Imbolc, also called St. Brigid’s Day, is an ancient Celtic holiday celebrated annually on February 1st. It’s a time when Winter starts to fade and the first signs of Spring pop up to remind us life will blossom again soon. But how do we celebrate Imbolc in our own modern way? Here we provide you with 8 simple modern ways to celebrate this ancient and heart-warming sabbat.
As said before, Imbolc is celebrated annually on February 1st and originates in Celtic Ireland and Scotland. Imbolc recognizes the very beginning stirrings of Spring and also is the feast-day of Saint Brigid. Because St. Brigid is a syncretized version of an ancient goddess, modern pagans and witches also celebrate the goddess Brigid on Imbolc. Imbolc translates to “ewe’s milk” or possibly “in the belly”, because it was the time when the sheep’s milk would come in to prepare for feeding a new round of lambs. When we think of the meaning of “in the belly”, we think of the sheep’s and other animals wombs being full. Ready to give birth. As is the goddess…pregnant with the earth’s bounty, ready to allow life to return to the earth. Two beautiful signs of Spring.
According to famous witch and writer Laurie Cabot, “Brigid is honored in her maiden aspect, but she is a pregnant maiden, pregnant with the young seed of the Sun. At Imbolc, also called the Festival of Lights, Brigid wears a radiant crown of candles. She is wondrous healer, Protector, and Patron of Creative Inspiration. Until her light is fully born again at Beltane, Brigid ensures that the seed is nurtured inside her womb and that the home fires continue to burn through the final days and nights of Winter.”
Today, we celebrate Imbolc and many of us don’t understand the true origins of it. We don’t know what it’s like to have our Winter food supply dwindle, only to be replenished when the ewes begin lactating again. The ewes’ milk meant drinking milk, making cheese, cream and more. Welcome nourishment that was likely lacking right before Imbolc occurred. It’s interesting to note, in Ireland, the lambs were purposely weaned in August so that breeding could take place. Which would lead to more lambs being born the following Imbolc season. Our ancestors knew how to care for themselves, particularly how to replenish their food stores when growing crops was out of the question.
Human babies were also born around Imbolc, a direct result of the fertility festival Beltaine nine months prior. Because of all the babies being born and lactation going ‘round, Imbolc was a heavily feminine-focused holiday. Women were responsible for milking, churning, and dairying the stock. Not to mention, it’s considered part of the dark half of the Celtic year (Samhain to Beltane), which belonged to the women. The light half of the year (Beltane to Samhain) belonged to the men. But it’s not like the men didn’t take part in the Imbolc season.
According to author Sharon Paice MacLeod, in her brilliant book Celtic Cosmology and the Otherworld, there were likely tribal “hostings” during the Winter months. This is when the clans would meet to discuss and plan their war ventures in the Spring and Summer months. And likely also to come to agreements before war was required. These tribal hostings took place between Mid January to Mid March. Or the Imbolc season. So while the ladies churned, the men plotted.
Every season and every pagan holiday has certain concepts and magical themes. Which means, depending on your tradition and needs, you can weave one or more of these themes into your personal celebrations. On Imbolc, also called Brigid’s Day, we see the following magical rituals and spells
If you’d like to use some of these Imbolc magical correspondences in your rituals and celebrations, go for it!
|Cheeses||Light blue or aqua||Wheat/corn||Lepidolite|
Because Imbolc is the first Spring sabbat, it’s only fitting to honor Mother Earth by going outside and looking for the first signs of Spring. These signs will be different by region and depend on what atmosphere you live in – country, suburbs, city, etc. Take note of any changes in your environment that might indicate the first sign of Spring. For instance, maybe snowdrops or some other early Spring flower is beginning to bloom, a particular type of bird has returned, grass poking out from the snow, etc.
For many modern mommies and caretakers, we might not have a lot of time to celebrate this sabbat SO why not get some Spring cleaning done in light of Imbolc? Spring cleaning on Imbolc was once customary and if you do it on Imbolc, you’re knocking two birds out with one stone, right? So wash your curtains, clean your windows and doors, dust those hard-to-reach corners and welcome in Spring with a clean, fresh house! Don’t forget to cleanse your space spiritually by smoke-cleansing, simmer pot, or sound, etc.
Another old Imbolc custom, and perhaps the most-loved, was to hold large feasts. Yours doesn’t have to be large, but make it a point to make a special dinner for you and your family or friends to celebrate Imbolc. Traditional foods to include: colcannon, dumplings, baked bread, milk, eggs, dried fruits, and winter veggies. Dedicate the dinner to your goddess OR specifically to the goddess Brigid and the Spring season. Find delicious traditional and modern Imbolc Meals here.
Because cleansing and purification were customary on Imbolc, why not perform a cleansing bath ritual? We preach our cleansing bath rituals here at Otherworldly Oracle because they’re effective and relaxing! Cleanse away those negative energies from the Winter season in preparation for new energy in the Spring. Something to add to honor the custom of “dressing sacred wells” – decorate the sides of your bathtub with flowers and candles.
An ancient St. Brigid’s Day tradition is to make something called St. Brigid’s Crosses. Learn how to make them in the video below. They not only honor the goddess and St. Brigid, but when hung above the front door will protect and bless your home for the coming year. Make it a tradition and replace your St. Brigid’s cross again next Imbolc!
For nearly every Celtic sabbat, lighting a fire is tradition. The fire beckons and honors the warmth of the coming sun. Start a bonfire, light a fire in the fireplace, OR if you don’t have the means – simply light a candle and dedicate it to the Spring Sun OR the goddess Brigid.
If you keep an altar, Imbolc is a wonderful day to cleanse, charge and refresh it. Take everything off, clean the altar and tools, then cleanse with smoke or holy water. Following, pray over your altar and tools to charge with renewed energy. In addition, decorating your altar in Spring colors and decor invite the coming season and honors Imbolc at the same time! Colors include: white, light blue, light pink, pastel colors and green. Decorations include: flowers, representations of Brigid, sheep, baskets, and more!
Since Imbolc is indeed a fire festival, use this element’s energy to your utmost magical benefit. In addition to lighting a fire for Brigid and the sun, plan and carry out a powerful burning ritual. Burning rituals are used to “burn away” bad habits, toxic relationships, and old ways of life. Conversely, you can also toss wishes and other desires for manifestation into the fire. As we’ve said before, fire has the power to destroy AND create.
On the eve of Imbolc, place a linen tablecloth, sheets, doily, napkin, etc. outside. Tradition has it that Brigid travels over the land this night and will bless any linen laid out. Then you can use that linen throughout the year to bestow blessings upon the household: love, peace, inspiration and protection. Then bring those linens back in and put them in a drawer with a sachet of fresh herbs like lavender and rosemary. More specifically, if you’re pregnant, leave a ribbon or piece of cloth outside for Brigid to bless with protection over you and your baby during childbirth.
In our article on Imbolc crystals and herbs, we detail specific traditional plants and stones associated with this ancient Celtic festival. But to sum it up, harness the energy of your favorite crystals and herbs and work them into your Imbolc celebrations. Crystals like aventurine and rose quartz can be worn, carried, and placed around the home and on the seasonal altar. Herbs like nettle and rosemary can be used in the kitchen in magical Imbolc meals, as well as in baths, garlands, and other magical concoctions.
Traditionally, cakes and butter were placed on windowsills at Imbolc as offerings to Saint Brigid. A sheaf of corn was also placed by the cakes and butter as offering to Brigid’s beloved cow. You can continue with this tradition, or simply leave offerings out on your table or Imbolc altar for Brigid.
Since Imbolc was a time of honoring the feminine, being thankful for nourishment, and purification, any kind of purification ritual is appropriate. Taking a purifying bath or having a Reiki energy-clearing is a great way to celebrate Imbolc. In addition, protection spells like warding one’s home and vehicle, as well as bindings and banishings are appropriate and powerful on this sabbat. Call on Brigid’s aid to protect children, women, and the household. Read our article on Imbolc spells here.
Ever heard of Groundhog’s Day in the United States? This silly custom of watching the groundhog’s movement after Winter is actually a longstanding tradition stemming from the reading of weather omens at Imbolc. Author MacLeod states that weather omens were read at this time to predict the coming sowing season in Spring. You can engage in weather omen reading by cloud scrying to determine an answer to any of your questions for the coming year. Or try your skill at bird flight reading, called augury. The more birds you see and hear, the better Spring will be.
There’s a crisp hint of magic in the air. And a sense of warmth and …September 21, 2023