Imbolg – A Cross Quarter Day
February 2, 2014
In Pagan times the Sabbats (from the Greek ‘sabatu’ meaning ‘to rest’.) were festivals honoring the growth cycle of crops – planting, tending, harvesting and allowing the land to rest. They celebrated the path of the Sun from high in the sky and warm to low in the sky and cool – the seasons. Many Pagans saw time as one eternal whole. The god is born of the eternal goddess, dies, and is reborn. A life well lived was lived in harmony and rhythm with these cycles.
It is thought the Sabbats have been celebrated in many places and in various forms for at least 12,000 years. Some estimate much, much longer. In modern times there are still those who follow the old Pagan ways.
With the advent of Christianity and the brutal persecution of any non-Christians, the pagans went into hiding which preserved the old ways. Even many Christian holy-days are based on these ancient pagan rites.
Imbolg is a cross quarter day. It is also known as Candlemas or Brigid’s Day and is one of four Celtic Fire Festivals. Winter for our pagan ancestors was a harsh season, one during which many died of disease and malnutrition. This celebration was designed to lure back the Sun and speed up the coming signs of Spring.
In Ireland this was a holy day for honoring the Great Mother Goddess, Brigid, in her guise as the waiting bride of the youthful Sun God who was now returning to her. Her festival was so important even the church was pressured into naming a holiday after her – St. Bridget’s Day – even though in reality they are honoring the Goddess.
The return of the Sun and the very early, first signs of Spring are celebrated. Look around for the first sprouting of leaves or the Crocus flowers. Winter has passed and signs of new life are appearing. The agricultural year which brings nourishment will return soon at Ostara, the Spring Equinox in March.
This Sabbat was once celebrated with fire – torches, bonfires, fire in every form. Maidens wore a crown of lighted candles. Fire here represents our own illumination and inspiration. This is a festival of light and fertility.
This festival also marks the transition point of the threefold Goddess energies from those of Crone to Maiden – and the wheel turns.