Image courtesy of Astrocal
Imbolc – The Earth Awakens
The beginning of February, the 1st and 2nd, marks the celebration of Imbolc in the Northern hemisphere, (pronounced “Im-olc”) an ancient Celtic celebration to welcome back the return of the Sun and Spring. It is one of the eight festivals that pagans celebrate the cycles and seasons of the year with. Four of the festivals have Celtic origins, these are Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh and Samhain, and are known as the fire festivals. The other four are associated with points on the solar calendar, the Spring and Autumn Equinox, (when day and night are equal) and the Summer and Winter Solstices (the longest and shortest days of the year). Our ancient Ancestors were farmers and relied on the seasons and the land, their lives depended on it! These are pastoral / agricultural markers. In our modern world, where all our needs are taken care of, food is easy to get hold of, we have warmth and shelter, we have lost touch with Mother Earth, our connection with the seasons, and how the weather affects us is reduced to mere inconvenience, we are not connected to our ancient roots, the importance of creating ritual in our lives, these are the things which keep us connected with the earth and the cycles of nature, and to one another… when we reconnect and deepen this it can have profound positive effects within us and our environments and the people around us.
I find more and more as I get older that this time calls to me to be patient!! In the past I would sow seeds at Imbolc, eager to see them shoot, and then disappointed when they struggled to thrive as the weather turned cold once more! As I have entered my crone years, I have come to know the Cailleach, the Old Woman of Winter – we journeyed with her this past gone Winter Solstice, and you can read more about her here.
The Cailleach has taught me about having patience, that at this time of year we still need to hunker down, and take care of ourselves… this time is for dreaming, planning, for igniting the spark that will later, at the Spring Equinox, give power to those seeds. She is not quite ready to hand over her power to Brigit yet!!
Brigid – Goddess of Imbolc
Imbolc was one of the most important times in the Celtic farming calendar, as the Winter stores would be getting low. The days are getting longer, new life is returning. Imbolc translates as “ewe’s milk” or “in the belly”, because this is the time that the sheep are pregnant and lambs are on the way. The cold harsh days of winter are nearly behind us. Even though the days are still bleak and frosty, the energy differs from the deep reflection and withdrawal that Yule and the Winter Solstice brings us… here at Imbolc there is a sense that within the earth things are beginning to wake from their slumber. Imbolc celebrations entered around the lighting of fires to welcome in the return of the Sun, and for cleansing. It is also associated with the Goddess Brigid, (pronounced “Breed”) Bridie, Brigit or Saint Brigit as she was later called by the Christians, showing what a beloved and powerful figure she was, they couldn’t get rid of her so they made her a saint!! (this time is also known in the Christian calendar as Candlemas) She is a Goddess of fire and water, of healing and fertility, the Goddess of childbirth, midwives, poetry and blacksmithing!!
Image courtesy of Angela Ferreira Magic paintings
Brigid – Image courtesy of Wendy Andrew Painting Dreams
Brigid is a Goddess of many things to many people, and is one of the most enduring Goddesses of them all. Because of her association with water, she is connected to wells, and holy springs – “well dressing” is something that was practiced and still occurs today. To honour the spirit of Brigid the local well would be bedecked in flowers and offerings, “clooties”, ribbons, bells. The water supply was so important to the village. In these times of being mindful about the environment its better to leave something that is not permanent, and will degrade into the earth – a food offering that will feed the birds, small pieces of cake, a drop of apple juice or blessed water poured into the ground, a feather, or stone – flowers and greenery, things that are natural to the local environment and left with loving intention are better than fancy ribbons and crystals. Where I live we have a Holy Well, and so around Imbolc I go there to connect with Brigid and ask for her blessings, leave an offering and collect water to use in my ceremonies.
Stevington Spring, Bedford
As we move through this time, we begin to see new life emerging all around us in the natural world, buds on the trees, the first snowdrops begin poking their heads up through the soil, but we are not out of the grip of winter yet! As I said earlier, we still have the teachings of the Cailleach to learn. We are still in her time, so its wise to honour her too… in some tales she becomes Brigid at Beltane, also a Goddess of the grain, mother at Litha, and becoming crone at Samhain!… she fully embodies the triple Goddess aspect of Maiden, Mother and Crone. She is a sovereign of Winter and also of Imbloc.
Cailleach by Wendy Andrew
Tradition has it that at Imbolc, the Cailleach runs out of firewood, if the day is sunny and bright, its a good day for her to collect firewood, and so winter will last longer. If the day is grey and rainy, she stays in bed, and the winter will end sooner! An interesting fact, in the United States this was transformed into Groundhog day! Losing the Cailleach, but retaining the ritual!
Rituals, Activities & Recipes
Rituals and activities might include the making of candles, Spring cleaning and getting rid of clutter! Sorting out your seeds, ordering new ones, or even better, seed swapping with friends! Planning the garden. Planting up bulbs – snowdrops, crocus, daffodils, and bringing these into the home, reading poetry and telling stories, gather around the fire with friends and family and share your stories and ideas… toast some marshmallows and celebrate the return of the Sun! Baking, especially bread and things that use dairy products. You can find some good recipes to celebrate Imbolc on Gather Victoria.
If you know of a local well or spring, visit that, take an offering to leave for the fairies, the well spirits and the Goddess Brigid.
Items for an Imbolc Altar, Dedicated to Brigid
Snowdrops, and other potted bulbs such as crocus or daffodils. Items such as ribbons, crystals, candles… lots of candles!, we are still calling in the light and the warmth, in white, or yellow or green, the colours of spring and of Brigid. A statue of Brigid, a corn dolly, a Brigids cross or anything that depicts Celtic knotwork (you could try and make one yourself using the tutorial on Colorful Crafts). Cauldrons and chalices. A book of poetry, or a poem you have written. Fairies.
Our ancestors would not have worked to “dates”, they would have looked for signs, watched the weather and taken their lead from Mother Nature, the plants, the sheep giving birth, the birds nesting… but in our modern times, we like to have things ordered, and so we say the 1st and 2nd February is the time of Imbolc, however, you can mark the time anywhere within a week before or after, or whenever you feel the signs are showing you it’s time!
This year, we have had an exceptionally mild Winter, with some gloriously sunny days around the beginning of January, and so I felt inspired and fuelled up to create my new raised beds (thank you Brigit for the inspiration, and Paul, my long suffering husband for building them for me at a moments notice, and putting up with me changing my mind over the size and position!!)
So I have been planning excitedly, filling up the beds with my compost from my bins, and ordering some new seeds!
With names like “Cosmic Carrots” and “Bloody Butcher” tomatoes, what’s not to get excited about!!?? The sun felt warm, the scent from the Viburnum was strong, and there were even full Calendula flowers out! However, within a day or two of those glorious days the weather had turned, and although still bright, a deep frost has set in, the ground is frozen hard, and so we hunker down again, rest, plan, dream the garden into being… and resist the urge to pot up those seeds!!
Imbolc Ritual & Meditation
Those of you that follow my pages, or have signed up to my newsletter will already know that I hold an online ritual and guided meditation at each turn of the wheel.
We are going to journey with the Goddess Brigid – keeper of the sacred flame and holy well, goddess of fire and water – patron of poets, blacksmiths, midwives, healers, home and hearth – she who inspires us, at this time of deep Winter to turn our faces to the Sun, and know that the Earth is stirring. Despite this being another year of challenges and hardships, Brigid can help us dig deeper – do not feel downhearted by the setbacks you feel are happening – it’s very easy to feel stuck, down, angry and afraid of everything that is happening, even if we now feel we are coming into the light, it can still feel scary – and those feelings are real and valid, but also, to know that you are the keeper of your feelings and emotions – you have sovereignty over how you react to things. It’s important to honour and acknowledge how we feel, but also, not to dwell on those negative feelings – we need to keep putting one foot in front of the other, looking toward the light, and to make those positive intentions, to have some goals to achieve this year, no matter how small or large they are, what matters is our intention to create and manifest. And this is where we can call on the power and strength of The Goddess Brigid to help us – at Imbolc we can set our intentions for what we want to bring into our lives.
Last year at Imbolc, we journeyed with the Brigid as healer, as she cleansed and healed us with the waters from her Holy Well. This year, Brigid will come to us in her aspect of the smith, at her forge. She will show us how we can use the fire in the forge to powerfully transmute, burn away and release all that no longer serves us, and how to forge, to create, what we wish to manifest for the coming light half of the year. You can read more about that and sign up for the event here. We have a lovely group, and our connections to each other, the season and cycles, and the elements grows in strength at every turn of the wheel, I would love to have you join us.
Image courtesy of Janie Olsen
I don’t need to remind everyone what a difficult couple of years its been, but I really feel in my heart that we are turning the corner. The energy is shifting, the vibration of the earth is rising, and we are all truly awakening. Although, as is reflected in the time of Imbolc, we may still have some dark days ahead, we know there is the promise of better times, we must hold on to the light, and keep shining it out. I am a big believer in “your vibe attracts your tribe”… and so shine that light and attract the right tribe, they will come!
By following the Wheel of the Year, the seasons and cycles, taking time to bring ritual and ceremony into our lives, it gives us structure, provides a way to connect with each other on a deeper and more spiritual level, with Mother Earth – to feel that we have a purpose, and that something bigger than ourselves is at work, it helps us to understand that although nothing stays the same, things die, that there is darkness and grief, there is always new life, a chance to transform, to grow, to let the old constructs go and begin again.
I have a private Facebook group, the Green Witch Women’s Magical Development Circle , where I post details of these regular online (zoom) rituals and meditations to honour each cycle, but also it’s a very interactive and supportive group. A bunch of women coming together to share stories, funny memes, oracle cards, connect with a different goddess or energy, share books, herbal recipes, plant lore and information, or just share how we are feeling, or to ask for support or healing. There is no pressure to be or do anything, or to participate at all, it’s just another way of connecting.
I know many people don’t do Facebook anymore, and to be honest, I try and stay away from it as much as I can, we are all seeing what toxic energy it has. I go into my group, and interact with the ladies in there, I post things on my Instagram which upload to all my Facebook business pages – and I feel much lighter for not engaging in that energy. That’s why, despite being a technophobe, I send out the newsletter too, so I can include as many people in our little, but ever growing circle of connection as possible.
There is also my Linktr.ee, which is a great tool that enables me to keep all of the pages, events, and all the other things I do in one accessible place. Considering I am a bit of a technophobe, and definitely have a love/hate relationship with technology, the Aquarian in me pushes me to do it!!!
Which brings me nicely to astrology, numerology, herb lore, crystals and tarot cards. I am getting braver with putting myself out there with my tarot and oracle card readings… despite having had tarot cards since I was a child, I feel it’s only now, as I move through my 50’s that I am deepening my connection with them and truly working with them intuitively. So I am going to include in my newsletter just a little snippet of where we are astrologically, what herb or crystal corresponds to that particular cycle, and maybe even a collective reading!
Image courtesy of Wendy Andrew
At this turn of the wheel, Imbolc, I wish you so much love, health, peace and inspiration, and of course, always connection. Whatever you choose to do, I hope it brings you joy.