Music for Imbolc

Today we present a pro­gramme of music for the Celtic Fes­ti­val of Imbolc. One of the four cross-quar­ter days, Imbolc is mid-way between the Win­ter Sol­stice — Yule — and the Spring Equinox, Ostara.

Musi­cal­ly, today’s pro­gramme has a Celtic and Lunar bias, but rep­re­sents quite a mix of gen­res. Includ­ed in the pro­gramme today is Rut­land Boughton’s The Immor­tal Hour, a faery opera first per­formed in Glas­ton­bury in 1914 and based on the work of Fiona McLeod (William Sharp). It depicts the Faery peo­ple as immor­tal demigods who are feared by mor­tals and who can (and do) inter­fere with the lives of men and women. The pro­gres­sion of Etain into the mor­tal realm and her pur­suit and redemp­tion by Midir have sim­i­lar­i­ties with the leg­end of Orpheus and Eury­dice.

Imbolc, or Brig­it’s Day  is a Gael­ic fes­ti­val mark­ing the begin­ning of spring. Most com­mon­ly it is held on 31 January–1 Feb­ru­ary, or halfway between the win­ter sol­stice and the Spring equinox. It’s one of the four Gael­ic sea­son­al fes­ti­vals, along with Beltane, Lugh­nasadh and Samhain. It was observed in Ire­land, Scot­land and the Isle of Man. Kin­dred fes­ti­vals were held at the same time of year in oth­er Celtic lands; for exam­ple the Welsh Gwyl Fair y Can­hwyl­lau.

Imbolc was orig­i­nal­ly a pagan fes­ti­val asso­ci­at­ed with the god­dess Brig­it (Brighid) and it was Chris­tian­ized as a fes­ti­val of Saint Brighid, who her­self is thought to be a Chris­tian­iza­tion of the god­dess.

Imbolc was believed to be when the Cail­leach—the divine hag of Gael­ic tradition—gathers her fire­wood for the rest of the win­ter. Leg­end has it that if she wish­es to make the win­ter last a good while longer, she will make sure the weath­er on Imbolc is bright and sun­ny, so she can gath­er plen­ty of fire­wood. There­fore, peo­ple would be relieved if Imbolc is a day of foul weath­er, as it means the Cail­leach is asleep and win­ter is almost over. At Imbolc on the Isle of Man, where she is known as Cail­lagh ny Groa­m­agh, the Cail­leach is said to take the form of a gigan­tic bird car­ry­ing sticks in her beak.

Infor­ma­tion and image of Imbolc cel­e­bra­tions in Mars­den, W York­shire, from Wikipedia.


Today’s pro­gramme is pre­sent­ed by Elrik Mer­lin. If you are in the Unit­ed States or Cana­da, please click here to launch the Stream Licens­ing play­er. 

To lis­ten from out­side North Amer­i­ca, click here to start your play­er if your brows­er is set up to pass streams to an exter­nal play­er. 

You can also lis­ten via TuneIn, either with their web site or via the TuneIn App.

This pro­gramme is also avail­able in enhanced-qual­i­ty AAC. Tune in here: http://streams.radioriel.org:8090/stream

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