Imbolc is a cross quarter sabbat, which means that it falls between two solar sabbats Yule and Ostara. Imbolc means “in the belly” which refers to pregnant sheep giving birth this time of year. It is otherwise known as the “lambing season.” Mother Earth or Gaia also has new life under the snow and/or the cold which is getting ready to stir. This is the goddess Brigid’s festival, and Brigid means the “exalted one.” “Breed” is the Celtic pronunciation this goddess’s name. This is also a fire festival, but the fires are sparks of creativity or inspiration and are often candle flames. In fact Imbolc was renamed Candlemas. Imbolc falls on February 1-2, and this year the full moon is on February 5. Just like there is a season for Samhain and Yule, there is a season for Imbolc. So February 5 is a suggested date to celebrate Imbolc this year. Note that the color for Imbolc is white with maybe a splash of gold and/or red for the sun. There are many ways to celebrate Imbolc.
This is the season to make, dress and burn candles. January 23 this year the moon is a waxing crescent, so as of that date through February 5 candle making and dressing is a wonderful idea. One needs to exercise care when making candles, and if this is his/her first time, I suggest research ahead of time. Traditionally colors for candles at Imbolc are white, and a few may be red or gold. After dark on Imbolc a candle is burned in each room in the home. Some people burn them on the night before Imbolc. If one lives in a place where fire is not permitted or if it is a bad idea to be burning candles in every room in the home, a good alternative is battery operated candles. Note not to leave burning candles unattended. There are some battery operated candles that flicker and have timers in them, so that they go off after six hours and go back on eighteen hours after that. Tea lights like I described are about $20.00 for twelve on Amazon. Extra batteries may be obtained at a dollar store, and the candles last a long time. Alternatively lights in the home may be turned on for a few moments. The crown of candles is often worn by a young lady. Such a crown may be made with birthday candles. The Farrars give instructions on how to make such a crown. See Suggested Investigation. But, with lithium battery operated candles so light weight a crown can be made with them. Take care to see what kind of batteries the candles use. If they use AA or AAA batteries, they can get heavy and harder to incorporate into a crown, and the number of candles one uses will be a factor. The count for candles on a crown is usually thirteen but can be less. Small mirrors like one can get in a craft store can be used on a crown instead of candles. When it comes to candles, there are options.
Imbolc is a time for dedication and initiation into Pagan or Wiccan paths. One may decide to follow one of the paths and dedicate at least a year and a day to study and prepare for initiation into a path. This is a good time to do a self blessing.
This is the time of year for spring cleaning and purification of space. There may be more winter weather to come due to a meteorological phenomenon called seasonal lag. But in the Celtic year this is considered to be the beginning of spring. Purification may be done with one or more incenses or smudges. Rosemary and frankincense are great choices for purification of spaces.
The Biddy or Brideog is a representation of Brigid who is dressed in white and put in a bed with a wand representing the young god. This representation of Brigid is usually a corn dolly. The white dress may be sewn or pinned into place. The wand may be a stick or a branch which is usually wrapped in red and white ribbon and is tipped with an acorn. Often Brigid’s bed is put near a hearth for the night and may be a basket or a box. This is a traditional fertility rite.
Traditionally the night before Imbolc Brigid’s crosses are made from rushes. Brigid’s crosses are symbolic sun wheels. They may also be made out of wheat straw, paper, pipe cleaners or environmentally friendly straws. I made the one pictured at the top out of spooled raffia. Brigid’s crosses are put up in the home for the year and protect the home through magickal intention. Check out the YouTube video in in Suggested Investigation to learn how to make Brigid’s crosses.
As the sun is strengthening, the fire within is important. The fire within is considered to be a fire that Brigid possesses. The fire within motivates one to accomplish great tasks. This is the time of year to use that fire to set wheels in motion to better the lives of oneself and of those around him/her.
Just as fire is sacred to Brigid, so are wells and springs. Strips of white cloth with petitions written on them for deity or the universe to grant may be hung over a sacred well or sacred spring. There are many wells that are sacred to Brigid, some of them in the British Isles. If a well or spring is not available one may be created by using a chalice or receptacle filled with water. It may be consecrated with an athame, and cloth strips may be hung nearby. The plumbing may be considered to be sacred, and strips of cloth can be hung near the sink.
Giving back this time of year is very traditional and was done during Pagan times. Giving milk back to the land as an offering this time of year was done when the lambs were born. Today giving back to Gaia by replenishing her soil with compost is an eco-conscious thing to do. Giving to those in need is important. And how about the birds? Try creating suet, peanut butter and seed snacks for them.
There are two types of foods to eat in honor of Imbolc: dairy and spicy. How about hot crossed buns with freshly made butter? A quiche would be a great idea. A spicy yogurt based soup would be delicious. How about hot chocolate with cinnamon, cayenne or one of your favorite spices?
Enjoy preparing for Imbolc!
I will continue to post on Wednesdays.
Cabot, Laurie, Celebrate the Earth: A Year of Holidays in the Pagan Tradition, Dell Publishing, 1994.
Cristal, Lisa, Magic Candle Making Handbook for Wiccans, Lisa Cristal, 2019. Find it on Kindle Unlimited.
Farrar, Janet and Stewart, A Witches’ Bible: The Complete Witches’ Handbook, Phoenix Publishing, 1981, 1984.
Forest, Danu, The Magical Year, Watkins Media Limited, 2016.
Fox, Selena, “Creating Imbolc Rituals and Celebrations,” Circle Sanctuary Network Podcasts, January 12, 2020, Encore from 2013.
Fox, Selena, “Imbolc Brigid Altar Ritual,” Circle Sanctuary Network Podcasts, February 02, 2020, Encore from 2014.
Fox, Selena, “Imbolc Ritual,” Circle Sanctuary Network Podcasts, January 26, 2020, Encore from 2013.
You Tube: “How to Make a Corn Dolly (Corn Husk Doll),” Sabbat Box, July 18, 2015.
YouTube: “How to Make a Traditional St Brigid’s Cross,” Office of Public Works, February 1, 2021.
Nock, Judy Ann, The Provenance Press Guide to The Wiccan Year: Spells, Rituals, Holiday Celebrations, Provenance Press, 2007.
Telesco, Patricia, A Kitchen Witch’s Cookbook, Llewellyn, 1994.
Weatherstone, Lunaea, Tending Brigid’s Flame: Awaken to the Celtic Goddess of Hearth, Temple, and Forge, Llewellyn, 2015.
Weber, Courtney, Brigid: History, Mystery, and Magick of the Celtic Goddess, Weiser Books, 2015.