As the Wheel of the Year turns, Imbolc marks the coming of Spring time. Imbolc is the season in which we look outward again after long nights of Winter; it is a celebration of light returning and the days growing longer as we welcome the coming of Spring..
Imbolc is also known as Candlemas, an ancient Celtic fire festival which honours the Goddess Brighit; this Celtic deity also goes by the names of Brighid, Brigid or Bride (pronounced ‘Breed‘) which means ‘arrow of fire’.
Brighid is the Goddess of Fire and Healing, of Smith-craft, Poetry, and Child-Birth. This Celtic Goddess had a reputation for justice and was fiercely protective of women, children, and newborn animals.
The Christians adopted this Irish deity as Saint Bridgit who is believed to have been born near Kildare, and reputed to have died around 525 CE. When Pope Gregory the Great ordered for monasteries to be built on pagan sacred sites, the monastery at Kildare was founded, where a shrine was dedicated to Saint Bridgit and nuns tended to her sacred flame, never letting it die out for centuries to pass.
In pre-Christian times, people would honour the spirits of the place- springs and wells were considered sacred. In many parts of the British Isles, Ireland, Wales, England, Brittany and Scotland the special healing properties of wells are dedicated to Brigid. People would come to these sites to leave offerings to the Goddess in hopes of having their wishes granted. Tree dressing is an old custom of tying strips of cloth to trees on sacred sites, where people would request healing from the spirits of the place. Tree dressing might also be used to ask for mercy and justice by offering a token to the elements of sun (Fire), rain (Water) and wind (Air) bringing their wish into the great web of spirit where all things are balanced out. Brighid is not a Goddess of revenge, but about resolute justice.
Growing Around & Within…
Names for the moon during this time of year given by the Celts and Medieval England are Snow Moon, Ice Moon, or Storm Moon as this period of seasonal shift brought the heaviest snow storms, or signs of an early spring time would appear with early lambing and budding snow-drops and crocuses. With many animals still deep in hibernation or not yet returned from their winter migrations, hunting conditions are harsh and the ground still too cold for planting crops which is why Native Americans traditionally call this the Hunger Moon.
Imbolc means “in the belly” which refers to many ewes being pregnant around this time, and in a mild year the first lambs are being born. Sheep, especially lambs, have strong links to innocence, and the gentle, child-like qualities in our lives. As a herd animal, the sheep totem can reflect our feelings of acceptance within a flock or to rebel in the style of the “black sheep”.
Over the fields, the land is beginning to thaw and recover from the frost of winter and agriculturalists prepare to plough and sew seeds for the next season of crops. Early Spring bulbs and shoots begin to appear, and trees also start to bud as the sun returns brighter and warmer. Snowdrops and crocuses are popping up through the melting snow. As shoots begin to grow with the nurturing Earth, as do we grow our own spiritual roots to reconnect with ourselves and Nature.
We recognise our needs to grow in our own time, to bloom. In order to grow to fulfil our own potential, we must also acknowledge that we need careful nurturing of the energies for our physical, metal and spiritual wellbeing, just as a young seed needs a balance of soil (Earth), light (Fire), oxygen (Air) and rain (Water).
Ways to Welcome Imbolc…
• This time of year carries the themes of “out with the old, in with the new” so why not have a spring clean to free yourself of the clutter you no longer need to freshen the energies of your home, to make way for new and positive energy in your life. Clear out the clothes you no longer wear, the books you no longer read, the clutter you no longer want and donate it to a charity shop.
• Make time to go on a short walk every day to observe Nature’s changes at this time of year. What trees and flowers are beginning to bud? What birds have returned from migration? What animals have come out of hibernation? You may like to make animal feeders from seeds and lard to hang from trees to help the wildlife though the last of winter.
• You could make plans to start a new project beginning at Imbolc where seeds are sewn and continue working on this through until Ostara (Spring Equinox) at the time of year where flowers come into bloom. Or you may like to plan your project to coincide with the lunar cycle beginning at the new moon, working through the Full Moon and finishing at the time of the waning moon.
• If you have a garden, why not start preparing the outside space for the next planting season? Turn over the soil, rake up the leaves, dig up weeds and trim back bushes. If you do not have a garden, you could start a small window box for herbs. Look into the traditions, lore and properties of the flowers and herbs you want to grow.