Merry we meet - Merry we meet - Merry we meet
Sabbats in History and Mythology / Samhain (October 31st) / Yule (December 21st) / Imbolc (February 2nd) / Ostara (March 21st) / Beltane (April 30th) / Litha (June 21st) / Lughnasadh (August 1st) / Mabon (September 21st)
Written and compiled by George Knowles
Imbolc - Candlemas
Imbolc (Christianised as "Candlemas") was one of the four Greater Sabbats of the witch’s calendar. A cross-quarter fire festival, Imbolc falls between “Yule” - the Winter Solstice, and “Ostara” - the Spring Equinox. Celebrated in the Northern Hemisphere between the 01st and 3rd of February, in the Southern Hemisphere the equivalent Sabbat is Lammas. The main purpose of Imbolc is a celebration of the returning Sun, which daily grows stronger reducing the night. As such, the main feature of this festival is the lighting of fires and candles in sympathetic imitation of the Sun’s growing light.
Imbolc of old was traditionally a time of purification, both physically and mentally. After the enforced indoor living of the dark winter months when the home was shutdown to guard against the cold, it came as a welcome relief for many people to re-open the shutters and welcome in the growing light. While we are still in the grip of the last ravages of winter, plant life is beginning to revive shooting new buds, and farm animals, sheep in particular, are beginning to producing new lambs adding to the livestock. As the Sun grows in strength, so a new cycle of life returns to the earth.
In pagan mythology Imbolc marks the recovery of the Goddess as she sleeps on after the birth of the Sun God, and she acknowledges his growing maturity as he gains strength to become the new light of the year. After his rest and recuperation during winter’s annual hibernation, the Sun god’s light begins to purify the earth. Although he is still young he is also lusty and his growing power can be felt in the lengthening of the days. As his power grows and warms the earth so too does the early beginnings of spring appear as nature rebirths itself again.
The name Imbolc is derived from the Gaelic word “Oimelc” (which means “ewes milk”), and appropriately so for this is the lambing season a time when many of our herd animals have either given birth or their wombs are expectantly swollen. Imbolc is also known by various other names, including: Bridget’s Day (Pagan), Imbolgc Brigantia (Caledonni), Disting (Teutonic), Lupercalia (Roman – 15th Feb), Groundhog Day (America), Candlelaria (Mexican), the Snowdrop Festival, the Feast of Torches, the Feast of Lights, the Feast of Pan and Feast of the Waxing Light. However when Christianity arrived, as happened to many of the old pagan celebrations, Imbolc was re-invented and renamed “Candlemas” as a symbolic reminder of the purification of the Virgin Mary. In Scotland Inbolc is known as: Là Fhèill Brìghde, in Ireland as: Lá Fhéile Bríde, and in Wales as: Gwyl Ffraed.
Fire is the most important aspect of this celebration, for it was also a day dedicated to the pagan Goddess Bridget (also known as Brighid, Bríde, Brigit or Brìd). Bridget is a triple aspect Goddess (revered as Maiden, Mother and Crone), who as a Maiden ruled over - Poetry, Writing, Inspiration and Music, as a Mother over - Healing, Midwifery and Herbalism, and as a Crone over - Fire and the working arts of the Smithy. Again here Christianity intervened, but instead of doing away with her as a pagan Goddess, they canonized her as “St. Bridget” the patron Saint of Ireland who founded a church and monastery at Kildare. It was here according to legend that the Priestesses of the Goddess constantly tended a sacred flame in her honour.
thoughts, all passions, all delights
this mortal frame
All are but
ministers of Love
And feed his
In Western Europe, Imbolc was time to start preparing the fields for the first planting, and to bless the crop seeds saved and stored from the last harvest. It was also a time to consecrate and bless all their agricultural tools ready for the planting season. The success of the new planting season was of great importance for by this time the winter stores of food were beginning to run out, so rituals were performed at Imbolc to ensure a steady supply of food until the first harvest was brought in later at Lammas (August 1st). One old tradition was to drag a decorated plough around the fields followed by the villagers dropping pieces of cheese and bread into the newly turned furrows as offerings to the nature spirits. As well as the seeds, Corn dollies saved from the last harvest would also be planted in the fields to encourage new growth.
Another old custom was to make “Bridget’s Crosses” woven from leftover wheat stalks. These would be hung in barns and over doorways in the home, and over beds to encourage the blessings of the Goddess. Similar charm crosses were also made and exchanged as symbols of protection and prosperity for the coming year. The making of “Bridget Dollies” was another old tradition fashioned from leftover wheat stalks. These were made and dressed in women’s clothing, then placed in baskets of white flowers with a wand, candle or other phallic object to encourage fertility. Placed near the front door of the home, or sometimes near the hearth, a white candle would be lit nearby and left to burn as an invitation for Bridget to visit through the night and favour them with her blessings.
A Bridget’s Cross Charm Pendant
Imbolc is all about new beginnings. On the eve of Imbolc all the home fires would have been put out, cleaned out, and re-lit symbolic of the returning light of the Sun, and in keeping with this symbolism, a broom made from the three sacred woods symbolic of the three-fold aspects of the Goddess (the handle from Ash, the brush from Birch twigs and the binding cord from Willow) would be placed by the front door to symbolize sweeping out the old and welcoming in the new. During the evening an especially large candle would have been lit while the family gathered around ready for a feast, during which plans and promises to be kept through the new season would be discussed and debated until it burned out. It was also customary at Sunset to ritually light a candle in each room of the home in honour of the Sun’s return.
After the rise of Christianity in England, the old Pagan custom of lighting candles at Imbolc was incorporated into the Roman Catholic Church and renamed Candlemas. On the eve of Candlemas, candles would be distributed among the congregation and paraded around the church in a Festival of Light. After a service to honour the purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, more candles to be used in the church during the following year would also be blessed and consecrated by the priest. The church practice of celebrating Candlemas continued in England until the 16th century, at which time during the Reformation it was discontinued being considered to closely allied with Pagan practices and magical accessories.
The use of candles in a 'Festival of Light' never died out however, for in 1951 after the repeal of the old antiquated witchcraft laws still being enforced in England, there was a resurgence of interest in old Pagan practices. This was spearheaded by Gerald B. Gardner who founded the contemporary form of Witchcraft known as the Gardnerian Tradition, and quickly followed by numerous other traditions. Common among all such traditions are the initiation rituals, many of which take place at Imbolc - it being a traditional time of new beginnings. Today one of the main features of many coven initiations is a procession of candlelight leading the initiate into the circle from which their new beginnings as a Witch takes place.
Imbolc then is a time to spring clean both your mental and physical abilities, to take stock of your life and make a fresh start. By planning ahead and planting new seeds (ideas) for the future, who knows what new opportunities will grow from them. As the Sun grows stronger in the sky, so too should you look forward with optimism; and as your seeds (ideas) mature, so may you realise your hopes and dreams.
“I feel again a
spark of that ancient flame”.
Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro) 70–19 BC -Aeneid bk. 4, l. 23
Written and compiled on the 7th January 2009 © George Knowles
Best wishes and Blessed Be
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The Wiccan Rede / Charge of the Goddess / Charge of the God / The Three-Fold Law (includes The Law of Power and The Four Powers of the Magus) / The Witches Chant / The Witches Creed / Descent of the Goddess / Drawing Down the Moon / The Great Rite Invocation / Invocation of the Horned God / The 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief / The Witches Rede of Chivalry / A Pledge to Pagan Spirituality
Traditions Part 1 - Alexandrian Wicca / Aquarian Tabernacle Church (ATC) / Ár Ndraíocht Féin (ADF) / Blue Star Wicca / British Traditional (Druidic Witchcraft) / Celtic Wicca / Ceremonial Magic / Chaos Magic / Church and School of Wicca / Circle Sanctuary / Covenant of the Goddess (COG) / Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) / Cyber Wicca / Dianic Wicca / Eclectic Wicca / Feri Wicca /
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Gods and Goddesses (Greek Mythology) / Esbats & Full Moons / Links to Personal Friends & Resources / Wicca/Witchcraft Resources / What's a spell? / Circle Casting and Sacred Space / Pentagram - Pentacle / Marks of a Witch / The Witches Power / The Witches Hat / An esoteric guide to visiting London / Satanism / Pow-wow / The Unitarian Universalist Association / Numerology: Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / A history of the Malleus Maleficarum: includes: Pope Innocent VIII / The papal Bull / The Malleus Maleficarum / An extract from the Malleus Maleficarum / The letter of approbation / Johann Nider’s Formicarius / Jacob Sprenger / Heinrich Kramer / Stefano Infessura / Montague Summers / The Waldenses / The Albigenses / The Hussites / The Native American Sun Dance / Shielding (Occult and Psychic Protection) /
Sabbats and Festivals:
The Sabbats in History and Mythology / Samhain (October 31st) / Yule (December 21st) / Imbolc (February 2nd) / Ostara (March 21st) / Beltane (April 30th) / Litha (June 21st) / Lammas/Lughnasadh (August 1st) / Mabon (September 21st)
Rituals contributed by Crone:
Animals in Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar) / Antelope / Bats / Crow / Fox / Frog and Toads / Goat / Honeybee / Kangaroo / Lion / Owl / Phoenix / Rabbits and Hares / Raven / Robin Redbreast / Sheep / Spider / Squirrel / Swans / Wild Boar / Wolf / Serpent / Pig / Stag / Horse / Mouse / Cat
In Worship of Trees - Myths, Lore and the Celtic Tree Calendar. For descriptions and correspondences of the thirteen sacred trees of Wicca/Witchcraft see the following: Birch / Rowan / Ash / Alder / Willow / Hawthorn / Oak / Holly / Hazel / Vine / Ivy / Reed / Elder
Rocks and Stones:
Stones - History, Myths and Lore
Articles contributed by Patricia Jean Martin:
Apophyllite / Amber / Amethyst / Aquamarine / Aragonite / Aventurine / Black Tourmaline / Bloodstone / Calcite / Carnelian / Celestite / Citrine / Chrysanthemum Stone / Diamond / Emerald / Fluorite / Garnet / Hematite / Herkimer Diamond / Labradorite / Lapis Lazuli / Malachite / Moonstone / Obsidian / Opal / Pyrite / Quartz (Rock Crystal) / Rose Quartz / Ruby / Selenite / Seraphinite / Silver and Gold / Smoky Quartz / Sodalite / Sunstone / Thunderegg / Tree Agate / Zebra Marble
Wisdom and Inspiration:
Articles and Stories about Witchcraft:
Murdered by Witchcraft / The Fairy Witch of Clonmel / A Battleship, U-boat, and a Witch / The Troll-Tear (A story for Children) / Goody Hawkins - The Wise Goodwife / The Story of Jack-O-Lantern / The Murder of the Hammersmith Ghost / Josephine Gray (The Infamous Black Widow) / The Two Brothers - Light and Dark
Old Masters of Academia:
(Ancient, Past and Present)
(Departed Pagan Pioneers, Founders, Elders and Others)
Abramelin the Mage / Agrippa / Aidan A Kelly / Albertus Magnus - “Albert the Great” / Aleister Crowley - “The Great Beast” / Alex Sanders - “King of the Witches” / Alison Harlow / Amber K / Anna Franklin / Anodea Judith / Anton Szandor LaVey / Arnold Crowther / Arthur Edward Waite / Austin Osman Spare / Biddy Early / Bridget Cleary - The Fairy Witch of Clonmel / Carl " Llewellyn" Weschcke / Cecil Hugh Williamson / Charles Godfrey Leland / Charles Walton / Christina Oakley Harrington / Damh the Bard - "Dave Smith" / Dion Fortune / Dolores Aschroft-Nowicki / Doreen Valiente / Dorothy Morrison / Dr. John Dee & Edward Kelly / Dr. Leo Louis Martello / Edward Fitch / Eleanor Ray Bone - “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” / Eliphas Levi / Ernest Thompson Seton / Ernest Westlake / Fiona Horne / Friedrich von Spee / Francis Barrett / Gavin and Yvonne Frost and the School and Church of Wicca / Gerald B. Gardner - The father of contemporary Witchcraft / Gwydion Pendderwen / Hans Holzer / Helen Duncan / Herman Slater - Horrible Herman / Isaac Bonewits / Israel Regardie / James "Cunning" Murrell - The Master of Witches / Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone / Jessie Wicker Bell - “Lady Sheba” / Johannes Junius - "The Burgomaster of Bamberg" / John Belham-Payne / John George Hohman - "Pow-wow" / John Gerard / John Gordon Hargrave and the Kibbo Kith Kindred / John Michael Greer / John Score / Joseph John Campbell / Karl von Eckartshausen / Laurie Cabot - "the Official Witch of Salem" / Lewis Spence / Margaret Alice Murray / Margot Adler / Marie Laveau - " the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" / Marion Weinstein / Matthew Hopkins - “The Witch-Finder General” / Max Ehrmann and the "Desiderata" / Monique Wilson / Montague Summers / Nicholas Culpeper / Nicholas Remy / M. R. Sellars / Mrs. Maud Grieve - "A Modern Herbal" / Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and Morning Glory / Old Dorothy Clutterbuck / Old George Pickingill / Paddy Slade / Pamela Colman-Smith / Paracelsus / Patricia Crowther / Patricia Monaghan / Patricia “Trish” Telesco / Philip Heselton / Raymond Buckland / Reginald Scot / Robert Cochrane / Robert ‘von Ranke’ Graves and the "The White Goddess" / Rosaleen Norton - “The Witch of Kings Cross” / Ross Nichols and the " Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids" (OBOD) / Rudolf Steiner / Sabrina Underwood - "The Ink Witch" / Scott Cunningham / Selena Fox - founder of "Circle Sanctuary" / Silver Ravenwolf / Sir Francis Dashwood / Sir James George Frazer and the " The Golden Bough" / S.L. MacGregor Mathers and the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” / Starhawk / Stewart Farrar / Sybil Leek / Ted Andrews / The Mather Family - (includes: Richard Mather, Increase Mather and Cotton Mather ) / Thomas Ady / T. Thorn Coyle / Vera Chapman / Victor & Cora Anderson and the " Feri Tradition" / Vivianne Crowley / Walter Brown Gibson / William Butler Yeats / Zsuzsanna Budapest /
Many of the above biographies are briefs and far from complete. If you know about any of these individuals and can help with additional information, please contact me privately at my email address below. Many thanks for reading :-)
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