Pronounced ‘im’olk’ and also known as Oimelc, this is a Pagan festival which marks the beginning of spring and the birth aspect of the birth/ death cycle. It is the time of year when nature (personified as a Goddess by many pagans) starts to awake from her winter sleep. Some see it as a time of slow transition and awakening with the power of the Horned God who rules over autumn and winter slowly declining as a new power ascends.
For the Ancient Celts it was an important time, it represented the hopes of a new growing season as by this time the winter stores of food would be running low. To ensure a good crop would be harvested six months or more later, rituals were performed to harness the awakening divine energy. Like many Pagan festivals these celebrations centred around fire but fire plays a more important role in Imbolc than any other Pagan festival representing the warming of the earth, it is see as the holy day of Brigit (also known as Brigid, Bride, Brid) the Celtic goddess of fire, healing and fertility. For those Pagans who believe that human actions should mimic nature it is seen as a time for small tasks, and acts which bring hope and future reward such as candle making, planting flowers, and the telling of stories and poetry.
As with many Pagan festivals this has been adopted into the Christian Calendar being renamed as ‘Candlemas’ where candles are lit to remember the Virgin Mary.