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Traditionally it marks the beginning of spring in the Celtic calendar 31st / February 1st.

Imbolc  celebrated the fact that the days would become longer & the sun stronger over the next few months.
Imbolc festivities involved lighting fires, in part in honor of Brigid, daughter of the Daghda, the Goddess of fertility, creativity, love & fire.
She is known as the Goddess of poetry, smithcraft & healing. 
She is patroness of inspiration & midwifery. 
She has also been associated with the martial arts.

Brigid is known as the White Swan & in Glastonbury the outline of a swan in flight can be seen in the contours of the hills which make up the Isle of Avalon. 
The swan mates for life & represents loyalty, fidelity & faithfulness. Swan feathers are a powerful amulet.
Brigid’s bag of healing herbs & her bell are said to be hidden in the ground near Chalice Well in Glastonbury. 
They say at Imbolc, you can hear her bell softly ringing in the earth.

In Celtic mythology Brigid was associated with an awakening hibernating serpent which emerged from its lair at Imbolc. 
Traditionally serpents were associated with creativity & inspiration - the powerful Kundalini energy of the Eastern Mysteries. Paths of earth energy were called serpent paths & at Imbolc they are stirred from their slumber.

Imbolc means “in the belly”. This refers to the pregnant ewes who are about to birth their lambs, but can also refer to the Goddess, as in “in the belly of the Mother”, for in the womb of Mother Earth, even though it may to be apparent to us yet. 
The other name for this festival is “Oimelc” meaning “ewe’s milk” in reference to the lactating ewes. For our ancestors, the lambing season was another sign that Winter was combing to an end.
In Cornwall they honored this event by making a ritual drink from cider, mashed apples, honey & the milk of pregnant ewes.
The seeds are just beneath the surface, ready to sprout; this is a time of quickening & new growth. The promises of the return of the light & the renewal of life, which were made at the Winter Solstice, are now becoming manifest. 
Preparations for spring sowing, hiring of farm workers for the coming season, fishermen taking out their boats after staying in for the winter season, seaweed gathering on the coast to be used for fertilizer & the gathering of shellfish all begin at that this time. 

This is also a traditional time for new beginnings, a time of initiations & taking a new name.

In Western Europe, this was the time for preparing the fields for the first planting. 
Even in British Columbia, we can begin turning over & enriching the soil in anticipation of the first sowing in March.


The best known Brigid's tradition is the making & giving of Brigid's crosses. 
This tradition is based on a legend about Saint Brigid which tells us that she converted a dying Pagan. To explain the new faith to him, she improvised making a cross from rushes which was all that was available to her in the location. 
Traditionally, Brigids crosses are made on Brigid’s Eve, January 31s from fresh rushes. 
Crosses can be given to neighbors & friends as presents. 
The crosses were hung in house & barn. 
Placing a cross above the door is a welcome to visitors & to protect the home & family.
In the Highlands these crosses were also made before weddings & placed under the mattress to ensure fertility.

Imbolc was a festival of girls. 
The girls of the village would make a “Bride doll” out of straw, symbolizing the Goddess Brighid or Bride, out of the last sheaf of the previous year’s grain harvest, which they would carry from house to house. 
In this way they brought the blessings of Bride & of the fertility of the last year’s harvest, to every home. 
The girls collected cakes, bread & butter as they went.
When they were done they would put the doll into a bed of rushes by a hearth. A stick of birch called a “slachdan” was placed in the bride doll’s hands. 
Brighid or Bride was the summer face of the Winter Hag or Cailleach, She who controls the weather. The wand symbolized her magical ability to influence storms & climate.
The girls would dance & sing until dawn & in the morning the ashes of the hearth were examined to see if Bride had left her footprint. If no foot print was found, an offering had to be made at a place where 3 streams met, for luck.

On St. Brigid's Eve (Jan 31), the girls & young women gather together in one house to stay up all night with the Brideog & are later visited by all the young men of the community who must ask permission to enter the home & then treat them & the corn dolly with respect.

Adult women those who are married or who run a household stay home to welcome the Brigid procession, perhaps with an offering of coins or a snack. Since Brigid represents the light half of the year & the power that will bring people from the dark season of winter into spring, her presence is very important at this time of year.

Biddy Boys would travel the locality from house to house masked in vizards so as to be  rendered anonymous & wearing strange clothes & women’s garments,would play mouth organs, melodeons & concertinas in each of the houses they visited.
Upon entering the house the Biddy Boys would begin their music, singing & dancing & the leader of the procession, brandishing the effigy of the saint, would entreat the occupants therein to hand over a few pence in order that St. Brigid might bless & protect them in the year ahead. 
The money gathered by the Biddy Boys was thereafter used in organizing a dance in the locality.

The men folk celebrated by preparing for the first plowing; the plow & other agricultural tools were blessed with a sprinkling of whisky & fields were “sained,” or purified, by carrying a lit torch around the boundaries.

St. Brigid herself was said to travel across Ireland on the eve of her feast & items were often left outside the house overnight so as to procure her blessing. 
A dish of salt was kept outside on the eve of the 1st of February, this was then used to cure sore throats. 
Some parts of the country a ribbon or piece of fabric was left out overnight. This was known as ‘Brigid’s Mantle’ & was used to ensure fertility in women & assist them in childbirth.
A Brat Bhríde or Brighid’s mantle was placed outside on the eve of Imbolc, to receive the Goddess’s blessings. The cloak would be placed over sick people or animals throughout the year. 
A bit of butter & an oat cake or a sheaf of grain were left on the doorstep to feed Brighid’s donkey as she passed by.
To show that her visit was welcome, families would place a cake or pieces of bread & butter on the windowsill. In some parts of Ireland, the bread would be an oatmeal loaf in the shape of a cross which was specially baked for the occasion.
Fishermen in some parts of the country would put live shellfish at the four corners of their house to bring them luck when they were out fishing.
In some places any kind of work which used a wheel was not done & people would walk rather than use a bicycle.

The welcoming ritual is still part of Là Fhèile Brìd in many Irish homes today. 
The ritual begins on January 31st, when an elder male family member gathers straw from the farm & brings it to the door at midnight, covering his head before he knocks. 
The woman of the house sends someone to answer the door & says to the person entering, "Failte leat a Bhrìd" ,"Welcome Brigid". The person entering replies, "Beannacht Dè daoine tighe seo" "God bless the people of this house". 
Holy water is then sprinkled over the straw & everyone joins in helping to make the crosses. 
Once the crosses are finished, the leftover straw is buried & the family then enjoys a feast. 
On February 1st, Imbolg Eve, last year's crosses are burned & the new ones take their place.

In Scotland, on the eve of St. Brigid's Day, the women of the house dress a sheaf of oats in women's clothing & lay it in a basket called "Brigid's Bed," next to a club. 
If an impression of the club is found in the ashes of the hearth the next morning, it was said that the year would be prosperous & the crops fruitful.

A “Bride’s Girdle” was made of straw rope, nine feet long. 
The rope was tied at the ends to make a circle through which each family member would step, women sometimes pulled it over their head. Three solar crosses were tied to the rope.

One of the nicest folk customs still practiced in many countries is to place a lit candle in every window of the house, beginning at sunset on February 1st, allowing them to burn until sunrise on February 2nd. 
There is also a lot of folklore as well as superstitions involving candles.
A bright spark in the wick is sometimes said to indicate that a stranger is coming or that a letter will arrive for the person nearest to the candle. 
A wavering flame where there is no draft is a harbinger of windy weather. 
A candle that doesn't light easily foretells rain & in some areas, a bluish flame means frost.
It was considered very ill-omened to leave a candle burning in an empty room. The only exception is the Christmas candle which should be left to burn all through the night of Christmas Eve to ensure light, warmth & plenty in the coming year.
To snuff out a candle by accident is a sign of a wedding & no candle should ever be allowed to burn down to the socket of the candlestick. It should be blown out before that. Otherwise, misfortune may come to someone in the house & in certain coastal areas, a sailor or fisherman may drown at sea.
At one time it was thought to be very unlucky to light 3 candles with a single taper. This superstition has survived in the avoidance of lighting 3 cigarettes with one match. 
It was also asking for misfortune to burn 3 candles at the same time. 
It is very ill-omened to light a candle from the fire on the hearth. There are those who believe that if a person does this, they will become impoverished.

Since this is a time of new beginnings, this is a good day to ritually celebrate all things new. 
Plan a ceremony to name a new baby, officially welcome a new person into your family or home, take on a new name or make a commitment to a goal.
To celebrate new ideas & resolutions, which are taking root; seeds perhaps sesame or pumpkin, also come to the table & early spring flowers, such as snowdrops & any buds are brought into the home.

Since this is also the beginning of Spring, you can perform another ritual act of purification-spring cleaning. This is a good time to do a thorough house cleaning, sweeping the floors with salt water.
If you happen to have a fireplace, it especially should be cleaned very well.
As a part of the magical purification of the house a birch branch should be used to symbolically sweep the floors. Birch has strong associations with Brigit & has long been used for rites of purification & new beginnings.
All of this work should be completed prior to the eve of Imbolc, when a small dish of butter should be placed on a windowsill & a fresh fire kindled in the hearth or a candle lit in honor of Brigit.


Traditional foods are pancakes, cakes & all grain-based foods. 
Pancakes are considered symbols of the sun because of their round shape & golden color.
Food like cream cheese, cream & yogurt are brought to the table, acknowledging the lactation of pregnant animals. 
Honey celebrating Brigit’s protector role to beekeepers also makes an appearance.
Dandelion salad, an herb sacred to Brigid,was served on Imbolc to make a tasty & healthy early spring dish.
Blackberry & blackberry pies, jams, jellies & wines are eaten in honor of Brigid.
In Scotland a bonnach bride or bannock of Bride with hidden fruits & nuts was made at Imbolc – a large one for the whole family & a smaller one for each member of the family. 
The family would eat the cakes in the field & throw a piece over each shoulder as an offering to spirits who might harm the fields & the flocks.
In Brittany the crepe is the traditional festival dish ,their shape suggests the solar disk & a potato dish  Colcannon was served.

Herbs of Imbolc include Angelica, Basil, Celandine, Heather, Iris, Myrrh, Tansy, Violet.
Blackberries are sacred to Brigid, the leaves & berries are used to attract prosperity & healing.
Coltsfoot is a herb associated with Brigid. Moves emotional & physical stagnation & is used magically to engender love & to bring peace.
Ginger revitalizes & stimulates the fire within , helps alignment with the rise of Kundalini serpent energy.
Rowan, is the tree usually assigned to this time of year in the Celtic (Ogham) Tree Alphabet. It has long associations with the Maiden aspect of the Triple Goddess. It is also known as the 'Quickening Tree' & is associated with serpents. Traditionally it protects & wards of evil. A sprig of Rowan can be put near the door of your home, or a sprig worn for protection. Rowan berries have a tiny five-pointed star on the bottom reminiscent of the pentagram.
Willow, the fourth tree in the Celtic Tree alphabet - S Saille, is also long associated with the Maiden aspect of the Triple Goddess. Willow is the great 'shape shifter' of consciousness & emotion & symbolizes feminine energy & the lunar cycle. Its branches are flexible, expressing movement & change rather than resistance. It is a tree of enchantment & dreaming, enhancing the confidence to follow one's intuition & inspires leaps of imagination. 

Imbolc Incense:

2 parts Cedar/Sandalwood
2 parts Frankincense
1 part Pine Resin
1 part Dragons Blood
1 part Orange Peel
½ part Dried Rose Petals

WEATHER OMENS were taken; good weather at Imbolc meant winter would continue, but if a snake or hedgehog was seen to emerge from its hole that meant that winter was on the wane. 
Rain at Imbolc meant a good summer growing season was ahead.
If the day was sunny & fair, more winter weather was to come, but if a lark was heard singing, that was a sign of an early spring. 


Brigit's Crosses:

For the best results, the straw should be soaked in water for a couple of days prior to the feast.

Sprinkle it with a bit of sacred water & speak a request of Brigit for blessing & protection of the home & family members. 
Old crosses from previous years should be moved to the rafters or attic of your home & the new crosses hung in their place near the entryways to the dwelling. 
Crosses that were woven by the children should be hung on the wall over their beds & if you happen to have a barn or out-building you should hang one there as well. 
They are especially effective in protecting the household & its inhabitants from fire & lightening.

Making the Brideog:

Long pieces of straw or rushes should be gathered & fashioned into the shape of a doll. 
The image should be dressed in white doll clothing or merely wrapped in a white cloth in the manner of a dress. 
Her image should be decorated with bits of greenery, early flowers, shells & pretty stones. 
An especially pretty shell should be placed over her heart. 

Make A Bridey Doll:
Either use plain fabric or choose a piece to re cycle from a piece of clothing that has particular meaning for you. 
Fill her with wool, or herbs & dried flowers, a special stone or crystal, even a prayer or wish for the future on a tiny piece of paper. 
If you choose you can make her a dress, decorate her with ribbons & beads. 
Include her in your Imbolc Celebrations. Her home is wherever the heart/hearth of your home is. 


Bailey’s Irish Cream Truffles:

60 ml Bailey’s Irish Cream liqueur
1 tbspbutter
350 g chocolate pieces
2 egg yolks
60 ml heavy cream
dusting sugar or cocoa
Melt chocolate, Bailey’s & cream together over very low heat. 
Whisk in yolks, one at a time,mixture will thicken. 
Whisk in butter. 
Refrigerate several hours or overnight until firm. 
Make small balls with a teaspoon. 
Roll in powdered sugar or cocoa.

Spiced Wine:

1 cup water
2 cups pineapple juice
1 cup orange juice
1/4 cup honey
9 whole cloves
3 cinnamon sticks
Pinch of sea salt 
1 bottle of red wine
Add all ingredients to a crock pot & heat on high for 2 hours, stirring once or twice.
Turn crock pot to low, remove lid & wait for juice mixture to come to below 180 degrees.
Add a bottle of red wine & allow to warm up.

Chocolate & Blackberry Tray Cake:

2 bananas
2 dl sugar
1,5-2 dl blackberries
100-150 g chocolate,chopped
4-4,5 dl flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 dl melted butter
1 egg
juice of half lemon
1 lemon,grated rind
1 orange,grated rind
Mash the bananas & whisk with sugar,lemon juice & rind of lemon & orange.
Mix together the flour,baking powder,cinnamon & chopped chocolate.
Add the banana mix,egg & melted butter.
Gently mix in the blackberries & zest of lemon & orange.
Butter the 25x35cm baking tray.Line with baking paper.
Preheat the oven 200C.
Bake the cake ca 50 min,or until its ready..
Can be covered with icing:
170 g soft cheese
1 dl icing sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice

Honey Biscuits:

1 eggs
1 dl sugar
pinch of salt
75 g butter
4 dl flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp honey
0,5 tsp cinnamon
0,5 tsp allspice
pinch of grated nutmeg

demerara sugar for topping

Whisk eggs with salt & sugar.Melt the butter,mix in the honey until well combined.Add spices.Pour it gently into the whisked egg.
Mix flour with baking powder & add to the mixture.
Chill for 30 min.
Make little balls,place onto the prepared baking trays.Press them down with back of the folk.Sprinkle over some demerara sugar.
Bake in the preheated oven at 200C for 15 min.

Pear & Blackberry Crumbles:

4 pears,core & cut into ca 1 cm cubes
100 g sugar
250 g blackberries
1 lemon,juice
200 g flour
100 g butter
100 g almond flakes
100 g sugar
1 lemon,rind,grated
1 orange rind,grated
Preheat the oven 200C .
Place the pears & blackberries into the buttered small ramekins or 1 large baking dish.
Sprinkle with lemon juice & scatter sugar all over.
Bake in the oven for 15-20 min.

Rub together the flour,sugar & butter using your fingertips until resembles breadcrumbs.Mix in the almond flakes.
Spoon the crumble over the fruit.
Bake for 20-25 min for ramekins or 40 min for big dish,until nice golden on top.
Serve hot with vanilla ice cream.

This post first appeared on HERBAL PICNIC, please read the originial post: here

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