The pagan festival of Imbolc is essentially a festival of new starts and will be celebrated on Friday 31st January. Our reader Deborah B tells you about its fascinating pagan history and shows you how to get the most out of it today.
Imbolc means 'in the belly'. And soon, deep within the belly of the earth, life will be stirring. Snow and ice will melt away and the first brave snowdrops and crocuses will bring a message of promise - inspiring everyone to make a new start.
It is traditional to light white candles. This is in remembrance of the sacred flame, kept burning in honor of the Celtic goddess Bride (pronounced Breed).
Bride is patroness of all forms of creativity, poetry and childbirth and there are several animals that are sacred to her, notably the snake, wolf, cow and bird of prey.
As with all of the seasonal festivals, fertility is a constant theme. In some parts of the country a 'Bride Doll', (often a Corn Dolly from last year's harvest) was put to 'bed' by the hearth with a phallic club beside her and candles burning all night.
This was a way of inviting the Goddess into people's lives and ensuring good crops and healthy babies.
There are other customs also associated with the Bride Doll. For instance in some communities women gather to take it in turns to hold the Bride Doll. They then share experiences of motherhood to give each other support.
Of course you don't have to be a Pagan to celebrate Imbolc and give yourself a new start. Try my top tips now
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