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The Simple Facts:
Candlemas: Imbolic (Celtic), Imbollgc Brigantia (Caledonii), Lupercus (Strega) Candlemas involves celebrations of banishing the winter and welcoming the spring.
Light a candle in each room of the house or turn on all the ligts for a moment or two to welcome back the Sun. Imbolc is a celebration of the end of winter and the return of the light.
At the time of Candlemas, the newborn Sun God is seen as a small child nursing from his Mother.
At this phase of the cycle, winter is swept away and new beginnings are nurtured. Some Wiccan groups favor this time of year for initiations into the Craft. It is traditional at Candlemas to light every lamp in the house for a few minutes in honor of the Sun's rebirth.
The Goddess becomes the "Maiden" again as the wheel turns toward Spring. It is a celebration of the coming Spring and the new life it represents
Imbolc (pronounced "IM-bulk", "IM mol'g" or "EM-bowl/k") is one of the Greater Wiccan Sabbats and is usually celebrated on February 2nd. In the Celtic tradition it is celebrated on February 1st or the first Full Moon in Aquarius. Other names Imbolc are known by include Imbolg, Imbolic (Celtic), Imbolgc Brigantia (Caledonii Tradition, or the Druids), Candlelaria (Mexican Craft), Disting (Teutonic Tradition - celebrated on February 14th) Candlemas (some Pagan Traditions and/or individuals prefer this name), the Feast of Candlemas and St. Bridget's Day (Christian), Oimelc, Brigid's Day, Lupercus (Strega), the Feast of Lights, the Feast of the Virgin, the Snowdrop Festival, or the Festival of Lights. The name "Imbolc" or "Oimelc", which is derived from Gaelic, means "ewe's milk" after the lactating sheep that are feeding their first born lambs of the new season at this time of year. (Images to the left and below are by Anthony Meadows and from 1998 and 1999 Witches' Calendars. Click on either image to go directly to Llewellyn's Web Site.)
This sabbath is a time of cleansing and newborn lambs, a good time for the Blessing of seeds. It is a festival of the Maiden in preparation for growth and renewal. Imbolc is a time to honor the Virgin Goddesses, along with the first signs of returning life in a frozen Winterland. In many places, the crocus flower is one of the first to show itself popping up through the snow, and so it is also a symbol of this sabbath. Candlemas is a Festival of Light and is therefore celebrated by the use of many candles.
Symbolically, many Pagans choose to represent Imbolc by the use of Candle Wheels, Grain Dollies, and Sun Wheels - these may be used in ritual or simply as decoration. Candle Wheels are generally round decorated "crowns" made of straw or some type of natural woven substance which is ringed with either eight or thirteen red, pink or white candles and decorated with colored ribbons. In many Imbolc rituals, it is traditional for the High Priestess or the Maiden to wear this "crown" during the ritual at some point.
Grain Dollies can be made many different ways, and need not take on human shape unless you desire. They are made of wheat or sheaves of other grains such as straw, corn or barley. The sheaves are formed into some semblance of a "dolly" by folding, tucking and tying here and there. They can then be "dressed" in white cotton or satin and lace to represent the bride. You may even choose to create a "bed" (from a basket usually) for your grain dolly, commonly called a "Bride's Bed". There are many Pagan books available on how to create Candle Wheels, Grain Dollies, and Sun Wheels. Please refer to them for further instructions on making these decorations. Imbolc is also represented by burrowing animals, and the bride. Some other altar decorations may include a besom (Witch's broom) to symbolize the sweeping out of the old, a sprig of evergreen, or a small Goddess statue representing Her in the Maiden aspect.
Imbolc can be symbolically represented by a dish of snow, evergreens and/or candles. Ritually, you may choose to light and hold candles (symbol of light) within the Circle. You may also want to place a wheel symbol upon the Altar. It is traditional upon Imbolc, at sunset or just after ritual, to light every lamp in the house --- if only for a few moments. Or, light candles in each room in honor of the Sun's rebirth. Alternately, light a kerosene lamp with a red chimney and place in a prominent part of the home or in a window. If snow lies on the ground, walk in it for a moment, recalling the warmth of Summer. With your projective hand, trace an image of the Sun on the snow. Other Pagan activities may include the gathering of stones and the searching for signs of Spring. It is considered taboo to cut or pick plants at this time.
Appropriate Deities for Imbolc include all Virgin/Maiden Goddesses, all Fire/Flame Gods and Goddesses, and Gods and Goddesses represented as Children. Some Imbolc Deities to mention by name include Brigid, Aradia, Anu, Arianrhod, Athena, Branwen, Inanna, Selene, Gaia, Februa, Februus, Pax, Cupid, Eros, and Diancecht. Key actions to keep in mind during this time in the Wheel of the Year include planning and preparing for the times to come. Spellwork for fertility and protection are appropriate, as well as those to help one define and focus on spiritual and physical desires for the future. Imbolc is a good time to get your life in order - whether physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, or all of the above. Make plans, organize, clean out drawers and closets to help create a refreshing sense of bringing in the new and clearing out the old. Preparing yourself and your home now will help to allow you to take full advantage of the wonder and freedom that Springtime will bring.
The most common colors associated with Imbolc are white, yellow, and pink. However, light blue, light green, red and brown are also appropriate colors for this sabbath. Altar candles should be white, red, pink and/or brown. Stones to use during the Imbolc celebration are turquoise, amethyst, garnet and onyx. Animals associated with Imbolc include robins, sheep, lambs, deer, and burrowing animals like badgers and groundhogs. Mythical beasts associated with Imbolc are the phoenix, dragons and other types of firebirds. Plants and herbs associated with Imbolc are evergreens and willow trees, rosemary, angelica, basil, bay, benzoin, heather, myrrh, clover, dill, and all yellow flowers. For Imbolc incense, you could make a blend from any of the following scents or simply choose one: basil, myrrh, frankincense, wisteria, jasmine, camphor, cinnamon, and lotus.
Foods appropriate to eat on this day include those that represent growth, such as seeds (pumpkin, sesame, sunflower) as well as poppy seed breads, muffins, and cakes. Also quite befitting are foods from the dairy, since Imbolc marks the festival of calving. Sour cream dishes are fine. Appropriate meat dishes should contain poultry, pork, or lamb. Spicy and full-bodied foods in honor of the Sun are equally attuned. Curries and all dishes made with peppers, onions, leeks, shallots, garlic or chives are appropriate. Spiced wines, herbal teas, honey, and dishes containing raisins --- all foods symbolic of the Sun --- are also traditional.
May you all enjoy the Blessings of the Imbolc sabbath and all that is represented at this time of year.
The following "Renewal" is written by a
cherished friend of mine...
by Mayfair Lightwind
Each year, we celebrate February 2nd around the world. We call it Brigid, Candlemas, Imbolc, St. Brigid's Day, and yes, of course, Groundhog's Day. Why do we celebrate on February 2nd? Is it like President's Day - providing a nice day for state and federal workers to stay at home? Not really... Brigid has been celebrated for many thousands of years. It is the day on which we recognize and honor the awakening of the maiden aspect of the Goddess.
Some of us celebrate the holiday as Brigid, in honor of Brigid who was a Celtic Goddess of poetry, healing, fire and smith craft. In years past, the people of the British Isles would build a nice fire in their hearth, light torches and candles, and celebrate Brigid. What were they celebrating? The Maiden aspect of the Goddess awakes or returns from the underworld. At Winter Solstice she was impregnated with Spring. She sleeps until Brigid and returns, bringing Spring and renewal for the earth with her. The other names for this holiday are just different names for the same celebration.
Some may ask what this really has to do with us? We see that some of the animal kingdom hibernates through the dark time of the year. We tend to follow the same cycle. During the dark time of the year we retreat within ourselves. We focus internally. We stay inside our homes in the warmth and think about what is upcoming for us. We may not even recognize it. We may not even think about it consciously, but subconsciously we are very much aware of it. We are very much a part of the spiral of birth, death, and rebirth throughout the year. We are interconnected with the earth and all that is on it. You have likely heard the old expression "Spring Fever" many times before. This is simply our anticipation of Spring's return, when we can go out and live a full life upon the earth once more.
Often if we look at our ancestors and the history,
we can find the answers to many of our questions. I hope that everyone has a beautiful Brigid and remember... Spring is just around the corner.
And now here is a nice little excerpt for Candlemas
from The Witches' Almanac
At nightfall on Candlemas Eve (February 1) an ancient tradition is observed by witches. Every candle in the covenstead glows with living fire to encourage the swift return of the sun and the spring season. The holiday has a deeper significance too, for it is the prelude to an interval of purification. This is the time of year to eliminate from one's life all that encumbers --- from old clothes to worn-out dreams. Just as candles illuminate the darkness, a witch seeks to penetrate the hidden recesses of the mind and heart in order to greet the coming season with a clear horizon in view.
Alchemists described the climactic day of an experiment, when baser metals were to be transmuted into gold, as "a day of projection". Candlemas marks for us a period of projection, from February 2 to March 21, during which a personal transformation takes place.
Mundane matters such as settling debts, returning borrowed items, and catching up on correspondence are attended to during early February. A systematic clearing out of drawers, cabinets and closets eliminates unnecessary articles which accumulate over a year's time. Appraise all your possessions to determine what should be discarded or passed on. This stage of Candlemas Custom subtly increases the power of decision and prepares us to examine the quality of our individual lives.
(The above Candlemas Custom is quoted direct from The Witches' Almanac, page 36,
Spring 1993 to Spring 1994 edition,
prepared and edited by Elizabeth Pepper and John Wilcock,
Published by Pentacle Press, 1993.)
Next I will list several recipes appropriate
for the Imbolc turn in the Wheel of the Year.
I have gathered these from various places, noted on each...
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