Spring is almost upon us and many people are looking for it especially those in the Northern United States. I know that I can wait.
To our ancient European ancestors this was a time of purification and getting the farmstead ready for Spring. This was a time that the Celtic people called Imbolc, Oimelc or Oimealg which is Gaelic for 'ewe's milk'. This was a time when the ewes or the sheep was having their babies and their milk was flowing which to the ancients herald the return of the life giving forces of spring.
In Old Scotland, the month of Feb. fell in the middle of a period which was known as Faoilleach, the Wolf-month also known as a' marbh mhio's, the Dead month. They couldn't wait for the promise of the Sun lord to come out and warm the flesh of Mother Earth. They celebrated with many festivals of dancing, food and bonfires. The Old Woman of Winter, the Cailleach, is returning as the Bride, the Young Maiden of Spring. She would be dressed in white and then she would breath life into the mouth of the dead winter
In Ireland, the farmers started preparing the land for ploughing with the calves being born. The fishermen, preparing their boats while they wait for the winter storms to cease so that they could launch their boats.
There were/are many traditions that came with the celebration of Imbolc, many which are familiar such as the young girls would make Bride dolls out of wheat and placing in a bed decorated with white flowers and such. Then these beds would be passed from door to door, spreading her blessings upon the households.
Imbolc was also a time of blessing the seeds before placing in the furrows usually this was done by the Druids or the Celtic Shamans. Today though because of the Catholic Church stealing or putting it nicely, 'adopting', the holiday into their religion as St. Bridget's Day, a Catholic priest anoints the seeds.
Through-out many of our ancient European countries, Imbolc included lighting of candles, gathering of stones, decorating the ploughs, feasting and bonfires.
One tradition that I founds was the decoration of ploughs. A decorated plough with ribbons and flowers would be dragged from door to door while costumed children would follow asking for food, drinks or money. Sounds like Samhain, doesn't it? If they are refused then they would plough up the front yard or garden. Some villagers after the plough was decorated would pour whiskey onto to it. The whiskey was also known as the 'water of life', of course. Then pieces of cheese and bread was left beside the plough and then they were placed in the newly turned furrows as offerings to the natural spirits.
Not just our Celtic ancestors had celebrations this time of the year.
The Romans celebrated Lupercalea. It was a purification ritual in which a goat was sacrificed and a scrouge was made out of it's hide. Men dressed in thongs would then go around the villages whacking people with the hide. The people that was struck was considered lucky and fortunate. I figure there was a lot of citizens standing out in the roads and squares waiting to be whack. This celebration didn't have anything to do with any deities or temples but the celebration of the founding of Rome, by twins, Romulas and Remus. They were raised by a she-wolf in a cave known as the 'lupercale'.
In ancient Egypt, there was a celebration known as the Feast of Nut, whose birthday fell on Feb. the 2nd. Nut was considered as the mother of the sun god Ra, who at sunrise was known as Khepera and took the form of the Scarab beetle.
The celebration of Imbolc went by many names. In Caledonni it was called Imbogc Brigantia, the Teutonic version was called Disting and celebrated on Feb. the 14th and in the Strega belief is was called Lupercus.
In this post I haven't mentioned anything about Bridget, the Goddess of Imbolc which I will in another posting. I just wanted to concentrate on the celebration of Imbolc itself.