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Imbolc

Updated: Feb 4

Imbolc, also called Saint Brigid's Day, is a Gaelic traditional festival. A Celtic word, Imbolc means 'in the belly or womb.' Pronounced "IM-bulk" or "EM-bowlk," this festival is dedicated to fertility, even #midwifery, and falls on February 2nd. Imbolc celebrates the first stirrings of spring and the first sparks of new life. It's when we start to breathe life into our new wisdom and ideas cultivated through the winter and start to prepare to actualize them in our lives.


Although the ground may still be cold, the plants still slumbering, a snow still falling, we know that the most difficult days are over. The ancients experienced a much different winter than we do in the modern world; however, our bodies still know the #seasons and are connected to the earth. With Imbolc arrives transformation and hope. We may hear the first call of spring, or see signs everywhere we look that the earth is reawakening and we are too.


Imbolc is midway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox at a time, which is traditionally the coldest and darkest time of the year. This celebration on the Celtic Wheel is one of the four major "fire" festivals with the other three being Beltane, Lughnasadh, and Samhain. Brigid was a fire goddess, and today, her canonization is celebrated with a perpetual flame at her shrine in Kildare.



Saint Brigid is the patron saint of babies, children whose parents are not married, children whose mothers are mistreated by the children's fathers, fugitives, Ireland, midwives, milkmaids, nuns, poets, the poor, scholars, and travelers, among many more. She is maiden, mother, and crone. She is goddess of fertility, motherhood, and healing, also goddess of fire, flame, and transformation.


Lighting Candles to Symbolize Increasing Sunlight


There are a number of traditions on the Imbolc but one more often practiced, even still today, is the making of Brigid's bed. Girls and young unmarried women of the household or village create a corn doll to represent #Brigid and then adorn it with ribbons and baubles like shells and stones. Then they make a bed for her to lie upon. Girls will then gather together and have a slumber party with Brigid, staying up all night.


Brigid is said to walk the earth on Imbolc eve. Everyone in the household will leave a piece of clothing outside their door for her to bless and the head of the household will smother the fire and rake the ashes smooth. In the morning, the family will look for some sort of mark on the ashes, a sign that she has passed that way in the night. The clothes are then brought inside and believed to now have powers of healing and protection. These clothes will be worn the next day in great honor.


Adult women, those who are married or who run a household, stay home to welcome Brigid procession, perhaps with an offering of coins or a snack. Since Brigid represents half the light of the year and the power that will bring people from the dark season of winter into spring, her presence is very important this time of year.


More modern celebrations today honor Brigid's #divine femininity but can vary widely in how they are practiced. Traditionally people light every lamp in their home at dusk during Imbolc to honor the sun's rebirth. Candles can be lit in all rooms of the house while a kerosene lamp is usually placed in a commonly used area. Many will also create an altar and give thanks to the goddess, or spend time meditating on her inspiration.


Celebrations also include a twirling of torches to symbolize the sun as well as walking through snow to trace an image of the sun. People undertake spring cleaning and take ritual baths to create space for the goddess to come into their lives. It is also a tradition to prepare a talisman for ceremonies, either a straw doll or a Brigid's cross. A major part of this festival though is the #feast which includes lots of dairy, with sour cream-based dishes commonly eaten. Spicy dishes are also popular, including spiced wine.


Ritualizing this Time Amplifies the Significance in Your Own Life and Anchors this Energy, Allowing it to be the Foundation for the Next Chapter in Your Life


Pay attention to the ways in which you are reawakening, much like the earth. Ask yourself what needs to be cleared away in your life to make space for new? How are you transforming? What seeds are you planting? What exists on that horizon?


Care for your physical spaces. Start cleaning energy and clutter so those seeds you've been germinating have space to grow. I've been cultivating quite the vision for a future garden, preparing a new home in the spring in a new town, and of course, we will be marrying in early spring so lots to plan there as well. Lots to manifest. Lots to grow. As always, set the tone with good music. Open your windows. Burn some clearing resins or herbs, and bless your space. Create fertile energy of clarity and momentum.


This spring cleaning doesn't just have to be in your physical space either, but also energetically. Work with a broom and sweep out areas of your sacred space that may be filled with winter's stagnant and sleepy energy. Bundle up unused items and donate them. Keep the fire burning, light a candle, or write poems - all honoring to Brigid.


Gather with friends and take turns sharing your visions for what you're creating. After each person shares, offer a clap and hoop and holler, elevating their visions to be supported by the Universe. You can certainly do this by yourself as well, talking aloud about your visions and then making noise to raise them up to be witnessed and supported by the Universe.


Fire is common for celebrating this ritual. Make a fire or light a lot of candles, honoring the sacred flame. Then write down what's ready to be released and then let it burn away making way for the new to flourish. Fire is the element of transformation and has the power to shift things immediately and completely if you let it. Bring as much attention and reverence to the process as you possibly can for the most optimal results.


Imbolc is a beautiful time to work with seed magic as well, planting seeds inside with intentions, and caring for them through Ostara, Beltane, and Litha. See how they grow to fruition with growing cycles. Our bodies may even feel some of this awakening, renewed energy, and transition. Set intentions for good health, healing, and protection. Be inspired to invest in yourself during this season.


Hearty Foods & Baked Treats


My mother always made fried cabbage and liver for New Years. She felt like this was good luck into the New Year, and she was a bit superstitious. A traditional Imbolc dish is the colcannon. All traditional foods for Imbolc include dairy products, grains, and early spring vegetables. This one has all the fun stuff. You'll make four cups of mashed potatoes, so peel and boil about 4 of those until they are tender and then drain. Our family doesn't actually peel our potatoes because we enjoy the nutrients available in the peel.


As you boil the potatoes, you'll also want to steam or boil about a cup and-a-half of either cabbage or kale, finely chopped, until tender. This usually takes about 5 to 7 minutes. When done, drain this as well and set it aside.


In a separate pan, melt a half-a-cup of organic butter over medium heat, and then add about half-a-cup of chopped scallions. Stir together for a few minutes so these flavors can melt together.


Mash the potatoes in your mixing bowl or use a potato masher right there in the pan. A hand-mixer can give you a nice smooth texture, but they feel less homemade to me that way. Weird, I realize. Gradually add about a half-cup of milk or cream to the mashed potatoes and continue to mix until you like the consistency. Adjust the milk so you get them just the way you want.


Then fold in the cabbage or kale mixture into the mashed potatoes, blend thoroughly and then season with salt and pepper to your preference. Serve your colcannon as a side dish alongside your other Imbolc dishes and enjoy! Offer some to Brighid and show her gratitude.


Honoring the Seasonal Shift


Imbolc rituals acknowledge and honor the changing seasons. They recognize the transition from the dormant, dark winter months to the stirrings of new life and the promise of spring. The Imbolc ritual fosters a deep connection with nature's cycles. They encourage individuals to align with the earth's rhythms, celebrating the returning light, and acknowledging the awakening of the land. Rituals during Imbolc offer an opportunity for personal and spiritual renewal. They provide a space for reflection, setting intentions, and initiating personal growth for the upcoming season.


Many Imbolc rituals involve symbolic actions, such as lighting candles to represent the returning sun, baking bread to symbolize sustenance and fertility, or cleansing rituals to purify oneself and the space. Some rituals involve invoking specific deities or spirits associated with Imbolc, such as Brigid, the Celtic goddess of hearth, poetry, and healing. This connection offers reverence and seeks blessings from these divine entities.


Imbolc rituals really are about setting intentions for the season ahead. This may involve rituals that encourage personal growth, creativity, or intentions for purification and transformation. Consider a creative visualization meditation in which you envision vibrant colors, new growth, and the energy of the changing season. Engage in some type of artistic expression such as painting, drawing, sculpting, writing, crafting, or playing music. Create art that reflects the themes of Imbolc, the goddess Brigid, or the awakening of nature.


Connect to nature by spending time outdoors. Take walks in natural settings, observe the changing landscape, and draw inspiration from the sights, sounds, and energies of the natural world. Keep a journal to jot down ideas, thoughts, and inspirations. Reflect on your goals, aspirations, and the changes you wish to bring into your life during this season. Create a dedicated altar or space in your home that represents creativity and inspiration. Decorate it with symbols, colors, or items that inspire your creatively.


Practice mindfulness techniques or yoga to center your mind and body. Clearing mental clutter can create space for new ideas and inspirations to emerge. Dive into books, articles, or online resources related to topics that interest you. Learning new things can spark creativity and provide fresh perspectives. Pay attention to your dreams. Keep a dream journal and note any symbols, themes, or messages that may inspire your creative endeavors.


Overall, Imbolc rituals provide a sacred framework for individuals to celebrate the seasonal shift, honor nature, and engage in practices that promote personal growth, renewal, and spiritual connection. They carry significance by offering a space to mark the turning of the Wheel of the Year and embrace the energies of the season in a meaningful way.

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