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Imbolc/Candlemas (also Imbolg, Oimelc or St Brigidís Day) is one of the four fire festivals usually observed on the first and second days of February in the Northern Hemisphere (August 1-2 in the Southern Hemisphere) with Imbolc on the first day, followed by Candlemas on the second.

Time for Commitments and Looking Forward

Imbolc is generally a time when people dedicate themselves to a spiritual purpose for the first time (also known as Initiation) or when they strengthen or re-dedicate themselves to oaths, vows and promises made in the past, or for planning and setting goals for the coming year.  Candlemas is a day for celebrating those commitments with candles, roaring hearths or even bonfires along with a grand feast that often features dairy products.

Modern Interpretation

Imbolc has always been the time of year to make future predictions on how much longer the cold winter weather would last.  In one ancient legend, the first day of February was a special time when the "Old Hag" (representing Winter) would step out of her cave and gather firewood for fuel.  If Imbolc was a bright, warm and sunny day, it was because the Old Hag needed to gather lot's of firewood and was planning a long, cold winter.   If, however, Imbolc was a dark, dreary or stormy day, it meant that the Old Hag didn't need to gather firewood because Winter would end soon.

Today we refer to this prediction of the length of the remaining Winter as "Groundhog Day."  According to folklore, if it is cloudy when a groundhog emerges from its burrow, it will stay above ground; A sure sign that winter will soon end. If it is sunny, however, the groundhog will "see its shadow" and go back into its burrow, signifying that winter will continue for six more weeks.

What Will You Do This Year?

Pagans who celebrate Imbolc use this day to commit to improving themselves physically, emotionally and spiritually.  Physical goals usually have to do with eating better, losing weight or becoming more fit. Sometimes it involves breaking unhealthy habits or just taking better care of one's self.  Emotional goals usually center on better self-control, reduction of stress through yoga and/or meditation or perhaps even building assertiveness.  Spiritual goals are arguably  the most important because they make all the other goals possible.  Realizing that we are all powerful, co-creators of the Universe means we have an awesome responsibility to our world and those around us who may be less enlightened.  What is your spiritual purpose?  Listen carefully to your inner voice and see where it guides you.   

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