We’re Halfway There: Imbolc Bridgid Day

 Imbolc Bridgid Day

Picture by Emily Balivet

It’s no coincidence that Groundhog Day is Feb 2.  That is the halfway point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox.   It’s significant because it usurps the historically more important day of Bridgid’s Day or Imbolc Bridgid Day, celebrated for centuries on February 1.  Like many traditions associated with female-centered histories and cultures, it’s particularly insulting to have those stories lost, but especially one as meaningful a figure as Bridgid, upstaged by such a creature as a groundhog, no less!

Bridgid was the ancient Celtic goddess who in later times became revered as a Christian saint when the early Catholic Church couldn’t completely wipe out the pagan influence of its people in Ireland, Scotland and England. Originally, Bridgid’s festival on February 1 was known as Imbolc or Oimelc, two names which refer to the lactation of the ewes, the flow of milk that heralds the return of the life-giving forces of Spring.   Later, the Catholic Church replaced this festival with Candlemas Day on February 2, which is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and features candlelight processions.  The powerful figure of Bridgid the Light-Bringer overlights both pagan and Christian celebrations, though. Bridgid is the keeper of the sacred flame, the guardian of home and hearth.  The hearth, to the ancients, was not only the source of warmth and cooking but also symbolized the power of the sun brought down to human level as the miraculous power of fire, and thus life. Every morning the fire was kindled with invocations to St. Bridgid, the “radiant flame” herself.

We moderns can honor Bridgid in a way that will give us the opportunity to mark the passing of this midpoint on the seasonal calendar, also known as a “cross quarter”,  in these simple ways:

  • Purification and cleaning are a wonderful ways to get ready for the coming of Spring; perhaps going on a day-long juice fast or re-organizing closets or drawers that are seriously out of control.
  • As fire is Bridgid’s most powerful symbol, perhaps writing on paper things in your life that you’d like to change or let go of,  then ceremoniously burning over a beautiful candle, would be another.
  • In addition to fire, Bridgid is a goddess connected to inspiration and creativity.   Meditate upon what you can activate in health and strength this year:   for yourself, your family, your community, the Earth, and ask for Bridgid’s blessing upon your prayers.