Wheel of The Year
Imbolc or Imbolg (“IM-bulk” or “EM-bowlk”), is also called Oimealg, (“IM-mol'g”), by the Druids. It is one of the Greater Sabbats, is celebrated on February 2nd and is the festival of the lactating sheep. Imbolc means, literally, “in the belly” while translations of “oimelc”, the Gaelic root word of Oimealg, means “ewes milk”. At this time of year herd animals have either given birth to the first offspring of the year or their wombs are swollen and the milk of life is building within their teats and udders. This is also the time to bless the seeds of the year’s crop and to consecrate agricultural tools.
In various other traditions Imbolc is also known as Imbolgc Brigantia (Caledonni), Disting (Teutonic, Feb 14th), Lupercus (Strega), Saint Bridget’s Day (Christian), Candlemas (Christian), Candlelaria (Mexican), the Snowdrop Festival, the Festival of Lights, or the Feast of the Virgin. This Sabbat is also celebrated as “Brigit’s Day”, (not to be confused with Saint Bridget’s Day) in honor of the Irish Goddess Brigit. She is a Triple Goddess and a Goddess of fire, smith craft, poetry and healing.
During this time, deep within the womb of Mother Earth and hidden from our mundane sight life begins to stir and this stirring may be sensed by a keener vision. Imbolic involves celebrations of banishing the winter and welcoming the spring. At this phase of the cycle, winter is swept away and new beginnings are nurtured.
The Goddess has recovered from giving birth to the God at Yule and the lengthening periods of light awaken her. The God's strength is increasing and He is now a young, lusty boy. The warmth of the Sun fertilizes the earth (the Goddess), causing seeds to germinate and sprout. And so, Imbolc celebrates the earliest stirrings of Spring. It is a time of purification, creativity, and inspiration, a welcoming of change from the old to the new. This is a traditional time for many Pagan Traditions to conduct their initiations and dedications.
Imbolc was a time of weather divination, and the old tradition of watching to see if serpents or badgers came from their winter dens may be a forerunner of the North American Groundhog Day. A Scottish Gaelic proverb about the day is:
The serpent will come from the hole
On the brown Day of Bríde,
Though there should be three feet of snow
On the flat surface of the ground.
Imbolc was believed to be when the Cailleach—the divine hag of Gaelic tradition—gathers her firewood for the rest of the winter. Legend has it that if she wishes to make the winter last a good while longer, she will make sure the weather on Imbolc is bright and sunny, so she can gather plenty of firewood. Therefore, people would be relieved if Imbolc is a day of foul weather, as it means the Cailleach is asleep and winter is almost over