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Study group: Imbolc


This is a first attempt at the study group. I figure we should dive in and see what works and what doesn't.

An easy topic for this time of year is Imbolc, the Winter Cross Quarter day that is coming up in a few short weeks (typically celebrated on Feb 2nd by neopagans).

I've never done a real Imbolc celebration but I'd like to change that this year. I've read lots and lots in books and online but never first hand information from a person who has done something for the holiday.

I thought this study group thread could focus on teaching each other what we do for this day and why. If you don't do anything, you can discuss the things you've learned about it.

Let's keep this focused and on topic. The ultimate goal of this thread is to encourage everyone to TRULY celebrate the day in a way they feel comfortable. I hope to walk away with a plan and follow through with it (and then we can all share about our experiences!).
1/10/2012, 4:22 pm Link to this post Send Email to TexasMadness   Send PM to TexasMadness
 
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Re: Study group: Imbolc


I'll go first...

I've never celebrated this day. For me, it's a bit amorphous. I 'get' the solar holidays but the cross quarter days mean less to me. This one especially as it's so tied to Brigit/Brigid and I still haven't found a place in my life for deities or even personifications like that.

But I do resonate with several things about the day:

The new born lambs and milk are very similar to what we experience on the [sign in to see URL] our seasons are different so this doesn't happen until closer to the Spring Equinox!

Candles - who can't connect with candles? I would like to do something candle orientated for the day.

Blacksmithing - my father and I both do this (he way more than me). I think it's a good time of year to fix up any garden tools for the next season. This day does fall before any 'field crops' go in (the first would be potatoes on Feb 15) so it's the perfect time to work on the heavier garden tools that haven't been used since the fall.

And this year I saved from branches from the Christmas tree to burn.

How have you celebrated and/or how do you plan to celebrate this day?
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Re: Study group: Imbolc


I've never celebrated Imbolc, and to be honest, I'm not even sure what it is about. emoticon

It will probably be hard to celebrate it at all this year, because I'm going to be in a seminar that day. Even so, I'd love to learn more about this Sabbat!



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Re: Study group: Imbolc


I'm hardly the one to be 'teacher' on this, but maybe it's a good idea for me to get my thoughts down on [sign in to see URL] computer screen.

There are 4 major solar holidays a year - two equinoxes and two solstices. Those are easy enough to see why they were celebrated in ancient times. They marked important events of the wheel of time turning.

I suppose many cultures that were hard pressed in life needed more reasons to celebrate. 3 months is a long time to go with no holiday. So the cross quarter days were also celebrated in lots of cultures. These are typically the half way point between the major solar holidays. So Feb 2nd is merely about 6 weeks from the Winter Solstice and 7 weeks from the Spring Equinox. Some of the cross quarter days depend on the full moon (like the first full moon after the solar holiday or some such) but I think in modern times most are fixed somewhere near the mid point.

Ok, so now we have a date for our new holiday. Well, what does this holiday celebrate? Imbolc is specifically a Celtic holiday. The date (or sometime around that week) is celebrated in other cultures under other names, but Imbolc is the most widely written about because of Wicca I believe. So what did the Celts celebrate at the beginning of February? The lambs being born, the fact that the days WERE getting longer and winter WOULD eventually end, the awakening of the Earth after a long winter slumber.

When left to their own devices, most sheep/goats will give birth sometime in the month of February, even here in Texas. Our first breeding with sheep was entirely unplanned (the ram ran with the ewes) and the first lamb was born March 1st. The milk would have been a much needed food stuff for ancient people as winter stores were becoming scarce. Barbara Kingsolver said in "Small Wonders" that some Native Americans referred to February as the Hunger Month. Stores were low and it was a good while before spring crops would be in (I've searched high and low for more information on this and can't really find anything).

And the holiday is closely associated with Brigid/Brigit - a Celtic goddess turned Catholic Saint. In Christianity, the holiday is called Candlemas and the belief is that the Church tried to co-opt the pagan holiday of lighting candles to encourage the rebirth of the sun. Candles are blessed in church on this day.

Brigit is the goddess of TONS of things. She had a good long run in the British Isles and became associated with all sorts of stuff. Her main areas are healing, poetry and smith craft. Many springs are dedicated to her because they are thought to have healing powers. I think the Saint version had a special affinity for healing throat ailments, but I may be mixing Saints here!

Some people use this time to bless their tools, whether they are Wiccan tools or actual garden tools. Ancient tradition had plow blessings to make the sowing and harvesting good for the year.

Whew. That's about it from the top of my head. I'd love to hear more form Saijen and Queeny! I know Saijen REALLY studied this stuff in her coven so I think that would be interesting.
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Re: Study group: Imbolc


Texas, you pretty much nailed it. It is a time of repairing, a time of gathering things needed and preparing for the coming time to [sign in to see URL]'s about nurturing and consecrating.

We never really did much in the gardening area in the coven for Imbolc, but we did purchase and consecrate new candles to be used for the remainder of the year. If our tools (Wiccan) needed any repairs, we did that, and we also consecrated [sign in to see URL] them for the year.
If any of our candles needed to be inscribed, this was the time we did that, as well.

To consecrate our candles, we used oils, you put a few drops in your hand, rub your hands together, then grasp your candle in the middle (holding it sideways), and twist your hands around the candle, from the middle to the [sign in to see URL] it in oil. We had a thing we would [sign in to see URL] can make up your own (can't give you the one we [sign in to see URL]). And, what I mean by 'twistig your hands'... kind of like when a piece of candy is wrapped in cellophane and both ends are [sign in to see URL] work the oil onto the candle as if you're twisting that cellophane either on or off. It's harder to do on votive candles, but it can be done.
If you wish to consecrate tools, you can do them the same way if you choose, or you can do them simply by using the elements Air, Fire, Water and Earth. You start with [sign in to see URL] use incense for [sign in to see URL] you like will be OK, but sage is good because it also cleanses. Make sure that the tool has been 'censed' from one end to the [sign in to see URL] you can say something like "With Air I charge thee"...no more needs to be said. Then, you go to Fire (and I'm giving this in the order it needs to be done in). Light a consecrated candle, and just gently run the flame from one end of the other of the [sign in to see URL] sure not to catch it on fire, [sign in to see URL]. "With Fire I charge thee". Next, use [sign in to see URL] can sprinkle [sign in to see URL] it should be consecrated [sign in to see URL] means it has salt in it. Not [sign in to see URL] the lenght of the tool... "With Water I charge thee" then, finally, with Earth. Just some dirt from your garden/yard... again, the lenght of the tool..."With Earth I charge thee". And, you can do several tools at one time. You don't have to do each one seperately. If you want to get a bit more 'phrasey' with your charging, you can, but it's not necessary.

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I read through this, and we weren't even told of the Bride [sign in to see URL] this is new to me, but it makes sense.

I may be able to elaborate a bit more in the next day or so. My books are in my bedroom and DH is [sign in to see URL]'t wanna wake him.

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Re: Study group: Imbolc


Neat! And I found that I am acutally home on February 2nd, so I can celebrate it.

I'll have to think about what to do, but lighting candles and thinking about life coming back and spring coming up might be a good start.

  emoticon

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Re: Study group: Imbolc


I will be at work that day. There's something about the cross quarter days that I have no qualms about moving the celebration to a weekend. The solar holidays are set by the motion of objects around us and not by our arbitrary calendars, so those I do stick to the "real" days. So I'll be celebrating probably on the 4th.

I have no Wiccan tools (or other pagan tools for that matter) but I'm running low on candles at home. I still haven't come up with a real celebration/ritual/event but it will certainly include candles and fire (hopefully it will be cold/cool that day) - and I like the blessing of the candles. Do you use a scented essential oil? I guess i'm wondering if the candle then smells of the oil when you burn it - sounds great!

I'm really struggling with what else this time of year means to the nature that exists around me (no lambs, no springs, no sense of Brigid). Planting garden crops will have already begun. Planting field crops is 2 weeks off so I will be doing some sort of thing for that. The grass is GREENER now than it was a single day last summer, and has been all winter, so spring appears to have started in the fall this year!

Ah! Our live oak trees drop last year's leaves right around that time. They appear to be evergreens. They keep last years leaves until the next years have grown in. So the tree is never completely bare. I might be able to work that in somehow. Oak is a powerful tree in many pagan areas.

Well, I guess I have 3 weeks to still plan.

And remember, let's share our experiences of the day afterwards. It will help everyone for next year too!
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Re: Study group: Imbolc


Texas, you don't have to have any Wiccan or Pagan [sign in to see URL] can do all that I suggested with your every day garden tools, as well. A hoe, a shovel, a spade, a trowel, a [sign in to see URL] of those things can also be charged this time of year.
Firle, same goes for [sign in to see URL] you use to help your roses and other balcony plants grow, you can charge at this time of year. Even a watering can!

Yes, you use essential [sign in to see URL] one that's a natural [sign in to see URL], sage, patchouli, sandalwood, etc. Just don't get it on the wick, or the top of the candle where the wick [sign in to see URL] cause some lighting problems and LOTS of black smoke! Keep it just on the sides.

Keep in mind that this is a time to PREPARE for the coming planting [sign in to see URL]'s one reason for charging the garden tools.



From my 1st Degree notes on Imbolc:
This is dedicated to Brigid or Brid the Goddess of fire and inspiration, in Ireland, the Triple Goddess of poetry, smith craft and healing. The Child Sun grows strong as the days grow longer. This is a time of light, initiation and self dedication, and beginnings, when seeds that will later sprout and grow begin to stir from their dark sleep. We meet and share the light of Inspiration, which will grow with the growing year.

Winter is knows as the cleansing tide. Between Samhain and Imbolc. Earth Law: To keep silent, trust and faith.

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Re: Study group: Imbolc


You may also make a Brigid's [sign in to see URL] is a woven wheel of the year that marks the cycles of Nature and is sacred
to the Goddess.
 A Brigid's Cross can easily be made from grasses or other plant materials.
This piece is a good example of how the Celts and other indigenous people found ways of
keeping Pagan beliefs of their ancestors alive, despite their forced conversion to Christianity.
What one looks like:

--Log in or sign up to see linked image content--

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✴ Birthplace: Earth ✴ Race: Human ✴ Politics: Freedom ✴ Religion: Love♥

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Re: Study group: Imbolc


I believe I have come up with my celebration of this time of year. With more research, it sounds like the holiday was more commonly celebrated on the eve of Feb. 1st and then Feb 1st itself. I do happen to have that day off, so we will be doing a special dinner then. But as my modern schedule does not allow me to completely set my days of the week, I’m going to be spreading my celebration over the weekend before as well as the weekend after. I’ve got lots planned.

For the actual feast, I will be focusing on seasonal foods. This is always my plan for these holidays. The goats may be dry so I will not plan on having milk – but if we do, I have a recipe for a custard dessert! I have not selected the menu – I will have to wait and see what I get from the farm.

On the days preceding and following the turning of the season, I will be celebrating several traditional aspects of this time of year: candles, beer, blacksmithing, the hearth, sheep and sacred water.

Candles:
I’ve learned a bit more about the association with candles. One legend (of St. Brigid, but likely due to early associations with goddess Brigit) has Brigid helping Mary and the infant Jesus flee Egypt by wearing a distracting headdress with a crown of candles to throw off the soldiers. This has later become St. Lucia’s day which used to be celebrated on the Winter Solstice until calendar reform pushed it back to Dec 13th. Additionally, Brigit (both goddess and saint) had an eternal flame dedicated to her (protected by a band of virgins – nuns). Obviously, there is a connection to flame here. And of course, the sun is finally starting to noticeably hang in the sky longer, also associated with candles.

I will be obtaining new candles (need them badly!) and doing a blessing like described by Saijen.

Beer:
Beer you ask? Ah, this is a good one. There are two references to this. One is a prayer/poem said to have been penned by St. Brigid. There are several versions floating around but a variant of this line is common to the all:


I would a lake of beer for the King of Kings.
I would like to be watching heaven’s family drinking it through all eternity.



There is also a legend that St Brigid had brewed but one cask of beer. She sent this to 18 nearby churches for their Easter celebrations and the small quantity of beer was multiplied such that everyone had enough to drink for the entire octave of Easter (this is the 8 days from Easter Sunday to the next Sunday).

I find it interesting that modern brewing techniques take about 6 weeks to produce a good beer. If you brew beer on Brigid’s day, it’s ready by the spring equinox (pagan version of Easter). So we will be brewing a batch of beer in honor of Brigid!

Blacksmithing:
I had a hard time figuring out why Brigit is associated with blacksmithing. I found some minor references to her being an underworld goddess for half the year (like Aphrodite) and therefore associating her with hot fires, coals, forging, etc. I also found reference to the convent/monastery where St. Brigid was a nun. It was one of a few ‘joint’ places with both men and women. The men apparently were dedicated to smith work (according to a single source). Anyway, it’s a good excuse for me to make something.

So, I will be blacksmithing a ritual kitchen knife. I wanted one especially for my new working area but couldn’t figure out how to go about finding the “right” one. So I’m simply going to make it!

Hearth:
Again, this is a loose association with Brigit that I cannot find any real stories about. Fire connects here, as does healing. But more than that, it’s just one of her realms.

I will be officially dedicating my hearth/kitchen altar.

Sheep/wool:
Another association with little history. The same source that mentioned the monks did smithcraft said the women of St Brigid’s convent were weaving specialists. This ties into the legend of the goddess having associations with sheep, but I can’t find much else. Sheep do give birth at this time so it might just be a seasonal thing. I had a hard time coming up with anything for this since our sheep/goats will not be giving birth just yet.

But I will take wool from previous shearings and begin to process it! I’ve been meaning to do that for AGES, so this is a good excuse!

Sacred Water:
Wells in Ireland are dedicated to Brigit/St Brigid for two reasons that I can find. Well water is associated with healing, as was the goddess. Also, spring water is said to be a current between our world and the underworld. Since there is some connection with Brigit and the underworld, this makes it part of her domain.

I will be making “blessed water” and keeping it safe for use throughout the year.

Whew, sounds like a whole lot of work! The candles, hearth and sacred water projects will all take a very short time. Brewing will be an afternoon event, as will processing the wool and making my new knife! It may take me more than 2 weekends to get it all done, but it feels good to set some ambitious projects for me to do! This can be an entire season's worth of work if it needs to be. I just like having some work set out before me.


Last edited by TexasMadness, 1/20/2012, 9:39 pm
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