In the Irish Neolithic period, the significance of the date of Imbolc has been based on the arrangement of a number of Megalithic monuments, such as the Mound of the Hostages at the Hill of Tara. At this site in County Meath the inner chamber of the passage tomb is aligned with the rising sun on the dates of Imbolc and Samhain.
Today, Imbolc is usually called Brighid's Day or Saint Brighid's Day. Brigid (also known as Brighid, Bríde, Brìd) is the Gaelic goddess of poetry, healing and smithcraft.
Brighid was said to walk the earth on Imbolc Eve. Before going to bed, each member of the household would leave an item of clothing or strip of cloth outside for Brighid to bless. The head of the household would smother the fire and rake the ashes smooth. In the morning, they would look for some kind of mark on the ashes as a sign that Brighid had passed that way. The clothes or strips of cloth are brought inside, and believed to now have powers of healing and protection.
On the following day, the girls would carry the Brideog through the village or neighborhood, from house to house, where this representation of the saint/goddess would be welcomed with great honor. Adult women — those who are married or who run a household — would stay home to welcome the Brighid procession, sometimes with an offering of coins or a snack. Since Brighid represented the light half of the year, and the power that will bring people from the dark season of winter into spring, her presence was very important at this time of year.
To read more about Imbolc or St. Bridget’s Day, look for Celtic Classic on Facebook for links to the Celtic Cultural Alliance Education Blog. Additional research and ideas for further exploration of resources in the Lehigh Valley are gathered there. For the Celtic Cultural Alliance, I’m Silagh White. Slainte