Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Imbolc is one of the eight solar holidays, festivals or sabbats of the Neopagan wheel of the year, with some origins in Irish mythology and the pre-Christian Celtic calendar. Originally it was a pagan Irish festival celebrated on 1 February, which began, according to Celtic custom the evening before. Today modern neopagans either celebrate it on the 1st or 2nd, the 2nd being more popular in America, perhaps because of a confusion with Candlemas. In the southern hemisphere it is celebrated in August. The name, in the Irish language, means "in the belly" (i mbolg), referring to the pregnancy of ewes, and is also a Celtic term for spring. Another name is Oimelc, meaning "ewe's milk"; also Brigid, referring to the Celtic goddess of smithcraft, to whom the day is sacred.
That Imbolc was an important time to the ancient inhabitants of Ireland can be seen at the Mound of the Hostages in Tara, Ireland. Here, the inner chamber is perfecty aligned with the rising sun of both Imbolc and Samhain.
The holiday is a festival of light, reflecting the lengthening of the day and the hope of spring. It is traditional to light all the lamps of the house for a few minutes on Imbolc, and rituals often involve a great deal of candles.
A few modern Pagans argue that the Christian feast of Candlemas, whose date depends upon Christmas, was a Christianization of the feast of Imbolc. However, there is no evidence that Imbolc was celebrated in pre-Christian times anywhere other than in Ireland (where the only written accounts of it appear), whereas the celebration of Candlemas began in the eastern Mediterranean.
Imbolc is often defined as a cross-quarter day midway between the winter solstice (Yule) and the spring equinox (Ostara), and the precise midpoint is half way through Aquarius (in the northern hemisphere) or Leo (in the southern hemisphere). By this definition Imbolc in the northern hemisphere coincides with Lughnasadh in the southern hemisphere.
Traces of the festival of the growing light can even be traced to modern America in the Groundhog Day custom on February 2. If the groundhog sees his shadow on this morning, it means there will be six more weeks of winter. The custom comes directly from Europe, and Scotland in particular, where an old couplet goes: If Candlemas Day is bright and clear, there'll be two winters in the year.
Imbolc is also a German acronym for "Internationale magisch Bildungsstätte für okkulte Lebenskunst und Credo" which can be found in the WWW under http://www.magieausbildung.de.
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