This week, we celebrate Imbolg (IM – OLK) and the Celtic goddess Brighid, goddess of fertility, creativity, the forge (blacksmiths and smithing), light, and livestock.
But exactly WHEN do we celebrate, you may ask!!
Some celebrate on the fixed date of February 1st whilst others will celebrate on the astronomical Cross-Quarter date (see footnote) — this year, 2017, that falls on February 3rd @ 15:27 Pacific Time — which is the precise midpoint between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. Others celebrate on Lunar Imbolg, the new Moon in Aquarius. I celebrate all as Imbolg season!!
Imbolc is the first of the Celtic spring festivals (Imbolc/Imbolg, Spring Equinox, Bealtaine) and one of the four fire festivals in the Celtic Wheel of the Year. In the Christian calendar, this day is observed as Candlemas. And on February 2nd, many celebrate Groundhog Day — clearly an anticipation of Spring!
Imbolg — the day we celebrate the goddess Brighid and the transition from late Winter to early Spring — marks the first physical signs of Spring: the birth of the lambs, the flowing of the ewe’s milk (the literal translation for Imbolc!), the rising of the sap in the trees, and the budding of trees and plants. In your locale, that may happen later than early February so celebrate when you see the signs of Spring.
It was also a time of empowerment and renewal for our ancestors, as they cleansed their homes of Winter dust and soot, and started to prepare for Spring by clearing the land and preparing to plough and sow.
How perfect that this is the time to honour Brighid with blessings and rituals to purify us for the sacred growth and seed through a three-fold Fire ritual, exemplified in this blessing:
Fire in the Forge that shapes and tempers
Fire in the Hearth that nourishes and heals
Fire in the Head that incites and inspires
Legends of Brighid’s Mantle
The first legend described the goddess Brighid as hanging her mantle on a beam of sunlight. Magickal!
A second legend said that the goddess Brighid walked the land on Imbolc Eve, healing both people and animals Legend had it that the dew absorbed her healing powers. The next morning, women would cut up the Bhrat Brídhe (Irish for Brighid’s Mantle) into strips for sharing within the family or community.
In a third legend, Saint Brigid (the stories of the goddess and the saint have mingled/syncretized) asked the King for a plot of land for her Abbey in Kildare, but the King refused. Brigid then asked for a plot of land no bigger than her mantle. Of course, the King agreed. Such a bargain! So she walked to the Holy Oak on the land she wanted, accompanied by four Maidens. Each took a corner of Brigid’s cloak and walked in all four directions. Miraculously, the cloak grew and grew until it stretched out to the exact plot size that Brigid desired. The King recognised the miracle and converted to Christianity. Brigid built her church. A cathedral was later built on the site but, apparently, the original foundations of Brigid’s church can still be seen.
Bhrat Brídhe Ritual
Ideally done on Imbolc Eve which — for me — is tonight. At sunset, place a piece of cloth on a tree, bush or windowsill. You can use any cloth (natural fibres if at all possible), or even a piece of ribbon, which is easy to tuck into a purse, yoga bag, or even a bra strap!
I use a red cloth — and often a piece of ribbon actually — as that tradition resonates with me, but some use white or blue. Even a simple handkerchief will do the trick.
Before you begin creating your Bhrat Bhríde strips, set your intention using your own worlds. It can be as simple as:
“I invite the blessings of Brighid as I cut this cloth, to support me throughout the year with her medicine, and to nurture the fire in my belly, the passion in my heart and the creative expression of my Spirit.”
At sunset on the night on Imbolc Eve, tie your strips of cloth on a tree, bush or windowsill. Ask Brighid for her blessings, strength and healing for all those in your home (yes, pets included) as you tie the cloths.
In the morning, gather the strips — infused with Brighid’s healing dew — and give gratitude to Brighid for bringing you her healing and her blessings. I normally place one on my altar through Imbolc “season”.
Use your Bhrat Bridhe (aka Bratog Bride) for healing for your Self or loved ones. You can also use your Bhrat for extra energy when you need to stand strong. Brighid will be there for you.
When I need some inspiration, support or healing, I hold my Bhrat Brídhe in my hand and meditate with it, or tuck it somewhere on my clothing, to draw on Brighid’s support.
🌿 🌿 IMBOLC BLESSINGS 🌿🌿
How will you celebrate this special day?
Check the cross-quarter dates in your locale with the Archaeoastronomy calendar, this link set for 2020