Imbolc, (pr EEmulk), is an ancient fire festival that marks the end of the dead part of the year. Originally it was celebrated at the midpoint between the Winter Solstice and the Vernal Equinox, and in other traditions on the night of the first full moon after that.
At the Mound of the Hostages on the Hill of Tara, in Ireland, the inner chamber is aligned with the rising sun at the midpoint between solstice and equinox, and so marks the dates of Imbolc and Samhain. Many other megalithic monuments in Northern Europe also have this characteristic, showing how important these dates were. They delineated the dead period of the year, which began at Samhain, when nothing grows and the shades of the dead and other supernatural beings walk freely in the world. Imbolc is the day the Goddess returns, not yet in her full glory and majesty, here a girl full of promise, one of the three forms of a triple-goddess. Continue reading “Happy Imbolc!”
Well, it’s the Fifth of November; Samhain (that’s pronounced sow-en) is very much upon us and winter, that bane of my life, is on the way. I’m already lighting the stove in the evening now, and of course fire is important in these Celtic lands. It’s the season of the Fire Festival, that ancient Pagan ritual. (Cheerfully adopted by the Christians, of course.)
Samhain was the Celtic version; it has equivalents all over the world. The Celtic year was divided in two ways, one solar and the other lunar. The Celts weren’t daft (well, not as daft as some I can think of) and they knew damn fine that lunar calendars are not consistent; a twelve-month lunar year and the solar one are different in length, since a lunar month is 29.5 days. This adds up to only 354 days in a 12-month year, which means that relying on it is hopeless as far as the seasons are concerned. And for an agrarian people like the Celts, the seasons were really important.