Imbolc is the Celtic Spring season – halfway through the winter darkness and the long days of summer.
At Neolithic sites in Ireland, underground chambers have been discovered that align perfectly with the rising sun on Imbolc.
2 February is also a celebration of the goddess Brigit whose name means “bright one”(also known as Brighid or Bride); the keeper of the sacred flame and the guardian of home and hearth. To honor her and get ready for the coming of Spring, the Celts performed purification rites and organized cleaning of their dwellings (Spring cleaning anyone?). In addition to fire, she is a goddess connected to inspiration and creativity.
In some parts of the Scottish Highlands, Brigit is known as Cailleach Bheur, a woman with mystical powers and older than the land itself. She is also recognized as a warlike figure, Brigantia, from the Brigantes tribe near Yorkshire, England. The Christian version, St. Brigid, was said to be the daughter of a Pictish slave who was baptized by St. Patrick and founded a community of nuns in Kildare, Ireland.
According to the Carmina Gadelica, the Celts celebrated an early version of Groundhog Day (2 February) on Imbolc, too. However, they didn’t observe a groundhog or hedgehog as is done today. Instead they sang this poem about a serpent:
Thig an nathair as an toll
(The serpent will come from the hole)
la donn Bride
(on the brown day of Bride (Brighid)
Ged robh tri traighean dh’an
(though there may be three feet of snow)
Air leachd an lair
(On the surface of the ground.)