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Celebrating Imbolc

The Festival of Brigid

Pronounced IM-bolg or IM-bolk, Imbolc is a Gaelic holiday that’s honored in many traditions. Also known as St. Brigid’s Day, Imbolc marks the halfway point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox.

Imbolc means “in the belly” in Old Irish. It’s a time of the year associated with pregnancy, and it’s the time to honor the fertility goddess Brigid.

Brigid is also the Celtic goddess of fire, fertility, and poetry. She symbolizes the coming of spring.

This time offers an invitation to recenter with nature, to reflect on where we found ourselves at the Solstice, and where we are now.

To honor these first stirrings of life, the Celts lit bonfires. Small dolls made of straw or oats representing Brigid were blessed and shared by children, and there were even offerings of rags tied to tree sprigs called clootie wells.

Clootie Well, Munlochy, Scotland (photograph by Davie Conner)

If you want to create an Imbolc celebration of your own, here are a few ideas:

  • Make Brigid dollies or Brigid crosses for your home.

  • Bake oatcakes and leave milk outside for Brigid on Imbolc eve.

  • Adorn your altar with red white and orange colors and candles. Other Imbolc gifts are wool, daffodils, and images of the sun.

  • Enjoy some milk and cheese.

  • Enjoy a warm fire. Bonfires aren’t really in alignment for our planet today, so instead I suggest a scented few candles.

  • Plant seeds. You can begin planting your seedlings indoors,like snapdragon and pansies. Bachelor buttons, Delphinium, Poppies, and Violas will do well in pots outside. You’ll want to consult your zone for what to grow when, but the significance of planting, is to remind us of the invisible magic that is taking place all around.

If we look to the Tarot for support in celebrating Imbolc, the Ace of Pentacles volunteers as our anchor for this time.

The Aces of the Tarot introduce us to the nature of their suit. The Pentacles represent the element of earth. They teach us about our bodies, our beliefs, and our ability to grow.

The Easter lilies we see on this card will not be in bloom for some time, but the bulb underground is preforming the necessary act of freezing and then thawing.

Hopefully you have honored your body’s need for rest and reset in these past weeks of dark winter. It is critical for the rebirth that will come in the spring.

For now, as the sun begins to rise earlier and the days continue to grow longer, allow yourself to feel the slow and gentle thaw.

As you do, take some time and allow yourself to make an inquiry of your beliefs, your body, your material being. Some more ideas might include:

  • Get outside. Simply by taking a walk and looking around, you can witness the mulching of leaves, the first buds of springtime and the awakening of the natural world. As you observe these shifts in the outside world, allow those observations to inform your internal awareness too.

  • Nourish your body. It's always a good time to remind yourself to hydrate, rest, and eat slowly so you can really taste each bite of your meals.

  • Journal. Explore your inner garden through writing. What do you feel may be blossoming within? Are there spaces in my life that require more tending? Are there any beliefs I’d rather not cultivate?

  • Gift yourself. Are there ways that you can offer yourself more sweetness and care? That can be as simple as taking time to moisturize your skin or wrap yourself in soft warm fabrics. Is it possible for you to relax into more trust that you're already an ally to yourself? Let gravity do it's work, and trust that your internal gravity is also supporting you always.

Whatever hopes you have impregnated for the seasons ahead, give them to warm and gentle light of Imbolc and enjoy the feeling of growth that has begun.

Photo by Jonatan Pie on Unsplash

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