View Full Version : Imbolc & Candlemas: Lore, Symbolism, etc

January 15th, 2008, 10:27 PM

Imbolc is one of the four principal festivals of the Irish calendar, celebrated among Gaelic peoples and some other Celtic cultures either at the beginning of February or at the first local signs of Spring. Originally dedicated to the goddess Brigid, in the Christian period it was adopted as St Brigid's Day. In Scotland the festival is also known as Là Fhèill Brìghde, in Ireland as Lá Fhéile Bríde, and in Wales as Gwyl Ffraed.

Imbolc is traditionally a time of weather prognostication, and the old tradition of watching to see if serpents or badgers came from their winter dens is perhaps a precursor to Groundhog Day. A Scottish Gaelic proverb about the day is:

Thig an nathair as an toll
La donn Bride,
Ged robh tri traighean dh’ an t-sneachd
Air leachd an lair.

"The serpent will come from the hole
On the brown Day of Bride,
Though there should be three feet of snow
On the flat surface of the ground."

Fire and purification are an important aspect of this festival. Brigid (also known as Brighid, Bríde, Brigit, Brìd) is the goddess of poetry, healing and smithcraft. As both goddess and saint she is also associated with holy wells, sacred flames, and healing. The lighting of candles and fires represents the return of warmth and the increasing power of the Sun over the coming months.
From: Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imbolc)

Imbolc (pronounced 'im'olk' also known as Oimelc) comes from an Irish word that was originally thought to mean 'in the belly' although many people translate it as 'ewe's milk' (oi-melc).

Imbolc was one of the cornerstones of the Celtic calendar. For them the success of the new farming season was of great importance. As winter stores of food were getting low Imbolc rituals were performed to harness divine energy that would ensure a steady supply of food until the harvest six months later.

Like many Celtic festivals, the Imbolc celebrations centred around the lighting of fires. Fire was perhaps more important for this festival than others as it was also the holy day of Brigid (also known as Bride, Brigit, Brid), the Goddess of fire, healing and fertility. The lighting of fires celebrated the increasing power of the Sun over the coming months. For the Christian calendar, this holiday was reformed and renamed 'Candlemas' when candles are lit to remember the purification of the Virgin Mary.

Imbolc is still a special time for Pagans. As people who are deeply aware of what is going on in the natural world they recognise that there is strength in cold as well as heat, death as well as life. The Horned God reigns over the Autumn and Winter and and although the light and warmth of the world my be weak he is still in his power.

Many feel that human actions are best when they reflect the actions of nature, so as the world slowly springs back into action it is time for the small tasks that are neglected through the busy year. Rituals and activities might include the making of candles, planting spring flowers, reading poetry and telling stories.
BBC - Religion & Ethics - Imbolc (http://rds.yahoo.com/_ylt=A0oGklNEZo1HIWcBcQlXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTE5N2RrY3JzBHNlYwNzcgRwb3MDMTAEY29sbwNzazEEdnRpZANDUzAxXzkzB GwDV1Mx/SIG=12qf5i8tb/EXP=1200535492/**http%3a//www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/paganism/holydays/imbolc.shtml)

Imbolc links:

Free Imbolc Ecards, Imbolc Greeting Cards (http://rds.yahoo.com/_ylt=A0oGklNEZo1HIWcBaQlXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTE4ZGIzamNxBHNlYwNzcgRwb3MDNgRjb2xvA3NrMQR2dGlkA0NTMDFfOTMEb ANXUzE-/SIG=11utu6hjn/EXP=1200535492/**http%3a//www.123greetings.com/events/imbolc/)
The Wheel of the Celtic Year: Imbolc (http://rds.yahoo.com/_ylt=A0oGklNEZo1HIWcBYQlXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTE4aWFxbXRyBHNlYwNzcgRwb3MDMgRjb2xvA3NrMQR2dGlkA0NTMDFfOTMEb ANXUzE-/SIG=11qrvofi3/EXP=1200535492/**http%3a//www.celticspirit.org/imbolc.htm)
Imbolc Lore (http://rds.yahoo.com/_ylt=A0oGklNEZo1HIWcBZwlXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTE4amdkNWMwBHNlYwNzcgRwb3MDNQRjb2xvA3NrMQR2dGlkA0NTMDFfOTMEb ANXUzE-/SIG=125cgivi2/EXP=1200535492/**http%3a//www.wicca.com/celtic/akasha/imbolclore.htm)
All About Imbolc (http://rds.yahoo.com/_ylt=A0oGkifOZ41HDAsApptXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTE5MGhpOW5oBHNlYwNzcgRwb3MDMjQEY29sbwNzazEEdnRpZANDUzAxXzkzB GwDV1Mx/SIG=12pbkr1ri/EXP=1200535886/**http%3a//paganwiccan.about.com/od/imbolcfebruary2/a/AllAbout_Imbolc.htm)
Imbolc : A Day for the Queen of Heaven (http://rds.yahoo.com/_ylt=A0oGkifOZ41HDAsAqptXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTE5cW4xMmdwBHNlYwNzcgRwb3MDMjYEY29sbwNzazEEdnRpZANDUzAxXzkzB GwDV1Mx/SIG=121ir0el0/EXP=1200535886/**http%3a//www.folkstory.com/articles/imbolc.html)
MAG - Quarter & Cross-Quarter Days - Imbolc (http://rds.yahoo.com/_ylt=A0oGkifOZ41HDAsAsZtXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTE5c2twbHBlBHNlYwNzcgRwb3MDMjgEY29sbwNzazEEdnRpZANDUzAxXzkzB GwDV1Mx/SIG=12tapgea0/EXP=1200535886/**http%3a//www.geomancy.org/astronomy/quarter-cross-quarter/imbolc/index.html)
Imbolc (http://rds.yahoo.com/_ylt=A0oGkmBEaI1HtFAB6odXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTE5dGYya3VqBHNlYwNzcgRwb3MDMzIEY29sbwNzazEEdnRpZANDUzAxXzkzB GwDV1Mx/SIG=12bfhgrqv/EXP=1200536004/**http%3a//druidry.org/obod/festivals/imbolc/imbolctxt.html)
Sabats for kids: Imbolc (http://rds.yahoo.com/_ylt=A0oGkmBEaI1HtFAB8IdXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTE5djdlMzVrBHNlYwNzcgRwb3MDMzUEY29sbwNzazEEdnRpZANDUzAxXzkzB GwDV1Mx/SIG=12su1kanj/EXP=1200536004/**http%3a//www.wyldwytch.com/weavings/articles/pagan_creche/pages/imbolc.htm)
Imbolc (http://rds.yahoo.com/_ylt=A0oGkmBEaI1HtFAB7odXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTE5ZDE2N2c2BHNlYwNzcgRwb3MDMzQEY29sbwNzazEEdnRpZANDUzAxXzkzB GwDV1Mx/SIG=11s492a5j/EXP=1200536004/**http%3a//www.asiya.org/sabbats/imbolc.html) --including rituals, activities, symbolism, lore, and historical information.
Imbolc Rituals - ADF Neopagan Druidism (http://rds.yahoo.com/_ylt=A0oGkiinaI1H5S4AYRRXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTE5NWJxb2Y4BHNlYwNzcgRwb3MDNDEEY29sbwNzazEEdnRpZANDUzAxXzkzB GwDV1Mx/SIG=11titbn36/EXP=1200536103/**http%3a//www.adf.org/rituals/celtic/imbolc/)

Candlemas commemorates the ritual purification of Mary, 40 days after the birth of her son Jesus. This day also marks the ritual presentation of the baby Jesus to God in the Temple at Jerusalem.

The Gospel of Luke says that Jesus was met by Anna and Simeon. Simeon held the baby Jesus and called him a Light to the World.

Ritual purification stems back to a Jewish tradition that women were considered unclean after the birth of a child. For 40 days for a boy, and 60 days for a girl, women weren't allowed to worship in the temple. At the end of this time, women were brought to the Temple or Synagogue to be purified. After the ceremony women were allowed to take part in religious services again.

The festival is called Candlemas beacuse this was the day that all the Church's candles for the year were blessed.
On Candlemas night, many people place lighted candles in their windows at home.

Like some other Christian festivals, Candlemas draws some of its elements from Paganism.

In pre-Christian times, it was the festival of light. This ancient festival marked the mid point of winter, half way between the winter solstice (shortest day) and the spring equinox.

Some people lit candles to scare away evil spirits on the dark winter nights.
People believed that Candlemas predicted the weather for the rest of the winter.
If Candlemas Day be fair and bright
Winter will have another fight.
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain,
Winter won't come again. TraditionalFor some people, different superstitions surround this festival. For instance, if a candle drips on one side when carried in church on Candlemas, this denotes a death of a family member during the year.
If someone brings snowdrops into the house on Candlemas day it symbolises a parting or death.

Any Christmas decorations not taken down by Twelfth Night (January 5th) should be left up until Candlemas Day and then taken down.
From: BBC - Religion & Ethics - Candlemas (http://rds.yahoo.com/_ylt=A0oGkwLDaI1HbDsBw2lXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTE4aWFxbXRyBHNlYwNzcgRwb3MDMgRjb2xvA3NrMQR2dGlkA0NTMDFfOTMEb ANXUzE-/SIG=131jsbpii/EXP=1200536131/**http%3a//www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/holydays/candlemas.shtml)
Candlemas Links:
Celebrating Candlemas - School of the Seasons (http://rds.yahoo.com/_ylt=A0oGkyN4Z41HhhMBA3xXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTE5cXQwOXY0BHNlYwNzcgRwb3MDMTMEY29sbwNzazEEdnRpZANDUzAxXzkzB GwDV1Mx/SIG=124ufvda9/EXP=1200535800/**http%3a//www.schooloftheseasons.com/candlemas.html)
Candlemas - Wikipedia (http://rds.yahoo.com/_ylt=A0oGkwLDaI1HbDsBwWlXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTE4djcxZnN2BHNlYwNzcgRwb3MDMQRjb2xvA3NrMQR2dGlkA0NTMDFfOTMEb ANXUzE-/SIG=11qupugl3/EXP=1200536131/**http%3a//en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Candlemas)
Candlemas - Catholic Encyclopedia (http://rds.yahoo.com/_ylt=A0oGkwLDaI1HbDsBxWlXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTE4dXZsMXMzBHNlYwNzcgRwb3MDMwRjb2xvA3NrMQR2dGlkA0NTMDFfOTMEb ANXUzE-/SIG=11u2qb3i6/EXP=1200536131/**http%3a//www.newadvent.org/cathen/03245b.htm)
Feast of the Purification (Candlemas) (http://rds.yahoo.com/_ylt=A0oGkyEhaY1HXSwBun1XNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTE5ZDNqYTQ3BHNlYwNzcgRwb3MDMTEEY29sbwNzazEEdnRpZANDUzAxXzkzB GwDV1Mx/SIG=12c3nvknb/EXP=1200536225/**http%3a//www.fisheaters.com/customstimeafterepiphany3.html)
Celebrating Candlemas in Old Ireland - World Cultures European (http://rds.yahoo.com/_ylt=A0oGkyEhaY1HXSwByH1XNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTE5bWtycGdiBHNlYwNzcgRwb3MDMTgEY29sbwNzazEEdnRpZANDUzAxXzkzB GwDV1Mx/SIG=12gtnijpg/EXP=1200536225/**http%3a//www.irishcultureandcustoms.com/ACalend/Candlemas.html)
Candlemas: All About the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (http://rds.yahoo.com/_ylt=A0oGkk1xaY1Hf4MB0jpXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTE5Z2dlbXJ2BHNlYwNzcgRwb3MDMjEEY29sbwNzazEEdnRpZANDUzAxXzkzB GwDV1Mx/SIG=11si83m6v/EXP=1200536305/**http%3a//www.churchyear.net/candlemas.html)
Candlemas (http://rds.yahoo.com/_ylt=A0oGkk2XaY1HWQYAw2ZXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTE5M3FmYzdtBHNlYwNzcgRwb3MDNDAEY29sbwNzazEEdnRpZANDUzAxXzkzB GwDV1Mx/SIG=126sobarg/EXP=1200536343/**http%3a//www.shiningrise.com/christmas/candlemas.htm)General Links:
Myth*ingLinks: Imbolc/Candlemas Links (http://rds.yahoo.com/_ylt=A0oGkifOZ41HDAsAoJtXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTE5Z2dlbXJ2BHNlYwNzcgRwb3MDMjEEY29sbwNzazEEdnRpZANDUzAxXzkzB GwDV1Mx/SIG=11rhl1205/EXP=1200535886/**http%3a//www.mythinglinks.org/Imbolc.html)

(more links to come)


Feel free to add anything (sites, lore, family traditions, etc) and discuss the symbolism, history and meaning of the sabbat! :)

January 16th, 2008, 05:35 AM
Here's another general link:

Candlemas: The Light Returns by Mike Nichols (http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Forum/7280/imbolc.html)

January 16th, 2008, 06:19 PM
Imbolc is one of the four principal festivals of the Irish calendar, celebrated among Gaelic peoples and some other Celtic cultures either at the beginning of February or at the first local signs of Spring."First local signs of spring"? Yup, we celebrate that holiday here, too. We call it the Vernal Equinox. :T

[i]Imbolc is traditionally a time of weather prognosticationAwesome! I've just started learning some forms of weather prognostication! Got to find some way to incorporate that aspect into our ritual.

[i]Brigid (also known as Brighid, Bríde, Brigit, Brìd) is the goddess of poetry, healing and smithcraft.This is why, for the past several years, my wife and I have celebrated Imbolc as "Art Day." We make art, go to museums...whatever strikes our fancy.

January 16th, 2008, 10:17 PM
Cool info, and thanks for those links, Agaliha and also to SoulFire :).