How to celebrate and enjoy Imbolc, the pagan festival marking winter's end

Imbolc is a pagan holiday celebrated from February 1 through sundown February 2, marking the start of the end of winter, or precisely the halfway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox.

It forms part of the wiccan Wheel of the Year (the eight sabbats signalling seasonal change) and is also known as Candlemas, Brigids Day, or Divine Spark.

Energetically, from Imbolc onwards, we can take the ideas and insights we received and incubated over winter and start to research and prepare to activate them.

The celebration of Imbolc dates back as far as the 10th century. Ancient celebrations took the form of a festival in honor of the pagan goddess Brigid, who was associated with poetry, crafts and prophecy.

Brigid was a powerful Celtic god who apparently was born with a flame in her head and drank the milk of a mystical cow from the spirit world. Over time, she was absorbed by Christianity as St Brigid (one of Ireland’s three patron saints).

The goddess Brigid has remained central to the celebration for modern wiccans. Some of the customs associated with this festival relate directly to honouring her, such as making a Brigid straw doll (Brideog). Brideogs are made with straw or rushes twisted into the shape of a doll, wrapped in white fabric to represent a little dress and decorated with the first flowers, greenery from the garden, and other pretty things you find in nature.

People also make Brigid crosses – straw which has been soaked overnight is woven around a frame made of sticks. It was believed that a Brigid cross tucked under the mattress helped aid conception, and they were used to bless seeds before planting in spring.

Another Imbolc tradition, as with many Celtic celebrations, is the lighting of fires, to celebrate the return of the sun. Gathering with friends around an open fire, fire pit or even candles, to toast each other and share plans for the coming spring is a great way to mark this occasion.

Things to do at Imbolc

This cross-quarter (i.e. mid season) festival is a point when energy changes. We can use this phase to activate a new cycle, bring in new ideas and behaviours.

Try these activities to make the most of the spiritually significant time.

  • Spring clean and de clutter your home. Open all the windows and sound cleanse each room (by clapping loudly in each corner, or ringing a bell) to shift stagnant energies which have built up over the long winter.
  • Mood board, journal, prioritise and plan your new activities, ideas and ambitions for the coming year.
  • Brainstorm with friends, share ideas, create vision boards and goals together.
  • Collect snowdrops and fresh leaves, twigs of willow, almond and cherry buds. Weave them into a wreath or a circle and place in a window.
  • Use lots of candles and light fires. Flame is a vital presence in this festival. Fire cleanses and transforms and burns away what you wish to leave behind. Make lists of ~the old~ and burn them. Open the way for new beginnings and growth.
  • Drum, dance, recite poetry, connect creatively with others, sing songs, join a choir, take a class, paint or draw, plant seeds for new skills and hobbies.

Happy Imbolc, everybody!

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