Imbolc is the 2nd of four Pagan Sabbats dividing the Celtic year into winter, spring, summer and fall. Celebrated on February 1st or 2nd, it's a spring festival. As days lengthen, winter's grip loosens and seeds quicken. The Druids called Imbolc "oimelc", meaning ewe's milk. The birth of lambs was a sure sign of returning spring.
Imbolc was also known as Brigid's Day. Brigid is a Celtic triple goddess of fire. At her birth, a column of fire rose from the top of her head to the heavens. As Sun Goddess, she presides over hearth and forge. She inspires poets, musicians, artists and craftswomen. She nurtures crops, livestock and nature, generates fertility, and assists at childbirth. As Great Mother, she leans over every cradle. She is mistress of divination whose sacred wells bring healing and glimpses into the future.
Her names run the gamut of human experience. As war goddess she was called Flame of Ireland and Fiery Arrow. Other names were Brigid of the Harp, Mother of Songs and Music, Brigid the Sorrowful (she lost a beloved son and brother), Bride of Joy, Brigid of the Green Mantles, and Brigid of the Slim Fairy Folk. As Bride of the Flocks, swans accompanied her. Her special animal, the domestic cow, reflected her concern for the feeding of families.
In 453 AD, the goddess was transformed by the Church into St. Brigid, and given a new biography. Some believed she was the daughter of a Druid converted to Christianity by St. Patrick. Others thought she was midwife to Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and Foster Mother to the Savior. A convent was founded in Kildare where the saint lived with her sisters, tending her eternal flame until her death on February 1st (Imbolc!) of 525 AD. In 1960, Brigid was decanonized. However, on Imbolc of 1993, the Daughters of the Flame relit a fire in honor of the goddess.
A Gaelic poem about Brigid asserts that she put songs and music on the wind before ever the bells of chapels were rung in the West or heard in the East. Those songs still sing in the hearts of those who honor Brigid's power to inspire and transform. Her flame has never gone out. (Story on back of card.)
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