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Imbolc bringer of Spring
Imbolc, in the ancient Celtic calender was a very important celebration. Being midway between winter and summer, Imbolc is the renewing of the Earth, praying that the seeds will grow and making sure that the lambs and foals would be born. The most important part of Imbolc was the performing of rituals so that they had enough food until the summers months. By the time of February 1st, food was scarce and the animals needed sufficient fuel for their babies to be born. It is believed that the word Imbolc comes from the old Celtic word for ewe's milk (Oi-melc). Some say the day to perform the rituals is on the 1st of February, some say the second. Most people got around this by ensuing the celebrations went on for two days.
The lighting of fires was the most symbolic act, calling down the God's and elements to warm the earth and bring forth light and life. Fire was the symbol of the Holy day of Brigid, also known as Bride, Brigit, Brid, who was the Goddess of fire, healing and of course fertility. She was worshipped for century's before the Christian Priests came and took over the pagan land, religion and beliefs, turning them into their God's, Saints and Holy men and women. Hence Brigid, Goddess of Fire became the celebration of Candlemas when candles are lit to remember the purification of the Virgin Mary.
Imbolc then is a time to spring clean both your mental and physical abilities, to take stock of your life and make a fresh start. By planning ahead and planting new seeds (ideas) now for the future, who knows what new opportunities will grow from them. As the Sun grows stronger in the sky, so too should you look forward with optimism; and as your seeds (ideas) mature, so may you realise your hopes and dreams.
St Bride's Day
In the Highlands of Scotland the revival of vegetation in spring used to be graphically represented on St. Bride’s Day, the first of February. Thus in the Hebrides “the mistress and servants of each family take a sheaf of oats, and dress it up in women’s apparel, put it in a large basket and lay a wooden club by it, and this they call Briid’s bed; and then the mistress and servants cry three times, ‘Briid is come, Briid is welcome.’ This they do just before going to bed, and when they rise in the morning they look among the ashes, expecting to see the impression of Briid’s club there; which if they do, they reckon it a true presage of a good crop and prosperous year, and the contrary they take as an ill omen.” The same custom is described by another witness thus: “Upon the night before Candlemas it is usual to make a bed with corn and hay, over which some blankets are laid, in a part of the house, near the door. When it is ready, a person goes out and repeats three times, ... ‘Bridget, Bridget, come in; thy bed is ready.’ One or more candles are left burning near it all night.”
The Goddess Bride
There are many legends and customs connected with Bride. Some of these seem inconsistent with one another, and with the character of the Saint of Kildare. These seeming inconsistencies arise from the fact that there were several Brides, Christian and pre-Christian, whose personalities have become confused in the course of centuries--the attributes of all being now popularly ascribed to one. Bride is said to preside over fire, over art, over all beauty, 'fo cheabhar agus fo chuan,' beneath the sky and beneath the sea. And man being the highest type of ideal beauty, Bride presides at his birth and dedicates him to the Trinity. She is the Mary and the Juno of the Gael. She is much spoken of in connection with Mary,--generally in relation to the birth of Christ. She was the aid-woman of the Mother of Nazareth in the lowly stable, and she is the aid-woman of the mothers of Uist in their humble homes.
A windy Christmas and a calm Candlemas are signs of a good year.
One tradition still celebrated in Ireland on St. Brigid's Day is that of Brigid's Bed. Young unmarried girls of the village create a doll made of corn which symbolizes Brigid and call it the "Brideog".
They adorn it with stones and ribbons and fashion a small bed for it to lie in. On St. Brigid's Eve they stay awake all night with the Brideog and on the following day the girls carry it from house to house throughout the village while the women staying at home give offerings of coins or snacks.
On the eve of Brigid's Feast Day, people would leave out a piece of cloth to be blessed by the Goddess/Saint as she passed by, which would be used to heal those giving birth in the coming year. This gorgeous scarf in honor of Brigid's Day is featured at the wonderfully named blog Knitting, Sex and God.