Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Celebrating Imbolc At Gastonbury's Sacred Springs

Imbolc, the festival for the arrival of spring, is a time of celebration in Glastonbury. Sometimes called Candlemas, Imbolc, on February 1st, is one of the four Celtic fire festivals. The others are Beltaine (May Day), Lugnnasadh, (the harvest festival) and Samhain (Hallowe’en).

As snowdrops and other early flowers start to bloom and with the days getting noticeably longer, Imbolc is sacred to Bride, or Brigit, who is honoured in ceremonies at ancient wells across England and Ireland. There are many stories about who Bride really was. In some she is a Celtic Goddess of fire, poetry, craft and healing; in others she was an early Christian nun. The stories intertwine and nowadays many Christians and pagans are happy to honour Bride together at spiritual sites such as Glastonbury.

The Somerset town of Glastonbury is renowned for its sacred springs. Most famous is the Red Spring in Chalice Well Gardens, but there is also the White Spring just across the road from that and there is also a long lost well that was specifically dedicated to Bride. It was located in a place called Bride’s Mound, on the outskirts of the town and on the edge of Wearyall Hill, just off Street Road.

Bride's Mound is very close to the site of a new Premier Inn – where I was staying when I visited Glastonbury last weekend.

Although the well itself is now covered over, every Imbolc morning crowds still gather on Bride's Mound for a procession to the White Spring for a ceremony, then cross over the road into Chalice Well Gardens for quiet meditation at the well head, finally returning to Bride’s Mound with waters from both sources for an Imbolc rite and celebration.

Candles are lit to symbolise the return of light to the land, and the return of the Goddess from her winter sleep in the Underworld.

Below is the timetable for the Imbolc Procession and Ceremony on Friday 1 February, 2013
  • 8.30am: Gather at Bride's Mound.
  • 9am: Procession to the White Spring.
  • 10am. Ceremony at the White Spring.
  • 11.20am: Door to Chalice Well opens, with free entry for the meditation.
  • Noon: Meditation at the well head
  • 1pm: Meet at the White Spring for a walk to Bride's Mound.
  • 2pm: Imbolc Ceremony on Bride's Mound organised by the Friends of Bride's Mound to celebrate Bride, Goddess of Inspiration, Craft, and Healing.
Later that evening, Glastonbury Goddess Temple is also holding an Imbolc Ceremony from 7.30pm to 9.30pm at the Goddess Hall in Benedict Street.

The photos, from the top, show the main pool at Chalice Well Gardens, an altar inside the Glastonbury Goddess Temple, the well head in Chalice Well Gardens, the entrance to the White Spring and the outside of the building containing the White Spring.

Links and previous related posts

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