Imbolc, also known as Imbolg or Brigid’s Day, is celebrated each February 1 at the halfway point between Yule (Winter Solstice) and Ostara (Spring Equinox). Imbolc brings the very beginning of Spring as our days slowly become a bit longer, the Earth starts to thaw, and the possibility of new life feels ever present.
The word ‘Imbolc’ itself means in the belly which is a direct reference to a new stirring of life and possibility. This could also be interpreted as in the womb for a more direct line to fertility and potential. Similarly, Irish Gaelic term for Imbolc, ‘Oimelc’, translates to ewe’s milk, another very direct reference to the flow of mother’s milk thus supporting new life in a very maternal, nurturing manner.
Considered the most powerful of the Celtic gods, Brigid is honored on Imbolc. As Christianity began to spread and ‘re-brand’ many Pagan traditions and rituals, Brigid became St. Brigid. Associated with fertility and fire, known as the keeper of the sacred flame, and celebrated as the guardian of home and hearth, celebrating and honoring Brigid can include bonfires, candle services, and other fire rituals around the hearth or outside the home. Crosses made of traditional reeds are commonly crafted on Imbolc.
While Ostara may be more associated with fertility, new beginnings, and Spring, we cannot forget that Imbolc truly plants the seed for a bright and beautiful Spring. Imbolc brings forward the promise of growth while we still have one foot in Winter and are likely feeling run down and ready to move on from the cold and dark. It is in these moments when it seems like Winter will never end and our gardens will not come back that Imbolc arrives, looks us in the eye, and asks us to trust the rhythm of the Earth. Our hearts crack open and our eyes well up because we can feel so deeply that we are on the precipice of a monumental shift.
All of our rituals are unique, personal, and deeply sacred. I’ve put together ritual components to guide you in celebrating Imbolc. Work with the elements that resonate with you and honor your connection to this sacred time. Whether your ritual be private or public, I wish you comfort, clarity, and celebration. The following ritual components are intended as a mix-and-match menu so you can engage in the practices that you most connect with and enjoy.
- Colors: Green, Pink, Yellow
- Flowers: Chamomile, Lavender, Snowdrop, Daffodil, Iris, Heather
- Herbs: Bay, Angelica, Vanilla, Basil, Rosemary
- Crystals: Amethyst, Onyx, Turquoise
- Trees: Oak, Maple, Rowan, Willow
- Foods: Bread, Cake, White Meats, Seeds
In a space that will not be disturbed but is visible and accessible, begin to construct your Imbolc altar. Clear the surface of all items and use a natural cleaner to ensure a fresh surface. Drape a colorful cloth, piece of fabric, or decorative paper (including gift wrapping paper) to designate your altar space. Assemble your altar space utilizing flowers, acorns, a Brigid cross, imagery or figures representing the Sun, and Goddess/God/deity figures. As you place each item, hold it for a moment and connect with the energy it brings to your sacred space. Intuitively place your items on your altar and move them as necessary to accommodate for additional pieces.
This altar space can be used to meditate with, engage in energy work, read tarot, journal, or simply sit quietly and reflect. Speak to your altar and let all the components know what they mean to you and why they are important. Express gratitude freely.
Your altar is an ideal space to burn incense or candles and to charge and protect your energy work tools. Tarot or oracle cards make great additions and can also contribute to the energy at hand.
Those with deeper meditation and energy work practices may find this is a particularly potent space to receive messages, connect with sacred energy, and hear one’s intuition speak. As with all sacred spaces, do guard this area with bright white protective light and ask for divine barriers from anything that may interfere with your work. Open and close your sessions in recognition of this sacred space and use a mantra, prayer, or incantation to welcome energy, call in the 4 elements, and express gratitude.
Imbolc & TAROT
If including tarot into your ritual feels appropriate, Ace of Wands may be a good fit. Ace of Wands arrives on the precipice of a new adventure when emotions are high and excitement is about to bubble over. This moment is the anticipating of the starting shot as you teeter on the start of a race. Your heart quickens, you lean forward, and your senses sharpen as you await the moment of release. Let’s not also look past the sexual nature of Ace of Wands and the heightened desires reflected in the fertile Spring. Our inner fires begin to stir and all animals fall victim to the annual ‘Spring fever’. Whether your desires for the seasonal are sexual, creative, tangible, figurative, personal, or professional, utilize the energy of the season and Ace of Wands to plant seeds. Given Imbolc’s connection to the transition to Spring and fertility, Ace of Wands reminds us to have faith in the world around us and the potential within us.
Imbolc CANDLES & INCENSE
Candles and incense are wonderful additions to any space, altar, or ritual. The flame of a candle or smoke from incense can be a wonderful focal point for meditation while also adding to the visual aesthetic and aroma of the space.
For your Imbolc altar candle, begin with a green, pink, or yellow candle; choose what resonates with you. Chime candles can be gently rubbed with oil and rolled in dried herbs and flowers to dress them. Use a stand to burn them and be aware of any dressing that may catch fire during the burn. 7-day glass candles can have a very small amount of herbs and flowers added to the top prior to burning. Keep the wick trimmed as the candle burns and be aware of dressing that may catch fire, which could lead to glass breakage.
For your Imbolc incense blend choose herbs, flowers, and resins that are pleasing and seasonal. Combine your blend with a mortar and pestle, reciting a mantra, prayer, or incantation. Using a charcoal disk on a heat-safe surface, add small amount of your blend. Know that more incense creates more smoke; best to start small and slow.
Some herbal allies for your candles and incense that correspond with Imbolc include Bay, Chamomile, Copal, Lavender, Angelica and Vanilla. Let your intuition guide you as you choose your blend; there is no wrong combination when your intention is pure.
If you prefer incense cones, our Hand-Rolled Incense • Imbolc are ideal for all your Imbolc rituals.
NOTE: Always burn candles and incense responsibly using heat-safe surfaces in well ventilated areas. Never leave burning items alone for any amount of time. Be aware of pets and children that may be nearby.
Imbolc Tea from Nor’Eastern Herb Company
INGREDIENTS: Chamomile, Rosemary, and Lavender
DIRECTIONS: Mix dry ingredients in equal parts or to taste to create an herbal blend. Add 1 TBS of the herbal blend to a tea filter or steeping insert. Pour boiling water over tea into a mug and cover for 3-5 minutes. Remove tea blend and press liquid from the herbs. Add a scoop of local honey to add sweetness and mix to incorporate. Allow to cool. Finish with milk of choice to taste. Enjoy!
MORE WAYS TO HONOR Imbolc
- Refresh Your Goals – So many of us set goals, resolutions, and intentions at the beginning of each year and while it’s easy to start strong, by the end of January you may feel like you’re already off track or overwhelmed. It’s only been a month and that month does not determine the rest of the year. Take some quiet time and reflect on what you have been able to accomplish and the positive changes you have made since the beginning of the calendar year. There’s no need to throw the baby out with the bath water so if you’re not where you want to be, recalibrate! Whether you recommit to your original plan or modify the path forward, know that it’s a positive thing to pause, take inventory, and take baby steps. Begin to plant some seeds now and align yourself with your vision for the year. Water those seeds daily and you might be surprised what sprouts.
- Spring Cleaning – Given Imbolc’s association with home and hearth, paying attention to our living space is a wonderful way to honor the energy of the season. Carve out a chunk of time and dig deep into the corners, under the furniture, and behind the drapes to sweep away Winter’s remnants and make room for what’s to come. Physically cleaning your space will not only help you to release some of the past but you are physically and energetically making room for the future. Move from room to room as the Sun moves with the day to embrace the returning light. When your cleaning concludes, light a candle (real or fake) and feel the shift you have put into motion.
- Craft a Brigid’s Cross – Crafting a traditional Brigid’s Cross is a great way to partake in a very traditional ritual. Typically made of reeds and natural fibers, modern crosses can be made of any pliable material including paper, ribbon, and/or recycled materials in addition to natural materials. For a written tutorial, please click here. For a video tutorial, please click here. Once your cross is complete, consider hanging it over a door or window to protect your space. Traditionally it was believed that a Brigid’s Cross would protect against evil spirits, fires, lightning, loss, and illness. If you have a cross in your home from the previous Imbolc, you may consider burning, composting, or disposing of it while giving thanks for what it has brought and protected in the previous year.
- Start Something New or Revive a Past Project – As we welcome the reemergence of Spring, this is a great time to begin a new endeavor or revive a project or initiative that was dormant over the Winter. Even if you’re not feeling ready or able to jump back in fully, utilize the energy of Imbolc to invest in the planning process and begin to lay a map for the journey ahead. Consider all variables, brainstorm resources and allies, and anticipate barriers and hurdles. Taking this time to thoughtfully plan and set your intentions will be just the starting line you need to accomplish your goals into the coming Spring.
- Celebrate Fertility – As we begin to see the Earth wake up and anticipate the return of growth, we are encouraged to nurture the Earth’s fertility as well as our own. While we typically think ‘babies’ when we hear fertility, our personal fertility is so much more. All of the potential and promise that lives within us is fertile. Physical, mental, emotional, spiritual fertility all play a role in the tangible and intangible things we create. It may feel awkward to think of your mind as gestating an idea or your hands birthing a handmade item but these are beautiful examples of the endless fertility in this life. Embrace newness and consider what you can create or nurture over the coming Spring.
- Get Romantic – With Valentine’s Day only 2 weeks away, there is no shortage of hearts and flowers reminding us of romance. Instead of defining romance as with a partner, consider how you can embrace and embody romance within yourself. Just as many of us prioritize self-care, romance also has a role. The excitement, anticipation, and mystery that define romance can be enjoyed with a partner or with yourself. Write yourself a love letter, buy those flowers you eye at the grocery store, take yourself out for a date night. Show yourself the love and affection you deserve and do so simply to enjoy and appreciate yourself. Speak to yourself with loving kindness, treat your body delicately with care, and pay attention to your nuanced emotions. Fall in love with yourself!
- Let Go and Move On – Regardless of what Punxsutawney Phil forecasts on Groundhog Day (also February 1), Imbolc asks us to let go of the dark cold of Winter and move forward into the Spring. There’s no doubt that Winter can be daunting and beat us up a bit but Imbolc is our turning point to transition into a new season. Reflect back on your Winter and identify what lessons you can take forward. It’s easy this time of year to put Winter down but there is so much value in the slowness of Winter that allows us to rest and recharge. Release any debris from Winter and wipe your slate clean; Spring is fertile with opportunity!
- What areas of my life are beginning to see more light?
- What seeds am I planting now to harvest in the coming months/years?
- How can I support the growth of others as I also continue to grow?
- What lesson from the Winter can I bring forward into the Spring?
- How does it feel physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually to be in the midst of transition seasons?
PAYING IT FORWARD
If advocacy is part of your personal rituals, I ask you to consider talking action along side United Plant Savers. As herbalism begins a wonderful rise in our culture, we are also faced with the reality of plants being endangered, over-harvested, or inappropriately used. United Plant Savers works to ensure native plants and herbs are protected through education, advocacy, and boots-on-the-ground work. Visit their website to learn more about their work or make a donation.
(I do not have any affiliation with United Plant Savers other than supporting their work and appreciating their advocacy.)
When you have completed your ritual, take a few moments to sit with the emotions, and images that came to you. Journal your experience or take notes that you can return to as Winter wanes and Spring begins to approach. As you move from your sacred space drink a large glass of water and wash your hands in cool water. Express your gratitude for these moments and know you have participated in an ancient and sacred tradition.
I wish for you all a very blessed Imbolc. With love and light, Kristen