In recent years, many people began to celebrate Imbolc, the Celtic holiday historically on February 1st. But what is Imbolc, and why are people celebrating it? And what does it have to do with you? In this post we’ll answer all these questions, as well as why everyone should celebrate this time of year.
What Imbolc Is
Imbolc is an ancient Celtic holiday that celebrates the half-way point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. There aren’t a lot of texts about the holiday because Celts didn’t keep records about this kind of knowledge. All the information we have about the historic traditions are from outsiders.
That said, we know it was a marker of the agricultural year (as are all four Celtic fire festivals). This would be the time when farmers would be milking ewes and lambing would take place. Of course, this would have varied in time depending on weather etc – as much as two weeks before February 1st or after!
The goddess Brigid, who is associated with spring, life, fire, fertility, and all the activities of the warmer seasons was traditionally prayed to and asked for blessings at this time. This is why Imbolc was transformed into St. Bridget’s Feast Day.
What Imbolc Became
Like most of the Celtic holidays and traditions, this day was transformed into something that worked within Christianity. It allowed people to continue to pray to Brigid, while still being “Christian.” These kinds of practices were common in order to more easily convert pagans.
So when we look at St. Brigid’s Feast Day and the different traditions that were and continue to be practiced in some places in the world, we get a hint of what Imbolc traditions were. Parades, holy wells, bread, cheese, milk, and fire are all part of these traditions. Making Brigid’s cross or a form out of straw to represent Brigid were all things that would have marked the changing season and welcomed the coming spring.
These days there are people who celebrate the day (i.e. neopagans, Celtic reconstructionists, Wiccans) in a variety of ways, some being closer to the original than others.
Who Celebrates Imbolc
Obviously if you’re a member of one of the aforementioned spiritual groups, you may celebrate Imbolc as part of your spiritual observances. If you live in a Celtic country, you may celebrate St. Bridget’s Feast Day as part of your local history and traditions.
If you’re part of the Celtic diaspora, you may feel the desire to celebrate Imbolc as part of reconnecting to your roots.
All this said, Imbolc is just a day. Or is it?Imbolc is just a day, or is it? #imbolc #celticspirituality Click To Tweet
The Point of Holidays in Celtic Society
Everything in ancient Celtic society was done for a purpose. Sometimes it was to mark changes. Other times it was to protect the community through social safety nets and laws. Holidays are no exceptions. While there are more clear traditions around some of the other fire festivals than Imbolc, we can surmise a few things around this holiday based on what we do know about it (thanks to the Catholic Church and the other fire festivals!).
Celtic society was agrarian. Nature and natural order was important. Being connected to the rhythms of the land, animals, and plants was important for life. But, if you were living in Scotland, the winter can be a bit dreary. The nights are long and everything is a damp cold. It’s not something that a person gets excited about. As a mark of the changing season, you celebrate the shortening days. You honor the goddess who connects you to spring and summer, fire and fertility. You celebrate when you get milk after not having it for months. And most importantly, you get together with friends, family, and your community to share some of this excitement, hope, and new bounty.
Celebrate Imbolc, even if you’re not Celtic!
Some people might say you shouldn’t celebrate a day like Imbolc if you don’t have Celtic roots. While I agree with this sentiment, the spirit of this day between the solstice and equinox is worth celebrating no matter what your tradition or background.The spirit of this day between the solstice and equinox is worth celebrating no matter what your tradition or background. #imbolc #celticspirituality Click To Tweet
You don’t need to pray to Brigid or ask for her blessing. Instead, think about what this in between time means to you. Think about what it brings to your life. Think about the changing season, the coming blooms of spring. Maybe get some locally grown seasonal produce, eggs, and dairy. Make some fresh bread. If it’s a good time to plant, do that. If not, plan out your garden or bring some plants into your home. Enjoy the promise of more light and life as we cross into the next season.
Now, more than ever, it’s essential for all of us to reconnect to the land where we are and fully embrace the earth as she is, regardless of our tradition or background.
If you want to reconnect with your local land spirits through a session with me, please reach out via the contact form below!
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