Imbolc, also called Imbolg or St. Brigid’s Day, is a traditional Gaelic holiday that is celebrated by pagans worldwide, including Wiccans as one of the eight Sabbats.
Imbolc marks the midpoint between the winter solstice (Yule) and the spring equinox (Ostara). As such, it is considered a cross-quarter day on the pagan wheel of the year, and it is often celebrated around February 1st – 2nd, or August 1st – 2nd if you’re in the Southern hemisphere.
What’s the meaning of Imbolc? Each winter, we shut ourselves up in our homes for warmth, much like the animals and insects that enter hibernation through the colder months. The home has collected dust and stagnant energy as we have shifted our focus to survival mode.
Imbolc is a word that comes from the Old Irish i mbolc (Modern Irish: i mbolg), meaning ‘in the belly’, and refers to the pregnancy of ewes at this time of year. Spiritually, Imbolc is a time of banishing the winter season so that we can sow a bountiful harvest in the springtime. During this time, we celebrate the first signs of the approaching spring: blades of grass and dandelions steadily emerge from the cold ground, the singing of birds returns to soften the cold chill of the air, and many of those hibernating creatures are beginning to awaken.
Imbolc is traditionally the great festival and honoring of Goddess Brigid, known as St. Brigid by Catholics.
How to Celebrate Imbolc
The days are becoming longer again, and we can finally open up our homes to clear out the winter blues that have been lingering within. This time of new beginnings presents a wonderful opportunity to cleanse and purify ourselves and our homes of that stagnant energy we’ve been building up in hibernation.
Let’s take a look at some Imbolc rituals and other ways that pagans around the world practice Imbolc, including the members of our group: The Infinite Roots Coven
1. Create an Altar for Imbolc
Many choose to honor Brigid on this day, so a statue of Brigid or a candle dedicated to her is great for an Imbolc altar. Here are some other colors, items, and associations with Imbolc and Brigid that you can incorporate into your altar:
- Color associations: red, white, green, gold, lavender, pale pink, yellow, and other pastels.
- Altar Decorations: Candles, Brigid’s crown, Brigid cross, or Brigid corn dolls, Celtic symbols and knotwork, depictions of animals like cows, sheep, or swans.
- Plants: potted bulbs or seeds, spring flowers like dandelions, crocuses, or daffodils.
2. Seven Candle Ritual
This ritual is performed by lighting seven red and white candles in a large firesafe bowl or cauldron. In this ritual, each candle holds a significant meaning, with a general theme around the element of fire, welcoming back the warmth that melts the snow, and purifying our homes.
3. Make a Brigid Corn Doll
These dolls are created in the likeness of Brigid and can be placed on the hearth to honor her or ask for her blessings in love and fertility. Carefully fold softened corn husks to form Brigid’s body and dress, and tie her together with ribbon or twine. You can add more details after she dries, like hair and facial features.
4. Hold a Fire Feast
Another way to honor Brigid is to hold a fire feast ceremony. This can be performed at any hearth or bonfire with friends or relatives, over some delicious Imbolc recipes. During this ritual, each participant lights a candle, then another single candle is lit for Brigid. This is often accompanied by a song or prayer and an offering of oats, cakes, or milk.
Watch: Brigid Invocation Prayer
5. Home Cleansing Ceremony
Imbolc is a great time to clear out that stagnant energy the house has gathered. This can be as simple or as detailed as you choose. Use a home cleansing spray, sweep out your home with a magical broom or besom, burn incense or sage, declutter your home, or reinvent organization systems that aren’t working for you.
6. Decorate for Spring
Once you’ve cleansed your home, you can further welcome the energy of springtime with fresh linens and new decor. You can also take this time to reimagine your furniture layout or try something new in the home, like adding pops of color to welcome in the fresh new energy of Spring.
7. Bid Farewell to Winter
The return of the light is typically celebrated by making or lighting candles. Since the weather is yet not ideal for outdoor gatherings, Imbolc celebrations are focused on the home. This is a seed-spreading, candle burning ritual. Print it here: Imbolc Ritual 🕯️
Here’s another fun ritual for the whole family to participate in! Start by performing a group meditation over a fresh layer of snow. Then, give winter a proper goodbye with noisemakers, confetti poppers, and banging pots and pans together to cause a ruckus. You can also draw springtime symbols in the snow or light a candle to welcome springtime.
8. Winter Closing Meditation
If you’re looking for a more serene activity to quietly say farewell to winter, take a nice relaxing walk in a snowy winter wonderland. Find a frozen lake or a magical pathway lined with undisturbed snow. Listen to the sounds of nature: the chirping of birds, the melting snow. Look for critters that may be waking up from hibernation. Listen to the sounds of the season and enjoy the world for all of its wonders.
The act of cleaning a single space in your home can bring in a breath of positive energy that will bring peace of mind and soul. Watch: Imbolc Music Playlist 🎵
9. Make a Brigid Cross
Brigid Crosses are woven out of wheat or straw that has been softened to a pliable state by boiling. The cross can then be placed on your altar, hearth, over a doorway, or kept on your person, as a means of protection or to ask for other blessings from Brigid.
Holy wells are also sacred to Brigid and they are traditionally visited at Imbolc, and at the other Gaelic festivals of Beltane and Lughnasadh. Visitors to holy wells would pray for health while walking ‘sunwise’ around the well. They would then leave offerings; typically coins or clooties (strips of cloth or rags). Water from the wells may have been used for blessings.
10. Prepare Your Garden
Even if it’s not yet warm enough outside for planting, you can tackle some of the prep work for your garden to get ahead for the spring. Plant seedlings (indoors if necessary), take cuttings for propagation, create soil mixtures, and make sure you’ve gathered all your tools, pots, and fertilizers before you need them. Plan out your garden plots and source any materials you may still be lacking.
11. Consecrate Your Tools
While many choose to freshen up their altar for each new holiday on the wheel of the year, this particular one presents a great opportunity to cleanse and consecrate any other tools that may have been sitting around gathering undesired energy such as an athame or wand. Give them a nice cleansing and a new beginning.
12. Hold a Self-Purification Ritual
Imbolc gives start to the month of February, a time generally consecrated to purification by the ancient Romans, who gave name to this month (Februare being “to purify” in Latin). To help get into the spirit, you can hold your own ritual for self-purification with a calming meditation and cleansing bath or shower. Incorporate candles to welcome the warmth of spring as you let the purifying waters wash over you.
- Spiritual Cleansing Recipes
- Chamomile Tea Meditation: Cleanse & Purify
- Lavender Tea Meditation: Purify & Sleep
- Spells for Spiritual Protection
- Florida Water DIY Recipe
- Spiritual Bath Recipes
Christians and Catholics celebrate Candlemas as a tradition of purification during the time of Imbolc. It is one of the oldest practiced Christian holidays.
14. Groundhog Day
In the United States and Canada, the tradition of Groundhog Day is observed on February 2nd. On this day, thousands gather to greet the return of the famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil. According to legend, if Phil emerges from his hovel and sees his shadow, he will scare himself back into his burrow, signaling that winter will last for another six weeks. Otherwise, we can expect to welcome an early spring. This echoes the idea that Candlemas falling on a day that was sunny and bright would result in another forty days of winter.
No matter which part of the world you reside in – if you’re a solitary practitioner, you can join our Coven and celebrate Imbolc, or simply honor Brigid with a candleflame. Say your last farewell to winter, and welcome the warmth of the sun back into your life. I hope this helps you find yours. Happy Imbolc and Blessed be!