It’s still winter. February 1st-2nd is the half way point between Winter and Spring, marked by the observance of Imbolc in the Celtic Wheel of the Year, and also known as St Brigid’s day.
I share a Imbolc ritual below for you to work with, to harness the energies available at this time.
While the Gregorian calendar has us rushing to create new habits, take action, and renew ourselves starting January 1st, my body aligns more willingly with the demarkations of the natural cycles reflected in the Celtic calendar.
We are in the quietest, darkest, coldest and most Yin phase of the year, right now. A time for dreaming, and seeding creation, at a pace as slow as drifting snow.
What does Imbolc Mean?
The word Imbolc translates to mean “in the belly”, calling in the dark womb space of all potentiality. This half way point between the Winter Solstice (the shortest day), and the Spring Equinox (when day and night are equal), is a time of excitement and hope. The trusting expectation of light returning, where warmth and action and fruitfulness await us.
Imbolc is also said to come from the Gaelic word Oimelc meaning Ewe's milk, since this time of year also marks the beginning of the lambing season.
But we still have work to do. And we do it gladly, in synchrony with the natural cycles and seasons of our mother Gaia.
The dark of Winter is a time that is welcomed for all its offering. Appreciating the unhurried pause, and the excitement of the coming Spring.
The meaning of fire at Imbolc
At Imbolc, fires are lit, in honor of Brigid, and in honor of the returning light of the Sun. Calling in, with intention, the return of the light. Let it be warm, let it nourish our soils, let it enhance and enrich all growth.
The fire, of course , also for Brigid, beloved by many. She, the keeper of the Kildare flame, Goddess of Fire, is honored every time a match is struck and her name is whispered in invocation.
Dreaming and Pausing
I am personally in the belly of my Winter. There is dreaming. There is an urge toward rest. I notice I am still influenced by the over-culture, as tendrils of fear creep in, shouldn’t I be DOING right now? Shouldn’t I be doing all the “things” to make this year a SUCCESS?
But there is a greater force at play. It’s in the tilt of the earth’s axis, and the distance between the Sun and our Northern Hemisphere. I feel it.
I am called to reflect this season back to the earth, the universe, and all by becoming unhurried, and by allowing the metaphorical seeds I intend to plant, to germinate. By taking more pause. And by being a gracious host to my emotions and experiences: welcoming them in to sit by the fire of transformation.
Ritual is a powerful way to connect yourself to the energies of Imbolc, and align with the rhythms and cycles of nature. The themes of Imbolc are rebirth, renewal, cleansing and transforming.
Create your Altar
To begin your ritual, begin by setting up your Altar space. This can be a temporary set up, or something more permanent, depending on your available space.
If you have an altar cloth, place it on your Altar surface. Something in the color Green or Yellow would be ideal, to represent the coming of Spring.5 candles (tealights are perfect). I like to place one candle in the center, and the other four as representatives of the four directions. One candle is fine if you don't have five. A small container of water (cup, glass, jar, bowl) Smudge of any kind: incense, dried herbs/leaves, palo santo, copal, etc.Items that represent the coming Springtime: springtime flowers, sprigs of greenery.Items which represent sheep and cows, such as a statue, or milk/cheese (optional).
Brigid’s cross represents the 4 seasons, the 4 directions, and the 4 elements.
If you have a connection to Brigid, it is lovely to honor her with a picture, or statue, or perhaps craft a Brigid's cross to place on your altar, or at a threshold. The video attached to the link shows how to creating a cross out of materials you may have on hand, such as pipe-cleaners or crepe-paper.
As always, it is wonderful to use your Intuition to choose items, and make your altar space your own.
Set your Intention
You can do this in your thoughts, or write it down on a piece of paper.
Think about what you need to transform in your life? What emotions are present now that are helping to guide you toward a shift?
What do you need to cleanse? It is your body? Your mind/thoughts? Your home?
What are your dreams for springtime? We are presently still looking forward to when the days begin to become longer than the nights, what can you do to create fertile ground for your personal Springtime?
Your intention may read something like:
It is my intention to transform and shift from ...... to .......
It is my intention to create ..... and to do this I will lay a foundation of .......
I feel the need to cleanse ..... from my life/body/mind..... to create space for ...... to enter.
Prior to starting the ritual, you may like to bathe or shower with the intention of cleansing and purifying. To acknowledge and look forward to the start of Springtime, honor the light by lighting your candles, with the intention of welcoming the sun, the warmth, and the rebirth of life. As you light your candles, you may invoke Brigid with the traditional phrase: "From the fires of Kildare, to the fires of my altar, the flame is eternal, the flame is one"Call up your intention, or place your written intention between your palms. Begin to visualize Springtime, and feel into the energy of the earth's tilt towards more warmth, more life, more abundance. Unify your intention with the energy of Imbolc. Stare into the candle flames. Call in the energy of transformation and purification into your intention. Take your smudge item, and light it carefully, and then gently blowing out the flame to create the sacred smoke of transformation. You may smudge by waving the smoke around your written intention, or you can carefully smudge around your body as you call your intention into mind. Imagine the smoke cleansing, transforming and purifying the intention.
Closing the Ritual
Extinguish the smudge in your water. When you feel ready, blow each candle out out one by one, reverently calling your dreams and intentions into each breath, and blowing them into each flame. When your ritual is complete, offer gratitude to Mother Earth, to the Sun, and to Brigid and her flame.
Dismantling the Altar
You may leave your altar in place over the weekend, or for the week following Imbolc, if you intend to honor the altar space each day. It is best not to leave an altar to gather dust, or to forget about it.
Think of the altar as a sacred space that holds the energy of your intention, so dismantle it with reverence once the work is complete.
Items of food offered to your altar should NOT be consumed by you. Return them to the earth when you are ready to dismantle your altar (bury the cheese, pour milk into the soil).