Imbolc – January 31 to February 1
Imbolc, also called Oimealg, by the Druids, is the festival of the lactating sheep. It is derived from the Gaelic word “oimelc” which means “ewes milk”. Herd animals have either given birth to the first offspring of the year or their wombs are swollen and the milk of life is flowing into their teats and udders. It is the time of blessing of the seeds and consecration of agricultural tools. It marks the center point of the dark half of the year. It is the festival of the Maiden, for from this day to March 21st, it is her season to prepare for growth and renewal.
The spark of Yule becomes the seed of Imbolc.
It was a festival of the hearth and home, and a celebration of the lengthening days and the early signs of spring. Celebrations often involved hearth fires, special foods (butter, milk, and bannocks, for example), divination or watching for omens, candles or a bonfire if the weather permitted. Fire and purification were an important part of the festival. The lighting of candles and fires represented the return of warmth and the increasing power of the Sun over the coming months.
Imbolc is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature. It was originally a pagan festival associated with the goddess Brighid and was Christianized as a festival of Saint Brighid, who herself is thought to be a Christianization of the goddess.
Brighid was said to visit one’s home at Imbolc. To receive her blessings, people would make a bed for Brighid and leave her food and drink, while items of clothing would be left outside for her to bless. Brighid was also invoked to protect livestock. Holy wells were visited and it was also a time for divination.
Wiccans celebrate a variation of Imbolc as one of the eight holidays (or “Sabbats”) of the Wheel of the Year. Imbolc is defined as a cross-quarter day, midway between the winter solstice (Yule) and the spring equinox (Ostara). In Wicca, Imbolc is commonly associated with the goddess Brighid and as such it is sometimes seen as a “women’s holiday” with specific rites only for female members of a coven. Among Dianic Wiccans, Imbolc is the traditional time for initiations.
Candelmas – February 2
Candlemas Day is one of the three fertility festivals (Imbolc, Ostara and Bealtane) and the first of the four Celtic Fire festivals (Imbolc, Bealtane, Lughnassadh and Samhain). It stands for new growth and new beginnings.
Ritual tools, particularly metal ones are cleaned and re-consecrated. Thorough house cleaning done, particularly of the hearth and areas where the fire is built. It is also a time to purify your body and soul. Take a bath in lavender, white sage, rosemary and hyssop for example.
Spells are done for the gathering of inspiration, to release the old so that the new can enter, to create and/or increase love and warmth in a household / relationship /family, to create prosperity and to welcome personal growth. It is a time for inner reflection, meditation, divination, and/or journaling. Candlemas Day, or Imbolc, is a time to reflect and evaluate your life and to plan how you can achieve your dreams.
Originally celebrated from Aquarius New Moon to the Full Moon, but was later fixed from Feb. 1 to Feb. 14. Candlemas Day, or Imbolc, began by enacting the rising of Dionysos from the underworld where he spent the cold months of the year as the aged Hades/Plouton. He then begins his growth from a boy into the god of wine, sex, dance and all ecstatic experiences. His rites climaxed on the day that doves were seen to mate for life, Feb. 14. Greeks also held a celebration for the return of Demeter’s daughter, Persephone, from the Underworld. Persephone brings along the Goddess Hekate and the spirits of the dead chosen to reincarnate with her.
Candelmas is a wonderful time to make new candles for the coming year. Along with feeling the joy of creation concentrate on what you wish to bring into reality in the coming year. You may prepare candles for general ritual work. You may also create candles for special needs which may arise as the year progresses, such as healing, protection and love candles. Having created them yourself they will have far more power than candles that are purchased.
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The sun slowly rises and sparkles through the trees,
on this day I thank the Lord & Lady for the beauty that I see,
Eternally blessed to be a part of this world
and experience the gifts of love and life that around me unfold.
I kneel in silent gratitude give thanks and honor thee,
my ancestors, and the sprits who walked in courageous spirit before me,
Blessings to everyone in this world, may you have the courage to stand and be heard,
to live the life you want and be free, knowing this energy I will bestow upon thee.
On this Thanksgiving, my energy is sent to you tonight,
May you and your loved ones be blessed with love and light