IMBOLC / CANDLEMAS

The point we’re at right now in the turning of the year is known as Imbolc or Candlemas. Let me know in the comments if there are any specific celebrations in your part of the world at this time of year!

The celebration is most commonly held on 1 and 2 February, and is referred to as Imbolc in the Celtic tradition and Candlemas in the Christian.

It falls at the midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. These midpoints are often overlooked but serve as important markers of our journey around the sun.

The tilt of the earth’s axis is what creates the seasons in our rotation around the sun, and awareness of this phenomenon helps us connect more closely to the exquisite orchestration of the sun’s and earth’s and moon’s loving interplay that allows life to arise and thrive with such precision.

The transition from one season to another is in itself an important marker, and is vital to agriculture, timekeeping and even survival.

This is the time of year when animals start to emerge from hibernation. It’s the time when buds start to swell. It’s when the lambs begin to be born.

The name Imbolc is widely thought to derive from the Gaelic i mbolc, variously meaning “in the belly”, and “in milk”. It refers to pregnancy and lactating ewes. Etymologically, It’s associated with the Proto Indo-European root meaning both “milk” and “cleansing”.

I invite you to take the time today to acknowledge where we are in the solar year, and to feel into the delicate energies stirring under the surface of all living things.

This is the point in the year when we start to notice the light returning. The journey towards the exuberant growth in later spring now starts deep within our hidden recesses.

This time is the source of our wellspring of hope, our trust in the cyclical nature of all processes. It brings us the energetic boost we need to find our way out of the darker entanglements we might have mulled over during the winter months of reflection.

In the Christian tradition, we celebrate this as Candlemas. It’s also known as the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord Jesus and the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and commemorates the presentation of Jesus at the Temple.

At Candlemas, many Christians bring their candles to their local church, where they are blessed and then used for the rest of the year.

It’s also known as pancake day, or the day of crepes, in large parts of Europe. This is thought to be the remnants of the ancient roman Lupercalia tradition, where Vestal Virgins offered cakes to the community. The golden-coloured, round pancakes are thought to celebrate the return of the solar disc after the dark, cold months of Winter.

We’re now moving into the time of year associated with the Maiden aspect of Triple Goddess.

In Ireland, it’s still celebrated as the Feast of St. Bridget. Like so many of the earlier manifestations of the Goddess, Bridgid was co-opted by Christianity and turned into a more politically correct Saint Bridget.

The Goddess Bridgid was extensively worshipped in Ireland, Wales, Spain, France, and Britain. The etymology of her name means power and great fame.

Brigid was the Goddess of hidden wisdom and smithcraft, and the symbol of Bridgid is the cauldron – emblematically connected with witchcraft, the grail of the Womb and women’s alchemical ability to transform all things in a vessel.

She was the keeper of sacred flames, and is associated with many holy wells and springs

Her connection with the Mother Goddess and the later Cult of Mary is apparent in that Brigid was a virgin. She is also a protector of midwives and an important Goddess of healing. Her role in midwifing includes bringing the soul back to the otherworld.

I particularly love this connection between birth and death, as it always strikes me that the beginning of life is intimately connected with the end of life. Spiritually and energetically these great, and sometimes dangerous, transitions require the highest form of support. To my mind, a midwife is a Transition Priestess, and not “just” a birth helper, as the modern world has reduced her to.

On Bridget’s feast day, the fire of your hearth and home is rekindled, physically and metaphorically. Many give their house a good spring clean. The feast day offers an opportunity to reset all processes of the home and within ourselves: a new beginning.

Some suggested ceremonial activities for marking this important day follow:

Light a purifying fire and burn sticks that you’ve energetically infused with anything you want to get rid of in your life.

Invite your family and friends to wear white or yellow to represent the return of innocence and the light: a new start.

Hold a candle-lit prayer for loved ones journeying to the otherworld.

Write down the most important insights you’ve come to during the contemplative months of winter.

Exchange candles with friends and family members to celebrate the return of the light.

Visit a holy well or a beautiful local stream and connect with its life-giving blessing.

Start a nightly ritual to protect your home and the wider world. The following words come from a tradition on the Isle of Man: “Brigid, Brigid, come to my house tonight. Open the door for Brigid and let Brigid come in.” All the candles in the house should then be lit, and the Mother Goddess invited in.

Happy Imbolc!

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