Saint Brigid's Day, or Lá Fhéile Bríde in Irish, is also the day of the old Celtic festival of Imbolc, meaning in the belly of the Mother because that is where seeds are beginning to stir as it is Spring and longer days. In agriculture, it marks the start of the lambing season. This ancient Celtic pagan feast is one of the ‘quarter days’ of the Celtic calendar which marked the mid-points between solstice dates, crucial days in the earths’ journey around the sun. Archeological excavations in Ireland have determined how important Imbolic was to ancient farming communities. The tradition of Imbolc is some 5,000 years old.
This Celtic feast is so much part of Irish culture, it is included with the Celtic Fire Goddess, Brigit, patron of smithcraft, healing, midwifery, and poetry. It is the festival of the Maiden, for from this day to March 21st, it is her season to prepare for growth and renewal. Brighid's snake emerges from the womb of the Earth Mother to test the weather, (the origin of Ground Hog Day), and in many places the first Crocus flowers began to spring forth from the frozen earth.
Many Celtic feast days were adopted by the early Christians and their association was changed to saints instead of natural events or ancient Gods. It was much easier to covert people if they could keep their old habits and leave their culture unchanged practicing celebrations on the same days of the year as they had always done.
The best-known Brigid's tradition is the making and giving of Brigid's crosses. This tradition is based on a legend about Saint Brigid which tells us that she converted a dying Pagan. To explain the new faith to him, she improvised making a cross from rushes which was all that was available to her in the location. A Brigid’s cross placed above the front door is a welcome and protection to the home.
There are simple activities for those of us that are not Irish Gods or Goddesses, such as lighting candles or lamps in each room of the house right after sunset for a few minutes to honor the Sun's rebirth, walks in the snow to search for signs of Spring. Place a besom (broom) by the front door to symbolize sweeping out the old and welcoming the new. Bon fires are a way to light our own illumination as well as that of Sun Goddess Brigid. Include traditional foods made with seeds, (to symbolize growth), raisins (a fruit of the Sun God), pork, poultry, or lamb, with sides of potatoes, cabbage, onions, and garlic to honor the day.
This is our time to gather our strength and vision, begin to wake up with nature to the creative work of dispensing of the old and making way for the new.
Imbolc: Celebration of Returning Light
February 2nd. Imbolc/Mid-Winter: celebration, prophecy, purification
New Year (Tibetan, Chinese, Iroquois)
Tu Bi-Shevat (Jewish)
Goddess Festivals: Brigit, Brighid, Brigid (Celtic)