What do groundhogs predicting the weather, ewes, a Pagan goddess, a Christian saint and spring cleaning all have in common? They are each intertwined into the history of Imbolc, the feast day of Brigid, on February 2nd.
This holiday is one of the Celtic fire festivals and is also called Oimelc, an Irish term that means ewe's milk. Traditionally, this time of year exhibited the first signs of spring shown by the lactation of ewes. It is a cross-quarter day signifying the midpoint between the Winter Solstice and the Vernal Equinox.
Being a cross-quarter day it is also a reverse barometer. Just like the logic used on Groundhogs Day if the weather is fair (sun is shining and Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow) the weather will take a turn for the worse and there will be more weeks of winter. If the weather is bad, good news, better weather is on the horizon.
The Christians usurped the day and tried to redirect the Pagans to worshiping St. Brigit and also called it
St. Brigit is known for her special cross, said to have been weaved from rushes as she tended a terminally ill Celtic chieftain, telling him the story of Christ and converting him on his death bed to Christianity. Many streams, trees, mounds are named for the Saint in the
In many parts of the world, February is a harsh and bitter month. In old
, the month fell in the middle of the period known as Faoilleach, the Wolf-month; it was also known as a’ marbh mhiòs, the Dead-month. But although this season was so cold and drear, small but sturdy signs of new life began to appear: Lambs were born and soft rain brought new grass. Ravens begin to build their nests and larks were said to sing with a clearer voice. Scotland
Brigid is also known as the daughter of the Daghda, the “Great God” of the Tuatha de Danaan (faeries). In folklore he calls her a “woman of wisdom…a goddess whom poets adored, because her protection was very great and very famous." Since the discipline of poetry, was interwoven with seership, Brigid was seen as the great inspiration behind divination and prophecy, the source of oracles.
She is the goddess of poetry, healing, and smith-craft. Also described as the patron of other vital crafts of early Celtic society: dying, weaving and brewing. A goddess of regeneration and abundance, she was greatly beloved as a provider of plenty who brought forth the bounties of the natural world for the good of the people. She is closely connected with livestock and domesticated animals. She herself had two oxen called Fea and Feimhean
This is a good time for spring cleaning of house, hearth, and spirit. So burn a candle, get out the broom, take heart and have hope as we look forward to the rebirth of the earth and our creativity. May your be spirit renewed.
Here are two ceremonial poem/chants from Patti Wigington’s site.
Hail, Brigantia! Keeper of the forge,
she who shapes the world itself with fire,
she who ignites the spark of passion in the poets,
she who leads the clans with a warrior's cry,
she who is the bride of the islands,
and who leads the fight of freedom.
Hail, Brigantia! Defender of kin and hearth,
she who inspires the bards to sing,
she who drives the smith to raise his hammer,
she who is a fire sweeping across the land.
Bride of the earth, sister of the faeries,
daughter of the Tuatha de Danaan,
keeper of the eternal flame.
In autumn, the nights began to lengthen,
and the days grew shorter, as the earth went to sleep.
Now, Brighid stokes her fire, burning flames in the hearth,
bringing light back to us once more.
Winter is brief, but life is forever. Brighid makes it so.