Candlemas ~ Imbolc ~ Oímelc ~ Là Fhèill Brìghde

The Festival of Light ~ Lucinia

40th anniversary of our Dianic tradition. Photo by Bobbie Grennier. all rights reserved.
40th anniversary of our Dianic tradition. Photo by Bobbie Grennier, all rights reserved.

Imbolc – Là Fhèill Brìghde – Oímelc – Candlemas

by Bobbie Grennier

My personal favorite time of the year is Candlemas. I absolutely adore the festival of lights. The time of Lucinia, goddess of cakes and midwifery.

Lucinia (meaning light) is the Sabine goddess of Light, who was often pictured holding a plate of cakes and a lamp. She is a goddess of childbirth. She is the opener of the eyes, the midwife.

arte luciaIn Sweden, the eldest/youngest daughter rises before dawn on Candlemas and fixes a breakfast of special sun-shaped pastries and coffee for her family. She serves traditional pastries called lussekatter (Lucinia cakes), x-shaped pastries, sometimes flavored with saffron. These yellow-colored rolls have four arms that curl inward, forming a swastika, a symbol of the sun. Other traditional foods served in her honor include saffron buns, ginger biscuits and glogg, a hot spiced wine with aquavit. She carries the food to their bedrooms, dressed in a white dress belted with a red sash, and wearing a wreath of greens and four lighted candles. Sometimes the wreath is made of green rue and decorated with red ribbons.

As Dianics, we dress in white dresses belted with a red sash symbolic of the mother’s umbilical cord, and wear a wreath of greens, often made of bay laurel.

Bríd, Breed, Brigit, Brigid or Bríg (exalted one) was a goddess of pre-Christian Ireland. She appears in Irish mythology as a member of the Tuatha Dé Danann. She is associated with the spring season, fertility, healing, poetry and smithcraft. She is the reason for the return of the light. She is the goddess of the dawn. Celebrated February 1st, marking the beginning of spring and the beginning of the agricultural season.

The festival of light, the feast, is dedicated to the Mother, the Dawn Goddess. Candlemas celebrates the ritual purification. Celebrated February 2nd.

Imbolc was uts-molgo, meaning purification, and with time became ommolg, meaning milking, Oímelc. Oímelc refers to the lactation of sheep – “that is the time the sheep’s milk comes…” – but in a literal sense it is now generally accepted that the name simply means milking. The return of milk, with the start of lambing, meant the return of abundance of life in general.

candlemasBrigid is considered the patroness of poetry, smithing, medicine, arts and crafts, cattle and other livestock, sacred wells, serpents (in Scotland, meaning pagans) and the arrival of early spring.

The customs for Là Fhèill Brìghde traditionally involve women. Most of these customs’ focus is to propitiate Brìde and ensure a good milk supply for the coming year. The focus of activities involves women, rather than men, who generally had no involvement in the production of milk themselves (i.e. breastfeeding), or involvement in the milking and churning process of cow’s milk.

Of the feasts dedicated to the Mother of God, the Feast of the Protection or Intercession of Our Most Holy Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary deserves special attention. In Ukraine, it is celebrated on October 14 as a religious, national, and family holiday. Its popular name is also the “Third Most Pure One.” It was established as an expression of gratitude for the protection of Constantinople by the Mother of God.

The cult of the Mother of God as the Intercessor and Patron got firmly established among the Ukrainians: Ukrainian princes, kings, Cossacks, and hetmans chose the Mother of God as their Patron and Guardian.In Slavic mythology, Zorya (Zora, Zaria, Zarya, Zory, Zore = “Dawn”; Zorza (Polish), Zara-Zaranica (Belarusian), Zvezda, Zwezda, Danica = “Star”) are the two guardian goddesses, known as the Auroras. They guard and watch over the winged doomsday hound, Simargl, who is chained to the star Polaris in the constellation Ursa Minor, the “little bear”. If the chain ever breaks, the hound will devour the constellation and the universe will end. The Zoryas represent the Morning Star and the Evening Star.

Dawn Goddess

Eos in her chariot flying over the sea, red-figure krater from South Italy, 430–420 BC, Staatliche Antikensammlungen *Haéusōs has been reconstructed as the Proto-Indo-European goddess of the dawn. Derivatives of her found throughout various Indo-European mythologies include the Greek goddess Eos, the Roman goddess Aurōra, the Vedic goddess Uṣás, and the Lithuanian goddess Auštrine. The form Arap Ushas appears in Albanian folklore, but as a name for the Moon, not the dawn.

luciaExamples of such forms include the Anatolian Estan, Istanus, and Istara, the Greek Hestia, goddess of the hearth, the Latin Vesta, also a hearth goddess, the Armenian Astghik, a star goddess, the Baltic goddess Austija, and possibly also the Germanic Ēostre or Ostara, a goddess associated with a springtime festival who is mentioned only once by Bede in his treatise The Reckoning of Time.

Diminutives: Brita, Pirjo, Pirkko, Priita, Riitta

Other languages and cultures: Brigita (Croatian), Birgit, Birgitta, Birgitte, Berit, Birte, Birthe, Brita, Britt, Britta, Gitte (Danish), Brigitta (Dutch), Bridget, Bee, Biddy, Bridgette, Delia (English), Birita (Faroese), Brigitte (French), Birgit, Brigitta, Brigitte, Gitta (German), Brigitta (Hungarian), Birgitta (Icelandic), Breda, Bríd, Bride, Bridget, Brighid, Bedelia, Biddy, Bidelia, Bridie, Brigid (Irish), Bridget, Brighid, Brigit, Brigid (Irish Mythology), Brigida (Italian), Brigita (Latvian), Breeshey (Manx), Birgit, Birgitta, Birgitte, Berit, Brit, Brita, Britt, Britta (Norwegian), Brygida (Polish), Brígida (Portuguese), Brigita (Slovene), Brígida (Spanish), Birgit, Birgitta, Berit, Brita, Britt, Britta, Gittan (Swedish), Ffraid (Welsh), Piritta (Finnish).

imbolc-fire-displayThere is a belief among cattle ranchers that the calves born in the cold of winter are stronger and healthier. While some of us herbalists, foragers and farmers watch for the seeds sown before the end of summer to show signs of germination with the end of the coldest months.

Fire represents the growing light of the sun. Candles are lit in celebration of increasing daylight. We bless our candles for use in the year to come. Candlemas, with its similar name to Christmas, which borrows folklore from Candlemas, is also a celebration about the return of the sun/son and light to the world.

Feast for the eve of the festival, and favourite foods such as sowans, apple-cake, dumplings and buttery colcannon and naturally butter. Plus, lamb or mutton, bacon or fowl would be featured as well. A special cake called bairín-breac was made, drink and tobacco would be passed around during the evening went on. Most important in later lore was the making of some form of mashed potato, colcannon or poundies (bruítín – mashed potato, butter and onion), and it was often customary for the whole family to be involved in the mashing.

“A sheaf of corn and an oaten cake used to be placed on the doorstep on St Brigid’s Eve for the ‘wee’ folk (fairies) and also as a thanksgiving for the plenteous grain-crop and for good luck during the following year.”

~ Ó Duinn, The Rites of Brigid

The brat is a custom most commonly associated with the women and girls of the house. The cloth intended to be the brat Bríde was supposed to be unwashed. It was left outside on a bush on the eve of the festival and then brought back in before bed, after Brìde had touched it and bestowed her blessing on it. The brat would then be torn into pieces and given to each female member of the household for protection in the coming year. The brat would be used by handy-women, the midwife, during childbirth or even calving, and used for healing as well. During labour the brat would be placed on the woman’s head to help ease the pain, and for cows it would be laid on their rump.

festival of lightCandles Burning

Recipes for Imbolc – Là Fhèill Brìghde – Oímelc – Candlemas