ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Early Spring Feasts: Imbolc And Candlemas

Updated on June 19, 2013

Imbolc, Saint Brigid and Candlemas

Imbolc is one of eight festivals of the pagan year. When the days start getting darker during autumn/fall onwards, I always look forward to the Yule festival during the winter solstice on December 21/22, for I know that it is only a matter of 5 weeks before Imbolc when the sun and light gains the upper hand again. Imbolc, St Brigid and Candlemas arrive in early February as we ascend out of the deep pit of winter's darkest days. The future begins to look bright and we hope nothing will overshadow our optimism as we survey our respective horizons from our Groundhog Day burrows.

Imbolc, is a Gaelic word of Celtic origin. The feast of Imbolc is a pagan celebration that looks forward to spring time and is associated with fertility and weather divination.

Before the advent of Christianity, it was the celebration of the Goddess Brigid. When Christianity took over, pagan holidays were transformed into their current Catholic festival equivalents. Imbolc gave birth to two new holidays Saint Brigid's Day or Saint Bridget's Day, celebrated on February 1st. This feast day honoured Saint Brigid, an Irish saint, named after the Celtic goddess, a contemporary of Saint Patrick's.

Candlemas Day

On the heals of Imbolc; on the very next day in fact, is the Christian festival of Candlemas. This feast was inaugurated with the intension to eradicate pagan rite. Some people think that the Church fathers chose February 2 (Groundhog Day) as the feast for Mary's ‘Mikveh’ purification for having born Christ. Mikveh purification is still required of observant Jewish women following either menstruation or childbirth.

Despite its association with ‘The Virgin’s’ Mikveh, the Christian feast of Candlemas harkens more to a Celtic rite rather than the Jewish purification requirement, I posit this because the rite is still marked with a candle procession.

Let me explain, St Bridgid who died on February the 1st in 525 AD was the founding abbess of Cilla Dara, which means ‘church of the oak’ in Kildare, Ireland. It is thought that the site was built over an older pagan shrine to the Irish ‘fire’ Goddess Brigid, that house a perpetual sacred flame that was kept watch over by a group of dedicated young women.

As the story goes, the fire of St. Brigit never goes out. Not because it can’t be extinguished, but because the holy women in pagan times, and then the nuns with the advent of Christianity tend and feed it ‘the perpetual fire’ with watchful diligence and care. The legend suggests that the fire was kept alive from the time of The Virgin and has continued to burn through time.

The pagan links to this time of year go even deeper and Candlemas was a nexus that conflated two pagan traditions, the Celtic to retain both the purification and fertility rites that were held in February all over Europe.

If you look at the word "February", for example, you’ll find that it is derives from the Latin februa meaning "expiatory offerings". To the Romans the month was devoted to the Lupercalia, which was a period also designated for purification and mating rites.

These rites for our rural ancestors were designed to ensure that Mother Nature would be kind to her children, if they kept faith with their part of the life bargain. They devised a means of ascertaining in the dog days of winter how much longer the dark and cold days and nights would last to get ready for another cycle of living on and with the land. One method of divination was to see whether small animals such as the hedgehog emerged from their hibernating holes on a certain point in time.

Such beliefs survived well into the Christian era; and when the Europeans found themselves in North America, they brought their folklore beliefs with them. They substituted the native a groundhog for the European hedgehog as the animal that would indicate the end of winter.

Imbolc thus survived Christianity and the transatlantic relocation to North America; it was however renamed and now almost everyone in North America has heard of "Groundhog Day" while "Candlemas " is important only to Catholics, and most people have forgotten or are ignorant of Imbolc or the Lupercalia, its pagan ancestor.

Although most people no longer consciously practice - or admit to practicing - fertility rituals, undertake purification rite or weather divination, never the less we still intuitively associate fertility and purification with spring.

Groundhog Day

So what is Groundhog Day about? The theory is, if Groundhogs come out of their winter lairs and see their shadows on the ground, they will return to their burrows for another six weeks, that is, they will not come until the spring equinox, when the sun arrives at the equator. Thus the humble Groundhog Day predicts whether good weather arrive imminently or whether winter will continue for a further six weeks. So what happens when Groundhog Day is cloudy, then the Groundhog will remain out, because there will be no shadow to be seen; cloud cover on Groundhog Day is considered an indication of prematurely good weather.


Submit a Comment

No comments yet.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)