Making a Maven,  Sabbat & Esbats

The History of Imbolc, Candlemas, and Groundhog Day

As we finally start to get closer to springtime, snow has begun to fall from the sky.  I sometimes forget that here in Colorado, it always piles up in the spring rather than the winter. I’m just happy that the sun has started to stay out a little longer each day.

Spring technically doesn’t join us until Ostara, the Spring Equinox on March 20th. Imbolc, St. Brigid’s Day, Candlemas, Groundhog Day [yep, it’s on the list, haha], are all traditional holidays that mark the mid-way point between the Winter and Spring Equinoxes. Days are finally getting longer, things are warming up and we’re all hustling to check things off our “new year” lists.

Every culture has their own way to welcome the new seasons. What you call it and how you practice really depends on what path you’re following.  I thought it would be interesting to throw in a few traditions because not everyone celebrates Imbolc.

Imbolc or Imbolg [i-MOLG],

Also called St. Brigid’s Day, is a Scottish Gaelic tradition usually celebrated on the 1st of February. It translates to “in the belly”, referring to pregnancy which makes complete sense!  Saint Brigid is the patron saint of babies, boatmen, cattle farmers, children from non-traditional or broken homes, dairy workers, nuns, poets, the poor, [can you hear me trying to catch my breath yet? We aren’t done yet…] poultry farmers, printing presses [a bit odd, but I think I can make the connection], sailors and travelers.

She is a busy busy lady.

Imbolc Traditions

Girls and young unmarried women [those that do not run a household in someway] within the village or community all gather into one household on St. Brigid’s Eve [Jan 31]. Together, they create a corn dolly to represent Brigid and then make a bed for her to lie in.

Eligible young men come to visit them in the night, asking permission to enter, and treat the young ladies and dollies with respect. Before going to bed, each girl leaves a small strip of cloth outside for Brigid to bless.

The head of the household will rake the ashes of the fire smooth. In the morning, they look for some sort of mark in the ashes to indicate that Brigid passed in the night. The cloth strips are brought inside and carry protective and healing powers. The young ladies take their Brigid dolls with them to each home where she is welcomed and honored.

For more information specific to Gaelic/Celtic traditions, check out Irish Central. [www.irishcentral.com]

Many practices now celebrate Saint Brigid’s for her Divine Femininity.  As communities have expanded, all the young ladies gathering under one roof has become a little unreasonable, haha.  

Wiccan practice focuses on the balance of the God & Goddess.  At Yule, the Goddess gave birth to the new God of Sun. During Spring, she nurses him to grow and brings new life to the land.

Candlemas

A Christian holy day also known as the Festival of Lights or the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It celebrates the purification of Mary forty days after the birth of Jesus.

It was believed that women were “unclean” after the birth of a child and therefore could not participate in mass and if the child was a girl, the woman must wait 60 days before she could participate.   

Candles hold significance in most religious and spiritual paths, but for Christians in particular candles are a reminder of the “darkness” that was felt before Jesus was born. Lost, lonely, and afraid, the spark of a candle is a guiding light out of that darkness towards love and support. There is a lovely little proverb for the holiday:

Now, I know the absolute least about Candlemas. Because Christianity spread into so many cultures, it has developed a number of traditions. You can read a far more in depth history and celebrations here. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Candlemas] I found the traditions of the Philippines, Peru, Guatemala, and Mexico very interesting.

Groundhog Day

Honestly the silliest holiday I’ve ever heard of and it always makes me giggle.

It stems from a Pennsylvania Dutch superstition that if a groundhog emerging from its burrow sees its shadow due to clear weather, it will retreat to it’s den and winter will continue for another 6 weeks.  If the sky is cloudy and a shadow cannot be seen, spring will arrive early.

There are celebrations all over the United States and Canada and if you can’t join in, many of them live stream the event. Find one here.

There are a number of community gatherings happening within the city. Check out our event calendar to see if one suits you!

Rituals & Symbolism

Now, I don’t tend to celebrate Imbolc specifically or any other major holiday, but I do love to honor the new season. Below is a quick little infographic of symbolism you can incorporate in your own ritual.  Seasonal altars are so fun to put together and I plan to put one together this year! I’ll post pictures on the Instagram.

Need more ideas? Here are some of my favorites!

Lavender Milk Tea by Gather Victoria

Goat Cheese & Balsamic Onion Tartlettes by Moody Moons

Ritual Bath by The Witch of Lupine Hollow

How do you intend to welcome spring into your home? My ultimate dream is to cover my mantle in nothing but bright candles, but I don’t know if my heart [or husband] could handle the wax aftermath.

Don’t forget to subscribe to my monthly newsletter and check out our ever growing event calendar.

If you’d like to write for MM, check out the “Writing Opportunities” form! I would love to get your voice out there.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.