This Imbolc has been very special as it is the first one that I celebrate as a Brighidine Flametender with the Clann Bhride – Children of Brighid who I joined at the Summer Solstice in 2015.
Imbolc is the point on the Celtic Wheel of the Year where the passing of Winter is marked, even though there may still be wintry weather ahead. We celebrate Imbolc on the 1st /2nd of August in South Africa. In the Celtic calendar, the seasons are delineated by changes in light and by now the lengthening days are clearly noticeable. For our rural ancestors whose lives depended on crops and the birth of the animals, any sign of the return of spring must have been eagerly awaited.
The source of the increasing light and heat is Brighid. On Imbolc, she moves across the land, bringing the promise of renewal and the return of joy. The name Imbolc means “in the belly” and another popular name for this Celtic Fire Festival is Oilmec which means ” ewe’s milk”. The dangerous part of winter, when sheep might die, has passed. The tribe has survived another year.
My Imbolc altar: Brighid’s cross, Brighid doll in her bed, milk and rusks as offerings and candles to be blessed for flametending cills for the next 12 months.
I lit the centre candle at sunset 17:39 SAST to start my 24 hour flametending cill with Clann Bhride. Four times a year at the Celtic Fire Festivals, we all join in and light our candles at sunset rather than the individual shifts.
As part of my Imbolc ritual and my devotion to Brighid, I did the “Nineteen flames for Brighid” prayer litany from Lunaea Weatherstone’s book “Tending Brigid’s Flame” which is very appropriate in our troubled times. It is very important to remember that Brighid always holds the twentieth flame, which is eternal.
Imbolc is a powerful time to make protective and strengthening talismans. One traditional one is the brat Brhide, also called Brighid’s cloak. This is a length of cloth which is left outside overnight on on Imbolc Eve for Brighid to bless as she passes by. It can be used for healing and used each year to be blessed again. I knitted mine from hand spun wool I bought on the Isle of Iona a couple of years ago.
I had planned to crochet an altar cloth featuring a Brighid’s cross since the beginning of the year, but only finished it on the eve of Imbolc. My favourite colours representing her are greens, pinks and white. I converted a cross stitch pattern I found on http://www.pinterest.com into a fillet crochet pattern.
Sources: Clann Bhride – http://clannbhride.wordpress.com/
Lunaea Weatherstone – Tending Brigid’s Flame ISBN978-0-7387-4089-8