Also known as Candlemas (2nd Sabbat) (Major Sabbat)
Imbolc is traditionally a time for burning candles.
ImbolcThe Festival of Imbolc or Bride, is celebrated around 2nd February by Pagans/Wiccans, and by Christians who call it Candlemas.
The first stirrings of the coming of spring can be seen, as the first flowers (snowdrops and winter aconite) begin to appear. Seeds, which have been dormant over the cold winter months, begin to stir with life under ground. For Imbolc we celebrate the Waking Light of the soul. Our spirits begin to quicken as we anticipate the rebirth of Nature. In Wicca it is the traditional time for initiation. Now is the time for the banishing of winter welcoming the spring. We welcome the Goddess who is renewed, reborn as the Flower Maiden. She has passed through Her phase as the Hag, Crone or Wise One, and is a Maiden again. Bride or Brighid is a three-fold Celtic Goddess who has been Christianise into St. Brighid, whose day is celebrated on 1st February.
In Ireland, St. Brighid’s cross is made of straw, and goes back to pre-Christian times, representing the Sun Wheel or Fire Wheel. It was believed that the Spirit of the Grain, or the Goddess Herself, resided in the last grain harvested, and the last grain from the Harvest Festival was ritually brought into the house at Imbolc, blessed and planted as the first seed of the next harvest.
The grain may also be made into a female figure, and dressed. Bride's bed is made, and She is welcomed in. The Goddess is seen in Her three aspects at Imbolc, as the new-born Flower Maiden; the Mother, or bride of fertility, awaiting the fertilizing Sun God, and the Dark Crone of the dark half of the year. The sun is growing in strength, the Child of Promise, re-born at Yule, is now the Conquering Child.
What was born at the Solstice begins to manifest, and this is the time for individuation, as we each light our own light, and set ourselves tasks and challenges. We nurture and kindle our resolutions and begin to look outwards again, do outer activity, although first we look deep within to discover what potential lies there waiting to be fulfilled. Through the weeks ahead the days grow gradually longer, but we are still in the dark half of the year (until Beltane) and this is the time to develop non-physical skills, such as clairvoyance and precognition.
Imbolc focuses on the Goddess, both as Mother - as she gave birth to the Sun God at the Winter solstice, and as the Maiden. Brigit was originally considered a form of the Triple Goddess.
Imbolc is a feast dedicated to the Goddess in her maiden aspect, in her guise as Bridget, Bride, Brighid, Brigit or Brig - goddess of learning, poetry, prophesying, craftsmanship, agriculture and healing. Imbolc is considered a traditional healing time and it is a good time to consider ways to improve your health.
Brighid is the virgin goddess who brings new life to the earth. She is known as Bride in Scotland - pronounced Breed - which is the origin of the word 'bride'. Imbolc is also known as Bride's Day. She was Christianise as St. Bridget of Kildare, the patroness of sheep and fertility, and she was also known as the 'Mother of Ireland'. Brigit’s Cross is woven from corn and consists of four arms that meet to form a square center - a fire wheel. Traditionally, on this day candlelit processions were led to St. Bridget's holy shrines - wells.
Imbolc is traditionally regarded as the first day of Spring. Life is beginning to stir again.
The Celtic festival of Imbolc or Imbolg - pronounced without the 'b' sound - is sometimes known as Oimelc, means 'ewe's milk' - named due to the birth of the first lambs at this time, and celebrates the return of fresh milk.
Sheep are earlier with their offspring than cattle, because they could crop lower for grass and so thrive on the sparse vegetation in late winter. Cattle would calf around March.
Bulbs are beginning to shoot and new lambs are born - the cycle of new life returns to the earth. Imbolc marks the rebirth of nature and fertility. It is the celebration of the gradual dawning of increasing light, bringing nature to life again. Nature is awakening from her winter rest - the long winter darkness begins to break as the daylight hours begin to get longer. Christians celebrate this festival as Candlemas.
How to celebrate ImbolcSpring-cleaning comes from the habit at Imbolc of getting rid of unwanted clutter and preparing for the new season, physically and mentally. Now is the time to finish old habits and make a fresh start, and realise the world is full of new opportunities.
Imbolc is a 'fire festival'. Particular attention was paid to the hearth fire and keeping it alight.
Make an offering of milk to the earth as a token of fertility; just pour some milk on to the ground. Bring the Light in to your home. Lighting candles in every window is traditional, as is leaving them to burn down but always be aware of any lit candles ensure they are safe and secure and away from curtains or any other flammable items.
With the early stirring of spring aspect of the festival, plant a seed in a pot. The pot can be decorated by hand, with whatever symbols you find appropriate. Suggestions would be the Sun, lit candles, or Brighid’s cross.
Open all the windows and let in the new spring air, Imbolc is traditionally a time for purification, which gave rise to the tradition of Spring Cleaning! Brush those cobwebs away and start afresh. Imbolc is the time to tackle all your 'Spring Cleaning' - this can apply to the mind and heart as well as the household.
Place white flowers such as snowdrops and crocus, which naturally comes into flower this time of year upon the altar.
Place a besom by the front door to symbolize sweeping out the old and welcoming in the new.
The Imbolc AltarImbolc - is a Moon festival, the Celtic festival of the lighting of the new fire and the Feast of Brighid, the Goddess of smithcraft, healing and poetry. Brighid or Bride is a form of 'bright' and one of her Gaelic names means Bright Fiery Arrow.
Imbolc is a festival of hope and trust and the time when new life is stirring, there is the promise of spring and rebirth in the air. It's a time for inner reflection. You may wish to include a statue of the Goddess on your altar or a symbol of the Goddess such as a Brighids cross, the altar cloth can be whatever you choose but white would be appropriate for this Sabbat. Use lots of candles to welcome back the light Red, white or yellow candles are appropriate. Use a small set of lights to brighten your altar and acknowledge the fire festival. You can include a small bowl of seeds and sprouts as a symbol of fertility and rebirth, or why not plant some sunflower seeds ready for decorating your Litha altar. A small besom made of twigs is also appropriate.
Food for ImbolcLamb, creamy soups, bread pudding, Young fresh vegetables, Curries and all dishes made with peppers, onions, leeks, shallots, garlic, or chives, muffins, scones, Pancakes, omelettes, quiche, fruitcakes, colcannon, milk puddings, custard
DrinksSparkling white wine, lemonade or mineral water, sparkling water, champagne, fruit teas
SymbolsBesoms, White Flowers, Candle Wheels, Brighid's Crosses, Ploughs
HerbsAngelica, Basil, Bay Laurel, Blackberry, Celandine, Coltsfoot, Heather, Iris, Myrrh, Tansy, Violets, and all white or yellow flowers
IncenseBasil, Bay, Wisteria, Cinnamon, Violet, Vanilla, Myrrh
FlowersSnowdrops, crocus, and daffodils are the first flowers of the year. You may also find yellow forsythia blooms, fuzzy pussy willow buds, or red maple buds
ColoursWhite, Pink, Red, Yellow, light Green, Brown
StonesAmethyst, Bloodstone, Garnet, Ruby, Onyx, Turquoise
Altar CandlesWhite, red, pink or brown
OilsJasmine, Apricot, Carnation, Sweet Pea, Neroli, Olive
Materials:Imbolc Potpourri (recipe below)
1 Yard White Netting Material
Yellow and Pink 1/8" width Ribbon
Potpourri is made with:1/2 cup dried basil
1/2 cup dried chopped bay leaves,
1 cup dried Heather flowers
1 cup dried Violets
1 cup dried white or pink rosebuds
Blend together in non-metal bowl. Cut netting material into 4"x4" squares. Lay out squares on a flat surface. Place 1 heaping tablespoon of potpourri in the middle of each square. Pull up all the corners to the middle of the potpourri and gather the excess material until potpourri is caught in a "bag". Give bag on twist to the right and tie off with yellow or pink ribbon. Use enough ribbon to make a small bow in the front of the sachet. Tell children how these sachets were exchanged as symbols of good luck and fertility.