Wednesday, 31. January 2007
February 1: Imbolc
Imbolc is one of the four principal festivals of the Irish calendar. Originally dedicated to the goddess Brighid, in the Christian period it was adopted as St Brigid's Day. In Scotland the festival is also known as Latha Fhèill Brìghde, in Ireland as Lá Fhéile Bríde, and in Wales as Gwyl Ffraed. Find out more here:
Originally, her festival on February 1 was known as Imbolc or Oimelc, two names which refer to the lactation of the ewes, the flow of milk that heralds the return of the life-giving forces of spring. Later, the Catholic Church replaced this festival with Candlemas Day on February 2, which is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and features candlelight processions. The powerful figure of Brigid the Light-Bringer overlights both pagan and Christian celebrations.
This season belongs to Brigid
by Mara Freeman.
Beside it, they put a straight, peeled stick of birch or similar wood to serve as "Brigid’s wand," a symbol of sovereignty or perhaps a phallic symbol. Then they carefully smoothed the ashes of the hearth. The next morning, the women examined the hearth for signs of Brigid’s favor: the imprint of a foot or the wand. If there were no such marks, the family assumed that Brigid had been offended.
|The divinity acknowledged in these early Spring rites is the goddess Brigid, the queen of heaven. She is the greatest of the Celtic divinities and is closely associated with the land. She is the protector of the wells and springs. She is the guardian of nature, and therefore agriculture. She is specifically associated with livestock. As a fertility goddess, Brigid is also the patron of the poets, artists, and others who create. Hence, her name is invoked at childbirth.|
When Brigid slipped into the world, a tower of flame rose from the top of her head to the heavens. Her fire aspect means she is the goddess of the hearth, and the forge. She is the guardian of those who worked with metal. By extension, she is the goddess of the machine. If we have difficulties with our cars or computers, our pleas for divine intercession might be properly addressed to Brigid.
A Day for the Queen of Heaven by Jonathan Young.
In the Highlands of Scotland, the married women of the house created a Brigid figure from a sheaf of grain and decorated it with ribbons, flowers, or other objects. With rushes and grain, they made a sort of bed next to the hearth. After ritually inviting Brigid to fill this bed, the women placed the figurine.
by Francine Nicholson.
In her monumental The Festival of Lughnasa, Mire Mac Neill writes:
Fuller understanding of the old goddess's part in the harvest festival must wait on studies, still to be made, of the local legends of the myth of the mythological old woman known as the Cailleach BhÑara, and also of the cults of St Brigid and St Ann . . . Brigid must have been closely connected at least two important Lughnasa sites were dedicated to her, and she is named at several others. Still she hardly appears in the festival legends. She has only a passive part in the Lughnasa complex.
The Festival of Brigit the Holy Woman (Oiche Fhéile Bríde agus Lá Lúnasa) by The School of Celtic Studies. (PDF, 30 pages)
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