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Imbolc, Groundhog Day, Candlemas

This Sunday, February 7th, we will celebrate Candlemas and Imbolc at Trinity.  Here is some background information about the history behind these celebrations that might be of interest to you.

From “Liturgies Of The Earth” by Richard E. Kuykendall-

Among the ancient Celtics, the celebration of February 1st (Candlemas) was called “Imbolc” – which literally meant, “in milk.”  This was the time when ewes, if pregnant, began to lactate.  This was a sign to this ancient people that winter was almost over and thus spring was soon to come.  For us, Groundhog Day” is another natural phenomenon which is observed in our own calendar around this time.

It is thought that at Imbolc the ancient Celtics performed rites of purification.  When the ancients could not cleanse themselves in rivers or lakes during the cold winter months, they saw the need for purification – if only in a ritual way, and thus they did so at Imbolc.

The Christian Church has celebrated Candlemas on February 2nd in memory of the completion of Mary’s time of purification after the birth of Jesus – Jewish women were considered to be ritually unclean after the birth of a child according to Leviticus 12.  Candlemas is celebrated by the lighting of candles.  In the Roman Catholic Church, the candles which will be used in church services throughout the year are also blessed on this day.

It seems as if the creation of Candlemas may have been for the purpose of recasting pre-Christian purification rituals in a Christian framework.

The Catholic Church also honors St. Brigid at this time.  According to tradition, St. Brigid was the virgin Mary’s midwife.  And there was another St. Brigid who was said to have founded a nunnery in Kildare, Ireland in the late 5th century.  Both of these saints days are observed on February 1st.  Coincidentally enough (though I doubt it is a coincidence) it turns out that the Celtic goddess was named Brigid and her feast day was also on February 1st.

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