Imbolc, sometimes called Imbolg or Candlemas, marks the middle of the season of long nights and is celebrated on February 2nd. It anticipates the coming season of light. Imbolc marks the first evidence of the return of life. Imbolc is the holy day of Brigid, the Celtic Goddess of fire, healing and fertility. Because of this, Imbolc is celebrated as a fire celebration. Its emphasis is on the light of fire, rather than the power. The ceremonies of this Sabbat focus on candles.
The holiday is also called ‘Brigit’s Day’, in honor of the great Irish Goddess Brigit. She was considered a goddess of fire, patroness of smithcraft, poetry and healing. The Roman Catholic Church could not very easily call the Great Goddess of Ireland a demon, so they canonized her instead. Henceforth, she would be ‘saint’ Brigit, patron SAINT of smithcraft, poetry, and healing. They “explained” this by telling the Irish peasants that Brigit was really an early Christian missionary sent to the Emerald Isle.
Candlemas is the Christianized name for the holiday, and all of the church candles are blessed for the year. The Virgin Mary is also honored. Today, this holiday is chiefly connected to weather lore. Even our American calendar keeps the tradition of Groundhog Day, a day to predict the coming weather. The Groundhog Day tradition tells us that if the Groundhog sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of bad weather. An old British rhyme instructed:
If Candlemas day be fair and bright,
Winter will have another flight.
If Candlemas day be shower and rain,
Winter is gone and will not come again.
We pagans see the God as an infant during the time of Imbolc, and he is nursing from the Goddess and growing in power. It is the time for banishing Winter. We gather together the greens that adorned our homes during the Yule, and then we add these greens to the Imbolc fire. We chant and dance saying “We banish Winter! We welcome Spring!”
We light candles in each window and let them burn throughout the night. It is also an appropriate time for dedicating yourself to the Pagan path and purifying your home. You can also make candles for the coming year and consecrate new ritual items.
To celebrate Imbolc, we also tend to our gardens for the first time in the Pagan year. As this is a time of new life and growth, it is appropriate to plant bulbs or flowers or to sow seeds. However, you will need to use your judgments and some local knowledge to decide whether to actually do so at Imbolc or whether to wait a week (or several) until the last frosts have passed. Of course seeds can often be started indoors and planted out a month or so later.
Baking is appropriate for celebrating Imbolc, and we often make Crescent cakes for the end of our Imbolc ritual. Here is our circle’s favorite recipe:
1 1/4 cups Flour
3/4 cup Sugar
1 cup Finely Ground Almonds
3 drops Almond Extract
1/2 cup Butter or Margarine, softened
1 tablespoon Honey
1 Egg Yolk
In a large mixing bowl, combine the first four ingredients. Add the butter, honey and egg yolk and mix together well. Cover with aluminum foil or plastic wrap, and then chill for 1 1/2 to 2 hours in the refrigerator.
When ready, pinch off pieces of the dough (about the size of plums) and shape them into crescents. Place the crescents on a well-greased cookie sheet and bake in a 325-degree preheated oven for approximately 20 minutes. This recipe yields 20 to 25 crescents.
Love And Light,
Rose Ariadne, Your Warm And Caring “Resident Witch In Charge”