Today a description & celebration of the Irish Celtic festival of Imbolc or Brigid’s Day with stories and traditions to a background of gentle Irish music
Imbolc is the time between Yule and the Spring Equinox, the halfway point in the dark months of the year. It’s the time when the days suddenly seem to be getting longer, and the snow is beginning to melt, showing us small patches of earth and green. At this time of returning spring, our ancestors lit bonfires and candles to celebrate the rebirth of the land.
As the world awakes from the dark slumber of winter, it is time to cast off the chill of the past and welcome the warmth of spring.
In Ireland, this holy day is called Imbolc and begins at sunset on February 1 continuing through sunset February 2nd. There are several different derivations offered for the name Imbolc: from Ol-melc (ewe’s milk) because the ewes are lactating at this time, from Im-bolg(around the belly) in honor of the swelling belly of the earth goddess, and from folcaim (I wash) because of the rites of purification which took place at this time. All of these explanations capture the themes of this festival.
February 1st is the feast day of St. Brigid, who began her life as a pagan goddess and ended up a Christian saint. She was a fire and fertility goddess. In her temple at Kildare, vestal virgins tended an eternal fire. On her feast day, her statue was washed in the sea (purification) and then carried in a cart through the fields surrounded by candles.
The legends about the goddess, Brigid, gradually became associated with (the somewhat spurious) Saint Brigid who founded the first convent in Ireland (where else?) at Kildare.
More at School of the Seasons