Fae Friday: Winter Sun and Imbolc


'Allegory of Winter', manner of Giuseppe Arcimboldo

By Manner of Giuseppe Arcimboldo (Sotheby’s) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

How soon can we shed these winter blues? Pack away our overcoats and not worry about the specter of busted water pipes? On Groundhog Day we call upon Punxsutawney Phil, the famous weather-predicting groundhog to make his move. Yesterday he saw his shadow, which foretells six more bleak weeks of winter.

Mother Nature speaks in mysterious ways. For thousands of years people have observed natural signs to better prepare for what lies ahead. Winter is a hardship on many, but imagine long ago times when folks lived without modern transport and technology. Then, people were much more winter bound than today. In addition, they had to rely on a bountiful harvest for a store of food to carry them through the harsh, barren season with a weak sun. The promise of spring with the return of light, warmth, and fertile ground must have created anticipation and longing.

On the February 1st pagan holiday of Imbolc, the ancient Celts in Ireland observed serpents or badgers to see if they emerged from their winter dens. Imbolc, which means “ewe’s milk,” was the day that the Cailleach or divine crone gathered her firewood for the rest of winter. If she wanted winter to last longer, she would make the day sunny in order to gather a plentiful amount of firewood. Folks, therefore, breathed a sigh of relief if the weather turned out to be dank and dreary on Imbolc because it meant the Cailleach was sleeping and winter almost over. The youthful, maidenly form of the Cailleach was the beloved Celtic goddess Brede, also known as Bride, Brighid, and Bridgit. She tended the hearth fires, and her nurturing power was the key to opening the seed of the world to spring and all the fertility and bounty to come.


Stained glass window, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, Macon GA, Public Domain via Wikimedia.

Scholars say that Brede morphed into St. Bridgid and the Christian feast of Candlemas superseded Imbolc. St. Bridgid is known as a highly revered early Irish Christian nun, as well as an abbess and founder of the famous nunnery of Kildare in Ireland. Candlemas, which occurs forty days after Christmas, honored the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple and traditionally involved the priestly blessing of candles for use throughout the year. From the hearth and firewood of the ancient Celtic Brede to the blessing of candles on Candlemas and the national fixation with Punxsutawney Phil, for millennia people have honored the return of the sun’s light and the inseminating warmth of spring. It’s our natural cycle.

I hope you enjoyed our words about the winter sun and Imbolc. What are you doing to make your wintertime more enjoyable?

Cheers & Happy Reading!
Flossie Benton Rogers, Conjuring the Magic in Romance

6 thoughts on “Fae Friday: Winter Sun and Imbolc

  1. carmens007

    We here, in Romania, have something similar. Except the fact that 2nd February is a holy Christian day, the folk tradition says that if the bear comes out of his den and sees his shadows he gets scared and runs back, inside. This means the winter will go on for several weeks.
    It’s also the beginning of the agricultural/orchard year. Fruit trees that gave no fruits the previous year are threatened with the axe. The tradition says that the tree is scared and will bear fruit.

    1. Flossie Benton Rogers Post author

      It is wonderful to me that the world over has these “return of the sun” rituals. I love that stuff so much!Thanks for sharing yours, Carmen. I find it interesting that the fruit trees are threatened. Wow. That is so different from the usual way they are sacrificed to.


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