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celtic fire festivals, goddess brigit, blessed virgin mary, irish goddess

Imbolc - Midwinter

Author: Gordon Ireland

Paula & Gordon Ireland Proprietors
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Imbolg/Imbolc is pronounced EM-Bowl-ig or ic, it also known as Midwinter, Candlemass, Oimelc, Lupercus, Lupecal, Disting, Brigatia (Brigid's Day), Lady Day and Groundhog Day. Imbolg translates, according to McCoy, to ewe's milk. Though McCoy does not say from which language this translates from, she does say it is because the ewes at this time of the year were pregnant and would start lactating. (McCoy, page 88) Like the other Great Sabbats of the Witches' year, Imblog celebrated on it's astrologically determined by the sun's reaching 15-degrees Aquarius. This date varies from year-to-year. Though it usually falls with in the first week of the month.

Imblog has become to be known as a time for ritual purification, and is one of the four major Celtic Fire Festivals. It is thought to have gained the name Candlemass, due to the poor weather at this time of year, making it almost impossible to have a Bonfire festival. Candles were thought to have been used as replacement to move the ritual indoors. Thus it gained the name Candlemass. (McCoy, page 88-89) However, there is no evidence to back up this claim and while it makes a better story than the truth, it is false.

Another name for the holiday is "Brigit's Day" or Lady's Day after the Irish Goddess Brigit. The kindling of sacred fires chiefly marked Brigit's holiday, since she symbolized the fire of birth and healing. The Catholic Pope, Serguis I (reigned 687 to 701 AD) was not happy with the Goddess worship that still thrived in many Catholic communities. Unable to stamp out the holiday, Serguis incorporated it with the Church. Renaming Brigatia to the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary or Candlemass. It was believed that women were impure for six weeks after giving birth. Since Mary gave birth to Jesus (historically) on the Winter Solstice, she wouldn't be purified until February 2nd. Pagans can translate this as the Great Mother once again becoming the Young Maiden Goddess. This allowed the Church another foothold in and already shrinking religion by not only making their choice become the focus of the holiday, but by replacing the Mother, with the Mother of God. Subtley, changing the focus of Goddess worship with that of God. (Henes, page 27)

Imbolg is the halfway point between winter and spring. A time when animals are stirring from their hibernation and plants are beginning to bud, even much of the earth is still under a blanket of snow. This concept of waking, and of being noted as a halfway point is further emphasized by the USA custom of Groundhog's Day.

Groundhog Day tells us that if the Groundhog, also known as Punxsutawney Phil, sees his shadow we will have six more weeks of winter, if he don't, spring will be here in six weeks. Thus connecting, this holiday to weather lore. This custom is very old. An ancient Scottish rhyme tells us that:

If Candlemass day be dry and fair,

The half o' winter to come and mair

If Candlemass day be wet and foul.

The half o' winter gane at Yule.

This says that if it is nice on Candlemass, expect six more weeks of cold weather, if it isn't nice on Candlemass, the weather will be a little nicer. (Henes, page 28-30)


Items needed: 3 Candles: 1 White, 2 Yellow, Milk,
Olive Oil,
Jasmine Incense,
Parchment paper. Divination tools, Runes, Tarot Cards, etc, which ever you feel comfortable with Other ritual items, cauldron, chalice, and bell.

As Imbolg has some association with forecasting, i.e.: Groundhog Day, we will have a ritual to forecast.

To begin start by extinguishing all candles and other lights in the house. Decorate the altar with early spring flowers. Chamomile and Jasmine are on the altar and the Cauldron is nearby. The bell is on the altar, as is the Chalice filled with milk. Divination tools placed in front of the White candle, making sure that they are face down. White candle in the center, flanked by two yellow candles. Rub the oil into the candles.

Open circle per your tradition.

Sit in front of the altar, speaking aloud light the white candle.

SAY: From darkness the Goddess is stirring, waking from frozen dreams, She brings her promise of coming Spring. Ring bell one time.

Lighting the Yellow candle on your left

SAY: I call upon your guidance to assist me. To help me maintain my focus, energy and alignment for your divine purpose and work. Ring bell one time.

Lighting the yellow candle on your right.

SAY: I have come to honor the fertility of the Maiden. I honor the Mother and the Crone for sharing their wisdom. I give thanks to the time of renewal.

Ring bell one time.

Lighting incense express needs out loud, gently spreading the smoke over your choice over divination tools. Taking the parchment and write down your question, and repeat it aloud. Take a pinch of Chamomile herb and place it in the cauldron. Take parchment and light each corner of it with the yellow candles, place in cauldron along with the herb.

Meditate for a period of time that is comfortable for you.

After mediating reach and take a rune, card etc, Focus on its meaning and how it relates to your question. If necessary mediate while focusing on the object.

Taking the chalice, take a sip, thanking the Goddess for her wisdom.

SAY: I thank the Goddesses, for watching over this ceremony of Imbolg. I thank you for your guidance and your wisdom. I honor Thee, Maiden, most blessed Bride. As your candle burns through this night And thank you for the renewed life you offer us all

As you emerge from the dark to the light.

Close circle. Take white candle to light other candles in the house. Leave white candle to burn throughout the night.


Traditional foods are from dairy products and spiced with onion, leek, garlic, shallot, and/or olives. The wine may be spiced and the food may contain raisins. Bread puddings and creamy soups are typical.


1-1/2 cups milk per serving

1 tsp. honey

1/4 tsp.vanilla extract


Warm milk, being careful not to boil. In each glass or mug, add honey and vanilla. Sprinkle tops with cinnamon.


For the puffs:

1 cup water

1/2 cup butter or margarine

1-1/4 cups flour

4 eggs

Bring water to a boil in a saucepan. Lower heat and add flour. Stir on low heat until batter forms a ball shape. Remove from heat. Add eggs and beat until smooth. Drop, using a tablespoon, onto greased cookie sheet. Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown at 375 degrees.

For the filling:

1/2 cup sugar

2 Tbl. cornstarch (ruled by the Sun, brings health and wealth)

1/4 tsp. salt

2 cups milk

2 egg yolks

2 Tbl. butter or margarine

2 tsp. vanilla extract

Confectioner's sugar

In a saucepan, slowly bring sugar, cornstarch, and salt to a boil, stirring constantly until thick. Add milk, egg yolks, and boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and add butter and vanilla. Let cool. Fill puffs with cream and sprinkle with Confectioner's sugar.


2- 1/2 lb. lamb neck chops

1 tbs. lamb fat

4 medium onions

1 tbs. butter/margarine

4 medium carrots

2 1/2 cups water

4 medium potatoes

1 tbs. parsley, chopped

1 tsp. each salt & pepper

1 tbs. chives, chopped

Don't let the butcher trim the fat off of the lamb chops. Shred some of the excess fat and cook it down in a large pot or Dutch-oven. Peel the onions, carrots, and potatoes. Cut the onions and carrots into quarters, and put all the vegetables aside. Cut the meat into 8 pieces, and trim away the rest of the excess fat. The bones need not be removed. Place the meat in the hot fat and brown. Repeat with the onions and carrots. Add water, salt, and pepper carefully. Put whole potatoes on top. Cover pot and simmer gently until meat is cooked, approx. 2 hours. Remove from heat. Pour off the cooking liquid into a separate saucepan, allow cooling for a few minutes, skimming off grease, and reheating. Add butter, chives, and parsley to the reheated liquid in the saucepan. Pour heated liquid back over the stew. Serve hot. Makes 4-6 servings.

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