Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Blessed Imbloc, everyone! And for you muggles out there, Happy Groundhog Day! In honor of the holiday, I'm profiling the name of the ancient goddess it's all about.

Imbloc is a holiday that is all about new beginnings. It marks the beginning of springtime and the time when we start planting new gardens. It is also a big day for weather divination. This survives in non-Pagan cultures in the tradition of Groundhog Day. In ancient Ireland, the goddess Bridget (or Brigdid, Brigid, Bride, Brighde, or Brig) was sometimes known as Imbolc or Oimelc, which means "ewe's milk." Sheep were very important to the early Pagans, and this was the time of year when lambs were born.

Bridget (pronounced "BRI-jit") is a trinity goddess, meaning that there are three different aspects to her personality. There are a lot of different trinity goddesses from different pantheons. Bridget is the Celtic goddess of poetry, healing, wisdom, divination, blacksmithing, the hearth, druidic knowledge, warfare, the Holy Well, and the Sacred Flame. Her name means "exalted one."

Imbloc is traditionally the day that we initiate new witches, although different traditions will have different initiation requirements. After a year and a day of study, they are fully fledged members of their coven (or if they're solitary, then they're full fledged first-degree witches). The year and a day motif appears a lot in Neo-Pagan traditions.

As some of you may or may not know, Bridget is also the name of the patron Saint of Ireland. A lot of Neo-Pagans believe that Saint Bridget is not a real person and that the Christians just adopted the goddess in order to convert the Pagan population. They are both associated with an undying flame and a holy well. However, in the novel Brigid of Kildare by Heather Terrell, Bridget is a real person who is ordered by the Church to tell people that she is the goddess. I find both of these scenarios plausible. In any case, the Christians also adopted Imbloc, renaming it Candlemas.

It is due to this saintly association that this name is so...well, ordinary. Bridget peaked in the United States in the 1970s at #153, and it's now #394. It's popularity rises and crests, but it has yet to leave the charts completely. Which is why I don't think of the goddess first when I hear it. If you wish to retain more witchiness, one of the variations like Brig, Bridghe, and Bride are less familiar (although if you're naming a child, there's some issues with the last one). But Bridget is a popular saint and as a result has a popular name. Although we Witches do have one more claim to Bridget: the first woman to die in the Salem Witch Trials was Bridget Bishop.

So if you want a Wicca-lite name, and you're a Neo-Pagan but you're married to a Christian, Bridget's a great choice for you. And once you name and Imbloc baby after her, maybe you can ask her to make springtime come quicker in return.

Circle Round: Raising Children in the Goddess Tradition by Starhawk

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