Updated: Feb 10
On the 1st/2nd of February, we celebrate the fire festival of Imbolc/Candlemas.
In the Celtic seasonal calendar, Imbolc marks the beginning of the lambing season, and it also signals the first stirrings of Spring.
I observe all of the sabbats every year in one way or another.
I'm not Wiccan, I don't belong to any particular faith or religious group, but I'm a double Gemini Witch, so any excuse for a party or a celebration and I'm there!
That's actually a lie!
Yes I love a party but if I am being honest, I usually like to observe the sabbats quietly, possibly with one or two of my Witchy sisters, in the 'Witchy Den' (or sacred space as you might call it), that I've created for myself at home.
As with most of the Olde traditions, when celebrating the Sabbats, Imbolc (pronounced I’molc or Ee‘molc), is usually celebrated from dusk, either on the 31st January or 1st of February - It depends who you ask - and then it carries on until sunset the next day.
So in other words, Imbolc can be celebrated from sun down on the 31st January/1st of February, and the celebrations would usually continue until sunset on the 1st or 2nd of February.
Personally, I observe Imbolc on the 1st and 2nd of February.
This sabbat marks the halfway point of the dark part of the year - we’re halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox.
Winter is still going strong, but there are definitely signs now that the earth is waking from its winter slumber. Things around us are beginning to thaw, and new life is stirring.
The word Imbolc means ‘of the belly’.
It’s as if all around us is expectant, as in, pregnant expectant.
But it's like the very start of the pregnancy, when the bump is just about starting to show.
Imbolc holds the promise of new beginnings, renewal, and hidden potential.
This is when we see the first signs of Spring.
Animals are awakening and coming out of hibernation, and there are shrubs and shoots beginning to appear.
After a cold, dark winter, there are signs and feelings of hope and the lighter, warmer days ahead of us.
At this time of year, we're welcoming the returning light, and acknowledging the promise of new growth, fertility and abundance all around us.
It’s also time for us to let go of the past year
..........and start looking towards what this year has in store for us.
It's the perfect time to clear out old emotions and habits that aren't supporting us so that we can make space for new beginnings and further personal growth and self-development.
The Celtic festival of Imbolc celebrates the Feast of Brigid (pronounced Breed).
Brigid is a Pagan goddess, the Deity of Fire and Fertility. Brigid later became a saint in the Christian church; St Brigid.
She's the Goddess of healing and poetry, the Goddess of Fire, and the Goddess of the Sun, and of the hearth.
She brings fertility and the promise of further growth and abundance to us and to the land.
In terms of the Triple Goddess, she is in her maiden aspect; she’s young and fertile right now.
Traditionally, making a ‘Brigid's Cross’ from straw was said to bring good luck for the Spring harvest, and making corn dolls at this time of the year is said to welcome the Goddess back into your home so that she can bless it for the year ahead.
As this isn't something I do myself, I can't show you how to make one (sorry!) but, there are plenty of articles on the internet that will show you how to fashion one of these for your altar or sacred space.
It's definitely an excellent time to contemplate the year ahead
At Imbolc, it's time to start making plans for the year ahead, it's time to ask ourselves what we want to achieve, and to make a start on working out how we’re going to achieve it.
It's also an excellent time to meditate and journal on the year ahead, and to have a tarot reading or any kind of divination work, to see what the future has in store for us.
On this day, as we are celebrating light and life, in the evening on both the 1st and the 2nd of February, I like to light candles all over the house, and just for a short while, I leave a light in every window.
If you've been to me for a Tarot or astrology Reading or a coaching session, you'll know that I have LOTS of artificial candles.
You might not know however that I'm a bit (a lot) forgetful!
And I also have to think about health and safety as I work from home so, at Imbolc, I light all of the artificial candles and place them all around my house, and I have the real candles on my altar.
Trust me, it's safer for everyone this way!
I also turn all of the lights on in every room, just for a couple of minutes.
Later in the evening, as on most of the sabbats, I like to do some candle magick that's relevant for the time of year, I usually burn some herbs in my cauldron, I meditate, and I do some tarot reading and divination work for myself.
I like the feast aspect too! Who doesn't like to eat?!
I like to prepare a nice spread with different breads and cakes, (definitely cakes!)
I take some time to properly taste and eat the food mindfully whilst giving thanks for the returning light and the promise of new beginnings.
It’s a really good time to Spring Clean your house and garden!
I'll be doing this myself. *Insert an eye roll here*
I'm actually never very enamoured with the thought of any kind of housework but, something about ritualising it makes it seem less tiresome. For me anyway!
It really is good time to sweep out anything dead, decaying or dying from your life, physically and metaphorically.
How can anything grow to its full potential and capacity if it's struggling to get through all of the shit and debris that's been left behind since last year?
As it’s a Fire Festival, it’s the perfect time to light a bonfire, and to invite friends or family over to eat that feast with you.
It's good to get outside into nature now
Yes, even if it’s still cold outside! I often say, there's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing!
To me, there's something magical about being outside, feeling and experiencing the elements, and consciously trying to reconnect with the earth to welcome back the light and warmth.
Even if it's just for a few minutes, it helps me to feel connected and fully grounded into the earth.
(I wrote about grounding yourself in a post not so long back, you can read it here >>> Grounding Yourself.)
Other ways to observe Imbolc
If you have an altar or some kind of sacred space, you could place some items that represent Imbolc there.
The colours of Imbolc are white, pink, red, yellow, green, and brown, so I'll buy myself some flowers and light candles in some of those colours to place on my altar.
If you're not quite out of the broom closet yet, a vase of flowers, your own intentions, (written or spoken, silently to yourself if necessary), and a coloured candle or two are easy ways to discreetly observe the sabbat and to make simple but powerful, symbolic gestures to Brigid/the Universe/your Goddess, whatever you want to call it.
I love a bit of colour, so I might wear the colours associated with Imbolc.
Or I might have other items that to me, represent Spring and new beginnings on my altar or around me.
The Fire element of the sabbat is often represented by candles, the burning of herbs, and sometimes a fire outside.
The foods that are associated with Imbolc, (that you could include in your meals for the duration of the sabbat), are things like bread, butter, milk, grains and seeds, lamb, smoked meats, and other seasonal foods.
If you have a hearth or a real fire, you could definitely light it in the evenings for Imbolc.
Some other symbols of Imbolc are
Crystals and stones: Bloodstone, Garnet, Ruby, Onyx, Turquoise and Amethyst.
Herbs associated with Imbolc are: basil, holly, thyme, angelica, bay, blackberry and crocus.
These herbs can all be burned as an incense too. (Please check that the herbs you want to work with are safe for you to use!).
Flowers associated with Imbolc are: Snowdrops, Daffodils, Crocus, or any white or yellow flowers, or first flowers of the year.
The colours of the flowers generally represent the warmth of the Sun, and give colour to the previously barren, decaying and icy Earth.
As I said above, Imbolc is also called Candlemas.
This short poem is said to foretell how the Winter will continue:
"If Candlemas Day be fair and bright
Winter will have another fight,
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain
Winter won't come again,
If Candlemas Day be dry and fair
The half o the winter's to come and mair,
If Candlemas Day be wet and foul
The half o the winter's gone at yule."
In the USA, Imbolc is called Groundhog Day
A short rhyme for Groundhog Day is:
"If the sun shines on Groundhog Day
Half the fuel and half the hay."
I could write so much more about Imbolc, but I think it's important for any Witch, especially if you're new to the Craft, to do your own reading and research, and practice what resonates with you.
There’s so much information on the internet about the Sabbats and how to observe them if you want to learn more, or learn how other Witches/Pagans/Wiccans etc do things.
We're all different!
When you find an aspect of a practice that YOU are interested in, research it further, but keep an open mind because, as with everything, everyone has their own slant on, and interpretation for, well.......everything!
Do a Google search of Imbolc.
Do that research for yourself.
Get a reading list together.
Do your due diligence and discover tried and tested practices from around the world.
Decide what practices or rituals you're interested in.
Make up your own rituals and observances!
Keep a record in your Book of Shadows.
And don't forget to ground yourself - daily.
But above all, be safe!
I'd love to know how you’re going to celebrate!