Imbolc (February 1st) is a time of new beginnings,
Of Welcoming the first Light of Spring and of Honouring the Celtic Goddess Brighid.
It also marks the center point of the dark half of the year.
There is in Ancient traditions a Spiritual reality and a Physical reality associated with each Season.
At this time as the ewe’s become ready for conception in Spring when their milk will flow, the focus is upon the as yet Unrealised Fertility of Nature in this New Year.
For this reason, Imbolc was also called Oimealg by the Druids, from the Gaelic word “oimelc” which means “ewes milk”
As the Maiden Goddess of this time & because of these reasons of fertility, Brighid was symbolised by White flowers, the Stars and the Milky Way.
Most importantly, as Her womb now becomes ripe with fertility,
She symbolizes the great potential of everything yet to come.
Yet much of her power also resides in the uncertainties of this fecundity.
It is therefore considered taboo to cut plants during this time,
as this would destroy the blessing of new life given by the Goddess to the Earth.
Imbolc is the festival of this Maiden Goddess then,
& from this day to March 21st is her season to prepare for growth and renewal.
(video by Paganboynuneaton)
The meanings of Imbolc are deeply bound with Natures cycles,
As is the case for all Ancient Spiritual ways.
Imbolc is a particularly important date in this natural calendar as it marks the beginning of the agricultural year.
Preparations for spring sowing would begin at this time, and included blessing the seeds and consecrating the agricultural tools, particularly the plough…
In some areas, this is the first day of ploughing in preparation for planting of crops, and the plough woud be decorated to celebrate its importance.
Pieces of cheese and bread were sometimes left by the plough and within the newly turned furrows, as offerings to the nature spirits.
Prior to the eve of Imbolc the home would be given a thorough cleaning in preparation for a visit from the Goddess.
The fireplace especially should be cleaned very well and a birch branch should be used to symbolically sweep the floors.
Birch has strong associations with Brighid, and has long been used for rites of purification and new beginnings.
A small dish of butter (referencing the fertility of the ewes & The Goddess)should be placed on a windowsill and a fresh fire kindled (evoking the return of the Sun)in the hearth, to honor the Goddess and the new Life that she brings.
The lighting of candles honoring the re-birth of the Sun but dedicated to Brighid & floated on the waters of Lake, River and Ocean, emphasized the balance between male fire and female water energies, an essential harmony if the forces of Nature would sucessfully conjoin and beget fruitfullness.
Thus the candles also symbolised The(Re-)Union of the Goddess and the God.
Brideog or Corn Dolls,
Ideally made by the man of the household (again balancing the procreative energies of nature)before the traditional family or communal feast.
Long pieces of straw or rushes would be woven into the shape of a doll and wrapped with white cloth to represent a dress.
She would then be decorated with greenery, flowers, and shells or stones and consecrated with a sprinkle of sacred water whilst invoking Brighid’s blessings.
These dolls were then placed in baskets with white flower bedding, and set before the hearth..
This is the most widely practiced custom associated with Imbolc.
These are woven (solar as opposed to later christian) crosses of straw.
Old crosses from previous years should be removed to the rafters and the new crosses hung near or over doorways.
These are thought especially effective in protecting the household from fire and lightning, as well as blessing all who pass under thhem.
The eve of Imbolc is traditionally the best time of the year to perform divinations enquiring after the future of your family & the best choices to be made.
This is because Imbolc as the approach of Spring was held to be one of the Sacred Times when the Otherworlds were more easily communicated with.
This channel of communication was more Open at such special times (including dawn and dusk, but also at some special locations..) due to the Seasons changes in the Cosmological Wheel of Nature, impacting the balance Light & Darkness, and of the Spirit worlds.
As ever on this path of learning & sharing what I learn about these Ancient ways,
I am reminded once more that All of these rituals and practises celebrating the Seasons, the Sacred Times and Tides at work in our Lives and in the Nature which clothes, sustains and surrounds us,
All of these practises are not arcane and mysterious arts.
These are Light Hearted, Hopeful and Bright-Shinning Ways to Honour and Celebrate the Life we are given,
to make the most of the Nature around us and the Communities with which we share.
I should rather rename these Pagan(means ‘Nature’) Traditions as
Good Husbandry/Wifery for sucessful integrated living with our Selves and our Sacred Earth.
Bright Blessings to All.