Imbolc Symbols, Simple Decor, and Unique Brigid’s Day Altar Ideas
As Imbolc approaches, majority of us are still in hibernation mode. Sure, the holidays have passed, but we are still in the midst of Winter. It’s cold outside and most of us are content snuggled up under our blankets with a good witchy book to read. And when we get a little extra energy and motivation, perhaps we feel the urge to refresh the altar and decorate (just a bit) for Imbolc or Brigid’s Day. Here you’ll find our suggestions on ways to use Imbolc symbols, how to decorate for this sabbat, and simple yet beautiful altar ideas.
Briefly, What is Imbolc or Brigid’s Day?
Before we go into the symbols and decorations, for those who aren’t aware, what is Imbolc? First, Imbolc occurs annually on February 1st-2nd in the Northern Hemisphere and on August 1st -2nd in the Southern Hemisphere. 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.
Imbolc, also called Saint Brigid’s or just Brigid’s Day, is a modern sabbat based on an ancient Celtic festival that honored the stirrings of Spring. And, more specifically, pays homage to the Celtic goddess Brigid. (Or, at least, we believe, since in later centuries the holy day became associated with the Saint Brigid). Brigid is a goddess of smithing, poetry, healing, and inspiration. She can be called upon for protection, healing, purification, and to aid in artistic works and crafts of all kinds. If you are a devotee of Brigid’s, consider making this day all about her.
Imbolc Traditions: Ancient and Modern
Since the ewe’s began lactating at Imbolc, traditionally milk and dairy are included in meals. This is an easy way to work ancient traditions into your modern Imbolc rituals. Leave a glass of milk as a offering to Brigid or your spirits, or make a dish that features cheese, cream, or milk. Lighting a candle in Brigid’s name or to honor Mother Earth on Imbolc is also a simple and beautiful tradition. If you’re able to light a bonfire, even better! Any rituals involving both water and fire are in alignment with Brigid’s energy. And you could make Brigid’s crosses and dollies on this day.
POWERFUL Celtic and Imbolc Symbols
And now onto the Imbolc symbols and how to use them. There are actual symbols that represent the sabbat and Brigid, like the Wiccan Imbolc symbol, the Triquetra, and Brigid’s cross. There are other symbols that represent the natural occurrences and in-home customs at this time including the Lamb, Milk, Bread, Corn Dollies, Fire, Candleflame, and the Sacred Well. The snowdrop is powerful representation since it’s thought to be the first flower to bloom around Imbolc. Snowflakes, the sun, fire, and water symbolism is prevalent on Brigid’s Day for obvious seasonal reasons.
The Imbolc Symbol – Each sabbat in the Wiccan Wheel of the Year has been assigned a simple symbol. The modern Imbolc Symbol is below and resembles half of a wheel or possibly a sunrise? Honestly, I can’t find any ancient ties to this symbol and my research online shows it was a modern invention via Wicca founders OR a deviantart artist. Nevertheless, a symbol is power when WE give it such.
The Triquetra on Imbolc – A trefoil knot that represents the Sacred Number 3 in Celtic tradition. Modern Christians refer to it as the Holy Trinity, but modern pagans use it to represent Land, Sea, and Sky. Life, death, and rebirth. And also the triple-aspect of the goddess Brigid. Or the Wiccan Triple Goddess.
Brigid’s Cross – The Brigid’s cross is a four-armed cross constructed of reeds. It is traditionally made fresh every year and hung above the front door for protection. It’s become an ubiquitous symbol of Imbolc.
Lamb – Imbolc translates to “ewe’s milk”, which refers to the lambs being born and the ewes lactating to feed them at this time. Sheep are common livestock in Ireland and have been important to survival for centuries.
Sun – The Sun is a common Imbolc symbol. We’ve been waiting all Winter for the warmth of the Sun, and while it might not be warm outside we know that the Sun’s strength is growing at this point forward until the Summer Solstice.
Fire – Fire is used to purify and protect and is an Imbolc symbol for these reasons. In addition, fire is an element sacred to the goddess Brigid and employed to honor her on her sacred day. In the form of the bonfire, hearth fire, and candle flame.
Water – Since Imbolc invokes the first stirrings of Spring, the water element is most definitely present and is an Imbolc symbol. You might find it in the form of a Sacred Well, Ritual Bath, or the delicate Snowflake. Water is sacred to Brigid.
6 Simple Yet Unique Ways to Decorate for Imbolc
If you’re like me, you might be in a relaxation, hibernation mode during the months of January and February. Therefore, the idea of decorating your home or altar space for Imbolc might sound taxing. If this is you, yet you’d like to honor Brigid’s Day in some small way, here are a few ways to decorate for Imbolc without exhausting yourself or your resources:
- Replace the candles around the house and on the altar with Imbolc colors – dark blue, light blue, and white candles. (If you have a stock of candles, this is a simple change-out and takes little time)
- Add a cup or bowl of fresh water to your altar or by the front door.
- Fill a small glass halfway with salt, then stick a bay leaf halfway into the salt. This represents the green earth beginning to peak through the snow.
- Cover your table and/or altar with a white linen tablecloth (or any white tablecloth you have) to symbolize the snow and purity of Imbolc.
- Change out any crystals, stones, and other natural items on your altar or in your home with Imbolc crystals and herbs instead. I like to replace my red and green crystals from Yule with white and blue crystals like selenite, moonstone, sodalite, and lapis for Imbolc.
- Hang a Brigid’s cross above your door. You can make one or simply purchase one.
Imbolc Altar Ideas: Cleansing, Charging, and Refreshing
Whether you have a small or large altar doesn’t matter. What matters is how you feel about it and what it does for your spiritual path. If you’ve never decorated your altar for Imbolc before, don’t worry about setting up something elaborate. Your altar doesn’t have to look like the ones you see on Instagram or Pinterest. It can be as simple as a candle and a few other items that mean something to you. That being said, here are some Imbolc altar ideas you can try out. Starting with a blank slate and working up to an Imbolc ritual:
1. Cleansing the Altar for Imbolc
Since purification is a central theme to the sabbat, it’s important to cleanse your altar before charging and decorating. This doesn’t have to be complicated. Simply smoke-cleanse your space with an herb bundle or incense. If you can’t handle smoke or can’t use smoke in your home, wipe your altar surface down with moon water or a purifying herbal infusion.
2. Selecting Imbolc Representations
I typically keep certain items on my altar throughout the year. Those items include: cups and bowls for offerings, candles and candle holders, incense and burner, as well as representations of my animal familiars. You might consider what you want to keep on your altar year-round and then add a few items for each sabbat. For Imbolc, a Triquetra amulet or altar cloth. A corn dolly. Or some representation of the goddess Brigid is plenty! Anything in Imbolc colors of white and blue work wonders to shift the vibes.
3. Blessing the Altar
Once you’ve cleansed your altar and gathered your Imbolc decor, it’s time to bless your space. This is as easy as inviting positive energy to fill your sacred space, be it a deity you work with or an ancestor. The Universe or your guides. You can sing, chant, or pray over the altar space and magical items. I also like to anoint my altar surface and tools with an oil of some kind. Either one I’ve made or an essential oil like lavender or lemon.
4. Decorating the Imbolc Altar
You’ve cleansed, gathered, and blessed your space. Now it’s time to put it all together. How you set up your altar is entirely up to you. In some traditions, there are specific directions and spots for specific tools. But in the path of the solitary pagan or witch, there is no dogma or rules. The only thing to consider is where to place things that you’ll use often. For example, if you change out a cup of water daily keeping that cup of water in an accessible place. Also keeping candles and incense away from paper or flammable items is an important consideration.
5. Performing a Ritual or Spell at the Imbolc Altar
The last step to setting up the Imbolc altar is actually using it in either ritual or spellwork. The energies you put into your altar and the energies you invited there will be present to fuel any work you do during the Imbolc season. Focus your rituals on the Imbolc magical themes of purification, peace, wisdom, solitude, rest, and protection.
Any spells using fire and water are appropriate and powerful at this time. Candle spells, fire bowl release spells, and burning incense are common practice. As well as crafting herbal sprays, oils, and using snow water to purify. To be honest, at this time of the year, I don’t have a ton of energy to do much other than rest and focus on self care. And so if that’s all you can do, that’s perfectly fine and in-alignment with the season!