In late winter, Snowdrops, which signify hope and beauty,
are usually the first to poke their elegant heads through the snow.
Imbolc is one of the four Lesser Sabbats, marking the halfway point (cross quarter day) between the winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. This year, Imbolc falls on Tuesday February 1st, the same day as the Chinese New Year and the New Moon in Aquarius. So many rituals to enjoy on this amazing day.
Imbolc was considered a cornerstone festival widely observed throughout Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man. And as Christianity spread into northern Europe, Imbolc was adopted and turned into Candlemass, which is still celebrated today. It is also known as St. Brigid's Day.
Brigid was described by Christian monks as "the goddess whom poets adored". She was so loved as a pagan goddess that the worship was woven into the Christian church as St. Bridget. She is associated with the season of Spring, fertility, poetry, healing and blacksmithing. She is the goddess of fire, of the Sun and of the hearth. Because of her affiliation with fertility (Spring) she is also connected to midwives and new born babies.
The original word 'imbolg' is believed to mean 'in the belly', as in pregnancy - that miraculous moment when things become visible, affirming the life growing within. It is an iconic symbol of Spring with the promise of renewed vitality and hidden potential. The earth awakens and stirs the life-force that is.
In ancient days, Winters are long and seeing Spring on the horizon was like a new hope (I for one look forward to it). The stores for the cold season were getting low, so they performed Imbolc rituals to ensure the presence of Divine energy and ensure an abundant harvest in the months ahead.
Fire is an important element to all the festivals, but more so for Imbolc. The lighting of candles and fires represented the return of warmth and the increasing power of the Sun over the coming months. Later, for St. Brigid's Day, every home would burn a fire throughout the entire night in honour of her. If that was not possible, candles would be lit and placed in each room instead. It was also a customary time for Spring cleaning and purification of the home.
Today, living Imbolc means to embrace the quiet weeks after the holiday season as a time for deep reflection. To let go of the past and look to the future. To clear out the old and make space for new beginnings - both in your home and in your heart.
Some of the modern ways to celebrate Imbolc are:
A good old-fashioned Spring cleaning - your home, your workspace/office, your car etc.
Burn sustainably harvested sage to purify a space after you've cleaned.
Make a meal using Imbolc ingredients. Bread, fish and all things dairy - cheese, custard, yogurt, milk and sauces with cream and butter. Other dishes include root vegetables like potato and carrots in soups, stews and chowders.
Journaling and/or meditation to clear your mind and make way for creative insights and inspirations.
Making, or reviewing that bucket list. Visualize and make plans for what you wish to manifest in your life - this year, and beyond.
Take long walks in nature and look for the early signs of Spring. End the day by lighting a fire, and make renewed resolutions moving forward.
Candles are the ideal way to honour the festivals. For Imbolc, anoint one with an essential oil from any of the Spring flowers such as jasmine, and allow it to infuse your home with its uplifting aroma. If you want to take a step further, light candles in the colours of Imbolc: white for snow, orange for the Sun and green for Spring, and Ireland of course!
A cleansing bath. Fill a tea bag with herbs such as lavender and clary sage and tie it to the faucet. As the hot water runs through it, lie back and breath in the calming scents. Relax as you visualize any negative energies, like worry and stress, leave your body to eventually flow down the drain.
Last but not least, clear your heart. Forgive those that need to be forgiven, and make sure to include yourself. Value your relationships and let those you care about know how much they mean to you.