Friday, 1 February 2008

Imbolc: Celebrating the start of spring

February 2 is Imbolc - the festival celebrating the start of spring, half way between mid winter and the spring equinox.

In 2008 it falls on a Saturday, which is great news for pagans with jobs as it means we have more time to do something to celebrate. Wouldn't it be great if the main pagan festivals were national holidays?

Brigit is the Celtic goddess associated with Imbolc. Her shrine at Kildare, in Ireland, had a perpetual flame and a sacred well that were tended by priestesses. In Christian times this became a nunnery and the goddess became Christianised as Saint Brigid.

Traditionally, people would take part in well dressing ceremonies at the start of spring. This involved decorating holy wells with a few petals from early flowers and tying clooties - strips of cloth - to the branches of trees close to the water. Brigit is the goddess of healing, poetry and smithcraft, so it would be appropriate to ask for help with an ailment, a creative endeavour or a work project for the coming year.

As Brigit is associated with both fire and water, a lovely and easy way of celebrating Imbolc would be to do some candle magic, perhaps using a floating candle. I wrote about how to do candle magic on November 13 last year. To see it, click on this link: www.badwitch.co.uk/2007/11/candle-magic.html

Another suitable thing to do would be to buy a bird bath and place it in your garden under a tree. You could then write a wish on a strip of cloth and tie it to the tree as a clootie. The rain should soon fill the bird bath and encourage wildlife to your garden later in the year if we get a dry summer.

Here are some links to other Imbolc rituals:
www.seventrees.co.uk/Imbolc%20Dedication.htm
www.paganpath.co.uk/spells_rituals3a.htm
www.btinternet.com/~boadacia/imbolc.htm

5 comments:

Bibliogirl said...

"clootie"? (she said, ignorantly)

badwitch said...

A clootie is a folk name for a strip of cloth. It does sound a bit rude though, doesn't it :)

badwitch said...

Bibliogirl got me curious as to the dictionary definition for a clootie. Wickipedia describes it as a strip of cloth: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clootie

However, the free dictionary says it is a word for the devil! - http://www.thefreedictionary.com/clootie

I certainly wasn't suggesting you should try to tie the devil to a tree :)

Bibliogirl said...

I was wondering if it was something related to cloth, as in the "Ne'er cast a clout 'til May is out" saying.

At some point I'll go and drag out the Very Complete Indeed OED which sits downstairs and see what it reckons...

badwitch said...

Thanks very much. I'd be interested to find out what it really means!