High Day/Feast: Celtic Imbolc
The Celtic hearth February Feast, Imbolc, is a celebration during the first signs of springtime. Imbolc marks the halfway point of winter and a very important time in Ireland in terms of agriculture, the start of spring. The earth is beginning to warm up and the milk begins flowing in pregnant lactating livestock. This is a time for hope and growth.
In Gaulish tradition, Imbolc is known as Usmolgos and it is a time to celebrate the promise of spring, the return of warmer days, growing daylight and to do spring cleaning by purifying the home (Our Own Druidry, 63).
In Irish culture this holiday honors the Goddess (and later Saint) Brigid. Brigid is arguably the most influential goddess throughout Irish history in that she was so loved that she was incorporated into Christian practice. She is a patron of motherhood and fertility, smith working, fire, poetry, and healing.
Many depictions of Brigid at Imbolc-time show her as a pregnant woman. Fitting, as “Imbolc” translates to “In the Belly” in Irish Gaelic and this is the time for milk to return to ewes thus bringing new food and life after the cold winter.
Spanning across Indo-European cultures there is a focus on new growth (now is the time that plants spring back up into life and flowers bloom), new life (when pregnant animals show their promise of abundance), and the return of longer days (daylight).
Since, Brigid is sometimes depicted with candles in her hair or standing near candles sprouting from the earth; a symbol of warming up the earth and moving on from the hibernation of winter, Neopagans can symbolize this by making and/or lighting candles and placing them on the frozen dirt or snow. It is also appropriate to offer and appreciate spring flowers and animal milk at this time as well as taking the time to clean the home. (Spring cleaning!)