Imbolc

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(February 1st or 2nd)
also known as: Candlemas, Imbolg, Imbolgc brigantia, Lupercus, Disting

IMBOLC: The earliest whisperings of Springtide are heard now as the Goddess nurtures Her Young Son. As a time of the year associated with beginning growth, Imbolc is an initiatory period for many. Here we plant the "seeds" of our hopes and dreams for the coming summer months.
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Imbolc, (pronounced "IM-bulk" or "EM-bowlk"), also called Oimealg, ("IM-mol'g), by the Druids, is the festival of the lactating sheep. It is derived from the Gaelic word "oimelc" which means "ewes milk". Herd animals have either given birth to the first offspring of the year or their wombs are swollen and the milk of life is flowing into their teats and udders. It is the time of Blessing of the seeds and consecration of agricultural tools. It marks the center point of the dark half of the year. It is the festival of the Maiden, for from this day to March 21st, it is her season to prepare for growth and renewal. Brighid's snake emerges from the womb of the Earth Mother to test the weather, (the origin of Ground Hog Day), and in many places the first Crocus flowers began to spring forth from the frozen earth.

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Imbolc is an ancient festival, Celtic in origin, and considered one of the greater Wiccan sabbats.  It is celebrated on the night of February 1st in the northern hemisphere. 

The primary purpose of Imbolc is to celebrate Spring's impending replacement of Winter.  In this sense, Imbolc may be seen as a spiritual alternative to the secular celebration of New Year's Eve. 

At New Year's Eve, we often see the image of old, bearded Father Time replaced with a young baby.  Father Time represents the old, outgoing year, and the baby celebrates the year just born.  At Imbolc, we have similar imagery; an old crone represents the outgoing year, and turns things over to a young maiden. 

Fertility, of course, plays a part here.  The frozen earth is incapable of growing things, just as the old crone has grown incapable of producing offspring.  This barrenness is replaced by the warm return of Spring, making the earth once again fertile, symbolized by the fertile young maiden.

How to Celebrate Imbolc
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