Welcome the Return of the Light!
Imbolc: Welcome the Return of the Light!
Grab your candles, fellow Witches — it’s been a long winter, and we’ve got to get ready for Imbolc! Not sure what Imbolc is? You’re still in the right place, and there’s enough time to bring you up to speed, so get cozy and settle in; I’ll go over everything you need.
We celebrate Imbolc from the evening of February 1st through the sunset on February 2nd, roughly a full 24 hours. (Unless you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, where the seasons run counter to what we’d expect in the Northern Hemisphere. Due to this variance, our fellow Witches in the Southern Hemisphere will instead celebrate Lammas, also known as Lushnasadh, but we’ll get there. All in due course of the Wheel of the Year!)
Experts are still not entirely sure what the term Imbolc definitively means: I’ve heard varying interpretations, with one proposed meaning “in the belly,” and being a reference to fertility in livestock, and another meaning potentially being “to wash/cleanse”. I don’t speak Old Irish, so I accept that both are possibly the true meaning, plus we have the option to refer to the Sabbat in question as Candlemas, or even St. Brigid’s Day, if your practice has a Christian bent or if you just want to prevent prying questions from relatives or neighbors.
Wait, St. Brigid? How did she get into it? Great questions! If you read her name and thought, “Hmm… that sounds an awful lot like the goddess Brigid,” you’re spot on — Christian priests, in an effort to gain converts from among the pagan locals in the British isles, changed Brigid the goddess of Light to Brigid the saint, and her feast day so-conveniently falls on… You guessed it, Imbolc. Brigid was one of the Tuatha de Danaan, or the original pre-Christian Irish pantheon, and she is a springtime goddess, associated with fertility, healing, and blacksmithing. (One of these things is not like the other — or is it?)
Regardless of what you decide to call the holiday, there are a few commonalities to the celebration of Imbolc/Candlemas. As the first Sabbat of springtime, it is a fire festival, and one that is primarily and generally concerned with the use of fire for light and illumination. The energy that we can feel and draw upon during Imbolc is the fire of creation and creativity, and while yes, the natural touchstone for many people will be pregnancy and new life, I believe that this primal creative force can be accessed by anyone, for any reason, and I don’t personally link it to pregnancy exclusively. As with the above associations for Brigid, blacksmithing is a great example: the smith, using white-hot fire, tempers steel to form tools or weapons, as she chooses; when you take in and work with the energy of Imbolc, you tap into this force and make it your own, no matter the projects to which you turn your hand.
But. There’s always a but, and this is no exception: you must make room for the creative impulses and their fruit in your life before you can fully reap the benefits of this Sabbat. Yes, I am telling you — and me — to spring clean. It doesn’t have to be bad, though; put on your favorite music (I’m partial to Nightwish) and clean with purpose. You can even throw in a mantra if you’re inclined: “I pave the way for my future success to flow” is a one I’m partial to, and I like to give things an extra boost by cleaning widdershins, or counter-clockwise, through the room. Enlist a friend and you’ll have things cleaned in no time!
I like to clean on the day of, but if that’s way too much for one day, it happens! Make yourself a list for the week leading up to the Sabbat and tackle everything one step at a time; the Craft is for all who want it, and not just those who can do a massive cleaning push on one day.
Okay, you’ve cleaned the heck out of your house and you’re wondering what else there is to do on Imbolc. Well, it’s a good thing you brought your candles! Imbolc is all about light, so fill your home with light and guide the energies of the holiday directly to your doorstep! (Some traditions will have you turn on every light in the house, but I prefer to light my home with candles as they give a softer glow.) I’ve also heard of some practices where the entire year’s spellwork candles are ritually cleansed and dedicated on Imbolc, and if you can do that, more power to you — I never know how many I’ll use per spell, let alone in a whole year, so I’d save this cleansing for workings that you might need to give a big magical boost, big-ticket items, as it were.
Of course, everyone loves a Pagan holiday for the food as well! Imbolc recipes are heavy on the bread and cakes, and I’m partial to the honey cake recipes found here! If you have a favorite recipe using blackberries, those are considered sacred to Brigid as well and would definitely make a fantastic addition to your spread for the Sabbat. And if you’re celebrating the holiday with little ones, you can get them involved by making what’s known as a Brigid’s cross, a four armed cross woven from rushes as a symbol of protection — check out the instructions to make your own here!
Happy Imbolc, and Blessed Be! Have fun this year, and may you feel renewed and revitalized by Her light.
This year, Imbolc falls on a Monday, and the moon will be a waning gibbous in Libra. Candle responsibly, and don’t leave anything burning unattended or on a surface that isn’t fireproof.
Herbs for Imbolc: blackberry, basil, bay
Crystals for Imbolc: quartz, aventurine, sunstone, citrine