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Imbolc, the First Signs of Spring

Updated on August 26, 2014
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Raye gardens organically, harvests rainwater, strives to eat locally, and honors the gods from her home in the Pacific Northwest.

Winter turns to Spring

The holiday of Candlemas, also known as Imbolc, falls on February 2nd. The ancient Celtic goddess Brigid was honored on this day, and even after she was absorbed into the Church as St. Brigid, celebrations for her changed very little from their Pagan roots.

The name "Imbolc" has it’s name derived from the Gaelic “oimele” which means “ewes milk.” This major Sabbat lies opposite Lammas, and represents the very beginning of spring. This festival is for the Maiden, her renewal and has strong roots with the festivals for the Irish goddess Brigid. The name “Candlemas” is from the adaptations of rites for the Virgin Mary that the European churches held at the same time of year.

The plow is an integral part of Imbolc ritual, this being the earliest time of year in Europe to begin ground breaking or preparations for spring planting. Some cultural groups decorated plows or held processions around the fields. Seedlings for early spring planting can be started indoors at this time.

Braiding for Saint Brigid

A traditional plated St Brigid's Cross
A traditional plated St Brigid's Cross

Candlemas Celebrations

Imbolc is when the first spring cleaning can be done. Having hunkered down for the winter, what can go to make room for the growth of spring? Brigid has many associations with healing. Spend some time with activities for yourself and your own health, either to warm the chill of winter or to ready yourself for the coming spring.

Celebrations around this holiday can include a healthy amount of candle burning, offerings for deities and guests of fresh baked breads and cheeses, and a roaring hearth fire. Groups crafts projects can include making corn maidens, or priapic wands using acorns.Corn dollies and Brigid’s Crosses are woven from wheat stalks to honor her. Traditional altars featured corn dollies placed in a Bride’s Bed, with candles and other offerings placed around to welcome and celebrate the new Bride.

A Candlemas Blessing

How Candlemas/Imbolc gave birth to Groundhog Day

Like other cross-quarter days, Imbolc is associated with divination, being perceived as a time when the veils between worlds are thinner. One of the more common winter/spring divination rituals is Ground Hog Day. On February 2nd, it is said that a ground hog that comes out of his burrow and sees his shadow foretells six more weeks of winter weather. No shadow on this day and spring is right around the corner. Most Americans are only familiar with the media glare cast on "Punxsutawney Phil" and a small Pennsylvania town each year, not realizing the more complex European roots of this rite. This practice came with German settlers, the Pennsylvania Dutch, who adapted their own hedgehog observations to a close American native.

Candlemas Comments

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    • Huntgoddess profile image

      Huntgoddess 7 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      In any event, it's a simple matter of history. I'm always glad to read about those ancient folks.

      They are our ancestors, for heaven's sake.

    • Huntgoddess profile image

      Huntgoddess 7 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      Very nice, informative hub. I used to be --- sort of --- Wicca. I'm not anymore, but I have no animosity.

      I don't see any particular conflict between Wicca and the Judeo-Christian tradition, really. Everybody seems to take offense when I say that, so perhaps I'm wrong.

      But, so far, I haven't been convinced that they are mutually exclusive. I don't practice Wicca anymore, but I really think there's even room for some of that.

      Thanks, Blessed Be.

    • fliesenleger profile image

      fliesenleger 7 years ago

      We used to have candlemas when we were younger. That's some years ago...

    • adorababy profile image

      adorababy 7 years ago from Syracuse, NY

      The promises of the return of the light and the renewal of life which were made at the winter solstice are now becoming manifest.