Imbolc or Oimelc (meaning ewe’s milk), is the first of the Spring Sabbats. Imbolc falls anywhere from the 1st to the 5th February. The Christian name of this Festival is Candlemass – as it is traditional to light all of the candles, lamps and lights within the home, at dusk. This represents the coming back of the light as we head away from the dark days of winter, towards the light days of summer.
It is this time of year, where we notice, perhaps for the first time, life coming back to the land – flowers are poking their heads above ground, snowdrops, crocus’ and even daffodils; trees are showing their first buds and the days may be feeling a little warmer.
The Goddess as the Maiden is honoured as the bride at this time. Traditionally, three ears of corn are tied together, to represent the triple goddess, The Maiden, Mother and Crone. You may wish to use the corn that you brought into the house during Lughnassad. This Corn Dolly is often known as an Imbolc Bride and is placed into a basket on white cloths or lace, before or on the altar. With her, will also be placed a priapic wand (a wand made with an acorn tip) and you may wish to lay a crystal upon her. You may wish to hang the doll outside the home after the festival for wealth and protection. It will be later buried, after the autumn equinox or Mabon.
Because spring is in the air, this is a good time to work in the house, by changing tablecloths, curtains, room paintings, wallpapering and fixing furniture. Look at your magickal cabinet for what needs to be restocked.
Imbolc is also known as:
Herd animals, and more specifically sheep, give birth to their offspring. Little lambs gambolling in the fields are symbols of this Sabbat. Milk represents the mother’s fertility, so it is a great time to cast those fertility spells. The spells may either be for the creation of a new life, or the birth of new ideas or projects. Seeds and gardening or agricultural tools can be blessed at this time too. In fact, in some areas, this may well be the first day of ploughing, so the plough is also a traditional symbol. It is the festival of the Maiden, for from this day to September the 21st, as it is her season to prepare for growth and renewal.
Traditionally (and if you are lucky enough to have one), home hearth fires are put out and re-lit and a new broom is placed by the front door to symbolize sweeping out the old and welcoming the new. Candles are lit and placed in each room to honour the re-birth of the Sun as mentioned above. Also, all evergreens in the house from Yule are now to be burnt in an offering.
Brighid is generally considered to be the Goddess of Imbolc. In fact, the day is also often known as Brighid’s Day or St Bridget’s Day. Brighid is one of the few Celtic Goddess’ who was so revered by her followers, that the Catholic Church canonised her. The Brighid’s Cross, one of her symbols, woven from reeds or straw, is used as protection within the home: protecting from fire and evil.
Imbolc – Festival of Lights
Practices Candles or torches lit and held in circle. Symbol of wheel placed on altar. Ritual blessing and planting of seeds in pots.
Colours White, green and blue. Orange and red. Pink and brown.
Fruits of Harvest – Herbs etc Snowdrop, Bay, Heather the first flowers of the year. Angelica, basil, bay laurel, blackberry, celandine, coltsfoot, heather, iris, myrrh, tansy, violets.
Incense Rosemary, cinnamon, wisteria, frankincense, Myrrh. Violet and Vanilla.
Decorations Lamps, Besom, yellow flowers. White flowers, candle wheels, priapic wands and ploughs.
Foods Real dairy products, curries, onions, chives, garlic, spiced wines, seeds and herbal teas. Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, muffins, scones and breads. Raisins.
Altar items A dish of snow, evergreens and candles.
Other items or practices Candle lighting, stone gatherings, snow hiking and searching for signs of spring.
Symbolism Purity, growth and renewal, the reunion of the Goddess and God, Fertility and dispensing of the old to make way for the new.
Stones or Crystals Amethyst, bloodstone, garnet, ruby, onyx and turquoise.