Imbolc brings the very first whisperings of spring. Early spring flowers peep up through the cold earth and the tiniest buds begin to form on the trees. Winter is by no means over--in fact the worst is often still to come--but there is a glimmer of hope. Candles are lit to represent the return of the Sun and the divine spark of creativity.
The Virgin Goddess
In the Celtic Triple Goddess tradition, the Crone of winter is reborn as the virgin at Imbolc. Known to the Celts as Brigid, she was a fire goddess and one of her main aspects was as a healer.
The Celtic image of a virgin was of inherent sexuality and fertility. As the thoughts and ideas incubated over winter emerge at this time., it is necessary to heal old, outmoded ways to allow new ideas to be born.
Imbolc in the Modern World
The Pagan fire festival of Imbolc is still present in the modern world. At the beginning of February, the returning light is celebrated by the Christian church as Candlemas. Traditionally, the candles are blessed and taken home to use in times of trouble. The festival also recognizes the Purification of the Virgin Mary, when she went to the temple for 40 days after giving birth to Jesus.
Old country lore claims that the weather at Candlemas forecasts the climate for the next six weeks; if the day is sunny the remainder of the winter will be stormy, but if it rains, the next six weeks will be mild. This aspect has been taken up in North America where the emergence, or not, of the hibernating groundhog is believed to be a spring weather predictor. This is known as Groundhog Day.
Celebrate the lengthening of days and the warming of the earth at Imbolc, with rituals of purification, fertility and renewal.
A Purifying Bath
The Romans named the month of February after a word signifying purification, as this was the time when ritual cleansing would prepare a person for a fresh start. So take a ritual bath at Imbolc in your own homemade "healing well".
**Collect some early spring flowers (in the U.K., snowdrops are often used) and then set the scene in your bathroom with lit candles around the bath tub to signify the burning away of old ideas as well as the coming of the light. Choose white candles for purity and green to recall and welcome the spring.
**Burn juniper oil and put a drop or two in the bathwater. This oil is chosen because it is a very powerful auric cleanser.
**Summon the goddess Brigid by scattering flower petals in the bath.
**Relax in the water, using an apple green soap.
Just as the seeds are germinating in the earth, Imbolc is a time when you should imagine your thoughts and ideas starting to warm up after leaving them to hibernate through the winter. Combine the correspondences of new life and light to perform this simple ritual for Imbolc.
1. Choose a quiet spot outdoors, in your garden or a local park, perhaps beneath your favorite type of tree or bush.
2. Plant a seed or bulb in the ground to make this place more special to you, choose the seed of your preferred plant or perhaps one associated with your Zodiac sign.
3. Now, light a small, white candle (to represent the Virgin Goddess's purity), sit and watch it burn down. As you do so, imagine that the seed you have planted represents the thoughts and ideas you have sown in hope for the year ahead.
A Brigid's Cross
At Imbolc, it was traditional to make a Brigid's Cross to welcome the goddess into the home. These were hung over doors or windows for the year, then burned and replaced at next Imbolc. You can make your own Brigid's Cross:
-> Bind two sticks of equal length to form a cross
-> Imagine your cross is made of four sticks and number them 1-4, from the top counting clockwise
-> Tie a silver ribbon around stick 1, close to the center of the cross, then take it to the right of stick 2 and wrap it around the back. From the left of stick 2, take the ribbon round to the right of stick 3 and wrap it around the back; take it from the left of stick 3 to the right of stick 4, and so on. Continue weaving in this way.
-> When it's complete, adorn your cross with other decorative items.