~Candlemas~ Brigit’s Festival of Flames
Candlemas (Imbolc, Imbolg and Oimelc) is a Major Sabbat that is a celebration to mark the return of the sun and the end of winter. At Yule the Goddess gave birth to the promised “Child of Light” the tiny God of the Sun. At Candlemas the Goddess nurses her Son who is growing in power and strength. We celebrate the waxing sun and the beginning of Spring. Soon the Goddess will return from the Underworld and the Earth will be reborn. Candlemas is a celebration of hope, the light returns and Spring is just around the corner.
The Celts called this holiday Brigit’s Day or Brid’s Day (pronounced Breed’s). The Imbolg was the ancient Celtic festival celebration the birth and freshening of sheep and goats and was also called Oimelc meaning ewe’s milk. This is a time of great anticipation and the celebration of possibilities. New life is about to awaken in the earth; the earth is becoming ready to receive the seeds.
February 1 is the feast day of the primary Celtic Goddess Brigit. Her legends were not written down until century’s after the time of the Christian Saint Brigid. Saint Brigid was an Irish abbess who lived in the fifth and sixth century C.E.
Many legends are told about Brigit. She is one of the Tuatha de Danaan, and some legends say that she is the daughter of the Dagda. Other legends imply that she was his consort, not his daughter. She is also said to have loved Bres the Beautiful, the ruler of the Tuatha de Danaan. Interestingly Bres is said to be half Fomorian. The Fomorians were giants that lived during the time of the Celts in and around the British Isles and they were the rulers of Ireland before the coming of the Tuatha de Danaan. Scientific evidence supports the idea that the Fomorians were actually the last remnants of the Neanderthal people. The Fomorians and the Tuatha de Danaan were at war over the possession of Ireland. Brigit and Bres became lovers and had a son called Ruadan who was part Danaan and part Fomorian. Brigit became a bridge between the two warring tribes and as her aspect of mother-goddess her main concern was the future well-being of Ireland.
Brigit is a triple Goddess of poetry, healing and crafts. As a healer she taught leech craft and herb craft. She also was a patroness of sacred springs and wells that were said to have healing properties. Offerings to the watery Brigit were cast into the well in the form of coins or, even more ancient, brass or gold rings. Other sacrifices were offered where three streams came together. Her Cauldron of Inspiration connected her watery healing aspect with her fiery poetic aspect. Brigit the poet was the Celtic equivalent of the nine Greek Muses. She was invoked by bards whose traveling entertainment preserved the spiritual wisdom, clan lines, myths, songs and stories of the Celtic people. Brigit the smith ruled the mysteries of metalworking. In ancient times people who could work metal seemed to work magick, they used fire to transform stone (ore) into metal then transformed the metal into weapons. Metalworkers were seen to have mastery over fire and matter and the secrets of their trade were not shared with the uninitiated.
Candlemas Traditions and Symbols
Brigit Corn Dolly – a very old custom involved making a “Brigit” corn dolly that can be placed in a “Bride’s bed” to bring fertility and good fortune to the home. If you made a “Corn Mother” at Lammas, you may simply re-use it. Dress the Corn Mother as a bride in colors of white, red and or gold, and your Harvest Crone transforms herself into the Brigit Spring Bride. Place the Bride in a “Brigit’s bed” along with a priapic wand to symbolize fertility. A priapic wand is a be-ribbonned fruit wood wand with a pine cone on the end which symbolizes the God.
Brigit’s Bed – to show your hospitality and to encourage the Goddess to spend the night at your home, create a “Brigit’s Bed” near the hearth fire. By inviting Brigit to stay overnight in your home you’re symbolically asking that her powers of fertility, blessing and healing be with your family all year long. A Brigit’s bed can be a pretty wooden or cardboard box, a wicker basket or anything large enough to hold your Brigit corn dolly. Be sure to decorate it with ribbons, flowers, herbs etc. and place a comfy blanket on the bottom of the bed. Don’t forget to place the priapic wand in the bed so that the Goddess will not be lonely.
Hearthfire – the hearthfire is sacred to Brigit and is her altar in every home. At Candlemas in the depth of winter the fire was more important than ever. It was not allowed to go out and in the evening the fire was smoored ( covered with ash to preserve the hot coals) by the lady of the house.
I will smoor the hearth
As Brigid the Fostermother would smoor
The Fostermother’s holy name
Be on the hearth, be on the herd
Be on the household all.
In the morning the fire was rebuilt with this prayer:
I will build the hearth
As Mary would build it.
The encompassment of Bride and of Mary
Guarding the hearth, guarding the floor,
Guarding the household all.
Brigit’s Crosses – are a form of woven straw or rushes symbolizing the Sun and used as talismans to bring fertility, prosperity and protection to the home. They would be created at Candlemas and hung on the door, near the hearth, under the eaves or in the barn to bring luck and protection.
Burning the Yule Greens– the evergreens for Yuletide decoration are gathered and burned by Candlemas. It is a symbolic way to let go of the old year and make way for the new.
Red and White – white symbolizes snow, red symbolizes the hearth fire, red and while may also symbolize the ewe’s birthing blood on the snow. White is the color of the Maiden Goddess and Red the color of the Mother Goddess. White stands for purity, red for courage.
Springs and Wells – toss coins in wells springs, fountains or any running water as an offering the the Goddess Brigit
Herbs – Angelica, basil, bay Laurel,blackberry, celandine, coltsfoot, heather, iris, myrrh, tansy, violets, and all white or yellow flowers.
Incense – Basil, myrrh, frankincense, wisteria, jasmine, camphor, cinnamon, and lotus.
Stones – Amethyst, bloodstone, garnet, onyx, ruby, turquoise
Colors – White, red, pink, yellow