Popular Pagan Holidays
Autumn: The Croning Time
Well, You Don’t Celebrate Christmas...
Daily Goddess Awareness
It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Chri... Yuletide!
Samhain: A Time for Introspection---and Activism
Anti-Witch Bigotry: Still As Popular and Deadly As Ever
The Dark Half of the Year
The Halloween Witch: Sense of Humor or Sense of Ire
Ah...To Be A Witch...
Imbolc: Traditional Celebrations for a Modern Time
Winter Solstice By Any Other Name
Autumn Equinox: A Point of Balance on the Wheel of the Year
The Beltaine Storm
Winter Holiday Intentions and Food Magik
Spiritual Aspects of Yule
Traditional Yule: Make your Own Homebrewed Mead
Lughnasadh: The Deeper Meaning
A Meditation on Samhain: How Lucky You Are.
Alicia Meets Grandmother Autumn: A Children’s Story
The Solstice Flame: A Yule Story
A Celtic View of Samhain
Ostara: Enter the Light!
Lughnasa: Festival of the Harvest (A Druid's Perspective)
A Summer Solstice Primer
Witches Lost in Halloween
Supermoms’ and Superdads’ Defense Against “Holiday Kryptonite”
The Best Thing About Death
A Story For Autumn
Winter: A Joyous Holiday Season
Imbolc...or As The Wheel Turns
Yule and the New Year
Thanksgiving Memories of a Native American Witch
The Babylonian Ghost Festival
Dealing with the Darkness, Post-Samhain
The Samhain Experience
Solstice of the Soul
First Thanksgiving... in China
Love Lives On: A Samhain Reflection on Death, Rebirth, and the Afterlife
A White Christmas in Fuyang
Imbolg - A Lesson of Positive Change
The Story of Ostara
The First Yule
A Yule Story for Children ~ The Tiniest Fairy ~
Bealtine: Blessing the Summer In
Solstice Swim at Beach 69, Puako, Hawaii
The Summer Solstice: A Time for Awakening
Yuletide Thoughts, Life and Death
Mabon..Balance and Reflection
Ghosts, Omens, and Fact-Finding: Wandering In Today's Eco-Interface
The Blood is in the Land
Brighid's Healing Sword: Imbolc
Sandy Was The Name Of the Dark Goddess This Samhain
The Promise of the Harvest
At Samhain, Meet Bilé, God of the Dead of Ireland and the Danu, the All -Mother
Mabon - The Flash of the Setting Sun
Yules Lessons from Days of Yore: Perfect Love, Perfect Trust
Parting the Veils and Opening to Ancestral Wisdom
Samhain is Ablaze with Reflections of My Father
Lammas: The Sacrificial Harvest
"The Horn of Plenty": A Pathworking for Lammas
The Call of the Crone
Lascivious Lupercalia: Why Valentine's is a Vital Pagan Holy Day for the Modern World
Opening to the Anima Mundi – The Gift of the Equinox
The Light Within the Shadow of the Winter Solstice
Symbology of Altar Decorations
The Serpent's Kiss: Beltane's Fire
Back to Basics: Imbolc
The Lover's Flame-Beltane
Ode to Ostara
Sonoran Desert Wheel of the Year (Square Peg, Round Hole)
Anthesteria, the Hellenic "Samhain"
Samhain: the Sunbeam in the Twilight
Gaia's Mantle:The Greening of the Earth
Beltane and Samhain: Reflections of Life and Death
The Maiden's Breath: The Vernal Equinox
Brigid of the Ponderosa
Like Bread for Lughnasa: A Letter
NOTE: For a complete list of articles related to this chapter... Visit the Main Index FOR this section.
Imbolc: Traditional Celebrations for a Modern Time
Article ID: 14394
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 1,928
Times Read: 10,532
RSS Views: 15,329
Posted: January 23rd. 2011
Times Viewed: 10,532
This holiday is called many names including Imbolc, Oímealg, Lá Fhéile Bríde, Laa'l Breeshey, and Gwyl Mair Dechrau'r Gwanwyn and was originally celebrated when the ewes first began to lactate. Some older sources mention Imbolc being celebrated on February 13th, although now the date is fixed on February 2nd. This holiday is a celebration of the loosening of winters hold on the land and the first signs of spring's immanent arrival. Three main types of ceremonies could be undertaken - purification with water, blessing with fire, and consecration of talismans or charms. In addition, the main ritual theme centered on inviting the goddess Brighid into the home, either in effigy or in the form of a person acting the part.
The fire represents the growing light of the sun. Candles are lit to celebrate the increased daylight, and often candles were blessed for use in the year to come; this connection to candles offers another alternate name for the holiday, Candlemas. In my personal practice I light special "sun" candles, and bless my candleholders for the year to come.
Ritual washing was done to cleanse and prepare the people for the agricultural work of the coming seasons. Water was blessed and then used to ceremonially wash the head, hands, and feet. Each year when I do this, I dip my fingers in the blessed water and run them over the body parts in question, asking that I be cleansed of winter's cold and filled with summer's warmth to work towards a new season. Then I pour the remaining water out onto the earth thanking Brighid for her blessing.
The main charms and talismans of Imbolc are related to Brighid. First there is the Brighid's cross, a woven sun wheel shape which represented the cycle of the year and the four main holy days, according to the book Apple Branch. On Imbolc, you can weave new Brighid's crosses, or bless ones you already have, although it may be better to burn the old and weave new each year when possible. A Brighid's cross is protective and healing to have in the home.
A second talisman is the brídeóg, or "little Brighid" a small cloth or straw doll wearing white clothes which is an effigy of the goddess. In some cases, the brídeóg would be made from straw saved from the previous Lughnasadh. This doll played a role in ritual after being brought outside, usually carried by the eldest daughter, then invited to enter the home where it was led with all ceremony to a specially prepared little bed. The doll was left in the bed over night and its presence was believed to bless all those in the household.
Another talisman connected to Imbolc is Brigid's mantle, or an brat Bríd, a length of cloth left out on the window sill over the course of the holy day and night. It is believed that this cloth absorbs the energy of the goddess during the ritual, and can be used for healing and protection throughout the year. This talisman would be kept and recharged every year, attaining full power after seven years.
The ritual for Brighid on Imbolc centers on inviting the goddess in and offering her hospitality. In some cases a woman was chosen to play the part of the goddess, in other cases the brídeóg was used. The door would be opened to her and she would loudly be invited in, shown to her "bed" and offered specially baked bread. Candles would be lit at the windows and next to her "bed", songs would be sung and prayers said calling on Brighid to bless all present in the coming seasons, and grant health and protection to the household.
A small broom or white wand would be placed next to the “bed”, and the ashes from the fire would be smoothed down in the hopes that the morning would reveal the marks of the wand, or better yet, the footprints of the goddess herself, either of which would be a sign of blessing. Placing the doll in her bed at night would be followed by a large family meal.
In Scotland a hundred years ago when entire communities still celebrated Imbolc in the old way, a sheaf of corn would be dressed as Brighid and taken from house to house by the young girls. The girls would carry the doll from home to home where the “goddess” would be greeted and offered food and gifts. After visiting each home, the girls would return to the house they started from where a party would be held with music, dancing, and feasting until dawn; all the leftover food would be handed out to the poor the next day.
Other rituals involve blessing the forge fires for blacksmiths and Otherworld divinations. In some Scottish mythologies, it is believed that Brighid is held by the Cailleach Bhur during the winter months but escapes, or is rescued by her brother Aonghus mac óg, on Imbolc. In others, it is said the Cailleach drinks from a hidden spring and transforms into Brighid on this day.
For modern people seeking to celebrate Imbolc in a traditional way, there are many options. Rituals can be adapted to feature the brídeóg. If you celebrate in a group, you could have one person wait outside with the doll while the other members prepare her bed, and then the group leader could go to the doorway and invite the goddess in. This could even be modified for use in an urban setting with the brídeóg “waiting” out in a hallway or separate room to be invited in.
Once invited in the goddess can be offered food and gifts as was done in Scotland and stories about Brighid from mythology could be told. Water can be used for purification; blessing with fire or of candles can be done, as well as making and consecrating the charms associated with Brighid. After ritual, the doll could be left in the bed while the group celebrates with a party; to keep the spirit of the way this was done for a modern time all members should bring food to donate to a local food pantry. A solitary celebration could still include inviting the goddess in, placing the brídeóg in her bed, making offerings to her, and a private celebration and food donations.
Imbolc is a powerful holy day with many beautiful traditions. By understanding how this day was celebrated in the past, we can find ways to incorporate those methods into modern practice and preserve the traditions that have surrounded Brighid’s day for so many generations.
Carmichael, A. (1900) . Carmina Gadelica. Floris books. ISBN-10 0-86315-520-0
Evert Hopman, E. (1995) . A Druid’s Herbal of the Sacred Earth Year. Destiny Books ISBN 0-89281-501-9
Kondrariev. K. (1998) . The Apple Branch: A Path to Celtic Ritual. Citadel Press ISBN 0-8065-2502-9
McNeill, F. (1959) . The Silver Bough, volume 2. McLellan and Co.
Location: Ledyard, Connecticut
Author's Profile: To learn more about Morgan - Click HERE
Other Articles: Morgan has posted 8 additional articles- View them?
Other Listings: To view ALL of my listings: Click HERE
Email Morgan... (Yes! I have opted to receive invites to Pagan events, groups, and commercial sales)
Web Site Content (including: text - graphics - html - look & feel)
Copyright 1997-2016 The Witches' Voice Inc. All rights reserved
Note: Authors & Artists retain the copyright for their work(s) on this website.
Unauthorized reproduction without prior permission is a violation of copyright laws.
Website structure, evolution and php coding by Fritz Jung on a Macintosh G5.
Any and all personal political opinions expressed in the public listing sections (including, but not restricted to, personals, events, groups, shops, Wrenâ€™s Nest, etc.) are solely those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinion of The Witchesâ€™ Voice, Inc. TWV is a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational organization.
Sponsorship: Visit the Witches' Voice Sponsor Page for info on how you
can help support this Community Resource. Donations ARE Tax Deductible.
The Witches' Voice carries a 501(c)(3) certificate and a Federal Tax ID.
Mail Us: The Witches' Voice Inc., P.O. Box 341018, Tampa, Florida 33694-1018 U.S.A.
of The World
NOTE: The essay on this page contains the writings and opinions of the listed author(s) and is not necessarily shared or endorsed by the Witches' Voice inc.
The Witches' Voice does not verify or attest to the historical accuracy contained in the content of this essay.
All WitchVox essays contain a valid email address, feel free to send your comments, thoughts or concerns directly to the listed author(s).