Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Imbolc Traditions Brighde Brigids Cross

Imbolc is the Pagan festival of the Maiden Goddess , from now until Oestare it is her time to prepare for growth and renewal. The Celts celebrated the maiden as Brighdhe, Brigid or Brigit. She is one of the few Pagan deities that still survives to this day
as a saint in the /Christian religion, although she was de canonized in the 1960s she is still very much revered in Ireland.

Imbolc is traditionally celebrated on 2nd February.  It is also called Oimeolg by the Druids. It is derived from the Gaelic word ‘Oimelc’ which means ‘ewes milk’ hence it is known as the festival of the lactating sheep. It is the time of year for celebrating the first offspring of the sheep and cows, they are heavy with milk, the first snowdrops and crocus flowers are springing from the ground, the world is awakening. Imbolc marks a turning point on the Pagan wheel of the year, we are coming out of the season of cold and once more can look towards the light and the warmer months ahead of us.

Goddess Brighde gave birth to the Sun God at Yule and is now nursing her son. Brighde dolls (Brideo'gas) and Brigids crosses are made at Imbolc in her name, fashioned from oat or wheat straw. The crosses were hung over doorways or hung over beds to encourage the blessings of the Goddess for fertility and prosperity.The dolls are placed in baskets with white flower bedding. Young girls then carry the Brideo'gas door to door, and gifts are bestowed upon the image from each household. There is also a Scottish tradition of feeding the last ear of the previous harvest’s corn to the livestock on this day. Legend has it that Brighid's snake emerges from the womb of the Earth Mother Gaia to test the weather, this is the origin of Ground Hog Day.

Brighde is also named as the Goddess of Fire.  On the night of Imbolc, bonfires would light up the hills as a welcome to the return of heat and fire. Traditionally, Imbolc would be spent making candles for the year, as candles made at this time were considered to be lucky.  Other customs included the lighting of candles in every window of the house and keeping a perpetual candle on the altar of Brighde. Up until 1220 BCE St Bridgid’s Shrine at Kildare had a constantly tended fire, which was cared for by the priestesses of the Goddess.  Home hearth fires were put out at the time of Imbolc and re-lit, and a besom was placed by the front door to symbolize sweeping out the old and welcoming in the new. The significance of fire and the burning of candles is that Imbolc is a celebration of light.  Winter is dying away, and the fire of the sun grows stronger.  People would often jump bonfires at Imbolc to be cured of their winter colds and aliments

Another traditional symbol of Imbolc is the plough. In some areas, this is the first day of ploughing in preparation of the first planting of crops. It is the time of Blessing of the seeds and consecration of agricultural tools.  A decorated plough was often dragged from door to door, with costumed children following asking for food, drinks, or money. Should they be refused, the household was paid back by having its front garden ploughed up. In other areas, the plough is decorated and then whisky, the "water of life" is poured over it. Pieces of cheese and bread are left by the plough and in the newly turned furrows as offerings to the nature spirits. It is considered taboo to cut or pick plants during this time.

Imbolc is a lovely Pagan festival for you and your family to enjoy.  Why not revive some of the old traditions and make a brighde doll or brigits cross for example. It is a fabulous time to honour the maiden as we look towards spring, the earth is awakening and we welcome the warmer days ahead and the coming of the light. Fill your home with light and candles, you could even have a go at making your own.  However you choose to spend the day, enjoy and give thanks to our Mother Earth for the wonders that she provides for us every day.

Imbolc blessings, AstarteAlison

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