Tonight and tomorrow is when many modern Pagans celebrate the fire festival of Imbolc sacred to the goddess Brigid, patroness of poets, healers, and smiths. Today is also the feast day of Saint Brigid of Ireland, the patron saint of poets, dairymaids, blacksmiths, healers, cattle, fugitives, Irish nuns, midwives, and new-born babies. In Kildare, Ireland’s town square, a perpetual flame is kept lit and housed in a statue that pays homage to Brigid. Festivities for La Feile Bride in Kildare started on Jan 30 and will continue through Feb 8.
There are many other notable observances held during these first few days of February. For example, in some Celtic Recon traditions, this is a time to honor Cú Chulainn’s three-day combat with his foster-brother Fer Diad. According to the chronology in the Táin Bó Cúailnge, the epic battle happened during these dark mid-winter days.
Additionally, the Shinto Festival of Setsubun is held on Feb. 3 or 4. This holiday is more commonly known as the Japanese bean throwing festival. Around Japan and the world, people visit their local Buddhist or Shinto temples to toss soybeans, in order to drive away the evil spirits of winter. Setsubun is translated as “seasonal division” and is considered to be the final day of winter on the Shinto calendar.
That seasonal theme is carried through in many Pagan Imbolc observances. In Jackson Hole, Wyoming, studio owner Diana Walter held the 2nd annual Teton Festival of Light. As she explained, the festival’s purpose is to inspire and remind students that there is life under the snow. This weekend is also Earth Spirit Community’s Feast of Lights, held in Northampton, Massachusetts and honoring a similar spirit.
Of course, in the Southern Hemisphere, Pagans are celebrating Lammas or Lughnasadh, and enjoying the beginnings of the harvest season.
This year several Imbolc-inspired articles were published in the mainstream media. The Latino Post featured a report entitled, “Witchcraft in the U.S.: Imbolc 2015 History, Facts & Celebration Ideas.” Similarly,The International Business Times, in a continuation of its Wiccan Sabbat series, will be offering its Imbolc edition on Feb. 2. In Pennsylvania, the local Bucks County Courier Times published an in-depth piece titled, “Groundhog Day more than a Weather Forecast for this Faith.” This article features the seasonal religious practices of the local heathen group, Urglaawe Kindred of Distelfink.
Here are a few quotes on mid-winter observances:
Despite its coming in a month of which few are enamored, Imbolc and its goddess, Brigid, are beautiful expressions of life and the arts that bring it—life—into being and give it meaning. Furthermore, Imbolc, a moment which goes by many names (including Groundhog Day!), is a beautiful combination of celebrations in both Pagan and Christian traditions. It is a day that could be well celebrated among UU’s, yet is nearly universally ignored. – Catherine Clarenbach, from “Home for the (February) Holidays: Imbolc, Brigid, and the Union of Opposites”
The last holiday of the Vanic year (as the Vanic new year is the spring equinox) is called Rasthuas Ja’enladata (RAHS-thoo-ahs JIGH-en-lah-dah-tah) [in Eshnesk, the language of the Eshnahai, or citizens of Vanaheim) – translated as Lights of the Winter Storm, observed in early February, where lights are burned through the worst winter storms of the year as a reminder that soon the spring will come. This is the holiday where the Queen’s half of the year and time of influence begins, power rising again in anticipation of the spring. – Nornoriel Lokason, “Lights of Winter Storm”
I love Imbolc. The snowdrops are out – so beautiful. And it’s so amazing to think what that delicate green stem with the flower bud at its tip has done. Have you tried pushing your finger down into the cold, hard, frozen earth? It’s difficult and often impossible, and your finger has a good strong bone in it to help it keep its structure – imagine how that is for the flower stem pushing up the other way! We often ignore the everyday magic of the earth in our hurried, busy, self-absorbed modern society and the birthing of the snowdrops is just one of these wonderful magical things. I’ll be with a group of students to celebrate Imbolc this Sunday and we will definitely be sharing a little piece of the everyday magic all around us. – Elen Sentier, Moon Books Author. [Note: this is one of many quotes shared in a post entitled “Pagan Authors’ Plans for Imbolc this Weekend” published on The Bad Witch’s Blog]
Many blessings to you this holiday!