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The fox dance at a British pagan Imbolc festival marks the depths of winter
Early 20th century "Festival Candle" postcard by Sulamith Wulfing, depicting the earliest flowers of Spring tied to a white candle with a red ribbon

Imbolc, also known as Candlemas, Oimelc, Brigit, Brigid's Day, Bride's Day, Brigantia, and Gŵyl y Canhwyllau is a seasonal Pagan and Neo-Pagan festival which is celebrated as one of the eight holidays on the Wheel of the Year.

In the Northern Hemisphere it is held on February 1 - 2 (or, alternatively between February 2 and February 7), when the Sun is at 15° Aquarius.

In the Southern Hemisphere it is held on August 1 - 2 (or, alternatively between August 3 and August 10) when the Sun is at 15° Leo.

Imbolc is one of the four cross-quarter fire festivals of Celtic Britain; it marks the first stirrings of life within nature at the depths of Winter. The first flowers to blossom are the snowdrops, which are a symbol of this festival.

The word Imbolc is Gaelic, and means "in the belly," which in turn is a derivative of the word Oimelc, meaning "ewe's milk," as the ewes are pregnant during this time of the year. In some regions, this festival was dedicated to the goddess Bride or Brigid, and was later adopted into the Catholic feast of Saint Brigid. The Goddess Brigid is associated with healing, smithcraft, poetry and the hearth. Imbolc is also known by many as Candlemas, the festival of lights.

An old Candlemas rhyme that demonstrates its connection to the stirring of Spring is:

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter will have another fight,
If Candlemas, be wet and grey,
Winter's gone, no more shall stay

In modern American secular terms, this celebration of weather-observation has been transferred to the custom of observing Groundhog Day on February 2, when, if a groundhog emerging from its hibernation den sees its shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. Modern Neopagans and Wiccans see this time as representative the Goddess in her Maiden form.


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