Imbolc means “in milk” or “in the belly”. It refers to the time of lactation for livestock in preparation for the birthing of baby animals in the spring. On Feb. 1, in this time between winter solstice and spring equinox, Imbolc is the celebration of newness, the promise of fertility, new life and new hope. Please click here to continue reading about Imbolc and the Feast of Brigid.
Imbolc means “in milk” or “in the belly”. It refers to the time of lactation for livestock in preparation for the birthing of baby animals in the spring. On Feb. 1, in this time between winter solstice and spring equinox, Imbolc is the celebration of newness, the promise of fertility, new life and new hope. Although the stirrings of spring may not yet be apparent, we are assured there is a quickening underneath the surface of things and in the womb of Mother Earth. While we are still amidst the season of winter that may appear lifeless, we feel the promise of the return of the light and renewal of life. We don’t see the symbolic snowdrop blooming in our part of Canada at this time of year, but I’ve included a picture for us to look forward to.
Feb. 1/2 is also known as the Feast of Brigid (Brighid, Brigit), one of the four fire festival days from the old Irish calendar. Brigid was a fire goddess in ancient Irish mythology and associated with fire and any fire symbolism, including light, candles, heat warmth or sunrises. She is considered the patroness of poetry, metal working, medicine, arts and crafts, cattle and other livestock and spring. Brigid is mother and protector of crops, pregnancy and sexuality. Thus the festival of Imbolc was a festival of lights and celebrated as the return of the sun to ensure fertility in the coming season.
In Christianity, Feb. 1 is observed as the feast day of Saint Brigid or Candlemas. Candlemas is a mass in honour of the lights of the church and old wax and partially burned candles would be removed and replaced with new, blessed candles. Saint Brigid is celebrated for her generosity to the poor and lived from 451 to 525. She founded the sanctuary in Kildare as well as a school of art, including metal work and illumination. The nuns maintain her perpetual, sacred flame at Kildare, except at those times in history that the flame was extinguished.
The Feast of Brigid is celebrated with hearth fires and special foods, many including dairy products such as butter or milk (season of calving). On Imbolc Eve, Brigid is said to visit households and bless the inhabitants as they sleep. Before going to bed, items of clothing or strips of cloth would be left outside for Brigid to bless. The fire ashes would be raked smooth and in the morning people would look for some kind of mark on the ashes as a sign that Brigid had visited. The clothes or strips of cloth would be brought inside, and believed to now have powers of healing and protection. Other traditions involved the making of Brigid’s crosses and doll-like figures of Brigid.
So, however you want to celebrate Feb 1 and the early stirrings of spring and longer days of light, you may want to try out these following recipes from http://circleofthesacredmuse.com/celebrations/imbolc/.
Bailey’s Irish Cream Truffles
1/4 cup Bailey’s Irish Cream liqueur
1 Tbs. Butter
12 oz. Semi-sweet chocolate pieces
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup heavy cream
powdered sugar or cocoa
Melt chocolate pieces, Bailey’s and cream together over very low heat. Whisk in yolks, one at a time-mixture will thicken. Whisk in butter. Refrigerate several hours or overnight until firm. Make small balls with a teaspoon. Roll in powdered sugar or cocoa.
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp. honey
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Warm milk–DO NOT BOIL. Add honey and vanilla. Mix together and pour into a mug. Sprinkle with cinnamon.
And I will leave you with a poem found at the above source to keep Brigid in mind.
Kindling The Fire
This morning, as I kindle the flame upon my hearth, I pray that the flame of Brigid may burn in my soul and the souls of all I meet today.
I pray that no envy or malice, no hatred or fear may smother the flame.
I pray that indifference and apathy, contempt and pride may not pour like cold water in the flame.
Instead, may the spark of Brigid light the love in my soul that it may burn brightly through the day.
And may I warm those that are lonely, whose hearts are cold and lifeless, so that all may know the comfort of Brigid’s love.