February 2nd is the Celtic Festival of Imbolc - Celebrating The First Signs of Spring
The Celtic Wheel of the Year
Background on the Pagan Festival
Imbolc is a festival of the Celtic Wheel of the year. Some background on Imbolc from TheWhiteGoddess:
This holiday is also known as Candlemas, or Brigid's (pronounced BREED) Day. One of the 4 Celtic "Fire Festivals. Commemorates the changing of the Goddess from the Crone to the Maiden. Celebrates the first signs of Spring. Also called "Imbolc" (the old Celtic name).
This is the seasonal change where the first signs of spring and the return of the sun are noted, i.e. the first sprouting of leaves, the sprouting of the Crocus flowers etc. In other words, it is the festival commemorating the successful passing of winter and the beginning of the agricultural year. This Festival also marks the transition point of the threefold Goddess energies from those of Crone to Maiden.
Here's more on the The Wheel of the Year from TheWhiteGoddess:
The Four Seasons are known as Solar Festivals, in that they mark a seasonal change caused by the Sun. The cross quarter days are marked by Fire Festivals and are usually celebrated as significant agricultural festivals. Together the Solar Festivals and the Fire Festivals make up the Wheel Of The Year. The Wheel Of The Year, is often broken into eight festivals, whether they are the eight Asatru Blots, Seasonal Festivals or Celtic Sabbats, and the observance of Solar energies at the solstices and equinoxes and the Fire energies on the cross quarter days, is a common theme throughout the world.
The Festivals of the Wheel Of The Year also represent the active and dormant states of nature, man and agriculture. Each of the festival days was ruled by a governing deity, whether a God or Goddess, with each region having its own associated deity. From planting to reaping to winter to summer... the seasons were of great importance to our ancestors, for their very existence depended upon good harvests, mild winters, enough rainfall.
Imbolc Celebration Rituals
There's many ways you can celebrate Imbolc. Here a few from around the web.
One of the oldest traditions is the Bridego. From ADF.org:
Making the Brideog
If possible (and applicable) this work should be done by the man of the household or a group of men in your grove. Long pieces of straw or rushes should be gathered and 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 and pretty stones. An especially pretty shell should be placed over her heart. For the greatest magical effect, the doll can be built around the handle of an old butter chum dasher. When finished, she should be consecrated with a few sprinkles of sacred water while invocations to Brigit are spoken. The resulting effigy is called a Brideog (BREE-JOG), or "little Brid" and is an important component of the traditional Imbolc celebration.
Making a Brigid's Cross is also a long standing tradition. You hang these over doors or windows to welcome the Goddess into your home. Amethyst Trevelen gives details on how to make one here.
From Trcia Edgar on Suite101:
Imbolc is a Time to Look Forward to Spring and New Growth
Go on a walk in the forest to search for signs of spring. Buds are tightly shut, ready to open in a few weeks. Perhaps some bulbs like snowdrops already peek through the soil. Listen for bird songs and learn the songs of the birds that live in your area. Birds have special songs for mating and springtime.
Plan for Spring Planting and Summer Harvest
If you have a garden, this is the time to order seeds and start some of the earliest crops. Go outside and get a sense of the light, the wind, and the moisture patterns of the garden. If there is no garden nearby, think about ways to reconnect with the cycles of planting and harvest and feed yourself more locally this year..”
GypsyMagicSpells tells us about The Plough:
Another traditional symbol of Imbolc is the plough. In some areas, this is the first day of ploughing in preparation of the first planting of crops. A decorated plough is dragged from door to door, with costumed children following asking for food, drinks, or money. Should they be refused, the household is paid back by having its front garden ploughed up. In other areas, the plough is decorated and then Whiskey, the "water of life" is poured over it. Pieces of cheese and bread are left by the plough and in the newly turned furrows as offerings to the nature spirits. It is considered taboo to cut or pick plants during this time.
And finally, here's a video that outlines many of these traditions and has some great imagery showing some of the symbols that the tradition is grounded in.
Image of the Wheel of the Year from Wiki Commons
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