What is Imbolc?
Imbolc has been an important Celtic/Gaelic holiday since ancient times held on the 1st of February* celebrating the turning of the wheel of the year and the coming of spring. As with most pagan holidays, Imbolc was based around the changing of the seasons, largely a festivity honoring the fertility of the land, the birth of the year’s lambs and the world turning green again. It also hailed the sun and fire goddess Brigid, later Christianized as Saint Brigid. Thus, following the lambing and the tilling of the sleeping earth, ancient people’s would come together in a “Feast of Fire” to wake up the world around them alongside their patron goddess.
It is believed by current practitioners as well as the ancient ones that Brigid visits homes during Imbolc, and in order to receive her blessings, it was tradition for people to make a bed for her, to leave her food and drink, and to offer her clothing to bless. During this time, she invokes protection over homes and livestock and fields. What a lovely woman!
For the modern pagan, it is sometimes hard to drop everything and go run out into fields, throwing bread crumbs and seeds everywhere, and I’m certain most of us aren’t doing any lambing. So I’ve made a list of 6 simple ways to honor the goddess Brigid and celebrate the wheel turning once more.
*The date has been subject to varying, as it was dependent on the season’s weather and changes, as well as the lambing timetables.
6 Simple Ways To Celebrate Imbolc
The Feast of Fire was all about showing gratitude for the potential of a fertile year, sustainability and, to put it simply, life. Way back when, having a successful farming year was a matter of survival. Despite that it has become easier in the modern world to make a living and eat whenever you’re hungry, it is still important to remember that we wouldn’t be here if our ancestors hadn’t spent their entire lives plowing fields, caring for their livestock and celebrating their good luck. Below are some fantastic recipes that are just perfect for showing gratitude:
Made with oats, fruits and nuts, Bonnach bread was the perfect offering to symbolize fertile health for the upcoming year. While some left it outside of their homes or next to holy wells, it was also eaten in the fields, where crumbs could be tossed into the dirt to encourage nourishment.
I absolutely cherish this recipe from Gather Victoria. It’s such a beautiful (and delicious) cake and she puts so much thought and intention into all of her recipes. Definitely check out her site to learn all about cooking like a proper pagan.
Milk was just as important as bread during Imbolc and another one of Gather Victoria’s recipes is bound to have you craving it year round. Enjoy reading up on the history while you follow this recipe into spring heaven.
Brigid was a teacher of “herbcrafting” which also has an obvious connection to crops, fertility and spring. Crafting and art alone were specialties of hers, so why not combine all of these fantastic activities into one?
These fun decorations were usually made out of plants called rushes to hang over doorways or beds, which brought luck and protection while warding off disease or bad juju. If you don’t have rushes, you can use straw, corn or broomcorn leaves or a more sturdy form of raffia.
Not everything has to be shared on the holidays. Why don’t you do something for yourself and enjoy a relaxing bath with Mountain Hedgewitch’s home-grown and hand-crafted bath teas, available in my shop all year round!
Bonfires and Hearthfires
What better way to celebrate the Feast of Fire than with an actual fire? Some people find it hard to believe that fire can encourage growth, but nature does it all the time. Forest fires clear away years’ worth of dead brush and leave behind fertilizing ashes that boost new vegetation. We would burn our fields every year when I was growing up to get the grass prepped for the new hay season!
So strike up your fireplace, your bonfire, your hundreds of candles (if you’re a witch, I know you have hundreds of candles…), your torches and your incenses, because it’s burning time!
There are two times a year I do a super clean, one being the end of Samhain, the other being the beginning of Imbolc. Both of these times of year mark the birth and death of many things, which can often leave lingering energies, spirits or just yucky gook. Why do you think witches always have brooms? For flying, obviously, but also to sweep out what no longer serves them. Dust included.
Here’s are some great songs to add to your Imbolc playlist and get you motivated to scrub the house clean!
Also visit the SHOP to find some great smudges to cleanse your newly minted house with!
As with most liminal stages, it is an opportune time to get some scrying done. Imbolc in particular is known for weather prognostication, and rightfully so. Farmers and scryers alike needed to predict weather patterns to know when to plant, harvest or breed. That being said, spring is a great time for looking outward and into the future. Here are some scrying ideas or tips
Water is a metaphor for the flow of collective unconsciousness. The connection between Brigid and wells stands the test of time and can be a great way to get in touch with her. An easy and great way of doing so could be gathering rainwater or snowmelt to use for water scrying.
This type of Seeing can come in many forms, such as cloud reading, rain visions or even something called Anemoscopy. This involves observing wind currents, their strength, direction and power by different means, such as throwing sand into the air and watching it or lettings it move your pendulum. Another way is listening to the sound of the wind, allowing it to “whisper” to you.
This kind of scrying can vary through many mediums, be it a large bonfire, the one in your hearth or from the single flame of a candle. During the ritual, a positive answer would be the flames burning higher. Wavering flames indicate a journey. Spiral flames indicate plots by enemies. An uneven flame could mean danger. Sparks might indicate you should be cautious while the extinguishing of a flame is very bad luck.
If singing or chanting is part of your process in connecting with the gods, here is one for Brigid:
Thig an nathair as an toll The serpent will come from the hole
Là donn Brìde, On the brown Day of Bríde,
Ged robh trì troighean dhen t-sneachd Though there should be three feet of snow
Air leac an làir. On the flat surface of the ground.
Start your seeds, folks! It’s the time of year when you should be getting your outdoor seedlings ready for planting. On top of being part of your summer hobbies (or jobs, for some), it can be a calming, cathartic experience to involve yourself with plant life. Especially when so many herbs come with magical purposes. In some zones, it’s nearly impossible to start seeds outside due to bad weather conditions, much like here in Colorado (my rule of thumb is to never plant anything outside until after Mother’s Day) and so you have to work around nature’s schedule. An easy way of doing that is starting your plants inside. Here is a great article from Planet Natural about growing your plants indoors, from lighting to maintaining space.
The goddess Brigid is well known for having discovered the healing properties of herbs and to have shared them with the world. Some herbs that have been referenced in connection to her are:
Most sun associated herbs that I didn’t list are also perfect for turning into any of the herb crafts, divination styles or recipes listed above!
Of course, celebrations are always heightened by the company of family and friends. Being surrounded by the “flocks” during this special lambing season ushers in freshness of a new year, the potential for life improvement and happiness. Even solo practitioners like myself have to cave into the company now and again.
So get out there, light your fires and fall into tune with the earth’s beautiful cycle! We’ll be out there too.