Imbolc is a Gaelic festival that is held on February 1st, sometimes starting on the eve of January 31st and running until the morning of February 2nd. This date is about halfway between the spring and winter solstice, marking the halfway point of the dark half of the year. Typically, this festival is celebrated in Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. But with more pagans being found all over the world, this festival is celebrated everywhere and anywhere you want it to be.
It’s one of the four most important festivals on the Celtic calendar.
The others being Samhain at the end of October, Beltane in May, Lughnasa in August, and Imbolc. The Celts were people of the earth. They were an agricultural society who had an in-depth knowledge of the sun and the stars. With both of these playing a large role in their everyday life, their celebrations would not be any different.
Imbolc is called by many things including Candlemas by Christians, Brigid’s Day, and some have even tried to link it to Groundhog Day (unsuccessfully). More on these later.
In the beginning, Imbolc was a pagan holiday. This holiday celebrates the early coming of spring and the sun’s return with the blessing of seeds and the consecration of agricultural tools. The timing of this holiday has been thought to be linked to the beginning of traditional lambing season.
Imbolc, or ‘Imbolg’ translates to “in the belly” which refers to the breeding season of livestock, especially sheep or lambs. As the breeding season was variable, so was this holiday. It could take place anywhere from mid-January to mid-February.
In the journey of the Wiccan Goddess and God, the Goddess is in her maiden form and the God is just now reaching puberty.
According to the Celts, if the weather was especially bad on Imbolc, then a great summer is on the way. This is because the Cailleach, a creature of Irish folklore, would spend the day of Imbolc searching for firewood. If the day was rainy and bad, then she wouldn’t go out for firewood to help her last the winter. If the day was dry and bright, she was out collecting the firewood that was dry and ready to store for a longer winter.
The Celts would also burn fires in their homes all night to symbolize the return of the sun for another year. Though this was more common when fires were for heating your home and actual wood was used to create the fire.
Gods and Goddesses of Imbolc: Brigid
Symbolism of Imbolc: Purity, growth, fertility, out with the old and in with the new
Symbols of Imbolc: Besoms, White flowers, candle wheels, Brigid’s Cross, ploughs
Colors of Imbolc: White, Pink, red, yellow, light green, brown
Crystals of Imbolc: Amethyst, bloodstone, garnet, ruby, onyx, turquoise
Foods of Imbolc: Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, Poppyseed cakes, muffins, scones, breads, dairy, peppers, onions, garlic, raisins, spiced wines + herbal teas
of Imbolc: Angelica, Basil, Bay Laurel, Blackberry, Celandine, Coltsfoot, Ginger, Heather, Iris, Myrrh, Tansy, Violets, and all other white or yellow flowers.
Trees of Imbolc: Rowan, Willow
Scents of Imbolc: Basil, Bay, Wisteria, Cinnamon, Violet, Vanilla, Myrrh
7 Ways to Celebrate Imbolc:
- Lighting candles throughout the house to honor the rebirth of the sun (God). This is a ‘new age’ version of keeping the fire burning in your home all night, like the Celts would do.
- Getting outside to search for signs of Spring
- Decorating farm equipment, especially ploughs
- Spring cleaning your home (out with the old)
- Clear out some clutter or storage areas (make space for new)
- Bless and prepare seeds for the upcoming season
- Visit wells in your area and leave an offering of coins, or pieces of cloth.
- Decorate your altar
Who is Brigid?
The Goddess Brigid is a Celtic Goddess who is the daughter of Dagda. Dagda is the chief Celtic deity and one of the Tuatha De Dannan, who were the first inhabitant of Ireland (sometimes referred to as fairy people). Brigid, to the Celts, represented the light half of the year, so her presence was very requested at Imbolc festivals.
It’s said that on Imbolc Eve, Brigid would visit the homes of the most virtuous and bless everyone who slept inside. In order to entice her to come to their home, people would leave pieces of cloth (typically green), food or other tokens on their doorstep.
Symbols of the Goddess Brigid: Snowdrop, swan, flame, Brigid’s Cross, Serpent, sheep or lambs,
Associations of Brigid: poetry, fertility, healing, smithing, arts + crafts, tending to livestock
Other Similar Goddesses: Minerva (Roman) and Athena (Greek)
How do you celebrate Imbolc? Tell me in the comments below!