Episode 126: Imbolc Postcards with Orla Hegarty

Orla created Imbolc postcards and set them out last night to catch Brigid’s magic dew on Imbolc Eve. Lucky are we who might benefit from a bit of this fairy dust in the form of a postcard.

In this episode of The Postcardist Podcast, Orla Hegarty and I talk about Imbolc; making postcards to honor the holiday; cognitive awe as we look out over the ocean; the mesmerizing qualities of humpback whales Orla sees from her living room window; giant potatoes and Irish immigration in Prince Edward Island; iron-on patches in school uniforms; and how Orla helped a small class of students in Labrador get a large number of postcards from around the word. Postcards connect people — and knowing smart people like Orla helps us connect to the world around us.

First, I’m imagining some of you might be wondering about Imbolc and its meaning. I’d heard of it as a kid growing up, but I didn’t know enough. Let’s all start with a little grounding about what Imbolc signifies.

Imbolc is a pagan holiday celebrated from February 1 through sundown February 2. Based on a Celtic tradition, Imbolc was meant to mark the halfway point between winter solstice and the spring equinox in Neolithic Ireland and Scotland. 


Imbolc, which means in the belly as in the pregnant belly of a sheep, was a time when the breeding cycle of sheep started and ewes began to lactate. It’s a time of rebirth. The onset of spring. The modern holiday is also now known in Christianity as St. Brigid’s Day. You can listen here to a a little more about the ritual In Ireland in this 10-minute Almanac of Ireland podcast that’s a compilation of schoolchildren from the 1930s telling about the tradition. Plus, you can hear slight variations on the pronunciation of the word.

And if you’d like to listen to a pretty song about Imbolc, here’s Lisa Theil’s song of that name:

Now that you have some grounding in Imbolc (listen to the podcast to get a whole lot more from Orla), here are some of Orla’s Imbolc postcards in process. You can see the pieces of cloth and the St. Brigid’s Cross she refers to.

Orla and I also talked about Max Dashu’s book, Witches and Pagans: Women in European Folk Religion. This video is a good summary of the author’s work on the book.

We also talked about P.E.I. and the world’s largest potato. You can visit this 14-foot tall super spud at The Canadian Potato Museum in O’Leary, Prince Edward Island. This definitely has to be a stopover on The Peace, Love & Postcards Tour. Who’s with me?

Image from Atlas Obscura’s terrific site

And we talked about the postcard project Orla promoted for the school children at Labrador Straits Academy in L’Anse au Loup, Labrador, Canada.

In this show, we also talked about the word “wyrd” and its link to fate and weaving; postcard goggles; and whale watching from the beach at St. Vincent’s. This is the view Orla has from her house. Now that’s a connection to the sea.

Finally, I’d like to leave you with something Orla said that still has me laughing. Challenge accepted, Orla. Challenge accepted.

Anything could be made into a postcard, Frank. Anything.


9 comments on Episode 126: Imbolc Postcards with Orla Hegarty

  1. Sebastian Halleran (Joe) says:

    Very interesting reading,a beautiful explanation on what it all means and what it’s all about!!I certainly understand it much better!!Thank you

    1. Frank says:

      I really enjoyed learning more about Imbolc from Orla as well. And I like going down internet rabbit holes. Orla helps me know more each time I chat with her.

  2. Ana says:

    Loved the show! Imbolc, never heard of it before but made me think of the Pachamama. Agree with Orla, anything can be made into a postcard. And cereal boxes are the greatest. I have a whale postcard for her, I bet this one goes from here in Argentina to visit her in Labrador. I love that thought.

    1. Frank says:

      That whale postcard will be like the migration of whales from your place in the South Atlantic to the North Atlantic where Orla is. It’s magical to think that the whales you see in Argentina are the same ones she sees in Canada. What a transit they take.

      I’m laughing about the cereal box. I’m just refining my cutout of one.

  3. Wisewebwoman says:

    Great show, so many interesting topics you riffed on.

    1. Frank says:

      Thank you. It’s so terrific to have Orla on the show. So much to talk about — and learn from her.

  4. Eleanor Cowan says:

    Orla is stirring the animated energy that in turn gives rise to inspiration and wonderful motivation! Fabulous, Orla!

    1. Frank says:

      Orla really creates lots of positive ripples in the space-time continuum.

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