Imbolc or Imbolg called Brigid's Day, is a Gaelic traditional festival marking the beginning of spring. It is held on about halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, it was observed throughout Ireland and the Isle of Man. It is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals—along with Beltane and Samhain—and corresponds to the Welsh Gŵyl Fair y Canhwyllau. For Christians in Ireland, it is the feast day of Saint Brigid. Imbolc is mentioned in early Irish literature, there is evidence suggesting it was an important date in ancient times, it is believed that Imbolic was a pagan festival associated with the goddess Brigid, that it was Christianized as a festival of Saint Brigid, thought to be a Christianization of the goddess. At Imbolc, Brigid's crosses and a doll-like figure of Brigid–called a Brídeóg–were made; the figure would be paraded from house-to-house by girls, sometimes accompanied by'strawboys'. Brigid was said to visit one's home at Imbolc. To receive her blessings, people would make a bed for Brigid and leave her food and drink, items of clothing would be left outside for her to bless.
Brigid was invoked to protect homes and livestock. People participated in special feasts and visits to holy wells, it was a time for divination. Although many of its customs died out in the 20th century, it is still observed and in some places it has been revived as a cultural event. Since the latter 20th century, Celtic neopagans and Wiccans have observed Imbolc as a religious holiday; the etymology of Imbolc/Imbolg is unclear. The most common explanation is, comes from the Old Irish i mbolc, meaning "in the belly", refers to the pregnancy of ewes. Another possible origin is the Old Irish imb-fholc, "to wash/cleanse oneself", referring to a ritual cleansing. Eric P. Hamp derives it from a Proto-Indo-European root meaning both "milk" and "cleansing". Professor Alan Ward derives it from the Proto-Celtic *embibolgon, "budding"; the 10th century Cormac's Glossary derives it from oimelc, "ewe milk", but many scholars see this as a folk etymology. Some Neopagans have adopted Oimelc as a name for the festival.
Since Imbolc is followed by Candlemas, Irish Imbolc is sometimes translated into English as "Candlemas". The date of Imbolc is thought to have been significant in Ireland since the Neolithic period; some passage tombs in Ireland are aligned with the sunrise around the times of Samhain. This includes the Mound of the Hostages on the Hill of Tara, Cairn L at Slieve na Calliagh. In Gaelic Ireland, Imbolc was the feis or festival marking the beginning of spring, during which great feasts were held, it is attested in some of the earliest Old Irish literature, from the 10th century onward. It was one of four Gaelic seasonal festivals: Samhain, Imbolc and Lughnasadh. From the 18th century to the mid 20th century, many accounts of Imbolc or St Brigid's Day were recorded by folklorists and other writers, they tell us how it was celebrated and shed light on how it may have been celebrated in the past. Imbolc has traditionally been celebrated on 1 February. However, because the day was deemed to begin and end at sunset, the celebrations would start on what is now 31 January.
It has been argued that the timing of the festival was more fluid and based on seasonal changes. It has been associated with the onset of the lambing season, the beginning of the spring sowing, the blooming of blackthorn; the holiday was a festival of the hearth and home, a celebration of the lengthening days and the early signs of spring. Celebrations involved hearthfires, special foods, 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. A spring cleaning was customary. Holy wells were visited at Imbolc, at the other Gaelic festivals of Beltane and Lughnasa. Visitors to holy wells would pray for health while walking'sunwise' around the well, they would leave offerings coins or clooties. Water from the well was used to bless the home, family members and fields. Donald Alexander Mackenzie recorded that offerings were made "to earth and sea".
The offering could be milk poured into the porridge poured into the water, as a libation. Imbolc is associated with Saint Brigid. Saint Brigid is thought to have been based on a Gaelic goddess; the festival, which celebrates the onset of spring, is thought to be linked with Brigid in her role as a fertility goddess. On Imbolc Eve, Brigid was said to bless the inhabitants; as Brigid represented the light half of the year, the power that will bring people from the dark season of winter into spring, her presence was important at this time of year. Families would have a special supper on Imbolc Eve; this included food such as colcannon, dumplings, barmbrack and/or bannocks. Some of the food and drink would be set aside for Brigid. Brigid would be symbolica
The loathly lady, is a tale type used in medieval literature, most famously in Geoffrey Chaucer's The Wife of Bath's Tale. The motif is that of a woman who appears unattractive but undergoes a transformation upon being approached by a man in spite of her unattractiveness, becoming desirable, it is revealed that her ugliness was the result of a curse, broken by the hero's action. The loathly lady can be found in The Adventures of the Sons of Eochaid Mugmedon, in which Niall of the Nine Hostages proves himself the rightful High King of Ireland by embracing her, because she turns out to personify the sovereignty of the territory; the motif can be found in stories of the earlier high kings Lugaid Loígde and Conn of the Hundred Battles. In the Fenian Cycle of Irish mythology, Diarmuid Ua Duibhne was one of the most famous members of the Fianna. One freezing winter's night, the Loathly Lady brazenly entered the Fianna lodge, where the warriors had just gone to bed after a hunting expedition. Drenched to the bone, her sodden hair was knotted.
Desperate for warmth and shelter, she knelt beside each warrior and demanded a blanket, beginning with their leader Fionn. Despite her rants and temper tantrums, the tired men only rolled over and ignored her in the hope that she would leave. Only young Diarmuid, whose bed was nearest to the fireplace, took pity on the wretched woman, giving her his bed and blanket; the Loathly Lady noticed Diarmuid's love spot and said that she had wandered the world alone for 7 years. Diarmuid told her she could sleep all night and that he would protect her. Towards dawn, he became aware; the next day, the Loathly Lady rewarded Diarmuid's kindness by offering him his greatest wish—a house overlooking the sea. Overjoyed, Diarmuid asked the woman to live with him, she agreed on one condition: He must promise never to mention how ugly she looked on the night they met. After 3 days together, Diarmuid grew restless; the Loathly Lady offered to watch his greyhound and her new pups. On three separate occasions, Diarmuid's friends, envious of his good luck, visited the lady and asked for one of the new pups.
Each time, she honoured the request. Each time, Diarmuid was angry and asked her how she could repay him so meanly when he overlooked her ugliness the first night they met. On the third mention of that which he had promised never to speak of, the Loathly Lady and the house disappeared, his beloved greyhound died. Realizing that his ungratefulness has caused him to lose everything he valued, Diarmuid set out to find his lady, he used an enchanted ship to cross a stormy sea. Arriving in the Otherworld, he searched for the lady through green meadows filled with brightly coloured horses and silver trees. Three times he gathered each drop into his handkerchief; when a stranger revealed that the King's gravely ill daughter had just returned after 7 years, Diarmuid realised it must be his lady. Rushing to her side, he discovered; the 3 drops of blood Diarmuid collected were from her heart, spilled each time she thought of Diarmuid. The only cure was a cup of healing water from the Plain of Wonder, guarded by a jealous king and his army.
Diarmuid vowed to bring back the cup. His quest for the healing cup nearly ended at an impassable river. Diarmuid was stumped until the Red Man of All Knowledge, who had red hair and eyes like glowing coals, helped him cross the river and guided him to the king of the healing cup's castle. Once there, Diarmuid issued a challenge and in response the king first sent out one thousand six hundred fighting men one thousand eight hundred. Diarmuid single-handedly slew them all. Impressed, the king gave him the cup of healing. On the return trip, the Red Man advised Diarmuid on, he warned the young hero that when her sickness ended, Diarmuid's love for her would end as well. Diarmuid refused to believe the prophecy; the lady sadly understood. She couldn't live in his world any more. Diarmuid boarded an enchanted ship to return to the Fianna, where he was greeted by his friends and his greyhound, which the lady had returned to life as her final gift to him. In her capacity as a quest-bringer, the loathly lady can be found in the literature of the Holy Grail, including Chrétien de Troyes' Perceval, the Story of the Grail, Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival, the Welsh Romance Peredur, son of Efrawg associated with the Mabinogion.
The motif appears in Wolfram von Eschenbach's Middle High German romance Parzival in the character of Cundrie, the messenger of the Grail. The theme became a staple of Arthurian literature. A variation on this story is attached to Sir Gawain in the related romances The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle and The Marriage of Sir Gawain. Another version of the motif is the ballad King Henry. In this ballad, the king must appease the loathly lady; the next morning, he is surprised. The loathly lady appears in the Old Norse Hrólfr Kraki's saga where Hróarr's brother Helgi was visited one Yule by an ugly being while he was in his hunting house. No person in the entire kingdom allowed the being to enter the house, except Helgi; the thing asked