During Imbolc, we celebrate the earliest return of life to the earth after the barren darkness of winter. Although it is still the cold, dark time of the year, the days are slowly becoming longer and we prepare to re-meet the world of spring. Small but sturdy signs of new life begin to appear. Lambs are born and new grasses appear. Ravens begin to build their nests, larks sing with a clear voice, and winter bulbs push up through the soil.
Lambs and sheep are strongly associated with the holiday. The sheep was a very important animal to the agrarian (farming) people of the past, providing food and clothing. Lambing—which occurred around Imbolc—was an occasion for joy and hope. Lambing also meant that the mother lambs began giving milk, which provided cheese, yogurt, and other foods to the people.
In legendary terms, the Goddess at Imbolc has recovered from the birth of the Sun God at Yule, and the God—who will live out his life span within one year—is young. Imbolc is a time to celebrate the light and to honor the Maiden aspect of the Goddess, as well as the child aspect of the God.
Scotland’s Old Woman of winter, the Cailleach, is reborn as Brigid, Young Maiden of Spring, fragile yet growing stronger each day as the sun rekindles its fire. With her snowy white wand, Brigid breathes life into the land and asks Winter to open his eyes.
Oimelc is also connected with women’s mysteries and women’s rites of passage. It is a time of purification, initiation, and new beginnings.
Passing the holiday:
- Conduct a ritual to banish the darkness and welcome spring. Remove and burn any remaining Yule greenery. Since Imbolc is all about cleansings and new beginnings, use your besom (broom) to “sweep out the old.” Many people begin their spring cleaning at Imbolc.
- Devise a ritual for blessing the candles that you will use throughout the year, or restock and bless your magickal herbs. Invoke Brigid for creative inspiration.
- Work candle magick. Put a small pillar candle in a glass jar; set the jar in a window and burn it until morning (note: make sure that there is nothing near the jar that could catch fire!). Place candles around your home.
- Conduct a hearth-cleansing, either of a fireplace or of your kitchen hearth (oven and stove). For a fireplace, sweep out the old ashes, then purify with salt, smudging, or any other ritual that suits your purposes. Finish by kindling and lighting a ritual fire. For an oven, clean it carefully, purify it, then use it to bake a special food or meal.
- Do a “spring treasure hunt.” Go outdoors and search for signs of spring: bulbs pushing through the soil, new leaves, etc. If dandelions are growing, gather the leaves, wash thoroughly, and add to a salad. Dandelions—with their sun-like, yellow faces—are sacred to Brigid. (Note: Make sure that the dandelions you pick have not been sprayed with herbicides or pesticides.)
- Meditate upon what you would like to see grow in health and strength this year: for yourself, your family, your community, the Earth, and ask for Bride's blessing upon your prayers.
I am the unopened bud, and I the blossom, I am the life force gathering to a crest, I am the still companion of the silence, I am the far flung seeker of the quest. I am the daughter gathering in wisdom, I am the son whose questions never cease, I am the dawn-light searching out glad justice, I am the center where all souls find peace.
So mote it be!