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IMBOLC: February 1- 2

The Hag searching for firewood. Photo Credit: Mark Rees @reviewwales on X "Imbolc was when the Cailleach—the divine hag of Gaelic tradition—gathers her firewood for the rest of winter. Legend has it that if she wishes to make winter last a good while longer, she will make the weather on #Imbolc bright and sunny, so she can gather plenty of firewood."

This is the ancient Celtic festival to mark the end of winter. The name is derived from the archaic word meaning “lamb’s milk”.

It is also Brigit, Bride (pronounce Breeda”) or St. Brigit’s Day in preChristian Ireland, Scotland and Wales, a holiday that marks the start of spring planting, half-way between December 21 and March 20. Today the winter house is swept clean… the fire put out and hearth washed down.

In some traditional households, Brigit is invited in through a freshly whitewashed front door to spend the night sleeping on a bed of fresh hay. Rear door is closed tight so that winter’s witch, she who has just been swept away, will not come in to disturb the goddess’s slumber. Older women, who embrace the ancient traditions, might weave a “Bride’s Belt” of straw. Each family member passes it over their bodies starting from the head down. Such a riual keeps illness away from them for the coming year.

Jesus is 40 days old today. By Hebraic tradition he and mother Mary go to the temple to be cleansed and blessed. This is Candlemas, a fifth century Christian holiday, when all of the candles to be used for the coming year, representing the inner light of Christ, are bought to the altar and blessed.

In a Wiccan tradition, 1 February is the day when the Caillech or Hag of winter goes out into the woods to gather her fire wood for the rest of the season. Perchance, the day is inclement and she must stay inside, winter is gone for another year. The U.S. groundhog, taking the place of the European hedgehog, will not venture forth while the hag was about. It knows winter could only be done, if weather is bad and there is no sun.

A Wiccan Chant

This is the time of the feast of torches, when every lamp blazes and shines to welcome the rebirth of the God. We celebrate the Goddess. We celebrate the God. All of the Earth celebrates, beneath its mantle of sleep.

May the weather on Imbolc be inclement where the Hag lives, but full of Brigit’s sunny warmth where you are. And may the groundhog not cast a shadow.

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