The reawakening of self and the Earth!
Usually my posts about the seasons are short, sharp and shiny, however Imbolc and what it is all about is a little more complicated. In short, Imbolc is about the beginning of the end of winter, the lengthening of days. It is at this time we start to “awake up” from our winter slumber to get ready for the year ahead.
Traditionally, Imbolc being of Irish origin, was to celebrate the Goddess Brigid. A Goddess of the Eternal Flame, the Hearth, the Anvil and so many other family and survival things!
Imbolc has many names; Imbolg, Oimelc, Bridgid’s Day and the Christian’s day of the Feast of St. Bridget. Now why didn’t I add in Candlemas? Because Candlemas is a different day with different Mythology and completely different meanings behind it.
Is Imbolc Candlemas?
Short answer, no. Somewhere in the ever growing pile of newage crap, when it comes to witchcraft, someone decided that Imbolc and Candlemas are one of the same when they’re not. Candlemas is the day after Imbolc. You can sit there and go “oh but Christians took Brigid, made her Saint Bridget and gave her two days!”, yes they made her a Saint, no they didn’t give her an extra day. Candlemas just happens around the time of Imbolc and is actually about the Virgin Mary and how “St. Bridget” helped her.
To be totally honest, Candlemas is a whole other story as there is argument as to why the Christian Imbolc starts on the 1st of February and ends on the 3rd. But bottom line is, Candlemas has always been a Christian add on and was/is always about Mary with St. Bridget as the midwife.
So when is it?
Traditionally, Imbolc lands on the 1st of February in the Northern Hemisphere. However, down here in the Southern Hemisphere, it lands on the 1st of August.
Now, this is perfect for sowing seeds for the upcoming spring and summer as they will be ready for transplanting into the ground in 6 weeks time! Giving all your crops or flowers a head start for the season.
What to do on Imbolc
As I said before, this festival is a little more complicated but I’ll try my best to cover as much as I can!
Most of us don’t have farms, but at this time livestock started to have newborns, growing the farms production. It is at this time that livestock start producing milk in abundance. Hence the name Oimelc (Ewes-milk).
One old tradition was to drag a decorated plough around the fields followed by the villagers dropping seeds, pieces of cheese and bread into the newly turned furrows as offerings to the nature spirits. at this time, tools for agriculture would be blessed so crops would grow in abundance.
“Brigid Crosses”; These are woven from leftover oat or wheat stalks for blessings and protection from the Goddess Brigid. You would exchange these with friends, family or neighbours in hopes they would be protected and blessed by the Goddess for a great year.
We then have “Brigid Dollies”. Same thing as the crosses, you make them from left over oat or wheat stalks and then dress them up in female clothes. A bed is also made to lay the dolly in. Some say this would be for fertility purposes and will place a something that symbolises male fertility next to the bed.
On the eve of Imbolc all the home fires would have been put out, cleaned out, and re-lit symbolic of the returning light of the Sun.
Sweep out the old and welcome in the new! A broom made from Ash, Birch and Willow was placed by the front door.
When it came to feasting, a very very large candle was lit and placed on the table where the gathered for food. Everyone would share their plans and promises for the year. Planting their seeds, so to speak!
It was also customary at Sunset to ritually light a candle in each room of the home in honour of the Sun’s return. I would not recommend doing this unless the candle is in a flameproof container. You don’t want to burn the house down.
You’ve been cooped up inside all winter so now is a good time to start opening up the windows, letting the fresh air to cleanse out that stagnant energy and air inside! Once all the windows are open, burn your favourite creative or cleansing incense and let it dance throughout the home.
Go outside and look around your garden, does anything need weeding? Of course it does! Get out there and remove those weeds, dig up the soil to give it some air and remove some into a pot to start off your seeds. Starting your seeds now, especially tomatoes and basil, is an excellent way to start their production early and keep them producing in abundance till Samhain! I also like to go outside and pick any bright coloured flowers I can see to place upon the altar and brighten up the house.
Later on during the day, if you have a fire place, light a fire because soon it will be the last one when fire restrictions kick in. And if you don’t have a fire place, light a candle to represent the returning energy of the sun! One thing i like to get the family to do, is write their wish on leaf and throw it into the fire, releasing their wish into the universe.
Start creating your Imbolc feast full of dried fruits, nuts, meats, cheeses, baked goods and anything that has been pickled or fermented. I like to create a rustic cheese board with deli meats, nuts, fruits and warm milk that has a pinch of cinnamon, vanilla and honey for the family.
Once the curtains are closed, the house all warm from the fire and your belly is settling down from the food, it’s time for games! Games are an excellent way to spend time with the family and get those creative vibes flowing. This is also a good time for some divination, even if your family doesn’t believe in such thing, they just see it as a game.
Many of things listed are a combination of traditional northern hemisphere associations and Australian associations.
Crystals and Gemstones
- Moss Agate
Herbs, Fruits and Spices:
- Lemon Myrtle
- All Australian Wild Flowers
Cleanse and Sow Your Seeds!
This is honestly one of my favourite holidays and I know I say that about all the Fire festivals but it really is! This is the time of the year where you plant seeds for your year, whether that’s figuratively or literally. I love seeing the bees, flowers and birds all returning with joy and I find that people, in general, are so much happier full of so much creativity.
After writing this I realised that I couldn’t cover everything I wanted and have it make sense, and i’m sure i’ll get the “that’s not right, I read this in blah blah”. This is just a guide, this is what I personally follow without getting into too much personal detail.
Like I always suggest, go outside, look around, do what feels right for you as a lot of what you read in books will not apply to those of us in the Southern Hemisphere.