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Origin uncertain; common explanations include the following:
- From Old Irish i mbolg (“in the belly”), referring to pregnant ewes.
- From Old Irish imb-fholc (“to cleanse or wash oneself”), referring to a ritual cleansing.
- Perhaps from Proto-Indo-European *h₂melǵ- (“to milk; milk”), though the connection between the milking of animals and the festival is not clear. Some descendants of this root have meanings related to cleansing (for example, Persian مالیدن (mālīdan, “to rub, smear”), Sanskrit मर्जति (marjati, “to clean, wipe”)), so the root could also have the sense of purification.
- (Received Pronunciation) IPA(key): /ˈɪmbɒlk/, /ɪˈmɒlɡ/
- (General American) IPA(key): /ˈɪmbɑlk/, /ɪˈmɑlɡ/
- Hyphenation: Im‧bolc
- (Britain, Ireland) A Gaelic and Wiccan festival celebrated on 1 or 2 February which marks the beginning of spring.
- 1862 June 10, Eugene O’Curry, “Lecture XXX. [Of Music and Musical Instruments in Ancient Erinn.]”, in W. K. Sullivan, editor, On the Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish. A Series of Lectures, volume III (Lectures, Vol. II), London; Edinburgh: Williams and Norgate; Dublin: W. B. Kelly; New York, N.Y.: Scribner, Welford, & Co., published 1873, OCLC 605972674, page 217:
- [T]hat the ancient Irish, at some remote period, did divide the year into the three seasons of Samh, summer, Gamh, winter, and Imbolc, spring (omitting the Foghmhar, or autumn), is quite evident from the fact, that Cormac Mac Cuileannain and the other old glossarists, explain Samhain, or November eve, by Samh, summer, and fuin, the end; that is, the end of Samh, or summer.
- 1994, Edain McCoy, “Appendix Three: Outline for Ritual Construction”, in A Witch’s Guide to Faery Folk: How to Work with the Elemental World: […], St. Paul, Minn.: Llewellyn Publishers, published 2004 (13th printing), →ISBN, page 354:
- Invite, but never command, friendly spirits, faeries, or elementals to join you as you wish. In some traditons it is common to invite ancestors to join you, especially during the dark days from Samhain to Imbolg when it is believed that the portal between our dimensions is at its thinnest.
- 2002, Liam Lawton, “How Can I Repay the Lord”, in Song of My People, Dublin: Veritas Publications, →ISBN, page 28:
- In the Celtic world many celebrations were built around the ancient calendar of events or great feasts. The four great feasts of the year were Samhain (1st November), Imbolg (1st February), Bealtaine (1st May) and Lughnasa (1st August). Notice that each of the feasts begins each of the four seasons of the year – winter, spring, summer and autumn.
- 2007, Judy Ann Nock, “Season Three: Imbolc: First Light in the Dark of Winter”, in The Provenance Press Guide to the Wiccan Year: Spells, Rituals, Holiday Celebrations, Avon, Mass.: Provenance Press, Adams Media, Simon & Schuster, →ISBN:
- The Festival of Imbolc commences on February eve, or January 31, and usually concludes on February 2. Imbolc has three major associations: the veneration of fire and water, the quickening of new life in the womb, and the lactation of ewes. The association of Imbolc with fire comes from its place as the midpoint between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox.
- 2015, Courtney Weber, “Imbolc: Brigid the Springtime Goddess, the Mother, and the Midwife”, in Brigid: History, Mystery, and Magick of the Celtic Goddess, San Francisco, Calif.: Weiser Books, Red Wheel/Weiser, →ISBN, page 149:
- Brigid has also been described in relation to the different cycles as the Earth Mother. […] In another version of the Threshold Rites, a sheaf of wheat from the Samhain harvest was placed outside doors of homes on the eve of January 31. Some believed that the Goddess was present in the sheaf in her winter Cailleach form. Upon Imbolc, the sheaf becomes the infant Goddess Brigid once again, marking the fragile beginnings of the new agricultural cycle.
Gaelic and Wiccan festival which marks the beginning of spring
- ^ Nora [Kershaw] Chadwick (1970) The Celts, Harmondsworth, London: Penguin Books, →ISBN, page 181.
- ^ “Imbolc” in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press.
- ^ Brian Wright (2011) Brigid: Goddess, Druidess and Saint, New York, N.Y.: The History Press, →ISBN, page 83.
- ^ Eric P[ratt] Hamp (1979–1980), “Imbolc, Óimelc”, in Studia Celtica: Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies, volume 14–15, Cardiff: University of Wales Press, ISSN 0081-6353, OCLC 230708448, pages 106–113, cited in Séamas Ó Catháin (1999), “The Festival of Brigit the Holy Woman”, in Celtica: Journal of the School of Celtic Studies, volume 23, Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, ISSN 0069-1399, OCLC 923172545, archived from the original on 15 November 2017, part V, pages 242–243.