Witchy Wednesday: Imbolc Lore & Info

Other Names: Candlemas, Imbolg, Brigit's Day, Feast of Brighid, Lupercus, The Festival of Lights, and the Feast of the Virgin.

Imbolc is the festival of the lactating sheep. It is derived from the Gaelic word "oimelc" which means "ewes milk". Herd animals have either given birth to the first offspring of the year or their wombs are swollen and the milk of life is flowing into their teats and udders. It is the time of Blessing of the seeds and consecration of agricultural tools. It marks the center point of the dark half of the year. It is the festival of the Maiden, for from this day to March 21, it is her season to prepare for growth and renewal. Brighid's snake emerges from the womb of the Earth Mother to test the weather, (the origin of Groundhog Day), and in many places the first Crocus flowers began to spring forth from the frozen earth.

The Maiden is honored as the Bride on this Sabbat. Straw corn dollies are created from oat or wheat straw and placed in baskets with white flower bedding. Young girls then carry them door to door, and gifts are bestowed upon the image from each household. Afterwards at the traditional feast, the older women make special acorn wands for the dollies to hold, and in the morning, the ashes in the hearth are examined to see if the magic wands left marks as a good omen. Brighid's Crosses are fashioned from wheat stalks and exchanged as symbols of protection and prosperity in the coming year. Home hearth fires are put out and re-lit, and a besom is place by the front door to symbolize sweeping out the old and welcoming the new. Candles are lit and placed in each room of the house to honor the re-birth of the Sun.

Another traditional symbol of Imbolc is the plough. In some areas, this is the first day of ploughing in preparation of the first planting of crops. A decorated plough is dragged from door to door, with costumed children following asking for food, drinks, or money. Should they be refused, the household is paid back by having its front garden ploughed up. In other areas, the plough is decorated and then Whiskey, the "water of life" is poured over it. Pieces of cheese and bread are left by the plough and in the newly turned furrows as offerings to the nature spirits. It is considered taboo to cut or pick plants during this time.

Symbolism: purity, growth and renewal, the reunion of the Goddess and the God, fertility, dispensing of the old and making way for the new.

Foods: dairy products, curries, onions, chives, seeds, herbal tea, mutton or lamb, poppyseed cakes, muffins, scones, and breads, onions, garlic, raisins, spiced wines.

Herbs: angelica, basil, bay laurel, blackberry, celandine, coltsfoot, heather, iris, myrrh, tansy, violets, and all white or yellow flowers.

Incense and oils: angelica, blackberry, iris, myrrh, vanilla.

Colors: white, yellow, light green.

Stones: amethyst, bloodstone, garnet, ruby, onyx, turquoise.

Animals: robins, burrowing animals, sheep, lambs, deer

Mythical creatures: firebirds, dragons

Some appropriate Goddesses: all flame and virgin/maiden Goddesses; Anu (Irish), Artemis (Greek), Brigit (Irish), Dahud (Breton), Dumuzi (Sumerian), Frigg/Freya (Norse), Frimia (Teutonic), Gaia (Greek), Hestia (Greek), Inanna (Sumerian), Iduna (Teutonic), Ishtar (Assyro-Babylonian), Juno (Roman), Kebehut (Egyptian), Minerva (Roman), Laufey (Teutonic), Lucina (Roman), Vesta (Roman)

Some appropriate Gods: all flame and love Gods; Adonis (Greek), Bragi (Norse), Cupid (Roman), Diancecht (Irish), Eros (Greek), Februus (Roman), Frey (Norse), Osiris (Egyptian), Tammuz (Assyro-Babylonian)

Decorations: candles, lamps, brooms, yellow flowers, Brighid's Crosses, priapic wands (acorn-tipped), evergreens.

Traditional activities: a besom is placed by the front door to symbolize sweeping out the old and welcoming the new, candle lighting, searching for signs of spring, making Bride's Beds, making priapic wands, feasting, spring cleaning.

Spell/ritual work: blessing of seeds for this year's garden, fertility and purification, consecration of agricultural tools, initiation, transformation, beginnings.

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