Welcome to Imbolc, the festival of the first awakening of the earth and signs of new life after the winter. According to old traditions the Celtic goddess Brigid melted the winter snows with her willow wand. Also called Oimelc because the first ewe’s milk was available to the community, the festival is still in some communities and families celebrated from the Eve of January 31 through St Brigid’s day on February 1 to sunset on February 2, now recalled in the Christianised festival of the returning light.
St Brigid’s day will be celebrated for the first time in centuries as an official holiday on February 6 this year in Ireland. The 5th century Christian saint succeeded the Triple Goddess of the same name, Brighid, Goddess of inspiration and poetry, healing, fire and the forge. Myths tell that nineteen Druidesses tended her perpetual flame each day and the goddess herself on the 20th . St Brigid, possibly a converted Druidess and her 19 nuns continued to keep the flame alive. Her sacred flame may have burned at Kildare until the suppression of the abbeys in the 16th century. The flame was relit in 1993 in the Market Square in Kildare and the Brigid flame is still kept alight by the Brigidine Sisters at their sanctuary( Brigid’s Fire | Brigidine Sisters).
Imbolc is the time to awaken the dimly burning or even extinguished light of personal hope in spite of all the troubles in the current world, for life, light, love, health and joy. Imbolc signifies the tentative growth of new beginnings psychologically, emotionally and spiritually.
If you doubt at Imbolc, recall the fertilizing fire in the belly of the goddess, an adaptation of the Old Irish word Imbolc, reach across the world to absorb the evolved warmth of the mirror festival. For in the Southern hemisphere, is celebrated at the same moment, as Imbolc or Oimelc, Lughnassadh the first harvest fulfilment of endeavour half a world away,
Lughnassadh, in the old world signified the willing offering by the Grain god of his life cut down as the last sheaf, to be made into the first bread of the first harvest, Christianised as the Lammas loaf. This willing sacrifice symbolically ensured the continuing growth of the land in the year ahead and that the people and animals would have sufficient to survive the winter until Imbolc.
Wherever you live in the world, Lughnassadh energies warn there may be necessary short-term sacrifices for longer-term gain. But if your Lughnassadh is marred by unfulfillment of objectives, extend your hand across the world the other way and let the goddess Brighid, melt your sorrows, warmed by the almost imperceptible ever earlier daily sunrise.
The promise is not of miracles but through diligence, perseverance and sheer effort we may enjoy at least partially the fruits of our own well-earned labours by the time this Imbolc becomes the next Lughnassadh and Lughnassadh turns into Imbolc.
Each day find the smallest blessing and bonus not to be squandered or wished away but making our personal mark on life as best we can and trust the sun will rise again ever brighter on our renaissance into light.