Imbolc – First Stirrings

The Sabbat of Imbolc is celebrated at the height of winter, but in contrast to the cold and dreary days, this is a celebration of the early signs of spring.

Imbolc (or Imbolg), translates to ‘In the belly’, a reference to the potential for life, held within the belly of the Great Mother, our earth.

Another version of Imbolc, is ‘Oimelc’, which means ‘Ewe’s Milk’, making reference to the lambing season which Imbolc coincides with.

 

Imbolc marks the halfway point between the Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox.

The days are gradually growing longer, with the sun rising a few minutes earlier each morning.

The trees are beginning to bud and seeds begin to stir under the soil.

In the midst of winter, the promise of spring abounds.

Imbolc is a fire festival, though not a solar celebration, but a day when we celebrate a return to the light and the lengthening of the days.

Personally, Imbolc is a celebration of the quickening earth, a joyous recognition of the Great Mother awakening from her winter slumber.

The Goddess Awakens

The Goddess Awakens

I know when Imbolc has arrived, by the profusion of yellow across the countryside.

Wattle is the harbinger of spring for me.

It’s bright and cheery color is a welcome relief from the dreary winter landscape and brings with it the hope that the warmth and light of Spring shall soon be upon us.

The small yellow flowers of the wattle are symbolic of the sun.

Here in Australia, with our warm climate, the early signs of spring are very evident, as the almond and wild cherry trees blossom white, alongside the vibrant yellow of the wattle.

Platypus {Ornithorhynchus anatinus} swimming underwater

Imbolc sees the commencement of the breeding season of the platypus, the native monotreme unique to Australia.

The platypus is an extremely elusive animal, which lives in the creeks and streams.

I have lived in Australia my entire life, and have sighted the platypus only once in the wild.

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In rural Australia, Imbolc is lambing season.

This brings us the traditional roots of Imbolc: milk, cheese and dairy products.

Milk again begins to flow, as new life pops up in paddocks everywhere.

This would have been a festive time in the old days, having dairy products again, as winter food supplies began to dwindle.

The return of milk brought promise of the abundant food supplies soon to come.

 

Mythology-

The Goddess is evident in all three aspects.

She is the Maiden, young and playful, leading us out into Spring.

She is the Mother, nurturing her seeds within the Earth.

She is the Crone, retreating into the shadows of Winter.

Imbolc is sacred to Brighid, the Celtic Triple Goddess of Fire, Poetry, Metal Working, Crafts, Fertility and Healing.

Hestia, the Greek Goddess of the Hearth and Home, has several similarities to Brighid, and can be honored at Imbolc also.
Ask Hestia for assistance in ritually purifying the home, as part of your Imbolc celebrations.

Brighid by Jo Jayson

Brighid by Jo Jayson

The Great Goddess has now recovered from giving birth at Yule, the young God, the child at her breast.

He is reflected in the gradually growing sunlight which gently caresses the earth, the Maiden, the Mother,  in childlike innocence.

The Goddess is Mother, yet she turns to her aspect of Maiden at Imbolc, her innocence and fresh vitality reflected in the buds and early flowering blossoms.

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Persephone prepares to return from her time in The Underworld.

She will soon rejoin her Mother, Demeter, who will rejoice at her return, bringing the lush profusion of Spring upon the earth.

Persephone is the seed that lies in the soil, no longer dormant, but ready to burst forth under the light of the growing sun.

In The Underworld she has been renewed, life from death in the fecund earth that is the realm of the Queen of Corpses.

During Winter she presides over the shades of the dead, but upon her return she is the vibrant daughter, the bright petalled flower.

During Spring she is life just begun, life in all its infinite possibility.

Persephone Awakens

Persephone Awakens

Another myth of Imbolc is that of the Cailleach, the old crone that brings winter down upon the land.

It is said that the length of the winter can be determined by the weather on the day of Imbolc.

If she intends to make the winter last longer, she will need to replenish her wood pile to keep herself warm in the days ahead.

If the day is sunny, then the Cailleach will be out wood carting.

But if the day of Imbolc brings bad weather, the old woman sleeps, and will soon deplete her stock of wood, being forced to bring an end to winter.

The Cailleach - Altara The Dark

The Cailleach – Altara The Dark

Imbolc Activities- 

At Imbolc we plant the metaphorical seeds of our goals and plans, for the year ahead.

In practical terms, I will list my goals and the steps I need to take to achieve them.

I have many ideas floating around this year and need to decide which of them I wish to plant and nurture.

Imbolc is the perfect time to begin planning the achievements of your goals, working with the natural flow of the Earth.

It also sets a natural time of completion, of achievement, for the harvest Sabbats towards the end of the year, Lughnasadh, Mabon and Samhain.

Working with the natural rhythms of the earth and sun in this way, has brought about much success for me, and each year I look forward to harnessing this power to realize my ambitions.

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Imbolc is a time of purification, cleansing and new beginnings.

It is a good time to reflect on the bad habits you no longer wish to carry with you, and to perform banishing spells to free yourself of the burden.

Spell work of purification, rejuvenation, health and vitality, fertility and growth and renewal, are all the work of Imbolc.

Ritual purification and cleansing of the home should be performed, clearing the home of negativity and setting a positive trend for the year ahead.

Work that blesses your future endeavors, such as good luck and prosperity spells are appropriate.

This is also a good time to cleanse and rededicate your Craft tools and sacred spaces.

Fire- Element of Cleansing and Purification

Fire- Element of Cleansing and Purification

Imbolc is sometimes also known as Candlemas, which comes from the Christian festival.

Interesting in itself, because Brighid herself was made a Saint in the Catholic Church.

The name, Candlemas, can also be interpreted literally, as it is traditional Imbolc practice to light every candle in the house, or place a lit candle in every window, as a way to welcome back the light.

It is also a good time to cleanse and consecrate new candles for future ritual use.

Imbolc is a powerful time for working candle magick in all it’s forms.

A great Imbolc activity, is to actually make candles for future ritual and spell use.

Otherwise, cleanse and consecrate candles you have purchased for future use.

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As a time of beginnings, Imbolc is the perfect time for initiations into the Craft.

I like to use Imbolc as a time to rededicate myself to my practice and my Mother Goddess.

This is something I like to do annually, to renew my promise to myself and my Mother and to set new spiritual ideals for myself.

 

Imbolc Altar

Imbolc Altar

As Brighid is a Goddess of craft, you can also get creative at Imbolc.

Making Brighid’s crosses is traditional for Imbolc.

As is making a ‘bed’ for Brighid, to welcome her into the home.

You can also make a pine cone wand, which is a symbol of The God and represents the promise of God and Goddess coming together at Beltane.

Brighid's Cross

Brighid’s Cross

One of my favorite Imbolc traditions, is that of Brighid’s mantle.

Brighid taught the Irish to weave and is the Patron Goddess of Knitting and Crochet.

She would sit at her loom, beside the hearth, weaving the very flames into her work.

If you knit, crochet or quilt, make a blanket or shawl and leave it outside your house at Imbolc.

As Brighid passes, it will drawn her attention.

As she admires your handiwork, her touch will bless your creation and it will bestow her healing energy on anyone who wears it.

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On a more practical level, honor the spirit of Imbolc by spring cleaning your home and ridding yourself of possessions you no longer use.

Having a good spring clean is a good way to start a new, clutter-free, year.

 

Take the time for a walk through the countryside, keeping your eyes open for signs of the return of Spring.

Spring is discreet right now, but she is making her first appearance.

 

 

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Imbolc Incense:

  • 3pt Frankincense
  • 2pt Dragons Blood
  • 1/2pt Red Sandalwood
  • 1pt Cinnamon
  • Few drops Red Wine
  • Pinch of the first flower available (Dried)

 

Brandied Milk and Honey:

This is a traditional favorite for my family and I.

  • 375ml Full Cream Milk
  • 75g Honey
  • 75ml Brandy
  1. Stir milk and honey over low heat until honey dissolves.
  2. Bring to just below boiling. (Be very careful not to let it boil!)
  3. Remove from heat and stir through the brandy.
  4. Serve hot.

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Imbolc Colors:

  • White
  • Red
  • Pale Yellow
  • Silver
  • Pink

Herbs:

  • Basil
  • White Sage
  • Bay
  • Chamomile
  • Cinnamon
  • Crocus
  • Dandelion
  • Dill
  • Frankincense
  • Myrrh
  • Primrose
  • Rosemary
  • Wattle
  • First flowers of the year.

Symbols:

  • Lamps
  • Wells
  • Cauldrons
  • Candles
  • Besom
  • White Flowers
  • Candle Wheels
  • Brighid’s Bed
  • Brighid’s Crosses
  • Anything Iron, like horseshoes
  • The Star tarot card

Animals:

  • Lamb
  • Platypus
  • Snake
  • Swan

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Foods:

  • Curries
  • Onions
  • Chives
  • Garlic
  • Wine
  • Seeds
  • Honey Cakes
  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese

Stones:

Deities:

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Categories: The Sabbats | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Imbolc – First Stirrings

  1. Pingback: A View of Imbolc | Spinning Webbs

  2. Pingback: Honoring Imbolc | Spinning Webbs

  3. Pingback: Mabon – The Autumnal Equinox | Spinning Webbs

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