Imbolc is celebrated roughly when winter begins to turn to spring. Traditionally it also marked the successful survival of the harsh winter months and the beginning of the agricultural season. The returning sun is welcomed and the Celtic goddess Brigid is honored.
Traditional Lore/Activities 🕯️
Each candle within a household should be lit, if only for a moment, to honor the sun’s return.
If there is still snow on the ground one should draw an image of the sun in it.
Foods Associated with Imbolc 🥐
Sour cream and other dairy dishes.
Foods containing peppers, onions, leeks, shallots, garlic, and chives.
Bridhid – is the Celtic goddess ruling poetry, healing and smithcraft.
She is a triple goddess, one of the great mothers of the Celts (including Danu
and Morrigan), and may have been a continuation of the Indo-European dawn
Irish mythology, like Airmid, she is a member of the Tuatha Dé Danann. She was so beloved, perhaps, that the goddess was appropriated into Christian mythology as St Brigid, who was associated with sacred flames and holy wells.
(Law leh BREEJ-uh SUN-uh ditch) Happy St. Bríd’s Day To You!
Gabhaim molta Bride Ionmhain í le hÉireann Ionmhain le gach tír í Molaimis go léir í
Lóchrann geal na Laighneach ‘Soilsiú feadh na tire Ceann ar óghaibh Éireann Ceann na mban ar míne
Tig an gheimhreadh dian dubh Gearradh lena ghéire Ach ar Lá ‘le Bríde Gar dúinn Earrach Éireann
Gabhaim molta Bride Ionmhain í le hÉireann Ionmhain le gach tír í Molaimis go léir í
I praise Brigid Beloved in Ireland Beloved in all countries Let us all praise her
The bright torch of Leinster Shining throughout the country The pride of Irish youth The pride of our gentle women
The house of winter is very dark Cutting with its sharpness But on Brigid’s Day Spring is near to Ireland
– traditional Gaelic song for Bríd
Today is the Feast Day of Saint Bríd! The festival date of Imbolc on February 1 stretches back to the Iron Ages in Ireland, but the ancient context of the festival is relatively enigmatic. It is very likely a celebration of the beginning of the pastoral season as this is when the ewes start to produce milk. However, being one of the four ancient feast days, the 1st of February and the night before are the focus of many supernatural occurrences and ceremonial traditions. In the last few hundred years these now focus on St. Bríd – who shares a name with a preChristian figure – who is worshipped and petitioned for blessings and favor. This would include a large feast of primarily dairy-based dishes in honor of the new agricultural season, so whip out the butter and cheese!
There are many legends about St. Bríd in Ireland, legends that mix the values of ancient Irish heroes with the pious and monastic values of early Irish Christianity. “Brigit is the perfect example of Irish hospitality: she can (by a miracle) milk her cows three times in one day to provide a meal for visitors; she can outwit a king (in the cause of charity), as well as any pagan hero could have done and with far more charm.” (Hughes) She is a great leader of women “Indeed St Brigit’s foundation at Kildare was unique in sixth-century Ireland in being a double monastery for both men and women, each group following the same rule and using a common church, with the government of the whole community held jointly by the Abbess and the bishop-abbot.” (Hughes)
One way of celebrating her was to make a doll or Brideog in her image, which was escorted into or around the house in various manners varying village to village. Usually she was laid to rest inside the house, and divination ensued.
“There [in Ireland] the churn staff, not the corn sheaf, is fashioned into the form of a woman, and called ‘Brideog,’ little Bride. The girls come clad in their best, and the girl who has the prettiest dress gives it to Brideog. An ornament something like a Maltese cross is affixed to the breast of the figure. The ornament is composed of straw, beautifully and artistically interlaced by the deft fingers of the maidens of Bride. It is called 'rionnag Brideog,’ the star of little Bride. Pins, needles, bits of stone, bits of straw, and other things are given to Bride as gifts, and food by the mothers.Customs assume the complexion of their surroundings, as fishes, birds, and beasts assimilate the colours of their habitats. The seas of the 'Garbh Chriocha,’ Rough Bounds in which the cult of Bride has longest lived, abound in beautiful iridescent shells, and the mountains in bright sparkling stones, and these are utilised to adorn the ikon of Bride. In other districts where the figure of Bride is made, there are no shining shells, no brilliant crystals, and the girls decorate the image with artistically interlaced straw.The older women are also busy on the Eve of Bride, and great preparations are made to celebrate her Day, which is the first day of spring. They make an oblong basket in the shape of a cradle, which they call 'leaba Bride,’ the bed of Bride. It is embellished with much care. Then they take a choice sheaf of corn, generally oats, and fashion it into the form of a woman. They deck this ikon with gay ribbons from the loom, sparkling shells from the sea, and bright stones from the hill. All the sunny sheltered valleys around are searched for primroses, daisies, and other flowers that open their eyes in the morning of the year. This lay figure is called Bride, 'dealbh Bride,’ the ikon of Bride. When it is dressed and decorated with all the tenderness and loving care the women can lavish upon it, one woman goes to the door of the house, and standing on the step with her hands on the jambs, calls softly into the darkness, 'Tha leaba Bride deiseal,’ Bride’s bed is ready. To this a ready woman behind replies, 'Thigeadh Bride steach, is e beatha Bride,’ Let Bride come in, Bride is welcome. The woman at the door again addresses Bride, 'A Bhride! Bhride thig a stench, tha do leaba deanta. Gleidh an teach dh’an Triana,’ Bride! Bride, come thou in, thy bed is made. Preserve the house for the Trinity. The women then place the ikon of Bride with great ceremony in the bed they have so carefully prepared for it. They place a small straight white wand (the bark being peeled off) beside the figure. This wand is variously called 'slatag Bride,’ the little rod of Bride, 'slachdan Bride,’ the little wand of Bride, and 'barrag Bride,’ the birch of Bride. The wand is generally of birch, broom, bramble, white willow, or other sacred wood, 'crossed’ or banned wood being carefully avoided. A similar rod was given to the kings of Ireland at their coronation, and to the Lords of the Isles at their instatement. It was straight to typify justice, and white to signify peace and purity–bloodshed was not to be needlessly caused. The women then level the ashes on the hearth, smoothing and dusting them over carefully. Occasionally the ashes, surrounded by a roll of cloth, are placed on a board to safeguard them against disturbance from draughts or other contingencies. In the early morning the family closely scan the ashes. If they find the marks of the wand of Bride they rejoice, but if they find 'long Bride,’ the footprint of Bride, their joy is very great, for this is a sign that Bride was present with them during the night, and is favourable to them, and that there is increase in family, in flock, and in field during the coming year. Should there be no marks on the ashes, and no traces of Bride’s presence, the family are dejected. It is to them a sign that she is offended, and will not hear their call. To propitiate her and gain her ear the family offer oblations and burn incense. The oblation generally is a cockerel, some say a pullet, buried alive near the junction of three streams, and the incense is burnt on the hearth when the family retire for the night.” (Carmichael - SLOINNTIREACHD BHRIDE)
Another tradition on Imbolc is to create a Cros Bríde or Bríd cross out of reeds that were pulled on the eve of the festival. These grant protection throughout the end of winter and the rest of the year until new crosses are made in their place the following Imbolc.
“But the entire round of the year is liberally sprinkled with days of festival, and if we begin with St. Briget it is not merely because she was Irish-born but because her feast marks the beginning of the pastoral year. The blessed Bridie was a cowherd and is therefore associated with cattle and with such flowers as the dandelion–the Plant of Bride–yielding a milky juice which was believed to nourish the young lambs in spring. St. Briget’s Feast was very popular and many superstitious practices, more or less Christianized, cling to the preparations made on St. Briget’s Eve, the last day of January. On that day rushes are fashioned into protective charms known as Briget’s Crosses, a name which illustrates how the church has won over pagan symbols*, for the ‘crosses’ take the form of either [sun wheels] or lozenges, and comparative evidence suggests that they are magic symbols of suns or eyes…A three legged [sun wheel], presumably an old form, is reserved for use in the byre: its shape may be compared with the Celtic triskele. The lozenge-shaped charms have their counterparts in many parts of the world… Briget’s Crosses are believed to protect the house and the livestock from harm and from fire. No evil spirit could pass the charm, which was therefore hung above the door of the house and byre. The rushes must be pulled, not cut, on St. Briget’s Eve, and care must be taken to fashion the crosses from left to right, with the sun. As a rule they are left in position until replaced the following year, though I have seen byres with many crosses thrust into the underthatch, the decaying accumulation of annual offerings. In Co. Galway similar crosses made of wood or straw were also placed in the rafters at Hallowe’en, and the discovery of a partly burnt rush cross which had been deposited in a megalith in Co. Limerick points to a more general cult of the ‘cross’. A ‘love-knot’ of similar shape, fashioned out of sedge leaves, is known from South Wales.
It was popularly believed that the saint wandered through the countryside on the eve of her feast day. Bread was left on the doorestep, and in some districts it was the custom to prepare a small bed of rushes or birch twigs and place it by the fire so that Bridie might come in and rest. Sometimes the last sheaf of harvest was used for the purpose. In south-western Ireland a doll made of straw–or decorated churn-staff–was carried from house to house by ‘Biddy Boys’, wearing straw masks such as are used by mummers and by strawboys at weddings, and singing songs in honour of the saint. they would solicit gifts and end the day in jollification. The evening was celebrated by a supper of pancakes [bannocks] taken from a plate laid on a rush cross, and as on the other quarter-days prognostications were made. A ribbon or piece of cloth exposed on St. Briget’s Eve became endowed with curative powers. It was believed that no work which involved the turning of a wheel should take place on the saint’s day. The placing of a periwinkle in each corner of the kitchen likewise hints at a remote pre-agricultural origin for the festival,* but it came to be associated with the pastoral promise of spring, of warmth, new grass, lambs and milk. It is said that the saint placed her foot in water on her feast day so that on that day it begins to warm up each year.” (Evans) *presumptuous *no it doesn’t
The * above are obviously my notes on the passage, which is valuable but yikes.
It is traditional to observe the weather on the morning of Imbolc to divine the coming seasons. If it is rainy and cold then the winter crone, An Cailleach, will not be able to gather enough fire wood for her to continue her foray in this world, creating the sharp winds and snows of winter. Winter would be shorter, and the following seasons would bring good fortune! However, if it is warm and sunny the firewood supply of An Cailleach will be great, and she will continue her reign over winter for many more weeks until she turns back to stone before Summer. This could also mean sickness and trouble for the household.
Sing the saint a song today, recite her genealogy and tell her stories. Make a cross, or a dollie for her, and eat lots and lots of cheese. Lá Fhéile Bríde Sona Duit!!!
The Golden Age of Early Christianity in Ireland (7th and 8th centuries) by Dr Kathleen Hughes, in The Course of Irish History ed. Moody and Martin.
Irish Folk Ways, by E. Estyn Evans
The Carmina Gadelica Vol.I, by Alexander Carmichael
the patroness of scholars, seers, poets, and craftsmen alike, brigid is celebrated at the end of winter with the first light of spring as the earth readies itself for birth again. she is said to hold the power of the fires of inspiration, of the forge, and of healing.
sometimes equated with: brigantia (british & continental)
Imbolc is a Gaelic traditional festival marking the beginning of spring and celebrating the Celtic goddess Brigid. Most commonly it is held on February 1st, or about halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox.
Hey I really wanna meet more people who are devoted to or worship Brigid, or other Celtic deities in general!!
Please reblog this/like this if you are and drop a message by!! I’d love to talk 🌾🌿
Oh also!! I follow from my main blog so if you don’t see me following you don’t fret 💕
Hey Brigid peeps, does anyone else’s UPG involve anointing their lips with honey before prayer/ritual to Her? I just did it and my prayer moved so freely from me. I couldn’t find any record about it though.