Imbolc Traditions and Customs

Ever wonder why we celebrate Imbolc the way we do? From the ancient Roman festival of Februalia to the legend of St. Valentine, this time of year is rich in custom and tradition. Learn about some of the folklore and history behind today's Imbolc celebrations.

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The Imbolc season is associated with a number of deities, including Venus. (Birth of Venus, by Sandro Botticelli). Image by G. Nimatallah/De Agostini Picture Library/Getty Images

Although traditionally Imbolc is associated with Brighid, the Irish goddess of hearth and home, there are a number of other deities who are represented at this time of year. Thanks to Valentine's Day, many gods and goddesses of love and fertility are honored at this time. More »

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The Jarl Squad marches through the streets of Lerwick every year. Image by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Scotland's Shetland Islands have a rich Viking heritage, and in fact were a part of Norway for some five centuries. As such, the people who live there have a culture that is a unique blend of Scandinavian and Scottish. Although it's a fairly modern celebration, Up Helly Aa is the Shetland Islands' way of paying tribute to the Viking ancestry of the area. More »

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Brighid is the Celtic goddess of hearth and home. Image by Paula Connelly/Vetta/Getty Images

Brighid was a Celtic hearth goddess who is still celebrated today in many parts of Europe and the British Isles. She is honored primarily at Imbolc in a number of modern Pagan traditions. She is a goddess who represents the homefires and domesticity of family life. Be sure to read our collection of articles related to this powerful triune goddess. More »

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Valentine's Day may be rooted in the Roman festival of Lupercalia, which included a lottery to pair up single men and women. Image by Lelia Valduga/Moment/Getty Images

February is a great time of year to be in the greeting-card or chocolate-heart industry. This month has long been associated with love and romance, going back to the days of early Rome. More »

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The Pagan Origins of Groundhog Day

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Punxsutawney Phil makes an annual appearance to predict the weather. Image by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images News

Groundhog Day falls every year on February 2, which is also Imbolc, or Candlemas. Despite the seemingly modern aspects of this tradition -- in which a plump, confused-looking rodent is hoisted up in front of a throng of newscasters at the crack of dawn -- there's actually a long and interesting history behind the occasion.

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The Lupercalia celebrates the founding of Rome by twin brothers raised by a wolf. Image by Lucas Schifres/Getty Images News

February was considered the final month of the Roman year, and on the 15th, citizens celebrated the festival of Lupercalia. Eventually, Lupercalia became a multi-purpose event: it celebrated the fertility of not only the livestock but people as well. More »

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The Festival of Sementivae

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Sementivae celebrates the planting of grain in the earth. Image by Inga Spence/Photolibrary/Getty Images

January 24 is the festival of Sementivae, which is a planting festival that honors Ceres and Tellus. Ceres, of course, is the Roman grain goddess, and Tellus is the earth itself. 

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Februalia became associated with the worship of the hearth goddess, Vesta. Image by Giorgio Cosulich/Getty News Images

Februus, for whom the month of February is named, was a god associated with both death and purification. In some writings, Februus is considered the same god as Faun, because their holidays were celebrated so closely together. The festival known as Februalia was held near the end of the Roman calendar year, and was a month-long period of sacrifice and atonement, involving offerings to the gods, prayer, and sacrifices. More »

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The Romans honored their dead at the Parentalia. Image by Muammer Mujdat Uzel/E+/Getty Images

The Parentalia festival was celebrated each year for a week, beginning on February 13. Originating in Etruscan practice, the celebration included private rituals held in the home to honor the ancestors, followed by a public festival. The Parentalia was, unlike many other Roman celebrations, often a time of quiet, personal reflection rather than boisterous merrymaking. 

 

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