Many apologies for being several days late with this – firstly having not been able to get online for almost a week due to my internet provider having issues with a broken undersea cable! .. and then losing half of the post when trying to save! Hopefully this will be ‘3rd time lucky’! 😉
Imbolc is the one of the old Celtic sun festivals (or cross-quarter days), marking the beginning of Spring and is usually celebrated on the 1st or 2nd February; falling midway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox.
Revived in the 20th Century by the Neo-Pagan movement it is sometimes celebrated a few days later, when the sun is 15 degrees into Aquarius – this year that happened on the 4th – you can check the astronomical/astrological date on an online epheremis like this one on cafeastrology.com.
It is also known as Saint Brigid’s Day – which is most probably the Christianised festival of the Celtic Goddess Brigid or Bride.
I could go on to write a lot more about Imbolc in general here but as there is already so much info on the internet already I would much rather talk about it in relation to Ogham and also some local lore ..
According to Robert Graves’ Celtic tree calendar we are now in the time of ‘Luis’ or Rowan (21st Jan – 17th Feb) – you can read a little about the Rowan under my section on ‘The Trees’. The Old Gaelic word ‘Luis’ is thought to derive from either ‘luise ‘meaning ‘flame’ or ‘lus’ which is ‘herb’.
Looking at the ‘Word Oghams’ of the Scholar’s Primer – which is our original source for the meanings behind the Ogham letters – we have various interpretations:
From Morann Mac Mainn – a famous judge and poet …
Luis – Li sula, delight of eye, that is luis, quicken tree, l, to wit, the flame. (Also translated as the colour of vision by others)
From the famous warrior Cuchulain…
Luis – Luth Cethra I Leam, strength of cattle
From Oenghus – a god of love and poetic inspiration …
Luis – Cara ceathra, friend of cattle, elm. Cara, dear to the cattle is the elm for its bloom and for down. Hence it was put for the Ogham luis, quicken tree, l, for hence was quicken tree, l, put for it.
Connections to Imbolc and the Goddess(or Saint) Brigid can be seen in the above – flames and cattle with the celebratory heath fires, Brigid’s flame and her protection of cattle.
According to the late author and local historian Henrietta Munro of Caithness …
‘You should always have a rowan tree in the garden – preferably near the gate to keep witches away; and farmers were always told to keep a cross made of rowan branches above the byre door so that witches could not take the freit from the milk.’
Some Folklore about Plants and Flowers
Image courtesy of Theresa Knott
These crosses are known as ‘Brigid’s Crosses’ and are said to derive from the pagan ‘sunwheel’ – they are traditionally made on 1st February and are believed to protect houses from fire and evil when hung up in the kitchen or above the front door.
So there’s just a few snippets for you – for more information I would recommend the following ..
Imbolc ~ Wikipedia
Celtic Ritual – Celtic Sacred Calendar
The Brighid Oracle by Ceri Norman
Yes Spring IS finally in the air! 🙂