Imbolc is a festival of the ‘hearth and home’, and is a celebration of the lengthening days and the early signs of spring. It is a turning point, a festival of the beginning of the great things that will come, as they move from the quiet, dark of winter into the light of day.
Celebrated on February 1st, Imbolc is an ancient festival, recognized as one of the four great festivals in the Celtic calendar, alongside the Beltane (May 1), Lughnasadh (August 1) and Samhain (November 1). Resting between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox, it marks the beginning of Spring.
It is a festival of Light, a time to build bonfires and light candles that burn in your windows throughout the night. Fire and purification are important parts of the festival with the flames representing the return of the warmth and the increasing power of the Sun over the coming months.
“A celebration of fertility, a beginning of the new growth coming, of lambing season, young Spring flowers showing their heads, if not their faces, bursting through a light frosting of snow.”
Imbolc is a celebration of food and fertility, a beginning of the new growth coming, of lambing season, young Spring flowers showing their heads, if not their faces, bursting through a light frosting of snow. It is a time of great reflection and allowing what has settled and rested to grow again and come forward anew. It is a time of new beginnings, potential and fresh life. It is the coming of ‘knowing’, after long nights of self-doubt and darkness. It brings the rewards of joy and uplifting new sight, after the long ingestion of night and gestation of the new life to come.
From the Old Irish, Imbolc means "in the belly", and it was believed to refer to the pregnancy of ewes, given the lambing season. But it also refers to the gestation, the life that will come forth after winter, and the growing that is beginning quietly in the snug earth.
“Imbolc is the feast of the Gaelic Goddess Brigid, who was a formidable but gentle Goddess, full of wisdom and benevolence, blessing and gifting, who represented the light half of the year, and the power that will bring people from the dark season of winter into spring.”
Imbolc is the feast of the Gaelic Goddess Brigid, who is one of the Túatha dé Danann, and a formidable but gentle Goddess, full of wisdom and benevolence, blessing and gifting. She represents the light half of the year, and the power that will bring people from the dark season of winter into spring. She is considered one of the most important Goddesses because of this, and she is a living deity, accessible by calling on her to guide and bless the people, home, crops, land, animals and the year ahead. She is the Goddess on whom we will call for this ceremony.
Gather a collection of natural materials that you have specifically gone out into nature to acquire for this purpose. Setting the intention to collect natural materials for a ceremony to give thanks for the Spring festival is a sacred act. There is a need to bring reverence to the work, or it will not hold the content of intention as desired. State the intention before you go. Collect only pieces that speak to you or are ‘alive’ for you. Be sure to collect rushes or wheat/grass stalks if you can. Be open to how the materials speak to you and allow the essence of what you’re doing to be done in a purposeful and respectful manner.
Contrary to popular belief, stones, sticks, soil and all of nature is alive and has a place and purpose of it’s own. For this reason, it might be a nice idea to ask permission of the place and the materials in which you are interested if they would like to come with you for the reason that you need them and for them to leave the place that you found them. Usually they will say yes, but sometimes no, so drop the mind into a state of quiet and listen attentively to the place, the energy and the materials you are holding to listen for your answer.
Arrange the pieces you have collected out in nature on an alter (a makeshift alter will do). Set an intention for the work to contain what it is that you are doing. You could use the wording, “For this ceremony, I send out my clear intention that I …”. A good example of a suitable intention could be, “For this ceremony, I send out my clear intention that I am now ready to know what my big work is to be in the lifetime.” If you are holding your ceremony outdoors, bring a small handful of corn or rice with you, into which you will instil the intention. Light a few candles (any of the following colors are fine: white, red, yellow, green). If you have a hearth fire, light it as well. If you can, a bonfire outdoors is ideal. Only ever conduct ceremony with an attitude of deep respect and reverence for the Helping Spirits and the work. Have a few pieces of food and water on hand to close the ceremony.
“If you can,
a bonfire outdoors
Open the ceremony by inviting out loud all the Helping Spirits with whom you work into the Field. If you currently don’t work with Helping Spirits, Archangels Michael and Raphael are excellent choices. Ask that the space be “cleared, healed and sealed” and that a protective quarantine be placed around you and the space within which you’re working. Be sure to invite the local nature spirits and welcome them into the circle. Ask that all those present are invited to be partakers “in a good way”. Give thanks to all those who have come to be part of the ritual and celebration.
Ask out loud that this work be attended by and guided by the Helping Spirits.
Ask the four elements, earth, air, fire and water, to be present and for those elements to be balanced.
Call on the Goddess Brigid: “Goddess Brigid, Goddess of fertility and Light, on this, your Imbolc festival, I invite you to watch over me, my family, those I love and those I know, the land and all who live on and in her. At this time, the beginning of Spring, I call on you to bathe my spirit in your Light and I welcome your gifts of kindness, new beginnings and bringing me and mine out of the darkness of Winter and the fresh new light and air of Spring.”
If holding the ceremony outside, hold your corn or rice in your palm and speak your intention of the work that you previously decided into the rice/corn. Speak your intention into the rice/corn as if you were giving the intention over to them. Once you feel your intention has fully been passed from you to the rice/corn, turn away from the fire and blow the rice/corn into the wind and soil. If you are holding the ceremony indoors, hold one of the rocks collected for the ritual in your palm and speak your intention into it. You can either allow the rock to hold the intention for you on your alter or give the rock back to the approximate place where you found it and invite the rock to speak your intention to the land/sea.
Take the rushes/grass stalks and wrap them over one another into a 3-pronged or 4-pronged cross (see pic) and tie at the ends. The cross will act as a shield against a house fire and unwanted influences, should you place it in your home for the year. At next year’s ceremony be sure to throw the old cross on the fire before you install your new cross. The cross also represents peace, goodwill and friendship.
“Ask that the cross be blessed for it’s work for the year ahead and, if holding the ceremony indoors, go place the cross over the front door inside the house.”
Ask that the cross be blessed for it’s work for the year ahead and, if holding the ceremony indoors, go place the cross over the front door inside the house (in a high window, if you have one). If holding the ceremony outdoors, you can conclude the ceremony with the placing of the cross after working outside.
When you feel that your intention has been fully cast and your work is done, give thanks to the Helping Spirits who held space for you while you did your work. Give especial thanks to the Goddess Brigid for her blessings and for her guidance for the year ahead.
Close the ceremony by singing or playing music or doing a meditative walk or dance, or simply by sitting and contemplating the opening to the Otherworld you’ve been given and experienced. Taking in the food and water you’ve brought at closing, is a reminder of the physical form we inhabit and a symbol of the blessings and gifts we’ve been given to support our lives here on earth.