Thursday, February 2, 2012

Welcome Imbolc

Snowdrops in bloom


So the skies rumbled and the snows came, 

And everywhere down through the centuries of this gray night,

Came women gathering to pray, 

And to sink their hands into the dark earth.

They gathered seeds and prepared them for planting,

They meditated in the icy darkness,

And they celebrated the lambing of the first ewe, 

To hasten spring.

And when through the earth they felt the stirring, 

They sang songs encouraging the tiny seeds to grow.

In the dark, wet soil you can smell their work still;

They are digging along beside us. Listen!

The north wind carries their song across the snow,

This Imbolc night.

As the Earth prepares for Spring, 
Wise women gather in circles to await the promise of new life,
 And to sing praises for the green earth.

And so do we, here now, 
This year, and every year.

Welcome Imbolc!

poem by: Jill Yarnall


Imbolc is one of the four principal festivals of the Irish calendar, celebrated among Gaelic peoples and some other Celtic cultures, either at the beginning of February or at the first local signs of Spring. Most commonly it is celebrated on February 2, since this is the cross-quarter day on the solar calendar, halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox in the northern hemisphere.

When Ireland converted to Christianity, it was hard to convince people to get rid of their old gods, so the church allowed them to worship the goddess Brighid as a saint -- thus the creation of St. Brigid's Day. Today, there are many churches around the world which bear her name.

For Christians, February 2nd continues to be celebrated as Candelmas, the feast of purification of the Virgin. By Jewish law, it took forty days after a birth for a woman to be cleansed following the birth of a son. Forty days after Christmas – the birth of Jesus – is February 2nd.
Candles were blessed, there was much feasting to be had, and the drab days of February suddenly seemed a little brighter.

Imbolc is traditionally a time of weather prognostication. Brigid is the goddess of poetry, healing and smith craft. As both goddess and saint she is also associated with holy wells, sacred flames, and healing. The lighting of candles and fires represents the return of warmth and the increasing power of the Sun over the coming months.

The holiday is a festival of the hearth and home, and a celebration of the lengthening days and the early signs of spring. It is the time of blessing of the seeds and consecration of agricultural tools. Some of the activities traditional to the festival are the lighting of candles, gathering of stones, hiking in the snow and searching for signs of spring, decorating plows, feasting, and lighting bonfires.

The festival is celebrated on February 2, and marks the midway point of winter. It is believed to have been the original source of Groundhog Day.

The promise of Imbolc is that it is the halfway point in winter. As the final line of the Imbolc poem says “As the Earth prepares for Spring, 
wise women gather in circles to await the promise of new life,
 and to sing praises for the green earth.” So that is what I will do, hum a tune and continue to look forward to days filled with flowers and sunshine. Welcome Imbolc!


For those who are awaiting news of Groundhog Day, the world's most famous groundhog Punxsutawney Phil today signaled to the Inner Circle that he'd seen his shadow—meaning, according to legend, six more weeks of winter.

Including today's forecast, Phil has seen his shadow 99 times and hasn't seen it just 16 times since 1887. There are no records for the remaining years, though the group has never failed to issue a forecast.

The celebration is rooted in a German superstition that says if a hibernating animal casts a shadow on Feb. 2, the Christian holiday of Candlemas, winter will last another six weeks. If no shadow was seen, legend said spring would come early.

So, we are halfway through Winter and halfway towards Spring - hooray!


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