with the recent festival of Imbolg, is very much connected with healing. For the surge of fire, experienced in Northern Europe as slightly longer hours of daylight, restores us in three ways. First, it gives us a lift of physical and psychological energy. (It is well known that daylight deprivation inclines people to depression and lethargy.) Secondly, it pleases our souls, because it not only brings the presence of spring flowers but inclines our thoughts to love and romance.  Thirdly, it can increase our creativity. As our spirits lift, we are more likely to be inspired with new plans and projects....

...[N]atureís springtime fire increases our personal fire....

I believe there is said to be a biological connection between daylight, the pineal gland and stimulation of sexual / creative energy. In ritual and intuitive ways, it seems to me that this is what we are celebrating, when we light lots of candles on February 1st, in honour of the Goddess Brighid ( the Lady of the first stirrings of the Light, however we name Her .) And that this was perceived by our Pagan Ancestors, in the days before anyone knew anything at all about the endocrine system and light sensitivity. So Iíd like to share a Healing Spell that came to me this Imbolg.

                Spell for Healing

                The snake comes up from its hole in the ground
                And the snake-neck bird, the swan, goes flying
                As the light flares higher and the dark is dying.
                Rise, rise, rise in my body and soul
                The Fire! Power! Life! The flame of desire!
                Let fire within be a healing spell.
                As the new light burns, all shall be well.

She then suggests interesting ritual ways of using that spell.
http://web.archive.org/web/20070607205456/http://www.knibb.org/rae/i2002.htm: [updated 1/31/09, now on WebArchive]
[Added 30 January 2005]: This is Rae Beth's Imbolc 2002 page with a focus on rituals and spells using milk in Imbolc rituals:
...I often do spells with water - all year round but not very often with milk. Our ancestors used it to clean kitchen tiles with because milk made things shine. Themes of both cleansing and nourishing are linked at Imbolg by milk.

Perhaps milk can wash away our pretensions if we acknowledge ourselves as in need of being given nourishment by the Great Mother. Like all her children we depend on Her. Not a comfortable idea in an era when being "in control" like a proper adult is valued above all....

http://web.archive.org/web/20070804122214/http://www.knibb.org/rae/i2001.htm: [updated 1/31/09, now on WebArchive; updated to another Web Archive link, 1/31/11]
[Added 30 January 2005]:This is Rae Beth's Imbolc 2001 page. Here her focus is on a witch's self-image:
One of this festival's main associations is with 'spring cleaning' or purification. And it strikes me that one of the things that still need cleaning up is the self image we witches have. Our idea of who we are. Among all the welter of stereotypes, from bad witches with snakes coming out of their fingers (as in the film "The Craft") to impossibly saccharine well behaved witches who only have to twitch their noses to magically help anyone, it can be extremely hard to hold onto the truth. Which is, that we use our magic to bring healing, but we are free spirits not domesticated do-gooders.... This is something we all need from time to time to remind ourselves of our value in our own terms. For witches are neither evil nor meekly self sacrificing. Neither all powerful nor powerless. We have always been here and our role is eternal....
She then offers a great Imbolc ritual-spell "for improving self confidence."  It's for witches but could be adapted for others as well. Here is how it concludes:
Follow this spell by placing one hand, palm down, upon the earth and pronouncing a blessing upon all the wild places and every wild and free spirit. Happy Imbolg! Let our light shine!


Snowdrop emerging out of the snow
http://fillesdegaia.wordpress.com/2009/02/

http://web.archive.org/web/20030423054206/http://www.dreamwater.net/silvercobweb/imbolc.html:
[1/29/05: earlier link died so I'm using the Web Archive's link, which can be quirky, so be patient]
[Added 30 January 2003]:....From "The Silver Circle" come good, basic notes on Imbolc:
Imbolc marks the end of winter and the beginning of Spring. We are mid-way between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox There are already snowdrops in the garden, glistening white admist the dreary greyness, a reminder of the warmer months, and a signal of Spring as it stirs in the earth, awakening new energies. Imbolc was an important time of the year for our ancestors because new animals were being born, like cows, sheep and goats. This is perhaps the reason for the name 'Imbolc' which means 'In milk'.... [But see Mike Nichols & others below for other possible translations]
There is information on the season's special foods, incense, flowers, gems, how to make Brighid Crosses, and much more.  There is also a good section with ritual ideas.  Here are a few excerpts:
...Before you write your Solstice ritual, think carefully about the Spring and the new light, how did winter seem? How do you imagine the coming summer to be? What does it mean to be re-awakened? How is this seen as a time for cleansing? ...

...Pour milk upon the earth and give thanks for the returning fertility and the sun....

...A red ribbon on your doorstep will be blessed by Brighid as she passes.  On Imbolc eve leave buttered bread in a bowl indoors for the faeries who travel with Brighid.  Place three ears of corn, tied with red ribbon, over a door as a symbol of the triple Goddess, leave til Ostara.  Make dream pillows for everyone in the family....

...Take a bowl of seeds and bless them, thinking about any goals of dreams for this year that you will make. Leave the seeds out overnight where the moon can shine upon them. Plant the seeds at Ostara and watch them grow bigger through the year, along with the manifestation of your dreams.

http://web.archive.org/web/20080513112408/http://www.ecauldron.com/brighidlore.php: [2/1/12: updated to Web Archive]
[Added 30 January 2003]: This is "Brighid Lore for Imbolc," a lively account by Doreen Motheral.  She first looks at the season itself:
...Imbolc is the time of the year that the ewes lactated, and the successful timing of this event was approximate, so the exact date of Imbolc could vary from region to region and from year to year depending on the climate. Production of this milk supply was very important to both man and animal.  From the milk comes butter and cheese. Newly calved cows were also put under Brighid's protection....
Then she turns to the goddess and finally to traditions associated with Imbolc rituals:
...On the eve of Imbolc, a piece of linen, other cloth or ribbons is placed outside (some folks put them on their window sill). This piece of cloth is called Brighid's Brat or Brighid's Mantle. It is said that Brighid travels all over the land on Imbolc eve and if she sees this cloth, she will bless it and give it healing powers. Some folks in Ireland say that the older your brat is, the more powerful it is....

...Brighid's fiery aspect makes her the perfect goddess of the hearth Ė in fact, my hearth at home is dedicated to Brighid. There are many hearth prayers dedicated to Brighid, especially concerning smooring. Ashes and embers were often deposited in the fields. Also, indoor activity associated with Imbolc often took place near the hearth, and if there was a feast, an extra place was set for Brighid. It is also considered bad luck to do any type of spinning on Brighid's Day....

http://www.webofoz.org/heritage/Brighid.shtml
[Added 30 January 2005]:  Ranging from Ireland to China, this is Lark's fine and often lyrical essay on the rich and varied cross-cultural aspects of this liminal time between winter and spring in the Northern Hemisphere.  Some excerpts:
...This is the Ridge of Winter and the Eve of Spring. On this night, Brighid the Cailleach, the ancient Hag, bathes in her sacred well and becomes Brighid the Caillín, the Maiden. On this night, winter begins to turn to spring, the year is made new, and creative fire kindles in all hearts.

On the Day of Bride, Brighid Sulis, Goddess of the opening eye of the young sun, wakes Swallowhead Spring at Silbury Hill to flow again. Oya, the Santeria Mother of Waters, holds a Candelaria festival beside the sea. At this season, Isis opened the Mediterranean for navigation. In the port cities, her people dressed images of the Goddess, set them in the new ships, and carried them down to the sea. Their processions survive in Mardi Gras parades and in the floats called Triumphs that became the Greater Trumps of the Tarot deck....

...This was the season of the Paganalia in Rome, two days of celebration held in gardens to wake Gaia from her winter sleep. It was the season of the first sowing as well, in honor of Ceres, Goddess of the grain. Masks and puppets were hung on trees in every garden and field to invoke the Corn Mother....

...Faunus and Pan and Herne and Cernunnos, Gods of the wild things, were honored at this season.... Goddesses of Fate and Justice were worshipped at this season.... At the festival of Pax and Irene, priestesses of Juno and Diana read out in the Forum the names of those accounted the enemies of peace and of women....

The enemies of peace and women: would that we still had that tradition, that it meant something, and that it could seriously call to account our world's leaders!  Then she concludes:
On Bride's Day, the sun dances, the adder wakes, the dandelion sprouts, and the lark begins to nest. Bride is the Grey Hound, the Mountain Woman, the Lady of the Faery Host, the Fair Woman of February, and Brighid Seek-Beyond.

This is the day of Bride the Maiden of Grace, who inspires poets, writers, and musicians. She is the lady of all who set their visions to words or to music. This is the day of Brighid the Mother of Peace, master and teacher of all crafts. She is the lady of all who create beauty by the skill of their hands. This is the day of Breed the Crone of Comfort, midwife and healer of bodies and souls. She is the lady of all who heal the ills of body or spirit or heart or mind.

This is the day of Bride. The serpent shall come from the hole. This is the day of Bride. The Queen has come from the mound.

A great plus is that Lark also includes a bibliography page for her seasonal essays: http://www.webofoz.org/heritage/bibliography.shtml
http://web.archive.org/web/20080119105054/http://cyberpict.net/sgathan/essays/imbolc.htm: [updated 1/31/09, now on WebArchive]
[Added 30 January 2003]: This is "Irish Fire Festivals: Imbolc or An Fhéill Bhrìde" from Kym ní Dhoireann (originally appearing in THiNK! Vol. 2, Issue 1 Winter/Imbolc 1996-97). It is a useful, well written little essay by a New England author; it includes a short bibliography.  Here are two interesting, sensible excerpts:
Imbolc (im-molc), also called An Fhéill Bhride (The Feast of Brighid) or Là Fhéill Bhride (Feast Day of Brighid),  is perhaps the least written about of the Fire Festivals of Ireland. This is most likely because during this time of year there was little traveling done and there were no great festivals held to celebrate it. This holiday was celebrated within the local village, which may also mean that its rituals were even more diverse than any others throughout the island. Travel was hazardous during this time, not so much for the cold but for the darkness. Like the Winter Solstice celebration of the continental Indo-Europeans, it was an important celebration in that the hope of spring must be celebrated or depression will overtake the people....

...Rather than going by the typical calendar date of February 2, try to do your ritual around the nearest thaw. If you have lived in your area for awhile you may even have an idea of when this will probably fall, but if you can be spontaneous you can wait until it happens. You may even want to wait until closer to our own Spring (remember, there is no evidence that any Iron Age culture celebrated all of the eight festivals of the NeoPagan calendar, they would have focused on the seasonal changes of their area so if you are doing an Irish or Scottish tradition doing Imbolc near the Spring Equinox is appropriate if that's when you first see Spring)....

 http://www.sacred-texts.com/bos/bos048.htm: [updated 31 January 2010]
 [Added 31 January 2001]: From Mike Nichols, one of my favorites, comes a lengthy, richly crafted essay on Imbolc/Candlemas:
...'Imbolc' means, literally, 'in the belly' (of the Mother). For in the womb of Mother Earth, hidden from our mundane sight but sensed by a keener vision, there are stirrings.  The seed that was planted in her womb at the solstice is quickening and the new year grows.... Brigit's holiday was chiefly marked by the kindling of sacred fires, since she symbolized the fire of birth and healing, the fire of the forge, and the fire of poetic inspiration....All in all, this Pagan Festival of Lights, sacred to the young Maiden Goddess, is one of the most beautiful and poetic of the year....
The site is intelligent and wide-ranging, even including some thoughts on the possible pagan origins of Valentine's Day.  (The only error I found is that Nichols is off by a day on Russian Orthodox Christmas -- he says it's 6 January -- it's actually 7 January.)
 http://www.wicca.com/celtic/akasha/imbolclore.htm
[Annotation expanded 30 January 2003]:  This eloquent, lyrical page is by Akasha Ap Emrys of the Celtic Connection (since I love her way with language and lore, her work appears often in my earth-based pages).  Here, she explores the deities of Imbolc (including the goddess Brighid), rituals of the Maiden-Bride, sacred hearth fires, straw dollies, acorn wands, ploughing traditions, herbs, gems, symbols, colors, foods, incense, activities -- all connected with the original lactating sheep festival of Imbolc.
Imbolc, (pronounced "IM-bulk" or "EM-bowlk"), also called Oimealg, ("IM-mol'g), by the Druids, is the festival of the lactating sheep. It is derived from the Gaelic word "oimelc" which means "ewes milk". Herd animals have either given birth to the first offspring of the year or their wombs are swollen and the milk of life is flowing into their teats and udders. It is the time of Blessing of the seeds and consecration of agricultural tools. It marks the center point of the dark half of the year. It is the festival of the Maiden, for from this day to March 21st, it is her season to prepare for growth and renewal. Brighid's snake emerges from the womb of the Earth Mother to test the weather, (the origin of Ground Hog Day), and in many places the first Crocus flowers began to spring forth from the frozen earth....

...Foods of Imbolc: Pumpkin seeds, Sunflower seeds, Poppyseed Cakes, muffins, scones, and breads, all dairy products, Peppers, Onions, Garlic, Raisins, Spiced Wines and Herbal Teas....

...Various other names for this Greater Sabbat are Imbolgc Brigantia (Caledonni), Imbolic (Celtic), Disting (Teutonic, Feb 14th), Lupercus (Strega), St. Bridget's Day (Christian), Candlemas, Candlelaria (Mexican), the Snowdrop Festival. The Festival of Lights, or the Feast of the Virgin.  All Virgin and Maiden Goddesses are honored at this time....

 http://www.wicca.com/celtic/akasha/imbolcrit.htm
This is an Imbolc ritual created by Akasha Ap Emrys (see above).  It is an exquisite piece of sacred theatre.
http://www.angelfire.com/nb/appalachianpagan/Wheelof%20the%20Year/imbolc.html
[Added 30 January 2003]: From the Appalachian Pagan Alliance comes a basic page on Imbolc that also offers a good "How To" section on making Brighid Crosses, a tinkling priapic wand, and heart-shaped spicy-rose sachets.  About the wand:
...Tell the children about how the acorn-wand is a symbol of the Lord of the Forest, and how this magical wand helps the sleeping plants and animals wake up and prepare for Spring.


The Goddess Brighid
© Sandra Stanton at Goddess Myths

http://www.widdershins.org/vol2iss7/i9704.htm
[Added 30 January 2003]:....This is "Brighid's Fires Burn High" by Miriam Harline:
Imbolc is a white time, a time of ice and fire. In many places, snow still sheets the ground. The fire is traditional: Europe observes this day, February 2, the Christian Candlemas, with candlelight processions, parades that go back to ancient torchlight ceremonies for purifying and reviving the fields at early sowing.... At Candlemas, the people of ancient Europe made candles for the coming year, having saved the fat from meat eaten through the winter. Mexico, too, observes February 2, the Aztec New Year, with renewed fires and a festival that echoes agricultural rituals of early spring....
About Brighid Herself:
...Cormac's Glossary gives Brighid the poetess two sisters, Brighid the smith and Brighid the "female physician"; Brighid thus occurs threefold, called by the Celts the Three Blessed Ladies.

The three Brighids multiply, to three times three: Caitlin and John Matthews call Brighid "a being who has nine separate spiritual appearances and blessings, which are ubiquitously invoked through Celtic lore." Hers are the "nine gifts of the cauldron" mentioned in Amergin's "Song of the Three Cauldrons": poetry, reflection, meditation, lore, research, great knowledge, intelligence, understanding and wisdom. The Christianized St. Bridget had nine priestesses, the "Ingheau Anndagha," or Daughters of the Flame, who lived inside her shrine and tended her fire, whom no man could look upon, according to Kisma K. Stepanich in Faery Wicca, Book One. Brighid is also a midwife and protector, a war-goddess and a teacher of the arts of battle....

She has a brief but fine section called "Imbolc Spells and Workings." Here are some excerpts:
...Imbolc is good for psychic work: still the dark time of the year, but looking toward spring. It's also a good time to make your space hospitable for such work, banishing old energy to clear the way for new....

...The spark of summer dances in the future now; Imbolc is a good time to seek inspiration, especially for healers and smiths of words or metal....

http://web.archive.org/web/20061128033726/http://nutmeg.gen.nz/under-the-world/issue2/ideas_and_rituals.html:[Updated 2/1-2/08]
[Added 30 January 2003]: From Zeb Ahmed, a pagan in New Zealand, come more ideas, rituals, and spells for Imbolc/Candlemas.  Most are cobbled (uncredited) from other sources but I haven't seen this little idea elsewhere yet -- and I like it:
...Find the plant/herb seed that best symbolises what your hopes/wishes are and perform a small ritual of planting it.
 http://schooloftheseasons.com/candlemas.html
[Added 24 January 2000; expanded 1/29-30/05]: Another of my favorites is Waverly Fitzgerald's School of the Seasons  -- this is her beautiful essay on Imbolc, St. Brigid, Candlemas, and various rituals suited to this celebration.  Here is one passage, made all the more poignant because small farmers, who once worked closely with an earth held "in the lap of God," are now being increasingly destroyed by huge "factory"-farms who have turned earth into a polluted, money-making sty having nothing to do with the lap of God:
This medieval Anglo-Saxon plowing charm, recorded by [Pamela] Berger, was said by the farmer while cutting the first furrow.

                           Whole be thou Earth
                           Mother of men.
                           In the lap of God,
                           Be thous as-growing.
                           Be filled with fodder
                           For fare-need of men.

The farmer then took a loaf of bread, kneaded it with milk and holy water and laid it under the first furrow, saying:

                           Acre full fed,
                           Bring forth fodder for men!
                           Blossoming brightly,
                           Blessed become;
                           And the God who wrought the ground,
                           Grant us the gifts of growing,
                           That the corn, all the corn,
                           may come unto our need.

http://www.geomancy.org/astronomy/quarter-cross-quarter/imbolc/index.html: [updated 25 January 2007.]
[Added 30 January 2003; expanded slightly 1/29-30/05]: This site comes from yet another favorite author of mine, Sig Lonegren.  His essay on Imbolc and Bridget is lengthy and filled with engaging folkloric and ritual insights.  Here's a passage on Her:
... Milk has always been important to Bridget. You can see her above the south western door of the tower on Glastonbury Tor. She is milking a cow....
Here's another, also poignant because it reflects a dying mode of perception on this earth:
...There is a lovely Irish prayer to Saint Bridget (the Christianized version of Brighde) that I would like to share with you:

                                        INVOCATION TO
                                          SAINT BRIDE

                                    Dear Saint Bridget of the Kine
                                    Bless these little fields of mine,
                                   The pastures and the shady trees,
                                   Bless the butter and the cheese,
                                   Bless the cows with coats of silk
                                   And the brimming pails of milk,
                                   Bless the hedgerows, and I pray
                                   Bless the seed beneath the clay,
                                   Bless the hay and bless the grass,
                                    Bless the seasons as they pass,
                                  And heaven's blessings will prevail,
                                      Brigid - Mary of the Gael.

While she has been turned in to a saint and made analogous to the Virgin Mary, in this prayer, Bridget also remains the Goddess of Imbolc - of the kine (cattle) and of the seed that moves for the first time by itself "beneath the clay."

Then he moves to ritual, asking questions like the following:
...What seeds that have been planted in you, that have been laying asleep through the winter, have just moved on their own in your life? Can you sense an impending something in your life? Is there something that is yet to manifest above ground into physical reality, yet it lies there just sprouting under the dark covering blanket of Earth in side you? How can you nurture this seedling in the coming days and months?

Imbolc is the time to ask these questions. This is especially powerful when it is done in some kind of ceremony. You can do this alone or with friends. You might begin by creating a sacred/safe space by marking the Four Directions, making a circle on the floor, burning sage, or any other way of demarking the space you plan to work within. As Imbolc is sacred to Bridget, you will want to call Her into your space in some way. She will come to you if you call Her....

He then offers a simple but effective scrying ritual -- see his site for more <smile>.
http://paganwiccan.about.com/od/imbolcfebruary2/p/Imbolc_History.htm: [updated 2/1-2/08: I'm still keeping my earlier 2000 annotation,  but this new link offers additional data and links]:
http://paganwiccan.about.com/cs/imbolc/index.htm: [Link updated 23 January 2003 -- there's now a new Pagan/Wiccan guide at about.com and the old page, with all its rich links, has vanished.  For now, I'm keeping my earlier annotation.]
[Added 21 January 2000; annotation updated 31 January 2001]:   This is an evocative, thoughtful Imbolc essay from Frances Donovan, about.com's excellent guide to the pagan world:
...Brigid's sway over Ireland was so strong that, even after Patrick drove the snakes (read Druids) out of Ireland, she survived on in the form of a saint. For centuries, Catholic nuns have tended her sacred flame in Kildare, Ireland....
The site also gives access to a great collection of well chosen & briefly annotated Imbolc, Brigid, and Candlemas links.
 http://www.celticspirit.org/imbolc.htm: [updated 1/31/06]
[Added 31 January 2001]:From Mara Freeman (who writes for Parabola --there's a link to her "Articles" at the bottom of her page) comes a lengthy, multi-layered Imbolc site on Brigid as both goddess and Catholic saint in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England.  The footnoted essay is filled with traditional practices and lore I haven't found elsewhere:
...Since the discipline of poetry, filidhect, was interwoven with seership, Brigid was seen as the great inspiration behind divination and prophecy, the source of oracles....

...On the eve of Là Fhéill Bhrìghde (St.Brigidís Day), the Old Woman of Winter, the Cailleach, journeys to the magical isle in whose woods lies the miraculous Well of Youth.   At the first glimmer of dawn, she drinks the water that bubbles in a crevice of a rock, and is transformed into Bride, the fair maid whose white wand turns the bare earth green again....

[Addendum 30 January 2003]: Of all the sites I have seen on Brigid, this is the most thorough and elegant.  For those interested, it also includes a link to an inspired Guided Meditation invoking the goddess.
http://web.archive.org/web/20000605062725/http://www.amysticalgrove.com/Celebrate_ImbolcMiniRituals1.shtml: [1/29/30/05: link dead so I'm using the Web Archive, whose links sometimes require patience as they load]
[Added 30 January 2003]: This is another beautiful, evocative, guided Imbolc meditation, this time by Cogar niMhorrighan.


Irish artist:
Jane Brideson

http://www.celticheritage.co.uk/virtualshrine/brideyitem.cfm?NewsItemID=86: [1/29-30/05: updated; 1/25/07: updated to Ellen Hopman's much longer and more interesting essay at Celtic Heritage.]
[Added 30 January 2003]: From Ellen Evert Hopman comes another essay on Brighid and Imbolc.  It covers much of what other links on my page include but I like the following section:
...It is said that where Brighid walks over the waters or touches them with her finger the ice melts. And that the land turns green where she spreads her mantle upon it, or when she breathes upon the hills.

The Cailleach [Brighid in her guise of the Hag of Winter] carries a Druid Wand of great power, a white rod or slachdan made of birch, willow, bramble, or broom. With its magic powers she can control the elements and the weather. Brighid carries a white rod too but where the Cailleach's wand brings storms and harshness Brighid's rod brings warm winds and new life....

http://web.archive.org/web/20040718101235/http://www.geocities.com/annafranklin1/imbolc.html:
[Link is dead so I'm resorting to Web Archive: 1/31/06]
[Added 31 January 2003]:. This Imbolc site comes from Anna Franklin -- like many other links to Imbolc essays on my page, she covers the basics.  But she also adds some unique insights from rural England as well as historical nuances not included on other sites.  Here are some excerpts:
...There were a wide variety of superstitions surrounding lambing time, giving omens for the coming year. If the first ewe to give birth produces twin white lambs the whole flock will have a prosperous year. If the first lamb you see is facing away from you, your year will be hard, but if it is facing you there will be twelve months of plenty. Black sheep are generally considered lucky, but in Shropshire, bad luck will befall any shepherd into whose flock a black lamb is born, and black twins herald disaster. This may be a folk memory of the time when white sheep represented [or were sacrificed to] sky deities, [Jupiter took the shape of a ram during the attack of Typhoeus] while black sheep were sacrificed to [or represented] the Underworld gods, or the gods of winter....

...Sheep teaches woman's magic, the mysteries of the creation of matter from spirit, order from chaos, and the transformation of the soul through healing.... Brighid carries a white wand- a fertilising phallus without the aid of a god or male counterpart. With it she regenerates the lifeless land, bringing back the green plants and new birth amongst animals. She is said to breathe Ďnew life into the mouth of dead winterí....

...The Roman feast of Februa [giving its name to February] took place at this time, when the women would undergo purification after parading through the streets carrying candles. The Roman festival was Christianised as Candlemas, a time for blessing the candles for the church and seen symbolically as the time when the Virgin Mary was purified after the birth of Christ.  Candles play an important part in many religions, symbolising light....

At the end are links to interesting rituals, both group and solo, as well as recipes for food and incense (see directly below).
http://web.archive.org/web/20040628142717/www.geocities.com/annafranklin1/imfood.html:
[Link is dead so I'm resorting to Web Archive: 1/31/06]
[Added 30 January 2003]:From Anna Franklin's site (see directly above) come several recipes for Imbolc foods -- these include parsnip soup, Brighid cakes, and ginger & lemon wine.
http://web.archive.org/web/20040629133333/www.geocities.com/annafranklin1/imin.html:
[Link is dead so I'm resorting to Web Archive: 1/31/06]
[Added 30 January 2003]: Again from Anna Franklin comes a page on how to make special incense preparations for Imbolc. [1/31/06: in case the above link dies, here's another site with at least one incense recipe from Anna {link updated 2/1-2/08}:
http://web.archive.org/web/20060905215852/http://www.kundavega.com/Imbolc.htm]
http://hearthnhomewitchery.tripod.com/celebrations/imbolg/imbolg.html:
[Added February 1-2, 2008]: This is yet another Anna Franklin site with an essay as well as an incense recipe. She points out that although Imbolc's traditional date "falls around February 1/2," the actual date is February 4th: "when Sun is 15deg Aquarius." For people like me, who seem always to be a day or two behind, it's good to know I still have a few days left in which to honor this celebration <smile>.
http://web.archive.org/web/20041028131229/http://moonbeamgarden.com/witchscottage/february_2004.htm#IMBOLC:
[Link is dead so I'm resorting to Web Archive: 1/31/06]
[Added 29-30 January 2005]:  This site from Missouri has cobbled together (unfortunately, uncredited) a large number of resources for Imbolc, including passages already cited on my page from other websites.  The page's background art is lovely and it's a good place to browse although the small, italicized print may be quite hard on your eyes (as it was on mine).  [Note: scroll up the page for data on the "Candle Moon."]  Hopefully, in the future the actual authors of the material gathered here will be credited for their work.  [Update 30 January 2010: much, perhaps everything, was plagiarized on this site, including some of my own comments. The so-called "author" has since let the page die, which is why it's now on Web Archive, where the background art has vanished. I should just delete this one but I'm leaving it up as an example of how not to make a webpage. No one has the right to rampantly steal the work of others like this.]
http://www.cs.utk.edu/~mclennan/BA/SF/MidWinter.html: [updated 25 January 2007]
[Added 31 January 2003]: This scholarly page looks at Greek and Roman festivities associated with late January to mid-February:
...February 5 (the Nones) was the official beginning of spring for the Romans, and February the month of purification. Since it was the last month before the new year, it was a time for wiping the slate clean and starting fresh. Houses are purified by sweeping out and by sprinkling with salt and toasted spelt (a kind of wheat). In the Lupercalia (Feb. 15) both women and fields are slapped with strips of hide to purify and fertilize them....

...Since this season represents the coming of spring, the rituals focus on purification and fertility. Indeed, February gets its name from februa, or means of purification; the first two weeks are considered a time of abstinence. It's worth noting that the old Roman year began with March and ended with December (which is why it's called Decem-ber, the "tenth" month), so January and February were originally the unmarked "Terror Time." The following festivals look forward to the coming spring, the new birth after winter....

A series of internal links will take you to more detailed information.
 http://www.omda.bg/engl/cook/TrifonZarezan.htm
[Added 21 January 2000]: From Bulgaria comes the feast of Thryphon Zarezan (Tryphonos Trimmer's Day) on February first:
Saint Tryphon is worshipped as the guardian of vineyards and this festival is in his honour. It is observed not only by vine-growers, but also by market-gardeners and tavern-keepers....
The site includes lore as well as recipes for this day.
http://www.clarkfoundation.org/astro-utah/vondel/crossquartergrd.html
[Added 31 January 2005]: This is "Groundhogs, Shadows and Growing Light" by Von Del Chamberlain, writing for the Clark Foundation and Utah's Hansen Planetarium.  It's a lovely essay, ranging from science to myth.  Here are a few excerpts to entice you to explore further <smile>.  On St. Brigit, who "replaced" the far older Goddess Brigit but is obviously the same feminine energy:
...The Celts once celebrated it as Imbolg, honoring Brigit, the Earth Mother. Imbolg referred to "ewe's milk" in the lambing season, signaling spring and Brigit was god of fire and fertility for the Celts, but later Christians dedicated the day to Saint Brigit, patron of cattle and dairy farming. Legend says that Saint Brigit was born at sunrise on the threshold, neither inside nor outside of the house. Thus, she represents the transition to spring. She nursed on milk from a supernatural cow, dried her dresses on a clothesline of sunbeams and everything around her glowed as if on fire....
On why winter might last a good deal longer if the day is clear enough for a groundhog to see her/his shadow:
... if the weather is clear, allowing the Groundhog, as he comes out of hibernation on this mythical day, to see his shadow, it is said to signal persisting winter and late spring. If, on the other hand, the day is clouded and no shadow appears, the weather ahead should be warm with early spring.  Some weather prophets suggest a basis for this: that clear weather in early February usually results from cold, clear stable air masses which are likely to persist in repeated patterns with the result of sustained cold temperatures....
Then comes this beautiful passage on the season's stars:
Everything around us seems to inaugurate beauty as we enter the month of February. The stars at eventide are stunning: Canis Major, with Sirius, brightest star in the night; Orion has ruddy Betelgeuse, white Rigel, the three jewels of the belt, and the nebulous sword; two gem-star clusters, Pleiades and Hyades, bedeck the constellation Taurus, along with the pale rose star Aldebaron; Auriga has the sun-yellow star Capella; and the Twins of Gemini remind us of old stories of argonauts and recent ones of astronauts. These are the brightest and most colorful stars in all the heavens, forming some of the easiest patterns to learn. Look high to the south as darkness comes and you will see them....
http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/features/2011/0131/1224288598865.html
[Added 2/1/12, but originally posted at the bottom of this page 1/31/11]: Still ungrokked but really excellent from Mary Condren, one of Ireland's finest scholars. Well worth a read!


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To: Current Yuletide Greetings & Lore

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© 1999 - 2012 by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.
Page created  and published 1 September 1999 --
more links will be added in early 2000.

6 September 1999 (minor changes);
21-22 & 24 January 2000;
31 January 2001 (updated, checked all links, & finally Nedstated it);
31 January 2002 (checked & updated links);
23 January 2003 (checked & updated links; re-Nedstated it);
26 January 2003: added a bunch of new links for this year but no time to grok yet -- some look really great!
30-31 January 2003: grokked those new links from a few days ago, interspersing them among links from earlier years.
29-30 January 2005 (until 2am-ish): no time to update this last year but fixed a few links tonight (thanks to Michaela)
and expanded several as well; added new Moonbeam Garden link that Michaela found.
30 January 2005: grokked new links from Rae Beth & Lark that I've wanted to add for several years but never had time.
Michaela's link-checks have freed up the time to do this <smile>.
31 January 2005: grokked Von del C.'s link.
2:30am, 31 January-1 February 2006: updated broken links.
2am, 25 January 2007: updated broken links, thanks to Michaela, my links-Elf.
2:30am, 31 January 2007: updated my first link to Rae Beth's site. I really love her work & plan to order some of her books.
4am, 2 February 2008: updated several broken links, thanks to data from Michaela, my "Links-Elf."
Imbolc Eve, 9pm-ish, 1/31/09: updated all Rae Beth's links plus another; added a new link at end thanks to Michaela.
Also added link to my pastlife special rate. [5/3/09: removed special rate but added small logo below.]
30-31 January 2010: updated Mike Nichols, thanks to Michaela; added new Celtic Well E-Journal link and expanded last year's;
added snowdrop photo amd "Imbolc Emerging" Sabbat card by Jane Brideson.
31 January 2011, 1:30pm: updated Rae Beth's 2001 Imbolc link on Web Archive.
Added original version of Sandra's Brigit & moved the misted version to the bottom of this page. Michaela says all else is fine. :-)
6:30pm: Francine Nicholson's scholarly work, which had been the last 2 links on this page, are now the first two.
1 February 2012, 6:20pm: I'm late this year, due to long hours working on marketing surveys for Green World, and other things.
Fortunately, all links are fine except for one, Doreen's Cauldron, which had been transferred to Web Archive. Tweaked a few minor spacings.
Added Mary Condren's ungrokked link.

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...Exploring Karmic Roots
with Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D:
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The Goddess Brighid
© Sandra Stanton at Goddess Myths
Note: I have "misted" this image to blend with my Imbolc page --
to see the original vibrant colors, see above.