Soon Imbolc will be upon us. Many may also know this sabbat as Candlemas. The term Imbolc, or Imbolg, (pronounced “em-bolk”) is derived from old Irish which means, “in the belly“; it may also reference pregnant ewe’s or milking. Imbolc signifies the celebration of fertility, reproduction and new beginnings. The Goddess Brigid, or Brighid, is honored during this time as the protector of hearth, home, healers and smiths. According to Dr. Leo Ruickbie, within Gaelic culture the festival itself is a veneration of the pre-Christian goddess Bride or Brigid and most of the recorded customs centered around this deity. Consequently, most references to this festival historically used the name of Bride or Brigid.
It’s at this time of year, winter makes her final attempts leaving the sting of cold temperatures, ice, and snow in its wake. The groundhog makes his annual appearance to let us know how much more winter we will endure. As we warm our homes with fire, and set candles to glow in our windows, the earth is rekindling life within itself. We see daylight hours increase, and the sun stimulating life deep within the earth. These environmental changes signify the return of spring. New beginnings.
There are many things we can do to celebrate this time of year. Yule was a time of reflection; Imbolc is a time of cleansing and refreshing ourselves and our surroundings. Many take this opportunity to do their spring cleaning. Get rid of anything that is cluttering up your home and stagnating the energy, and scrub all the surfaces down thoroughly. Open all the windows (if you can) and let some refreshing clean air flow through your home.
Traditionally, Imbolc was a time for visiting holy water; a spring or a well, to both purify us and bring fertility to our dreams. In California there are several areas in the north you can visit. Some visit the coast to walk along the ocean’s rim smelling the salt air and feeling the energy of the water coming and going.
If the water’s clean, splash some over yourself as you set your intention to cleanse and purify. Glennie Kindred suggests dipping a piece of ribbon in the water and then hanging it from a nearby tree (trees near water are especially sacred) to carry messages of hope and healing. Don’t forget to thank the spirits of the place you visit and pick up any rubbish you see nearby as an act of gratitude.
You can also make Brigid crosses that can be displayed in windows, and over doors. Although the original design may have been made from rushes, wheat versions and palm fronds have been used in recreated forms for centuries. As you place them around your home invite the blessings of the Goddess into them.
Imbolc, or Candlemas, is one of the most varied Sabbats in our seasonal wheel. With so many activities for groups or families, you can make this celebration your own. From making Brigid Crosses, to lighting candles or fires in your hearth, let your energies be open to renewal and bring forth your intentions for the coming year.
Ruickbie, L. (1999). Imbolc (Candlemas) Sabbat. Taken from website http://www.witchology.com/contents/february/imbolc_static.php.