Imbolg comes from the word ‘i mbolg’ which translates to ‘in the belly’. This refers to the pregnancy of ewes: as ewes are most often pregnant during the time of Imbolg.
This festival marked the beginning of spring. Which took place around the time of February 1st(St. Brighid’s Day)- which is half way between the winter solstice and the spring equinox.
Brighid’s crosses were made and a doll-like figure of Brighid, known as Brídeóg was paraded from house-to-house.
During Imbolg, Brighid visited peoples houses. To receive her blessings people made a bed for Brighid and left her food and drink. Feasts were held and holy wells were visited.
This marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. Celebrations took place from sunset on the 31st of October till sunset on November 1st, which is half way between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice.
Cattle were brought back down from summer pastures and livestock was slaughtered for the incoming winter. Bonfires were lit as they were deemed to have protective and cleansing powers.
Samhain was seen as a time when the spirts or fairies (the Aos Sí) could more easily come into the human world. It was believed that the people needed to satisfy the Aos Sí, in order to insure that all people and livestock would be unharmed, offerings of food and milk were left for them.
Souls of the dead were thought to revisit their homes. Feasts were held and a place was set at the table for them. Mumming and Guising involved people going door-to-door reciting verses in return for food.