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Imbolc - What is it?
Like all things Celt, there are several different explanations for the purpose of the festival. There are also alternative names: Imbolg, Candlemas, St Bride's Day, Brighid's Day or Saint Brighid's Day, Festival of Light, etc. Some say it is to celebrate the coming of longer days and specifically when ewes come into milk just prior to lambing. Well, if you know your biology, you will know that a sheep gives birth on average 147 days after mating. This is independent of the time of year. So the only way you could get your sheep to lamb in mid February would be to run them with a ram 147 days before. This would be around 21st September - which just happens to be Mabon or the Autumn Equinox. Still there are early and late births, so its not guaranteed to succeed.

The Blackthorn (Sloe) is said to bloom at Imbolc. The trouble with these sort of indicators of spring is that they show at different times depending where you live. It's quite possible that Blackthorns do blossom at the end of January in the south of England, but less so the further north you are.

Annual Imbolc festival Marsden, West Yorkshire.

From Wikipedia: "The holiday was, and for many still is, a festival of the hearth and home, and a celebration of the lengthening days and the early signs of spring. Celebrations often involved hearthfires, special foods (butter, milk, and bannocks, for example), divination or watching for omens, candles or a bonfire if the weather permitted. Fire and purification were an important part of the festival. The lighting of candles and fires represented the return of warmth and the increasing power of the Sun over the coming months."

One thing is definite, by the end of January, early February the length of daylight hours can be seen to be increasing. At the beginning of February the days are lengthening by over 3 minutes and nearly 4 by the end of the month. In recent years the festival has been revived. The picture above is from the Marsden Imbolc festival that is based around a torchlight procession and attended by upwards of 2000 people - looks like fun!

The Year of the Celt: Imbolc - Published August 2012
The first book in the series, Year of the Celt: Imbolc relates the lives of the Scevinge* in ancient Wharfedale through the first quarter of a momentous year. The story begins a few days after Samhain* as the weather turns, heralding yet another harsh winter. The Scevinge, of the Brigantes*, live on a crannog* built on the marshy ground by the river Warfe. They will soon be cut off from the world as the temperature plummets and snow buries the tracks.

Already there are rumours of Ice sheets covering the northern lands of the Caledones* and beyond. The rapidly changing climate is threatening the very existence of all of northern Britain. Only through co-operation and adjusting their lives to the new reality will they have a chance of surviving. But before you can work with someone, first you have to trust them.
Young Rab goes out hunting as he feels its his responsibility to bring home the food since his father left on a quest to discover the truth about the coming ice. On his way back from his first hunt he has two encounters that will change his and the lives of all the villagers forever.

*Samhain - (November 1st) the start of the Celtic New Year
*Scevinge - tribe and village (modern day Otley in Wharfedale)
*Brigantes - major Celtic tribe straddling the Pennines.
*Caledones - Celtic tribe occupying the Great Glen, Scotland.
*Crannog - a village built on a raised platform

I would like to acknowledge the help received from these kind (and talented) people:
For the stunning cover picture: For encouragement and useful
background info (various members):
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