(photo from Imbolc celebration 2007 by Mark Kelly; used with permission)
Today is the Celtic fire festival of Imbolc, which is so deliciously wrapped up also in the Catholic festival of Candlemas, the Irish Saint Brigit, and the goddess Brigid, who is the Celtic Triple Goddess. I find all these synchronicities and conflations of culture, myth, ritual, and worship to be fascinating.
Imbolc welcomes the warming sun, ushering it back into the world so that spring may come. It’s said that if Imbolc (and Groundhog Day, which is tomorrow, February 2) is sunny and bright, winter will hold on a good long while. If the day is sunny, then the Gaelic divine hag, the Cailleach, can gather plenty of firewood for an extended winter. If the day is stormy, then she’ll sleep in and the winter will end sooner because she will run out of firewood.
The goddess Brigid is associated with fire, with early spring, and is the patroness of poetry, smithing, medicine, arts and crafts, cattle and other livestock. Her symbols include arrows, bells, thresholds, and doorways. Several animal correspondences are also tied to Brigid, particularly ewes, dairy cows, bees, owls, and serpents. (Thank you, Wikipedia, that will do.)
Today I learned that Saint Brigid was a patroness of students, and also founded a school of art, including metal work and illumination. She is known as Saint Brigit of Kildare, or Brigit of Ireland (variants include Brigid, Bridget, Bridgit, Bríd and Bride), and was nicknamed Mary of the Gael.
She’s awesome, right?
(photo from St. Joseph Catholic Church in Macon, Georgia)
Two years ago we were able to have a lovely family Imbolc celebration, which I blogged about here. This year we have been very busy with preparing for Asher’s sixth birthday, and his birthday party is happening tomorrow on February 2. I honestly don’t think I have much in me for Imbolc this year, except to quietly observe it and take comfort in knowing that winter is now halfway over. We are closer to spring now, and that’s a joy and comfort.
My hope for tonight is simple because I need a rest. Glass of wine. Fire in our fireplace. A little crafting to finish up for tomorrow’s party. Maybe over the weekend we’ll roll some new beeswax candles to light our home and warm our hearts. We’ll take it slow, and if candle-making happens, great. If not, that’s OK too. For me, this is a festival of home and hearth, and snuggling in with our beloveds.
In honor of Brigid’s association with poetry, I offer a poem I wrote for children last year. OK, don’t laugh.
Tend your sheep
In the snowy yard.
Rams and ewes, heavy with lambs,
Endure the winter’s cold.
Take good care
Of charges in your fold.
Their wool will be a comfort
To newborn, young, and old.
Feed them well
That their fleece grows soft and fine.
I would like wool warmth to wear
All through the wintertime.
—by moi, Sara E. Wilson