Imbolc (or Imolg) is a festival of returning light and the beginning of Spring, celebrated on or around 1st February. It is also known as Candlemas.
This festival celebrates the goddess Brighid and at this time folk sought her blessings on homes and livestock. It is a festival of the hearth and home, and a celebration of the lengthening days and the early signs of spring. The lighting of candles and fires represents the return of warmth and the increasing power of the Sun over the coming months.
Imbolc was also believed to be when the Cailleach — the divine hag of Gaelic tradition — gathers her firewood for the rest of the Winter. Legend has it that if she wishes to make the Winter last a good while longer, she will make sure the weather on Imbolc is bright and sunny, so she can gather plenty of firewood. Therefore, people would be relieved if Imbolc was a day of foul weather, as it meant the Cailleach is asleep and Winter was almost over.
Featured image by Martin McCarthy for Beltane Fire Society.