Imbolc is a Greater Sabbat that happens on February 1-2 in the Northern Hemisphere. This is a turning point in the season, because we are just beginning to see and sense signs of springtime.
Imbolc is a sabbat of new beginnings, hope, and planning.
It may be very cold and snowy still, but if you look closely, nature is starting to wake up from its winter slumber. New life is everywhere in the budding plants, animals returning from hibernation, and the daylight hours growing longer.
Imbolc is a reminder to make plans, plant new seeds (literally and figuratively), and be optimistic about the future. It’s refreshing to realize the light of summer is on its way, finally!
To the ancient people who came before us, Imbolc was the beginning of spring. They faced countless life-threatening struggles during the winter that are difficult for us to imagine now. When spring began to emerge, celebrations ensued as the families realized they survived another year.
Brigid is the beautiful goddess honored at Imbolc. She represents many things, but is best known for fertility, motherhood, and childbirth. All three aspects of the goddess, maiden, mother, and crone, can illustrate Brigid’s power.
Over time, Brigid became known as the Goddess of Ireland. Therefore she governs many areas of life and community. Most notably though is her connection to fire. When Imbolc comes around, Brigid brings the eternal flame to give to her people.
“Brigid truly represents the potential for any woman to be independent and self-sufficient while retaining her feminine qualities.” – Carl F. Neal
As a strong feminine goddess, Brigid takes special care of women in all the roles they play. She offered them protection during childbirth and against potential attacks. And when spring arrives, she offers women blessings of fertility and love.
Aside from womanhood, Brigid also represents: fire, poetry, written word, change, transformation, wisdom, metalworking, fire forging, healing, creativity, water, prophecy, education, and learning.*
Brigid is a wonderful goddess with many blessings to offer the people on the holiday that is celebrated in her honor.
How to Celebrate Imbolc
For better or worse, modern people do not face nearly as many dangers of winter as our ancient ancestors did. But we still grow weary during the long dark, cold days of winter. The beginning of spring is just as refreshing as ever!
While we still have several more weeks of winter to endure, we can still welcome the shift in seasons. Imbolc rituals and celebrations tend to be subtle, as most of us are still inside awaiting the spring equinox.
It’s quite easy to overlook Imbolc as a modern mystic. There’s probably no feast or party happening right now, so all we can do is turn inward and introspect.
Even if you live somewhere where you don’t get harsh winters, you could still see this day as a reminder to be grateful, hopeful, prepared, and reflective.
Light a Single Candle
All sabbats have an element of fire in them, representing the sun as it travels along the Wheel of the Year. Lighting a single candle (preferably white) at Imbolc represents the goddess Brigid, as the Goddess of the Eternal Flame.
The single white candle also represents new hope as the sun grows brighter in the sky. It can also be seen as “the light at the end of the tunnel,’ referring to winter’s end being closer than its beginning.
Introspection and Reflection
Gather your journaling supplies and write about all you’ve discovered about yourself so far this winter. Make lists around things you wish to do differently, goals you want to achieve, what you’re grateful for, and what you want to leave behind.
Now is the perfect time to plant literal seeds! If you’re starting seeds indoors, whether they be crops or flowers, it’s best to do so about 6-8 weeks before the snow melts away. This is a practical pre-spring activity that will reward you greatly in a few months.
You can also plant figurative seeds within your mind and heart. Consider the very first steps you must take to manifest what you wrote about in your journal during the last exercise. These are the seeds that are being planted now.
We are still stuck inside because of the cold, why not make the most of our time? Dust off cobwebs, vacuum behind furniture, rearrange and purge things. Give your home a nice, thorough deep clean.
This works on two levels. One is practical of course. This helps eliminate any grime that has built up over the winter. And the other is energetic. Cleaning our physical space changes the flow of energy, which feels so good and refreshing!
Honor the Feminine
Because of Brigid and her influence, Imbolc is a great time to honor the feminine energies within all of us. These qualities include (but of course aren’t limited to) nurturing, empathy, gentleness, intuition, compassion, healing, peacefulness and beauty.
Honor the feminine (or yin) qualities within yourself by embodying them. How can you be more nurturing, or empathetic? How can you listen to your intuition more? How can you assist in the inner and outer healing processes?
Romance the Ordinary
Our ancestors didn’t necessarily have the luxury of making things fun and romantic “just because.” Fortunately, we have been blessed in our modern age with all kinds of abundance. Why not take advantage and add a new tradition to Imbolc?
Romance things that would normally seem terribly ordinary. You don’t have to buy into the capitalist nature of Valentine’s Day if you don’t want to. But you could still embrace sensuality, intimacy, and love in a way that feels authentic to you.
Imbolc may not seem as fancy as the equinoxes or other famous Pagan holidays. But to our ancestors, it was equally as exciting.
Imagine going all winter long rationing food supplies, with the only source of heat being a single hearth fire, while still caring for all your family and livestock. Imagine how incredible the first signs of spring would be.
This is the traditional way of viewing Imbolc. New beginnings are on the horizon, and the worst of winter is behind us now.
Historically, Imbolc celebrations would hardly qualify as celebrations. More like, a sense of optimistic triumph. A second wind. If they could hang on just a little longer, and receive blessings from Brigid, they will come out of their winter cocoons stronger.
The Llewellyn Wheel of the Year series has a wonderful book on Imbolc filled with divination and spells to explore if you feel so called. There’s also lots more detailed information about the lore of Brigid and her importance in the ancient world. It is called Imbolc: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for Brigid’s Day.