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

February is the second calendar month in both the Gregorian calendar and in the older Julian calendar, and was added to the older Roman calendar some time in the 700’s BCE when two new months were added to the new Gregorian calendar, to match it up better with the length of the Earth’s journey round the sun. February comes from the Latin Februarius, which referred to Februa, a Roman festival of ritual purification.

Below, the Roman spa at Bath, UK.

Photo by Rachel Claire on Pexels.com

The Anglo Saxons called February Sōlmōnath, from an Old English word for wet sand or mud, sōl; while according to the northern English scholar monk and later saint Bede, it meant “the month of cakes,” when ritual offerings of savory cakes and loaves of bread would be made to ensure a good year’s harvest.

But this time of year in the British Isles with a more ancient celebration in Gaelic Britain, the fire festival Imbolc. Gaelic Britain included Ireland, Scotland, swathes of Northern England and the Isle of Man.

The festival of Imbolc spans 1-2 February and begins with St Brigid’s Day, celebrating the goddess Brigid, harbinger of the coming of spring and the first lambs, so vital to survival.

‘Imbolc’ is thought to mean ‘in the belly’ referring to the precious ewes in lamb.

Imbolc was known to the Romans, possibly through their dealings with the Brigantes, a large and powerful tribe in Northern England, and their queen, Cartimandua.

Christianity later designated it Candlemas, and goddess Brigid became St Brigid of Kildare.

“…a Christian festival held on 2 February to commemorate the purification of the Virgin Mary (after childbirth, according to Jewish law) and the presentation of Christ in the Temple. Candles were traditionally blessed at this festival.”

This links three key elements already associated with the beginning of February:

Fire *Purification *Fertility

The original Brigid was regarded as a powerful protector of women in childbirth, as well as the safe birthing of precious livestock. She was a goddess of the Tuatha Dé Danann, The Tribe of the Gods, and was actually a triple goddess of healers, poets and smiths.

Her name means “exalted one.”

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 represents the Divine Feminine, whose story was later merged with the Christian saint of the same name, St Brigid of Kildare.

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)

Brigid From The Sacred Circle Tarot

Any time now, is the time of the first lambs. 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 said to visit one’s home at Imbolc. People would make a bed for her, and leave food and drink, and leave items of clothing outside for her to bless.

Brigid was petitioned 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. It represents a wheel – the wheel of the seasons while a Christian version of the story said that St Brigid of Kildare had woven such a cross for a dying man, using rushes from the floor, and using it to baptize him at the point of death.

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 fire, just as Aries the Ram of the zodiac, though starting later, in late March, is a fire sign.

An 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

Life is an Ignition. They 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 —divine  crone of Gaelic tradition—gathered firewood for the rest of the winter. Legend said if she knew the winter was going to last a good while longer, she’d make sure the weather during Imbolc was fine and sunny, and she would use this window of good weather go out and about, gathering firewood to top up her stores.

Bad weather at Imbolc was therefore a good sign. The Cailleach wasn’t worried about running out of firewood. She was sound asleep, and the worst of winter was almost over.

2021 is a La Nina year….extremes of weather can usually be expected in a La Nina year. And if no man is an island, then no island is an island either.

‘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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