Imbolc is one of the eight
solar holidays or sabbats of Neopaganism. Originally it was a pagan Irish
festival celebrated on 1 February (and the evening before). Today modern
pagans either celebrate in on the 1st or 2nd, the 2nd being more popular in
America, perhaps because of a confusion with Candlemas. In the southern
hemisphere it is celebrated in August. The name, in the Irish language, means
"in the belly" (i mbolg), referring to the pregnancy of ewes, and is also a
Celtic term for spring. Another name is Oimelc, meaning "ewe's milk"; also
Brigid, referring to the Celtic goddess of smithcraft, to whom the day is
It celebrates the Goddess's recovery from giving birth and the God's growth as
the days begin to get longer. It is the quickening of the year. This is the
Festival of Light and Fertilization - sacred to the Irish goddess Brigit - a
traditional time for purification, initiation and self-dedication. Also
referred to as Imbolg, Imbolc, Candlemas and Brigid.
That Imbolc was an important time to the ancient inhabitants of Ireland can be
seen at the Mound of the Hostages in Tara, Ireland. Here, the inner chamber is
perfecty aligned with the rising sun of both Imbolc and Samhain.
In the modern Irish Calendar, Imbolc is variously known as the Feast of St.
Brigid (Secondary Patron of Ireland) and Lá Feabhra - the first day of Spring.
The holiday is a festival of light, reflecting the lengthening of the day and
the hope of spring. It is traditional to light all the lamps of the house for
a few minutes on Imbolc, and rituals often involve a great deal of candles.
A few modern Pagans argue that the Christian feast of Candlemas was a
christianization of the feast of Imbolc. However, there is no evidence that
Imbolc was celebrated in pre-Christian times anywhere other than in Ireland
(where the only written accounts of it appear), whereas the celebration of
Candlemas began in the Mediterranean region).
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