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Imbolic

Updated: Jan 19

Imbolc, also called Saint Brigid's Day, is a Gaelic traditional festival. A Celtic word, Imbolic means 'in the belly or womb.' Pronounced "IM-bulk" or "EM-bowlk," this festival is dedicated to fertility, even #midwifery, and falls on February 2nd. Imbolic celebrates the first stirrings of spring and the first sparks of new life.


Imbolic is midway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox at a time, which is traditionally the coldest and darkest time of the year. This celebration on the Celtic Wheel is one of the four major "fire" festivals with the other three being Beltane, Lughnasadh, and Samhain. Brigid was a fire goddess, and today, her canonization is celebrated with a perpetual flame at her shrine in Kildare.



Saint Brigid is the patron saint of babies, children whose parents are not married, children whose mothers are mistreated by the children's fathers, fugitives, Ireland, midwives, milkmaids, nuns, poets, the poor, scholars, and travelers, among many more.


There are a number of traditions on the Imbolc but one more often practiced still today is the making of Brigid's bed. Girls and young unmarried women of the household or village create a corn dolly to represent Brigid and then adorn it with ribbons and baubles like shells and stones. Then they make a bed for her to lie upon. Girls will then gather together and have a slumber party with Brigid, staying up all night.


Brigid is said to walk the earth on Imbolc eve. Everyone in the household will leave a piece of clothing outside their door for her to bless and the head of the household will smother the fire and rake the ashes smooth. In the morning they family will look for some sort of mark on the ashes, a sign that she has passed that way in the night. The clothes are then brought inside and believed to now have powers of healing and protection. These clothes will be worn the next day in great honor.


Adult women, those who are married or who run a household, stay home to welcome #Brigid procession, perhaps with an offering of coins or a snack. Since Brigid represents half the light of the year and the power that will bring people from the dark season of winter into spring, her presence is very important this time of year.


More modern celebrations today honor Brigid's #divine femininity but can vary widely in how they are practiced. Traditionally people light every lamp in their home at dusk during Imbolc to honor the sun's rebirth. Candles can be lit in all rooms of the house while a kerosene lamp is usually placed in a commonly used area. Many will also create an altar and give thanks to the goddess, or spend time meditating on her inspiration.


Celebrations also include a twirling of torches to symbolize the sun as well as walking through snow to trace an image of the sun. People undertake spring cleaning and take ritual baths to create space for the goddess to come into their lives. It is also a tradition to prepare a talisman for ceremonies, either a straw doll or a Brigid's cross. A major part of this festival though is the #feast which includes lots of dairy, with sour cream-based dishes commonly eaten. Spicy dishes are also popular, including spiced wine.

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