February and the Fires of Imbolc, the Fae and Brigid’s Day

February comes from the Latin ‘Februarius’, referring to Februa, a Roman festival of ritual purification. Below, the Roman spa at Bath, UK.

Photo by Rachel Claire on Pexels.com

February was added to the older Julian calendar in the 700’s BCE when two new months were added to create the new Gregorian calendar, matching it up more closely with the actual length of the Earth’s journey round the sun.

But the Anglo Saxons called February Sōlmōnath, from sōl n Old English word for wet sand or mud, alluding to the weather this time of year and the effects of rain and snow melt. The romantic Solway Firth between North West England and South West Scotland is actually the massive tidal ‘Mud way’, rather than the ‘Sun way.’

The northern English scholar monk , saint Bede, wrote that February was celebrated as “the month of cakes,” when ritual offerings of savory cakes and loaves of bread were made to ensure a good year’s harvest.

But is the fire festival of Imbolc and Brigid is a more ancient celebration in Gaelic Britain, including Ireland, Scotland, swathes of Northern England and the Isle of Man.

Brigid’s fire festival began as a neolithic festival marking the 1/2 way point between the winter solstice (Yule) and the spring equinox (Beltane.)

Imbolc spans 1-2 February, celebrating the arrival of Brigid, the Divine Feminine, and the harbinger of the coming of spring and the first lambs, so vital to survival of those early communities. Brigid’s name means ‘Exalted One’.

Brigid From The Sacred Circle Tarot

‘Imbolc’ is thought to mean ‘in the belly’ referring to the precious ewes in lamb Soon is the time of the first lambs although the start of the lambing season varies by up to two weeks in any given year.

Photo by Paul Seling on Pexels.com

Brigid was a powerful protector of women in childbirth, as well as the safe birthing of precious livestock. She was not only a goddess of the Tuatha Dé Danann, The Tribe of the Gods, but a triple goddess of healers, poets and smiths.

Via Wiki Riders of the Sidhe, the Tuatha de Dannan

“The Tuatha de Danaan, the people of the (mother) goddess Danu in Celtic mythology; a race inhabiting Ireland before the arrival of the Milesians (the ancestors of the modern Irish). They were said to have been skilled in magic, and the earliest reference to them relates that, after they were banished from heaven because of their knowledge, they descended on Ireland in a cloud of mist. They were thought to have disappeared into the hills when overcome by the Milesians. The Leabhar Gabhála (Book of Invasions), a fictitious history of Ireland from the earliest times, treats them as actual people, and they were so regarded by native historians up to the 17th century. In popular legend they have become associated with the numerous fairies still supposed to inhabit the Irish landscape”. From The Encylopedia Britannica

Brigid was said to visit one’s home at Imbolc. People would make a bed for her, and leave food and drink and items of clothing outside in the hope of receiving her blessings, petitioning her to protect homes and livestock.

This was a time for feasting and visits to sacred wells, and a time for ritual divination. A St Brigid’s cross is made from rushes and was placed in doorways to protect the home from harm, representing the wheel of the seasons.

By Culnacreann – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3500722

Spring is fierce in its quickening of new shoots. Spring is initiation. Spring is fire, just as Aries the Ram of the zodiac, though bot starting until later, in late March, is a fire sign.

The old Norse rune ING or INGUZ is a fire sign rune, associated with male fertility, vitality and recovery from sickness. This powerful protective rune can also be noticed incorporated into pargeting, used in half-timbered buildings in Britain and northern Europe

The people would light bonfires on the hilltops by night, and by day might run cattle through the smoke of lower lying bonfires, asking divine protection for the livestock.

Imbolc was a key moment in weather forecasting. This was the time when The Cailleach —the divine  crone of Gaelic tradition—gathered firewood for the rest of the winter. If the Cailleach knew the winter was going to last a good while longer, she’d make sure of good weather during Imbolc and would use it to gather more firewood to top up her stores. Bad weather at Imbolc was good news. The Cailleach wasn’t worried about running out of firewood. She had turned over and gone back to sleep and the worst of winter was almost over.

Via Pinterest

‘Dark sacred night’…yes, but when the dark goes on too long, we shout back at the dark, fighting back with the Promethean gift of fire.

Author: Katie-Ellen

Tarot, runes and cartomancy. Reader, consultant and writer.

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