FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 1: Wiccans and Pagans in the Northern Hemisphere usher in February with the centuries-old Gaelic festival of Imbolc, or Brighid’s Day, marking the beginning of spring and the halfway point between the winter solstice and spring equinox. (The Southern Hemisphere marks Lughnassadh.)
Legend has it that on this day, Brighid begins preparing for the renewal of spring; snakes and badgers emerge from the Earth, to test the weather (thus the beginning of modern Groundhog Day traditions. Wikipedia has details). As the first crocuses pop from the cold ground, young Pagans fashion Brighid corn dollies and older adults twist Brighid crosses (pictured at left), to exchange as symbols of protection and prosperity. (View a slideshow on how to make a Brighid Cross.) In the evening, candles are lit to welcome the rebirth of the sun, as was practiced centuries ago in Gaelic Ireland.
A FRESH TWIST ON SNAKES: The WeAreCaregivers team of writers is encouraging people to creatively re-draw the 2013 calendar with an emphasis on spiritual renewal. A Virginia writer contributed the idea of marking a Snake Day as a time for early spring walks.
ANCIENT TRADITIONS / EVOLVING CUSTOMS: The Irish imbolc translates from the Old Irish i mbolg, or “in the belly”—indicating the early spring pregnancy of ewes. In ancient Ireland, Imbolc celebrated the lactation of ewes who would soon give birth to spring lambs. In the home, many begin cleaning out “the old” to make room for “the new,” thus indicating the renewal of spring. Dairy foods are traditionally enjoyed, along with poppyseed cakes and muffins, complemented by herbal teas. (Learn more at Wicca.com.) In Wicca, Imbolc is regarded as a women’s festival in honor of Brighid.
IMBOLC STONE CIRCLES AND MONUMENTS—IN DANGER?
Newgrange UNESCO World Heritage may recognize the significance of Imbolc to the Irish Neolithic period, but some sites are in danger—such as the Sighthill Stone Circle in Glasgow, Scotland. Though built only 34 years ago, the Stone Circle was the first of its kind to have been erected in more than 3,000 years; groups such as The Friends of the Sighthill Stone Circle visit the site frequently for events such as Imbolc. (Read an article in the Evening Times.) The site is currently in danger, however, being pushed aside to make way for a path that would help the city to bid on hosting the 2018 Youth Olympic Games. To date, Friends has collected more than 2,000 signatures on a petition to save the Circle, and some have suggested renovating the Circle as opposed to leveling it.