Imbolc (im-bulk), meaning "in the belly", is also known as Oiemelc or "ewes milk" and celebrates the first lactation of the ewes, siginifying the beginning of the lambing season and considered by ancient agrarian cultures as the first sign of the coming spring. This is the time of the year when our days are becoming visibly longer as the Sun spends more and more time in the sky, and the first faint touches of Spring's greenery begin to show. It is a time of beginnings, a time when the first fields are plowed and prepared for the planting.
In many cultures this is also traditionally a time when signs are sought to fortell the next season's bounty. Most popular among these in Western culture is waiting to see if a snake or a groundhog,(both animals which hybernate during cold winters,) would leave their winter den, thereby predicting the length of the remaining Winter. Today we light a candle in every room in the house to chase away the darkness of winter anticipating the warmth of Spring. We cleanse and decorate our altars with the seasons first growth.
This day is Sacred, particularly to the Goddess Bride (Brid, Brigid, Brighid, Brigit, depending on your tradition), the Goddess of Smithcraft, Poetry, Magick, Fire and Light. In some traditions a dolly representing the Goddess is made from the seasons first greenery and carried by the family's youngest maiden from house to house to receive the blessings of the community. That evening, a basket is prepared called the Bride's bed. The dolly is placed in the basket and a white wand is placed in her hand. The basket is then set on the previously smoothed ashes of the hearth until morning. The next day if the ashes are disturbed the Goddess has blessed the house with prosperity for the coming warmer months. If the ashes are not disturbed, it was taken to mean that the Goddess was offended, and an offering must be buried in the ground where two streams meet.
The Wheel turns, and the Sun is gaining strength, as the young God keeps pace. The Goddess renews herself at the Well of Eternal Life, casting aside all memory of the Darkness of Winter, and is once again the Young Maiden. She is again wild and free, cavorting and playing through the budding growth of creation with the God, both of them full of the energy and potential of Life.