Celebrating Imbolc 2014

Happy Imbolc everyone. Also known as Candlemas, Oimelc or the Feast of the Hearth, this day marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring. Winter is over and the first signs of spring are appearing in nature – buds are beginning to appear on trees, animals are waking up from hibernation and early spring flowers like snowdrops and daffodils are beginning to bloom. The day is also known as Oimelc which is Gaelic or “ewe’s milk.” The ewe’s are pregnant now and will be having lambs soon. Milking can begin again, which in ancient times, when food was hard to come by in winter, offered people a lifeline. The sun is getting stronger now and the days are noticeably longer. It is time to celebrate the awakening and rebirth of the earth, as well as new beginnings in our own lives.

It is traditional to celebrate this festival by doing a spring clean of the home (a time of purification), eating spicy or dairy foods and placing candles in all the windows of the home to represent the growing strength of the sun. I like to go for a walk on this day to search for the first signs of spring – especially snowdrops. Imbolc is also a time to create poetry and songs or to make candles for the coming year.

In many cultures, this marked the beginning of the farming and fishing year and is a great time to bless fields, seeds and tools for the coming agricultural season. It is a good time to give offerings to the Earth Mother and to the sea. It is traditionally the time to begin chitting potatoes ready for planting and as many wild foods begin to appear now, such as nettles and dandelions, one can go wild food hunting.

In ancient Celtic times the goddess Brigid was honoured on this day.  She was the goddess of fertility, learning, poetry, prophecy, healing, metal-working, arts and crafts. In modern paganism, she is also associated with the home, hearth and fire. Later she was adopted by the Christian church and became St Bride. There are many customs in Gaelic countries which honour her and may date back to the time of the ancient Celts. In Scotland, a cold day on Imbolc meant warmer weather was soon to come. Offerings of milk were made to the earth and porridge to the sea to ensure a good yield of fish and seaweed in the coming year. A bride doll was made of corn and dressed elaborately e.g. with snowdrops and primroses. A bed was made for her and she was invited into the house, while a white birch want was placed alongside the bed to represent the wand she used to make vegetation start growing again. Ashes in the hearth were smoothed and left overnight. In the morning, these were checked for evidence she had visited and if not incense was burned to her. In Ireland, celebrations were similar. Imbolc represented not only the beginning of spring but also the fishing season as the storms of the sea were supposed to have been over by then. While some farmers would turn over a sod of earth in a symbolic act to hurry up warmth, the feast was known as a “holiday from turning” and so any type of turning such as weaving, ploughing and spinning was forbidden out of respect for Bride who it was said had taught women how to spin wool. The house was cleaned thoroughly beforehand and sained. while water brought from a sacred well to sprinkle around the house. A feast on the evening included sowans, apple cake, dumplings, colcannon and most importantly, butter. Later mashed potato with butter and onions was added. A place was laid at the table for Bride and a portion of food left out for her. Items such as ribbons or cloth were left on trees and bushes outside for her to bless and the fire was kept burning with the door open so she could come in and warm herself. Bride’s crosses were made of rushes or straw and hung up for protection. It was also a time of charity and hospitality.

As a vegan, I obviously cannot eat the traditional dairy foods at this time so I will be making a spicy lentil shepherds pie. Just as in nature at this time, there are dormant seeds buried deep and waiting to sprout, so the pie contains a lentil and vegetable base under a layer of beautiful white potatoes. I am using seasonal foods including potatoes, onions, kale, carrots & leeks. The orange of the carrots represents the returning sunlight, while the spices represent fire. Potatoes are also seen as a food sacred to Brigid and mashed potato in often eaten in Gaelic countries at this time. The dish will go very well with a Banana, Coconut and Soya Milk smoothie which I shall have with it to toast Mother Nature.

Sources:

Tairis – http://www.tairis.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=75:st-brides-day&catid=38:festivals&Itemid=1

http://www.tairis.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=76:celebrating-la-fheill-brighde&catid=43:celebrations&Itemid=1

Gaol Naofa – http://www.gaolnaofa.com/festivals/

Gaelic Folkway – http://gaelicfolkway.webs.com/feiseannaomh.htm

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Imbolc and Ritual 2014

On Saturday it is the great feast of Imbolc, the Feast of the Hearth. As I am working through the ADF Dedicant Path course this year, I am again using a ritual from ADF Solitary Druid Fellowship. A Naturalistic Pantheist ritual can be found on my ritual page here. I will be using the following in the “explanation” part of the ADF ritual but this can also be used for the Naturalistic Pantheist one too.

When it reaches the “Explanation” section, I do the following…

Say: “As I stand here on this celebration of Imbolc, the sacred wheel of the year continues to turn. As my ancestors did in times before and my descendants may do in times to come, I honour the old ways. It is the time of awakening after a long, cold, dark winter. The sun has grown stronger and the days have grown longer. Today spring begins and the first stirrings of life can be seen as the world awakens. Trees are beginning to bud, snowdrops are blossoming and animals are stirring from hibernation. The time of Oimelchas arrived – the ewe’s are pregnant, and milk is beginning to flow once more. It is the feast of the hearth, a time to celebrate and honour the home. Winter is over and I rejoice in the hope of the coming warmth.”

snowdrops

Celebrating Imbolc

snowdropsHappy Imbolc everyone. Also known as Candlemas or Oimelc, this day marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring. In ancient Celtic times the fire goddess Brigid was honoured on this day. She was the goddess of the home and hearth, of fire, fertility, childbirth, healing, poetry and smith-craft. She was honoured with bonfires and “Brigid Crosses.”

Winter is over now and the first signs of spring are appearing in nature – buds are beginning to appear on trees, animals are waking up from hibernation and spring flowers like snowdrops and daffodils are beginning to bloom. The day is also known as Oimelc which is Gaelic for “ewe’s milk.” The ewe’s are pregnant now and will be having lambs soon. They are also producing milk, which in ancient times, when food was hard to come by in winter, offered people a lifeline. The sun is getting stronger now and the days are noticeably longer. It is time to celebrate the awakening and rebirth of the earth, as well as new beginnings in our own lives.

It is traditional to celebrate this festival by doing a spring clean of the home (a time of purification), eating spicy or dairy foods and placing candles in all the windows of the home to represent the growing strength of the sun. I like to go for a walk on this day to search for the first signs of spring – especially snowdrops. Imbolc is also a time to take up a new craft, and/or make candles for the coming year.

As a vegan, I obviously cannot eat the traditional dairy foods at this time so I will be making a spicy lentil shepherds pie. Just as in nature at this time, there are dormant seeds buried deep and waiting to sprout, so the pie contains a lentil and vegetable base under a layer of beautiful white potatoes. I am using seasonal foods including potatoes, onions, kale, carrots & leeks. The orange of the carrots represents the returning sunlight, while the spices represent fire. Potatoes are also seen as a food sacred to Brigid. This warm wintery dish is perfect for this time. And it will go very well with a Banana, Coconut and Soya Milk smoothie which I shall have with it to toast Mother Nature.

Have a good Imbolc everyone.

Imbolc and Ritual

Tomorrow evening is the start of Imbolc. I will be doing an Imbolc ritual at Sunset, using the format found on my Ritual page but adding to the “Explanation” and “Workings” parts to create a ritual customised to this time.

When it reaches the “Explanation” section, I do the following…

Say: “As I stand here on this celebration of Imbolc, the sacred wheel of the year continues to turn and spring begins again. As my forebears did, I do now, and so may my descendants do in time to come. It is the feast of the goddess Brigid, guardian of the hearth fire and protector of the home. Patron of poetry, healing and smithcraft. It is a time of awakening after the dark, cold slumber of winter. The sun has grown stronger and the days have grown longer and I see now the first signs of spring. Trees are beginning to bud, snowdrops are blossoming and animals are stirring from hibernation. The time of Oimelc has arrived – the ewe’s are pregnant, lambs are being born and milk is beginning to flow once more. Winter is over and I rejoice in the hope of the coming warmth.”

When it reaches the “Workings” section, I do the following….

Light Candle and say: “I light this candle now in thanksgiving to Brigid, the sacred hearth fires of my home. I celebrate the growing power of the sun and look forward in hope to the coming warmth of summer.

Garden with some tulips and narcissus

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What is Brigid?

It will be Imbolc on Friday, the feast of the hearth. A hearth is a fire, traditionally the central fire of the home. In ancient times it was the meeting place around which families would gather to keep warm, cook and tell stories on cold, dark winter nights. The feast is often associated with the ancient Celtic fire goddess Brigid. She was seen as the protector of the family hearth fire and the home.

forge, smith's hearth, fire, sparks Français :...

smith’s hearth fire (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a Naturalistic Pantheist, I obviously do not subscribe to the idea of a supernatural protective goddess that looks after my home, but is there still a reason to honour Brigid at this time? I think so. As I’ve written elsewhere, the gods can be understood not as supernatural beings, not as human-like entities which think and act like us, but rather as simply impersonal forces of nature. What if Brigid is not the goddess of fire or the hearth, but is actually the fire itself, the hearth itself? What if Brigid is not one fire but all the different hearth “fires” in our modern homes – the light bulbs, the fireplace and radiators, the boiler, microwave, toaster and stove? She is the heat that comes from them, she is the electricity that powers them. What if the flame is not an image or symbol of Brigid – its the very presence of Brigid? It is Brigid! What if she is not just the protector of the home but she is the home? What if she is the amalgamation (though not anything literal) of all the forces and things that protect our home? What if the is the embodiment of our hope and our intention that our homes be safe, warm, welcoming places? What if honouring her means we are being aware and grateful for the wonderful gift that fire, heat and light brings to our lives? What if honouring her means we are expressing our hope that our homes will be safe places? What if Brigid is the very flame on our candle?

As part of Friday’s celebrations I shall be honouring Brigid, but understanding her in the way I’ve suggested. What will you be doing?