At the half way point between midwinter and the spring Equinox, around the 1st of February, we celebrate the festival of Imbolc (or Imbolg) the time of awakening.
Imbolc is the festival of the bride. Where the triple goddess transform within the couldron from her Crone form and is reborn a Maiden (or bride) bringing fresh inspiration and creativity back with her; her gifts of poetry and song stir (ahem) the green man from his slumber and as they couple, the sap and life giving energy is stirred also.
In Greek mythology this is the time Persephone would return to the earth from the underworld (the innerworld)
Through the winter we journeyed inward to our couldron; reflecting and shedding off what needs to be left behind in order to be reborn. Now is the time of rebirth. We are to emerge inspired by all we have learnt with fresh ideas and perspectives. Now is the time for goal setting, deciding what your goals are and planting those first seeds ready to sprout and take action. Prepare for the changes to come, the door between inward journeying and positive action is open, the light is peeking in.
In celtic paganism the bride is personified as Brigid. The triple goddess of inspiration, healing and the hearth/forge fire. She is the spark of life, keeper of the sacred fire, goddess of poetry and song through which she preserves ancestral memory. Springs and Wells are sacred to her. Water being the source of life, ruler of emotions and inspiration.
Imbolc means ‘in the belly’ which is where we find our selves now. The first lambs are being born, the first spring plants such as snow drops are emerging. We have almost survived winter though it is not quite over.
Traditions and practice
With spring on the horizon now is a good time to purify and cleanse in order to invite inspiration. This includes your home and yourself. This could include a ritual bath, smudging and spring cleaning to clear away all the cobwebs (physical and spiritual) that can gather in the dark of winter.
One of my favourite rituals is to welcome Brigid in to bless your home and endeavours:
Begin by cleaning your home and self as if you were expecting an important guest. You may wish to decorate with flowers however I wouldn’t suggest going and picking much of what little there is.
Place an offering on your hearth or in your kitchen for Brigid, dairy and simple breads are traditional. Open your front door and invite the bride in, you may wish to formally invite her out loud, asking for her blessing.
Sit by your offering and take time to think about all you have learnt, what you have released and what you aim to achieve in the coming year. This would be a good time for divination and journaling. After a while, whenever you feel it is right, thank the Goddess for her blessings and close the door. Later dispose of your offerings by leaving them outside.
Previously, our ancestors would have been really feeling this last part of winter. Supplies would be running low, the last cold spells proving more difficult to endure. It would be wise to check on loved ones and see if they require anything. Imbolc is a hearth festival; a time for communication, sharing and love, you may wish to invite loved ones to you. Taking care of those in need is important. Like us the creatures outside will also be feeling the pinch. Take time to care for them too by putting out birdseed and healthy scraps. The hedgehogs may be considering waking up now, could you leave something for them?
I have to do this away from my home as Pandora cat has no mercy and I would be luring them to their deaths. So I venture out for a walk to observe the first signs of life coming through and to leave offerings for the Goddess and the creatures.
Another popular tradition within communities is ‘well dressing’ as mentioned springs, and wells are sacred to the bride. Offerings are left and clouties (scraps of material and ribbon) are tied around to give thanks and ask for blessings, wishes and favours. In my home town this is observed at our leechwell but 2 more famous ones are in Glastonbury should you ever wish to make a pilgrimage.
*Be warned, if you are planning to ask for assistance be sure you word your intention carefully the phrase ‘be careful what you wish for’ rings true when working at such a potent time.
Other traditions include tree dressing, creating brigid’s crosses and bridie dolls to bless one’s home.
The celtic feast of Oimelc is also celebrated at this time. Oimelc meaning ‘ewe milk’ , there is much talk of milk in traditional practice for Imbolc. Milk being the first nutrients we recieve. It is high in fat which we would be looking for to help us through the lasts of winter. In the sky above us the milky way is more visible (if it weren’t for light pollution). Encircle us. The ancient Greeks believed it was created from the spilling of breast milk from the Goddess Hera.
Leaving out offerings of milk and butter is traditional, as is bathing in it to cleanse and purify oneself (its a great moisturiser). The white colour also lends itself to purification magic. You could buy dried milk and add it to a ritual bath or add a cup or two. Imagine the dark of winter being drained away and your body being filled with the light of inspiration.
To sum up: at Imbolc we seek to purify and cleanse our lives of the shroud of winter. We look ahead with hope of spring and New ventures. We aim take care of each other so that we may endure this last part and be reborn with new inspirations and positive mind sets. Now is a good time to meet and discuss with your loved ones all you have learnt through winter and what you want to achieve in the coming year. What would you need in order to achieve your goals? What steps will you take? Winter isn’t quite over but there is hope of spring!
Have a blessed day. Peace out witches.