Imbolc – Là Fhèill Brìghde

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DSCN4018Imbolc, Là Fhèill Brìghde (Scottish Gaelic), Candlemas or the Festival of St Brigit is one of the eight festivals celebrated by the Celts of Britain and Ireland to mark the turning of the seasons. Once I started reading about Imbolc I found so much information that some of it will have to wait until next year to write about it!

Imbolc is a fire festival of awakenings, beginnings and light. It’s name comes from the gaelic word ‘oimelc’, which translates as ‘ewe’s milk’ referring to lambing at this time of year, when sheep’s cheese was eaten. Imbolc is celebrated on the 2nd of February, or a few days either side depending on the placement of the moon and stars, or when you are able to celebrate it.

Celebrating the seasons in this way is a chance to be quiet, reflect and spend time in nature, observing the changes at hand. At this time of year some plants are beginning to bloom, and primroses and snowdrops are the flowers of Imbolc that were traditionally woven into the corn dollies made to represent Bridhe.

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It is a time of dreaming and planning, being inspired by the new energy all around us. It is also a time of cleansing and getting rid of the old. Old ideas, habits, clothes – spring cleaning. Glennie Kindred says it is a time to make a pilgrimage to a well or sacred spring, as Bridhe is the goddess of the holy well. Wash in the water, imagining the past washing away. If you are unwell soak a ribbon or piece of your clothing in the holy water and tie it to a tree. As the cloth disintegrates, it is said, so your illness too will disappear.

Bridhe, Bride, Brigit, Brigid, is the daughter of Dagda the God of Abundance, and she represents the Maiden of the Celt’s Triple Goddess (Maid, Mother, Crone). She is full of youthful vitality and is courted by the young Horned God. They dote on, and inspire, each other.

DSCN6801Many plants are said to be sacred to Bridhe including Dandelion, am beàran Brìdhe (the notched plant of Brigit), the Blackberry, an druise beannaichte/ dreas, and Willow, Saille. Willow along with Rowan, Luis, are the two sacred trees of Imbolc. Willow is used medicinally to treat damp conditions such as rheumatism, and to relieve pain. The flower essence of Willow is used to shift old patterns of resentment and a Willow wand can be placed under your pillow to help you gain insight into your dreams.

The plants, myths and the festival are so interlinked it makes me wonder which came first. Change, renewal and dreaming all working to inspire and ready us for the increasing energy of spring and summer.

There are no fixed ways to celebrate Imbolc, different cultures adding to the festival over time, so it is a great chance to find a way that works for you. A chance to witness the changing of the seasons in your own way, reflecting your lifestyle, the place you live and your creativity and hobbies.  Here are some ideas you might like to try out:

  • Bake a cake and share it with friends, colleagues, neighbours, the homeless person outside the supermarket.DSCN7138
  • Light a candle, one in every room to bring in the light – or just switch on all the lights for a moment.
  • Find some blossoming spring flowers – draw or write about them – tweet the result to spread the love!
  • Write a poem about your dreams for the coming year.
  • Go for a moonlit walk.
  • Find out more about Imbolc  and Bridhe with a web search or trip to the library.

I hope this blog has given you an insight into one of our cultural festivals and you feel inspired to celebrate in your own way. I’d love to hear how you celebrated it or any juicy facts you found in your research!

Thanks to the books of Mary Bieth, Glennie Kindred, Rae Beth, Tess Darwin and various pages on the web for all their knowledge and wisdom.

enjoy and be well

simonemelanie

Imbolc, 2016

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