Imbolc: The Winter Cross-Quarter

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by Michael Kaluta

Ebb tide has come to me as the sea.
What the flood-tide brings, the ebb-tide takes away.
I have known the flood and I have known the ebb.
The sun does not touch me. In me I feel the cold.
But still a seed burns there.
The time is at hand that shall renew me.

— “Lament of the Old Woman of Beare”, revised by John Halstead

Imbolc traditionally is celebrated on the eve of February 2nd. At Imbolc, the light is growing stronger following its return at the winter solstice. Some Neo-Pagans celebrate the Winter Cross-Quarter at the half-way point between the winter solstice and spring equinox, which usually falls around February 6th or 7th. Some Neo-Pagans call the day “Brigid” or “Oimelc”.

Imbolc corresponds with the Christian festival of St. Brigid and the Feast of the Purification, also called Candlemas, in the Christian tradition, both of which fall on Feb. 2. Imbolc shares symbolism with these Christian celebrations. Many Neo-Pagans today see Imbolc as celebration of the renewal of the Goddess following the birth of the New Year’s Sun god.  Some Neo-Pagans associate Imbolc with themes of purification (by water or fire). The origins of this motif may lie in the Christian story of Mary’s purification and presentation of her child at the temple forty days after his birth, in accordance with Jewish law. Imbolc also corresponds to Groundhog Day which can be seen as a vestige of an ancient weather prediction ritual.

There is no universal outline for the Wheel of the Year. Every version differs in the details of the Mythos and which events are assigned to which point on the Wheel. According to one version, at Imbolc, the Goddess suckles the Sun Child, who grows stronger, as the Dark Lord continues to decline. The Sun Child becomes the Bright Youth, who is tested and then named and armed by the Goddess. The Goddess is purified and is transformed from the Crone into the Maiden.

Return to The Neo-Pagan Wheel of the Year.

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One thought on “Imbolc: The Winter Cross-Quarter

  1. Pingback: Imbolc | A Year And A Day

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