Between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox, we celebrate the holiday of Imbolc. In the Northern Hemisphere, the celebration is around Feb 1, readying us for the springtime ahead.
One of the less flamboyant sabbats, Imbolc is one of the four cross-quarter holidays in the Wheel of the Year. Despite being lesser-known, Imbolc marks a wonderful moment to celebrate the transition out of winter, a time to reflect on where we are today and where we hope to head tomorrow.
The origins of the word Imbolc cite a few options: "in the belly," "ewe's milk," or "to cleanse" are frequently mentioned. All three correspond with some of the common aspects of this holiday. "In the belly" and "ewe's milk" both point toward the impending arrival of spring babies, and possibly our ancestral celebration of having fresh milk at a time when food preservation did not provide for it year-round. "To cleanse" connects us with our preparatory steps before spring: cleaning our homes, preparing our gardens, and giving our minds those final moments of introspection offered more readily in the darker, colder months of winter.
Many associate this holiday with the goddess Brigid, who presides over springs, wells, animals, fertility, fire, and blacksmithing. It was thought that Brigid blessed the flocks and the field at this time for spring upcoming births and vegetation growth. Frigg, or Frigg, is also a goddess less often, though still occasionally, associated with Imbolc as she, too, presides over the home, hearth, and fertility. Though you may not have animals awaiting their young, this is the time to bless and cleanse your home, prepare yourself for the busy days of spring on the horizon, and take some introspective time to visit your goals and their progress to date. Many do make a symbolic sign to the goddess by showing their pets extra love around this holiday or giving them a blessing of some form.
Marking the end of winter and the start of spring, Imbolc is echoed in the non-Pagan ceremony of Groundhog's Day. Some link this to the general divinatory energy surrounding Imbolc, though the two are likely unrelated. No matter what the groundhog projects this year, we know that we are nearing the end of winter. Here are some ideas on how to mark the transition with intention and gratitude:
- Perform a ritual bath to cleanse yourself and your spirit; enhance the experience with ritual salts, a meditation, candles, or whatever helps you bring clarity of mind.
- Clear out your home of clothes or other goods which are no longer serving you. Donate them to a charity or pass them on to someone you may know in need.
- Plan your garden and prepare your seeds; establish your calendar and develop your plan for what you intend to grow.
- Celebrate the end of winter with a long walk or hike. Consider a walking meditation and take notice the seasonal changes. If you are near snow, visit it, as it will soon melt away!
- Spend some time focusing on the type of abundance you hope to encounter this season. What do want to see grow? What would you like to bring to life? Journal this or do a ritual to connect your powers to your vision.
- Light candles and bid winter farewell in a ceremony; commonly-associated colors with Imbolc are white and red, though they are not necessary.
- Clean and decorate your altar with meaningful items to you for this seasonal change
- Practice divination in whatever form you prefer; you may be surprised by the results!