Thursday, February 02, 2006

Happy Imbolc

Happy Imbolc, or as my mother would say "Happy Holy Sacred Groundhog Day!" Imbolc is a cross-quarter day. It falls half way in between a solstice and an equinox. What are the other cross-quarter days? May Day (May 1), Lughnasadh (August 1), and Samhain (Halloween, October 31). These are the "big" neo-pagan holidays. For some reason, for me one of the easiest ways to understand unfamiliar concepts is to look into word origins. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem that anyone really knows what Imbolc means. Wikipedia has a good description of the important ideas. Personally, I like the idea that Imbolc means "in the belly" but I think that it’s more likely that people would celebrate the ewes lambing because then there would be milk to drink. Since late winter and early spring is the lean time of the year, ewe’s milk must have been an important source of food. In my particular neo-pagan tradition, Imbolc is mainly celebrated as Brigid's Day. The tradition is to announce, in front of the whole community, your promise to Brigid for the next year. Its also a good time to start seeds for your spring garden. Brigid is a goddess with many associations. Often she is referred to as a triple goddess, whose domains are poetry, healing, and smithcraft. She is also very associated with both sacred flames and sacred wells. I always think of Brigid as a sort of bi-polar goddess; she both the transforming fire and the healing spring. Ouch!

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