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- the feast of Brighid

1/2 Febuary = Northern hemisphere
1/2 August = Southern hemisphere

By Imbolc the days are noticeably longer and signs that winter is loosening its grip can be seen. The first shoots are pushing through the soil and snowdrops, the 'Maids of Febuary', are gracing gardens and woodlands. Imbolc marks the birth of the first lambs and ewes begin to lactate; hence the association of the festival with milking. In one old song, 'Ailse Ban', a milkmaid soothes the cow she is milking by assuring her that 'the Holy St Bridget' herself is milking 'the white kye (clouds) in heaven'.
The 'St Bridget' in question is a Christianized version of the Irish fire goddess Brighid, whose immense popularity could not be eradicated by Christianity. Even among pagans today, Brighid is a much-beloved goddess, and Imbolc is seen as her festival. Brighid's role as fierce protector of women, children and newborn animals is reflected in Wicca, she is midwife to the spring, the divine woman who breathes her fiery breath upon the Earth to awaken it.
Her role extends to enabling new projects- many of us plant seeds and bulbs at this time to represent areas in our lives that we wish to nurture and grow.

=Secret Rites=

Imbolc is very much a women's festival, and, traditionally, for the first part of the celebration, women practise their own rites which are never spoken of outside the circle or when men are present. The men, of course, have their own mysteries to practise while they wait to be invited into the circle as honoured guests. They bring gifts for Brighid, which are laid at the feet of a bridiog- an effigy of the goddess which is dressed and decorated by the women and placed in a basket.
Throughout the ritual, celebrants may approach the bridiog to whisper to her their secrets and wishes.
Brighid is a goddess of healing, inspiration of poets and patron of blacksmiths and metalworkers. She is the fire in the head of poets and the fire in the belly of those who act upon their ideas- a goddess of inspiration and action. As patron of metalworkers, she is the key to turning raw materials into useful and beautiful things- a goddess of transformation. At Imbolc, a time of renewal, we celebrate changes around and within us, and renew our commitment to making the world a better place.
We honour the spark of divine creativity within us and raise healing energy.

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