Imbolc - Festival of Midwinter

Imbolc - Festival of Midwinter

Imbolc or the Feast of Saint Brigid, is the halfway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Typically around February 1st or 2nd. Originally thought to associate with the lambing season and the pagan feast day of Brigid, historians suggest the Saint and her feast day were Christianized version of these same celebrations. Today the festival is more popular with Celtic neopagans and Wiccans.

Traditions for this holiday include the weaving of St. Brigid's cross from straw or hay, and hanging it over doors and windows to ward off fire, illness and evil spirits. She was said to visit the eve of St. Brigid's, and to receive her blessings one must make a bed for her, leave out food and drink, and set out clothing for her to bless.

Although the festival of Imbolc is mentioned in several early Irish manuscripts, little is know about the true origin of it's rites and customs. A 10th century tale, lists Imbolc as one of four seasonal festivals, along with Beltane, Lughnasadh, and Samhain. In the tale, Imbolc is referred to as "when the ewes are milked at spring's beginning". This link probably reflected farming customs that ensured lambs were born before calves. 

With the festival traditionally being associated with weather, the old tradition of watching for serpents and badgers to emerge from their winter dens may have been the forerunner of the North American Groundhog Day. There's even a Celtic proverb about the day: 

The Serpent will come from the hole on the brown Day of Bride, Though there should be three feet of snow on the flat surface of the ground. 

Other customs associated with the festival are special meals the night before with offerings left to Brigid, spring cleaning, visiting holy wells blessed in Her name and using the water to bless family, home, livestock and fields. Offerings are also sometimes left at the wells in the form of coins, cloth or ribbon or even milk poured into ground around the well.

More recently Irish embassies have hosted yearly events to celebrate famous women of Ireland and showcase the work of Irish female immigrants in the arts. In 2022, Dublin hosted it's first ever "Brigid Festival" to celebrate the contributions of Irish women, both past and present, through exhibitions, tours, lectures, films and a concert.

Imbolc Symbols:

Colors: White, Red, Pink, Black

Foods: Baked goods, winter vegetables, seeds, dried fruit, butter, milk, cheese, lamb, mutton

Stones: Amethyst, bloodstone, garnet, onyx, ruby, turquoise

Symbols: candles, cauldron, chalice, cow, sheep, swan

Flowers & Plants: Snowdrops, angelica, basil, bay laurel, celandine

Deities: Brighid (Bride, Brigid), Aphrodite, Eros, Hestia




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