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02 February 2017 @ 01:34 am
Imbolc Blessings  
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A happy and safe holiday to all who celebrate!

For the unawares, here is some information courtesy of About Dot Com.


All About Imbolc

By February, most of us are tired of the cold, snowy season. Imbolc reminds us that spring is coming soon, and that we only have a few more weeks of winter to go. The sun gets a little brighter, the earth gets a little warmer, and we know that life is quickening within the soil. There are a number of different ways to celebrate this Sabbat.


History of Imbolc

Spring is Coming!
Imbolc is a holiday with a variety of names, depending on which culture and location you’re looking at. In the Irish Gaelic, it’s called Oimelc, which translates to “ewe’s milk.” It’s a precursor to the end of winter when the ewes are nursing their newly born lambs. Spring and the planting season are right around the corner.


The Romans Celebrations
To the Romans, this time of year halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox was known as Lupercalia. For them, it was a purification ritual in which a goat was sacrificed and a scourge made of its hide. Thong-clad men ran through the city, whacking people with bits of hide. Those who were struck considered themselves fortunate indeed. This is one of the few Roman celebrations that is not associated with a particular temple or deity. Instead, it focuses on the founding of the city of Rome, by twins Romulus and Remus, who were suckled by a she-wolf -- in a cave known as the Lupercale.


The Feast of Nut
The ancient Egyptians celebrated this time of year as the Feast of Nut, whose birthday falls on February 2 (Gregorian calendar). According to the Book of the Dead, Nut was seen as a mother-figure to the sun God Ra, who at sunrise was known as Khepera and took the form of a scarab beetle.


Christian Conversion of a Pagan Celebration
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.


Purification and Light
For Christians, February 2nd continues to be celebrated as Candlemas, 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.


Love & Courtship
February is known as a month when love begins anew, in part to to the widespread celebration of Valentine's Day. In some parts of Europe, there was a belief that February 14th was the day that birds and animals began their annual hunt for a mate. Valentine's Day is named for the Christian priest who defied Emperor Claudius II's edict banning young soldiers from marrying. In secret, Valentine "tied the knot" for many young couples. Eventually, he was captured and executed on Feb. 14, 269 C.E. Before his death, he smuggled a message to a girl he had befriended while imprisoned -- the first Valentine's Day card.


A Celtic Connection: Serpents in the Spring
Although Imbolc isn't even mentioned in non-Gaelic Celtic traditions, it's still a time rich in folklore and history. According to the Carmina Gadelica, the Celts celebrated an early version of Groundhog Day on Imbolc too – only with a serpent, singing this poem:

Thig an nathair as an toll
(The serpent will come from the hole)
la donn Bride
(on the brown day of Bride (Brighid)
Ged robh tri traighean dh’an
(though there may be three feet of snow)
Air leachd an lair
(On the surface of the ground.)


Among agricultural societies, this time of year was marked by the preparation for the spring lambing, after which the ewes would lactate (hence the term "ewe's milk" as "Oimelc"). At Neolithic sites in Ireland, underground chambers align perfectly with the rising sun on Imbolc.


The Goddess Brighid
Like many Pagan holidays, Imbolc has a Celtic connection as well, although it wasn’t celebrated in non-Gaelic Celtic societies. The Irish Goddess Brighid is the keeper of the sacred flame, the guardian of home and hearth. To honor Her, purification and cleaning are a wonderful way to get ready for the coming of Spring. In addition to fire, She is a Goddess connected to inspiration and creativity.

Brighid is known as one of the Celtic "triune" Goddesses -- meaning that She is one and three simultaneously. The early Celts celebrated a purification festival by honoring Brighid, or Brid, whose name meant "bright one." In some parts of the Scottish Highlands, Brighid was viewed as Cailleach Bheur, a woman with mystical powers who was older than the land itself. Brighid was also a warlike figure, Brigantia, in the Brigantes tribe near Yorkshire, England. The Christian St. Brigid was the daughter of a Pictish slave who was baptized by St. Patrick, and founded a community of nuns at Kildare, Ireland.

In modern Paganism, Brighid is viewed as the maiden aspect of the maiden/mother/crone cycle. She walks the earth on the eve of Her day, and before going to bed each member of the household should leave a piece of clothing outside for Brighid to bless. Smoor your fire as the last thing you do that night, and rake the ashes smooth. When you get up in the morning, look for a mark on the ashes, a sign that Brighid has passed that way in the night or morning. The clothes are brought inside, and now have powers of healing and protection thanks to Brighid.


The Imbolc Altar

It's Imbolc, and that's the Sabbat where many Pagans choose to honor the Celtic goddess Brighid, in Her many aspects. However, other than having a giant statue of Brighid on your altar, there are a number of ways you can set up for the season. Depending on how much space you have, you can try some or even all of these ideas -- obviously, someone using a bookshelf as an altar will have less flexibility than someone using a table, but use what calls to you most.

Colors of the Season
Traditionally, the colors of red and white are associated with Brighid. The white is the color of the blanket of snow, and the red symbolizes the rising sun. In some traditions, the red is connected with the blood of life. Brighid is also tied to the color green, both for the green mantle She wears and for the life growing beneath the earth. Decorate your altar with a white cloth, and drape a swath of red across it. Add green candles in candleholders.

The Beginnings of New Life
Altar decor should reflect the theme of the Sabbat. Because Imbolc is a harbinger of spring, any plants that symbolize the new growth are appropriate. Add potted bulbs -- don't worry if they're blooming yet -- and spring flowers such as forsythia, crocus, daffodils, and snowdrops. If you don't have much luck planting bulbs, think about making a Brighid's crown as a centerpiece -- it combines flowers and candles together.

Celtic Designs
Brighid is, after all, a Goddess of the Celtic peoples, so it's always appropriate to add some sort of Celtic design to your altar. Consider adding a Brighid's cross or any other item incorporating Celtic knotwork. If you happen to have a Celtic cross, don't worry about the fact that it's also a Christian symbol -- if it feels right on your altar, go ahead and add it.

Other Symbols of Imbolc
• Cauldrons or chalices -- She's often connected to sacred wells and springs
• A small anvil or hammer -- Brighid is the Goddess of smithcraft
• A Brighid corn doll and Priapic wand
• Sacred animals such as cows, sheep or swans
• A Goddess statue
• A book of poetry, or a poem you've written -- Brighid is the patroness of poets
• Faeries -- in some traditions, Brighid is the sister of the Fae
Healing herbs -- She's often connected to healing rites
• Lots of candles, or a cauldron with a small fire in it


Rituals and Ceremonies

Depending on your particular tradition, there are many different ways you can celebrate Imbolc. Some people focus on the Celtic Goddess Brighid, in Her many aspects as a deity of fire and fertility. Others aim their rituals more towards the cycles of the season, and agricultural markers.

Feasting and Friends
No Pagan celebration is really complete without a meal to go along with it. For Imbolc, celebrate with foods that honor the hearth and home -- breads, grains, and vegetables stored from fall such as onions and potatoes -- as well as dairy items.
Imbolc Meal Blessing
Braided Bread
Homemade Butter
Bacon and Leeks
Beer Battered Fish & Chips
Candied Carrots
Curried Lamb with Barley
Baked Custard
Irish Cream Truffles

Imbolc Magic
Imbolc is a time of magical energy related to new beginnings and of fire. It's also a good time to focus on divination and increasing your own magical gifts and abilities. Take advantage of these concepts and plan your workings accordingly. Because of its proximity to Valentine's Day, Imbolc also tends to be a time when people start exploring love magic -- if you do, be sure to read up on it first!

Crafts and Creations
As Imbolc rolls in, you can decorate your home with a number of easy craft projects. Start celebrating a bit early with a Brighid's Cross or a Corn Doll.


Deities of Imbolc

Although traditionally Imbolc is associated with Brighid, the Irish Goddess of hearth and home, there are a number of other deities who are represented at this time of year. Thanks to Valentine's Day, many Gods and Goddesses of love and fertility are honored at this time.

• Aradia (Italian): Popularized by Charles Godfrey Leland in Gospel of the Witches, She is the virginal daughter of Diana. There is some question about Leland's scholarship, and Aradia may be a corruption of Herodias from the Old Testament, according to Ronald Hutton and other academics.
• Aenghus Og (Celtic): This young God was most likely a God of love, youthful beauty and poetic inspiration. At one time, Aenghus went to a magical lake and found 150 girls chained together -- one of them was the girl He loved, Caer Ibormeith. All the other girls were magically turned into swans every second Samhain, and Aenghus was told He could marry Caer if He was able to identify Her as a swan. Aengus succeeded, and turned Himself into a swan so He could join Her. They flew away together, singing exquisite music that lulled its listeners to sleep.
• Aphrodite (Greek): A Goddess of love, Aphrodite was known for Her sexual escapades, and took a number of lovers. She was also seen as a Goddess of love between men and women, and Her annual festival was called the Aphrodisiac.
• Bast (Egyptian): This cat Goddess was known throughout Egypt as a fierce protector. Later on, during the Classical period, She emerged as Bastet, a slightly softer, more gentle incarnation. As Bastet, She was regarded more as a domestic cat than a lioness. However, because of Her position as a guardian, She often was seen as a protector of mothers -- as a cat to her kittens -- and childbirth. Thus, She evolved into the identity of hearth Goddess, much like Brighid in the Celtic lands.
• Ceres (Roman): This Roman agricultural Goddess was a benefactor of farmers. Crops planted in Her name flourished, particularly grains -- in fact, the word "cereal" comes from Her name. Virgil cites Ceres as part of a trinity, along with Liber and Libera, two other agricultural Gods. Rituals were performed in Her honor prior to spring, so that fields could be fertile and crops would grow. Cato recommends sacrificing a sow to Ceres before the harvest actually begins, as a gesture of appreciation.
• Cerridwen (Celtic): Cerridwen represents powers of prophecy, and is the keeper of the cauldron of knowledge and inspiration in the Underworld. In one part of the Mabinogion, Cerridwen pursues Gwion through a cycle of seasons -- beginning in the spring -- when in the form of a hen, She swallows Gwion, disguised as an ear of corn. Nine months later, She gives birth to Taliesen, the greatest of the Welsh poets.
• Eros (Greek): This lusty God was worshiped as a fertility deity. In some myths, He appears as the son of Aphrodite by Ares -- the God of war having conquered the Goddess of love. His Roman contemporary was Cupid. In early Greece, no one paid much attention to Eros, but eventually He earned a cult of His own in Thespiae. He also was part of a cult along with Aphrodite in Athens.
• Februus (Roman): This God for whom the month of February is named, is associated with both death and purification. In some writings, Februus is considered the same God as Faun, because Their holidays were celebrated so closely together.
• Faunus (Roman): This agricultural God was honored by the ancient Romans as part of the festival of Lupercalia, held every year in the middle of February. Faunus is very similar to the Greek God Pan.
• Gaia (Greek): Gaia is the mother of all things in Greek legend. She is the earth and sea, the mountains and forests. During the weeks leading up to spring, She is becoming warmer each day as the soil grows more fertile.
• Hestia (Greek): This Goddess watched over domesticity and the family. She was given the first offering at any sacrifice made in the home. On a public level, the local town hall served as a shrine for Her -- any time a new settlement was formed, a flame from the public hearth was taken to the new village from the old one.
• Juno Februa (Roman): Mother of Mars and patroness of passion, She is also known as Februa and St. Febronia from febris, the fever of love. In Norse traditions, She is equated with Sjofn.
• Pan (Greek): This studly Greek fertility God is well known for His sexual prowess, and is typically portrayed with an impressively erect phallus. Pan learned about self-gratification via masturbation from Hermes, and passed the lessons along to shepherds. His Roman counterpart is Faunus.
• Venus (Roman): This Roman Goddess is associated with not only beauty but fertility as well. In the early spring, offerings were left in Her honor. As Venus Genetrix, She was honored for Her role as the ancestress of the Roman people, and celebrated as a Goddess of motherhood and domesticity.
• Vesta (Roman): This hearth Goddess of Rome was the one who watched over home and family. As a hearth Goddess, She was the keeper of the fire and sacred flame. Offerings were thrown into the household fires to seek omens from the future. Vesta is similar in many aspects to Brighid, particularly in Her position as a Goddess of both home/family and of divination.


From Rituals For Sacred Living by Jane Alexander:

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