Imbolc is also known as Imbolg and sometimes also called Brigid’s Day. It is a Gaelic traditional festival marking the beginning of spring. Traditionally, it is held on February 1st and it lands about halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. It is celebrated throughout Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man – but you can celebrate it anywhere in the world!
What is Imbolc?
In the Celtic seasonal calendar, Imbolc marks the beginning of the lambing season and signals the beginning of Spring and the stirrings of new life. It is also occasionally referred to as candlemas. Imbolg means ‘in the belly’ because:
“All is pregnant and expectant – and only just visible if at all, like the gentle curve of a ‘just-showing’ pregnancy. It is the promise of renewal, of hidden potential, of earth awakening and life-force stirring. Here is hope. We welcome the growth of the returning light and witness Life’s insatiable appetite for rebirth. It is Feile Brighde, the ‘quickening of the year’.”Goddess and Greenman
According to the Goddess and Greenman blog, Imbolc is traditionally the great festival and honoring of Brigid (Brighid, Bride, Brigit), so loved as a pagan Goddess that her worship was woven into the Christian church as St Bridget. She is a Goddess of healing, poetry and smith craft. She is a Goddess of Fire, of the Sun and of the Hearth. Bridget brings fertility to the land and its people and is closely connected to midwives and new-born babies. She is the Triple Goddess, but at Imbolc she is in her Maiden aspect.
How to Celebrate Imbolc?
Imbolc is a time to let go of the past and look towards the future. Just embrace the whole ‘out with the old, in with the new.’ Cleaning is a big way to do this but clearing the mind and heart to allow inspiration to enter for the new cycle is also recommended. According to Doreen Valiente, spring cleaning was originally a nature ritual! Imbolc is a great time to not only clean but also make wishes or make dedications for the future.
Create an Imbolc Altar
If creating altars is your thing, consider creating one for Imbolc! Traditionally, it should contain snowdrops, swan feathers, a Brigid Cross, a Bridey Doll as well as white and green candles. Of course, as is always the case with holidays that are all about wishes and cleaning and embracing spring – it is possible do celebrate in your own way as long as it is meaningful to you.
A Bridig Cross
A Bridig Cross is a small cross usually woven from rushes. Typically it has four arms tied at the ends and a woven square in the middle. Historically, there were also three-armed versions. Brigid’s crosses are associated with Brigid of Kildare, one of the patron saints of Ireland. This Irish Emblem is thought to keep evil, fire and hunger from the home in which it is displayed.
Here’s how to make one:
A Bridey Doll
The Brídeóg (Brigid doll), or “Bridey Doll”, which early Celtic people crafted of straw, was paraded around the house and serenaded to request birth and fresh milk among their farm animals, a welcome reprieve from stored winter provisions. You may want to craft a Brigid doll for your midwinter altar or hearth.
How to make a traditional one:
Other Ways to Celebrate
You don’t have to create an altar to celebrate Imbolc, although it can be a fun way to get your craft on! Other fun ways are to plant seeds, bake a cake light candles. As I’ve already mentioned, you can celebrate however you want. However, consider incorporating these symbols that are attributed to Imbolc:
- The snowdrop.
- The swan.
- The flame.
- The serpent.
- Imbolc colors are white, silver and green.
- Herbs of Imbolc are blackberry, coltsfoot, ginger.
- Trees of Imbolc are rowan and willow.
Read more about these on the Goddess and Greenman blog, it is really infromative and detailed!
Never heard of Imbolc before today? Neither had I! I find it fascinating to discover new holidays and learn about how different cultures celebrate them. Like most of the people reading this, I have been excited to welcome spring and it excited me to see the sun set a little later every day. Celebrating Imbolc will just be another way for me to get excited about the upcoming season!
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