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Everything Pagan Coffee Moot

Imbolc: Traditional Celebrations for a Modern Time

Author: Morgan [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: January 23rd. 2011
Times Viewed: 4,458

This holiday is called many names including Imbolc, Oímealg, Lá Fhéile Bríde, Laa'l Breeshey, and Gwyl Mair Dechrau'r Gwanwyn and was originally celebrated when the ewes first began to lactate. Some older sources mention Imbolc being celebrated on February 13th, although now the date is fixed on February 2nd. This holiday is a celebration of the loosening of winters hold on the land and the first signs of spring's immanent arrival. Three main types of ceremonies could be undertaken - purification with water, blessing with fire, and consecration of talismans or charms. In addition, the main ritual theme centered on inviting the goddess Brighid into the home, either in effigy or in the form of a person acting the part.

The fire represents the growing light of the sun. Candles are lit to celebrate the increased daylight, and often candles were blessed for use in the year to come; this connection to candles offers another alternate name for the holiday, Candlemas. In my personal practice I light special "sun" candles, and bless my candleholders for the year to come.

Ritual washing was done to cleanse and prepare the people for the agricultural work of the coming seasons. Water was blessed and then used to ceremonially wash the head, hands, and feet. Each year when I do this, I dip my fingers in the blessed water and run them over the body parts in question, asking that I be cleansed of winter's cold and filled with summer's warmth to work towards a new season. Then I pour the remaining water out onto the earth thanking Brighid for her blessing.

The main charms and talismans of Imbolc are related to Brighid. First there is the Brighid's cross, a woven sun wheel shape which represented the cycle of the year and the four main holy days, according to the book Apple Branch. On Imbolc, you can weave new Brighid's crosses, or bless ones you already have, although it may be better to burn the old and weave new each year when possible. A Brighid's cross is protective and healing to have in the home.

A second talisman is the brídeóg, or "little Brighid" a small cloth or straw doll wearing white clothes which is an effigy of the goddess. In some cases, the brídeóg would be made from straw saved from the previous Lughnasadh. This doll played a role in ritual after being brought outside, usually carried by the eldest daughter, then invited to enter the home where it was led with all ceremony to a specially prepared little bed. The doll was left in the bed over night and its presence was believed to bless all those in the household.

Another talisman connected to Imbolc is Brigid's mantle, or an brat Bríd, a length of cloth left out on the window sill over the course of the holy day and night. It is believed that this cloth absorbs the energy of the goddess during the ritual, and can be used for healing and protection throughout the year. This talisman would be kept and recharged every year, attaining full power after seven years.

The ritual for Brighid on Imbolc centers on inviting the goddess in and offering her hospitality. In some cases a woman was chosen to play the part of the goddess, in other cases the brídeóg was used. The door would be opened to her and she would loudly be invited in, shown to her "bed" and offered specially baked bread. Candles would be lit at the windows and next to her "bed", songs would be sung and prayers said calling on Brighid to bless all present in the coming seasons, and grant health and protection to the household.

A small broom or white wand would be placed next to the “bed”, and the ashes from the fire would be smoothed down in the hopes that the morning would reveal the marks of the wand, or better yet, the footprints of the goddess herself, either of which would be a sign of blessing. Placing the doll in her bed at night would be followed by a large family meal.

In Scotland a hundred years ago when entire communities still celebrated Imbolc in the old way, a sheaf of corn would be dressed as Brighid and taken from house to house by the young girls. The girls would carry the doll from home to home where the “goddess” would be greeted and offered food and gifts. After visiting each home, the girls would return to the house they started from where a party would be held with music, dancing, and feasting until dawn; all the leftover food would be handed out to the poor the next day.

Other rituals involve blessing the forge fires for blacksmiths and Otherworld divinations. In some Scottish mythologies, it is believed that Brighid is held by the Cailleach Bhur during the winter months but escapes, or is rescued by her brother Aonghus mac óg, on Imbolc. In others, it is said the Cailleach drinks from a hidden spring and transforms into Brighid on this day.

For modern people seeking to celebrate Imbolc in a traditional way, there are many options. Rituals can be adapted to feature the brídeóg. If you celebrate in a group, you could have one person wait outside with the doll while the other members prepare her bed, and then the group leader could go to the doorway and invite the goddess in. This could even be modified for use in an urban setting with the brídeóg “waiting” out in a hallway or separate room to be invited in.

Once invited in the goddess can be offered food and gifts as was done in Scotland and stories about Brighid from mythology could be told. Water can be used for purification; blessing with fire or of candles can be done, as well as making and consecrating the charms associated with Brighid. After ritual, the doll could be left in the bed while the group celebrates with a party; to keep the spirit of the way this was done for a modern time all members should bring food to donate to a local food pantry. A solitary celebration could still include inviting the goddess in, placing the brídeóg in her bed, making offerings to her, and a private celebration and food donations.

Imbolc is a powerful holy day with many beautiful traditions. By understanding how this day was celebrated in the past, we can find ways to incorporate those methods into modern practice and preserve the traditions that have surrounded Brighid’s day for so many generations.

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  • Sam

    I wish a few more people had shown up, although the conversation was fun with just four of us.

    February 2, 2013

  • Sam

    Looks like I'll be acting as host this time around (Daedalus will be becoming a Grand-Daedalus). So, everybody behave yourselves.

    February 2, 2013

  • Daedalus

    For those who are interested, give this online broadcast by Selena Fox on Imbolc Ritual.
    http://www.blogtalkradio.com/witchschool/2013/01/30/ptrn-presents-circle-craft-study-and-pagan-priest

    January 29, 2013

  • Daedalus

    For those who are interested, you might want to check out this online broadcast by Selenza Fox on Imbolc Ritual.
    http://www.blogtalkradio.com/witchschool/2013/01/30/ptrn-presents-circle-craft-study-and-pagan-priest

    January 29, 2013

  • Daedalus

    Our next moot is coming up on groundhog day, the day after Imbolc. I have included on here is an essay on Imbolc, obtained from witchvox.com. Take a look, you might find it interesting. Also on here I have included a list of Spring time recipes, take a look. Remember to bring any book[s]you might want to share with the group and a poem of epic relevance to you

    January 25, 2013

  • Daedalus

    FRENCH MINT ICED TEA
    13 tea bags (regular size)
    1/2 cup mint leaves
    juice from 2 lemons
    1 six ounce can frozen orange juice concentrate
    1 cup sugar
    Combine tea, mint and one quart of water in a large saucepan. Cover and
    bring to a boil and immediately remove from heat. Steep thirty minutes.
    Add remaining ingredients and additional water to make two quarts
    liquid.
    Strain and chill.

    1 · January 25, 2013

  • Daedalus

    English Rose Tea
    1/2 cup dried red rose petals
    2 tablespoons dried lemon balm
    1 tablespoon dried rosemary
    Mix well. Use 1 teaspoon for each cup.

    January 25, 2013

  • Daedalus

    LOVE POTION MEAD
    This recipe is supposedly an aphrodisiac.
    12 pounds wildflower honey
    3.5 oz Green Tea (Eden Foods: Camillia sinensis)
    1 oz dried Juniper Berries (Juniperus communis) crushed
    1 oz Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) crumbled
    1 oz dried Bitter Orange Peel (Aurantium Amarae Pericarpium)chopped
    1/2 oz dried Damiana leaf (Turnera aphrodisiaca) crumbled
    6 tsp yeast nutrient (food grade Urea and Ammonium Phosphate)
    4 tsp Acid Blend (Citric, Malic and Tartaric acids)
    1 pkt (5 gr) Red Star Pasteur Champagne yeast (rehydrated)
    Honey and three gallons of water brought to boil.
    Yeast Nutrient and Acid Blend added.
    Must boiled 30 minutes, then removed from heat.
    Herbs (Tea, Juniper Berries, Mugwort, Orange Peel and Damiana) in muslin
    bag
    added to hot must and steeped for 30 minutes.
    Must cooled and yeast pitched.

    January 25, 2013

  • Daedalus

    Orange Blossom Crepes
    1 cup cold Orange Blossom Water (see the recipe for Rose Water)
    1 cup cold Milk
    4 Eggs
    1/4 teaspoon Salt
    2 cups Flour, sifted
    4 tablespoons melted Butter
    Pour the Orange Blossom water, milk, eggs, and salt into a blender; add
    the flour and the butter. Blend at top speed for 1 minute. If using a
    hand beater, beat for at least 2 minutes. To make a crepe, melt a
    tablespoon of the butter in a shallow skillet, until sizzling. Remove
    skillet from heat; pour 1/4 cup of the crepe batter into the skillet and
    roll the skillet around until the batter coats the bottom. Return the
    skillet to the heat and cook for 1 minute, sliding the skillet back and
    forth across the heat. Lift the crepe, with the aid of a spatula and
    knife; turn over and cook the other side.

    January 25, 2013

  • Daedalus

    Marigold Muffins
    3/4 cup milk
    1 1/2 Tbsp crushed dried marigold petals
    2 cups sifted flower
    1 Tbsp baking powder
    1/2 tsp salt
    3 Tbsp vegetable oil
    4 Tbsp honey
    1 egg
    Heat milk to boiling point, add crushed petals. In seperate bowl, sift
    the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add honey and egg, combine with dry
    ingredients. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full and bake at 400 degrees for 20
    minutes.

    January 25, 2013

  • Daedalus

    Scottish Scones
    10 oz. self-raising flour
    4 oz margarine
    3 oz sugar
    1/8 cup milk
    Place the flour in a bowl and make a well in the center. Put the sugar
    and
    margarine in the center of the well, then gradually combine ingredients
    by
    working from the center outwards and bringing in the flour a little at a

    time. Add enough milk to make a soft dough. Roll out on a floured board
    to
    1/2-3/4 in. thickness, then cut into rounds with a 3 inch cutter. Bake
    in a
    moderate oven, 350°F for 10-15 minutes. Makes 12 scones

    January 25, 2013

  • Daedalus

    Cornmeal Dandies
    1 Egg
    1 teaspoon Butter
    1 cup Cornmeal
    1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
    1/4 cup Peanut or Veggie Oil
    15 to 20 Dandelion flowers
    Beat eggs with water in a small bowl. Mix cornmeal and cheese in a small
    bowl. Heat oil in a heavy frying pan until it begins to sizzle. Dip each
    flower into the egg mixture, then place it in the cornmeal-cheese
    mixture and gently toss until all surfaces are covered. Gently drop the
    coated flower in the hot oil, turning frequently, until evently golden.
    Drain on paper towel. Serve immediately or later at room temperature.

    January 25, 2013

  • Daedalus

    Rose Hip Nut Bread
    Juice of 1 orange plus water to make 1 cup (240 mL)
    1/2 cup (120 mL) chopped raisins
    3/4 cup (180 mL) seeded and chopped wild rose hips
    2 tablespoons (30 mL) melted butter
    1 teaspoon (5 mL) vanilla
    1 egg, beaten
    1-1/2 cups (360 mL) flour
    1 cup (240 mL) sugar
    1 teaspoon (5 mL) baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) baking soda
    1/4 teaspoon (1 mL) salt
    1/2 cup (120 mL) nuts or sunflower seeds
    In a large bowl, mix the first six ingredients. Sift together and then
    add the dry ingredients. Mix until well blended but do not overmix or
    bread will be dry and heavy. Gently stir in nuts or sunflower seeds.
    Spoon batter into a well greased 5 x 8-inch ( 12 x 20 cm) loaf pan and
    bake at 350 degrees F. ( 175 degrees C.) for one hour.

    January 25, 2013

  • Daedalus

    Lavender Cornmeal Brioche
    4 cups white, unbleached Flour
    1 cup Cornmeal
    1 teaspoon Salt
    1 teaspoon Lavender
    8 ounces warm nonfat Milk, heated to 85 degrees
    1 tablespoon fresh Yeast
    1 cup warm Water
    1 tablespoon Honey
    2 whole Eggs, beaten
    Add yeast to the water and honey and let it sit in a warm place until
    foamy, then add the beaten eggs. Combine wet and dry ingredients and
    knead for 8 minutes. Set in a warm place and allow the dough to rise
    until it doubles in volume. Then, punch down and form into desired
    shape. Let the dough mixture rise again until it has doubles in size and
    bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Baking time will vary depending
    on the shape and size of the loaf. It is done when it looks light brown
    and sounds hollow when tapped

    1 · January 25, 2013

  • Daedalus

    Saffron Bread
    5 generous pinches of saffron (or to taste, with experimentation)
    dissolved in 3/4 cup boiling water.
    In a separate bowl
    Cream:
    1/2 cup butter or margarine
    3/4 cup sugar
    Add:
    2 eggs
    Mix & Add:
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    2 cups flour
    Add: Saffron water mixture to the above.
    Bake at 350 degrees for approximately one hour.

    1 · January 25, 2013

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