Imbolc is a time for blessing the seeds and to honor Brigid the Light Bringer
Imbolc, (pronounced “IM-bulk” or “EM-bowlk”), also called Oimealg, (“IM-mol’g), by the Druids, is the festival of the lactating sheep. It is derived from the Gaelic word “oimelc” which means “ewes milk”.. It is the time of Blessing of the seeds and consecration of agricultural tools. It marks the center point of the dark half of the year. It is the festival of the Maiden, for from this day to March 21st, it is her season to prepare for growth and renewal. Brigid’s snake emerges from the womb of the Earth Mother to test the weather, (the origin of Ground Hog Day), and in many places the first Crocus flowers began to spring forth from the frozen earth.
The First of February belongs to Brigid, (Brighid, Brigit, Bride,) the Celtic goddess who in later times became revered as a Christian saint. The powerful figure of Brigid the Light-Bringer over lights both pagan and Christian celebrations.
Various other names for this Greater Sabbat are Imbolgc Brigantia (Caledonni), Imbolic (Celtic), Disting (Teutonic, Feb 14th), Lupercus (Strega), St. Bridget’s Day (Christian), Candlemas, Candlelaria (Mexican), the Snowdrop Festival. The Festival of Lights, or the Feast of the Virgin. All Virgin and Maiden Goddesses are honored at this time.
Imbolc is one of the four principal festivals of the Irish calendar, celebrated among Gaelic peoples and some other Celtic cultures either at the beginning of February or at the first local signs of Spring. Most commonly it is celebrated on February 2, since this is the cross-quarter day on the solar calendar, halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox in the northern hemisphere. Originally dedicated to the goddess Brigid, in the Christian period it was adopted as St Brigid’s Day. In Scotland the festival is also known as Là Fhèill Brìghde, in Ireland as Lá Fhéile Bríde, and in Wales as Gwyl Ffraed.
Another holiday deriving from Imbolc was Candlemas Day and is celebrated on February 2 (Groundhog Day). The Catholic Church replaced Imbolc with Candlemas Day on February 2, which is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and features candlelight processions. Candlemas is the feast of Mary’s purification and is marked by a candle procession. The ties between purification rituals and the month of February also hark back to the pagan era. Indeed, our very word, “February,” which derives from Latin, unmistakably designates the month as a time for purification (februa means “expiatory offerings”). The Lupercalia, a pagan Roman purification ritual, took place in February.
We also check to see if the Ground Hog sees his shadow that tradition is compiled of traditions from many cultures.
It is believed if the Sun is shining on that day and animals see their shadows winter will last another 6 weeks. The habits of Animals have long been used to determine the weather. Imbolc is traditionally a time of weather prognostication, and the old tradition of watching to see if serpents or badgers came from their winter dens is perhaps a precursor to the North American Groundhog Day The earliest American reference to Groundhog Day can be found at the Pennsylvania Dutch Folklore Center at Franklin and Marshall College.