It has been suggested that it was originally a pagan festival associated with the goddess Brigid, who was later Christianised as St. Brigid.
In the 20th century, Imbolc was resurrected as a religious festival in Neopaganism, specifically in Wicca, Neo-druidry and Celtic reconstructionism.
I felt this blog so enlightening that I loved to share it with you...
Originally posted by Jo Lynne Valerie for her Para Goddess site. All rights reserved by the author.
The lore and traditions are many and varied surrounding this ancient, sacred festival. My own celebration of Imbolc consists of personal traditions I've developed over the years, inspired by ancestral practices, informed by my own Intuition. Keeping the day is to literally celebrate the PROMISE of spring. It's not yet here... but it's coming. And now, during the deepest, darkest leg of winter, when so many of us may be feeling restless or just plain worn out, we need that confirmation more than ever.
The word Imbolc comes from a Gaelic term literally translated to mean "first milk". Now is when sheep and other farm animals begin to lactate; so even though we're in the deepest leg of winter, spring *IS* actually on the way - as indicated by the lactation, which means springtime baby animals are soon to arrive.
This was a powerful sign for our ancestors, folks who lived a life quite different from our own. Imbolc was a harbinger that the hardship of life would ease up. Without grocery stores or malls to rely on, our ancestors had it rough (we think we do... but consider my next words...) By the time February came around, food and wood supplies may have gotten low, or they may have run out completely. Livestock, the elderly and very young children often died this time of year as a result of not enough sustenance, or the cold. These are sobering thoughts. And sobering reminders of how very blessed we are.
While we no longer suffer those particular kinds of hardships, we do face our own challenges in these times, don' we? The deepest leg of the winter brings with it the annual and utterly unavoidable Dark Night of The Soul. Who can escape it? Have you ever tried? Futile. The experience is part and parcel of our soul's evolution, a required passage on the journey we're required to make through the seasons each year.
We're meant to look closely at who we are... and who we want to be. We're meant to look with clear eyes at where we are in life, how far we've come, and where we've fallen short... Where do we want to be? What has worked... and what hasn't? What have we learned? What have we yet to learn? Are we willing?
During the Dark Night of The Soul, individuals are encouraged to retreat into the dark cave of their own being in search of the soul-spark only they can find... that elusive soul-spark only they can see. By its' light, one can discern wisdom, insight, proper choices... Those are the gifts that prompt and fuel our rebirth, come spring. At least, that is the idea; are you game?
Imbolc is essentially one and the same with Candlemas, the mainstream celebration of candles and the "holding of the light". Now you understand the significance!
I like to do four things at Imbolc (Feb 1-2): I like to make a TREASURE MAP (called a vision board by some), ignite as many candles as I have and use these to live by day and night, sans electrical light; I like to bless the seeds I will plant on the Vernal Equinox in March (usually herb and flower seeds) and I like to make a milk-based dish for my daughter to enjoy, usually home-made rice pudding or sometimes my grandmother's bread pudding.
Time allowing, I'll post the recipes for my delicious rice and bread puddings right here on my author's blog (I'm under deadline for print, photo and book work, darlings; give me a little time...). Meanwhile... here are instructions for making a Treasure Map.
Needed: Old magazines you don't mind cutting up, scissors, poster board of any size (a piece of copy paper will do in a pinch), glue stick, imagination.
Instructions: Begin leafing through the magazines in search of images, phrases or words that *speak to you*. Look for pieces that depict who you are, who you want to be, what you love, what you want more of in your life. You can also depict goals, desires or dreams with your images, words and phrases.
Glue them onto your poster board in any manner that is pleasing to your eye. You may further decorate your Treasure Map by coloring, drawing or writing words or phrases on it (I do this with colored pencils). Place the finished Treasure Map in a prominent place; you want to be able to glance at it frequently. It is, after all, the map that can lead you to your own personal treasure... that is, if you are willing to follow the trail.
Happy Imbolc, everyone. A blessed Candlemas to you. Light a candle today... or five, or ten. Let the flames illuminate the beauty in your heart and the fierceness of your dreams. Let the light spark your soul alive... And bless yourself, my friends... for all that you are and all you will yet be.
When the tides turn and the spring winds blow, we will emerge renewed, rebirthed, together.
Love always from your ParaGoddess...
Love, love, the most important thing is love... -JoLynne