Early February is a time of celebration, Candlemas, St Brigid’s Day, Imbolc call it what you will – it is all about hoping for success in the farming season – purification and wishing for a fertile year ahead. This is the time of the feast of torches. It is one of the four key festivals in the Celtic calendar and and traditionally falls when winter stores of food were beginning to get low mid-winter and halfway between the shortest day and the spring equinox.
February 2nd is the cross-quarter day that falls between Midwinter (Yule), and the Vernal Equinox of Spring, called Imbolc (pronounced Em-olk). It was claimed as ‘Candlemas’ by the Catholic Church, marking the start of banishing Winter. The ‘greens’ that adorned the house throughout the Yule season were gathered and burned to give off a bright fire to break the hold of the cold of Winter, heralding the snowdrop and other spring flowers.
The pagan festival of Imbolc is about celebrating spring, the beginning of the lambing season and new life. Meanwhile, in the Christian calendar the festival is known as Candlemas when candles are blessed and lit to represent a guiding light. It’s a time to look towards the future, the year ahead and clearing out all the old ready for a new beginning.
The term ‘spring clean’ is linked with Imbolc as well as making wishes in the spring, clearing the mind and heart and looking for new sources of inspiration. Celtic women still use this time of the year for ‘spring cleaning’, as it has always been tradition to extinguish the home’s main fire and thoroughly clean out the hearth. Kindling and logs for a new fire were set and then ignited when people returned home with an ember or coal from the community bonfire. In older times all the people of the community would light their candle from the central candle at the Candlemas Service and bring that taper home to light their house blessing candle.
How does ‘Brigid’ fit in to everything? Saint Brigid is the pagan goddess of healing, poetry and smithcraft as well as fire, the sun and the Hearth. She is worshipped during Imbolc as she is believed to bring fertility to the land. She isn’t just worshipped by pagans; midwives and the Christian church pay tribute to St Brigid. Saint Brigid is one of Ireland’s patron saints, along with Patrick and Columba. Irish hagiography makes her an early Irish Christian nun, abbess, and foundress of several monasteries of nuns, including that of Kildare in Ireland,
When every lamp blazes and shines to welcome the rebirth of the God; The Earth celebrates beneath its mantle of sleep. All the land is wrapped in winter. The air is chilled and frost envelops the Earth but the promise of Spring is with us…..