Imbolc is the Cross-Quarter Day that falls at the beginning of February.  In the Old Nature Religion it was called the “Quickening of the Year.”  Like many ancient holidays it has attracted to itself a number of more recent celebrations.  It was the Goddess Bride’s day, which became St. Brigid in Celtic Christianity. It was also Christianized as “Candlemas” and secularized as “Groundhog Day.”  I believe that “Groundhog Day” contains a memory of telling the time of year by measuring shadows.  (It’s also a time when the gates open between the worlds and strange things can happen, like getting stuck in the day for a long time – long enough to learn how to be a different kind of human being.) Initially, I had no idea what this holiday was about.  When I was trying to explain the Cross-Quarter Days to a friend whose birthday was August 1, I found myself talking about it as a cycle.  Beltane, May 1, celebrates Spirit creating for itself a body, as the trees put on leaf, and the colored ribbons wind on the Maypole.  Lammas, August 1, is a festival of the first harvest.  Since it’s also in the sign of Leo, fixed fire, I saw it as part of the creative process. You start with a malleable material, like clay, or bread dough, and shape it the way you want and then you have to cook it to make it keep its shape.  Samhain (pronounced Sa-wain) is when Spirit frees itself from matter, and goes running through the streets dressed as ghosts and goblins and demanding tribute.  So if Spirit incarnates at Beltane, and fixes its form at Lammas, goes free of form at Samhain, what does it do at Imbolc?  a change in matter at Lammas, what about a change in Spirit at Imbolc?  A change in spirit would be an inspiration, a new form to give body to on the first of May.
For more information, see Ground-Candle-Bolc posted February 2011

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