It’s the gateway to spring and a time to rejoice in the returning light and the halfway point between winter solstice and the spring equinox. Okay…but let’s explore Imbolc a little further…starting with some history.
The celebration of Imbolc originated with the Celts and is translated to mean “in the belly of the mother”. This is because the seeds of spring are beginning to stir in Mother Earth’s belly. Those deeply buried bits that will eventually sprout and burst forth as spring arrives.
Imbolc has also been referred to as Candlemas or Oimelc. Oimelc is translated into “ewe’s milk” because this is the time of the year when herd animals are either starting to give birth or are heavily pregnant. When I think of this, I think of the sheep wandering the green patchwork pastures of Ireland with their spots of color identifying who they belong to.
This holiday also celebrates Brigid who is the Celtic goddess of fire and fertility. Later, Brigid was adopted by Christianity and came to be referred to as Saint Brigid. Saint Brigid is the patron saint of Irish nuns, newborns, midwives, dairy maids and cattle. There is a tradition of putting out a cape or cloak on the eve of Imbolc so that it can capture the dew, then brought in before sunrise. This cape or cloak is believed to be blessed by Brigid and used as a cover for an animal or human needing healing.
Early Celts used to make a doll out of wheat or oat straw as a representation of the Goddess Brigid and carry her door to door in a basket lined with a white flower bedding. The households then bestow a gift upon the girls visiting them.
The modern observation of Ground Hog Day on February 2nd is said to have roots in the Celtic festival of Imbolc. Legend is that Imbolc was the time when the Cailleach – the Celtic goddess of winter – gathers her firewood for the rest of the winter. If she decides she wants to make winter last a little longer, she makes the sun shine on Imbolc so she can gather plenty of wood. If the sun doesn’t shine, it means the Cailleach is still sleeping, and winter would soon end.
So, what are some of the things we do today to celebrate Imbolc? The list is pretty comprehensive:
Light Candles – This is a representation of the returning light. Consider using white, yellow, red or orange to usher in the returning daylight. Myself, I prefer using lilac scented ones because that really speaks of light and spring, doesn’t it?
Create a Brigid’s Cross – This is a symbol of protection and is fashioned from reeds or straw. I have one hanging in my home that I brought back from Ireland with me.
Make a Seasonal Altar – Include items that are representative of new beginnings such as early spring flowers, white candles, or even plant some seeds to nurture into the upcoming springtime. I believe I will go and pick up a pot of hyacinths or tulips which I can then plant outside to enjoy next year.
Perform a Purification Ritual – Most of us do this without even considering it a ritual when we do our spring cleaning. We cleanse our homes and purify the air by opening windows on the first hint of a warm windy day. It’s a time to clear away the old to make room for the new.
Connect With Nature – Imbolc is a good time to connect with the natural world. Take a walk. Breathe in the fresh air. Appreciate the beauty of nature and the changing season.
Imbolc is a time to be inspired! Unleash your creativity! It can also be a time to share or gather with others. Most of all, it’s a time of personal reflection and setting your goals and intentions.
I hope you all have a very blessed Imbolc!!