As the seasons start to turn, and the glimmer of spring begins to shine, you know it’s time to celebrate Imbolc, one of the most uplifting pagan festivals in the Wheel of the Year.
When is Imbolc?
Imbolc here in the northern hemisphere occurs from sunset on February 1st to sunset on February 2nd. In the southern hemisphere, Imbolc takes place from sunset on August 1st to sunset on August 2nd.
This pagan festival celebrates the return of spring, as the cold months start to shift towards new life! Occurring at the mid-way point between Winter Solstice (Yule) and Spring Equinox (Ostara), this is a time when days are lengthening and the earth is coming back to life after a long winter.
Here in Portugal, by the time Imbolc comes around, spring seems to have well and truly sprung, bringing with it a smattering of lawn daisies, almost-bursting magnolia buds, and the filling out of trees that have stood naked over the winter months. It’s truly a time when the earth comes alive again.
The Goddess Brigid
Many of the pagan festivals involve the celebration of a deity, and Imbolc is no different. It’s the feast day of the Irish goddess Brigid – sometimes seen as a triple goddess of poetry, healing, and smithing. She also presides over wisdom, protection, and domesticated animals, and is sometimes seen as a goddess of fertility, light, and green magick.
Typically I don’t work much with deities, and if you don’t either, that’s okay. There are plenty of ways to enjoy Imbolc without deity work! However, as a silversmith, I particularly love that Brigid is the goddess of smithing and represents the practical as well as the ethereal. She is sometimes depicted with a hammer and anvil, or holding fire – all things that form part of my daily craft.
One of the best things about pagan holidays is that they were, traditionally, joyous occasions! Whether you’re celebrating Imbolc with your friends, your coven, or by yourself, remember to enjoy it! These sabbats are not intended to be sombre affairs!
Decorate Your Altar
For every sabbat, I love to add something special to my altar to celebrate that day. Some pagans might also create a separate altar just for that point on the Wheel of the Year. However you choose to celebrate Imbolc, creating an offering at your altar is a simple way to connect to the energy of the day.
I like to add a Brigid’s cross to my altar – it’s the most common and easily recognisable symbol of Imbolc and placing this on my altar not only connects me to the lore of Brigid, but also to the countless pagans who have crafted this very same item. Other items you might want to add include candles, spring flowers, wool, written poetry, or healing herbs.
Perhaps the most common tradition during Imbolc is the weaving of a Brigid’s cross. This simple three- or four-sided cross is said to bring protection when hung over doorways or windows, and Brigid herself is said to protect that house from fire.
A woven Brigid’s cross is traditionally made from rushes, with a beautiful woven centre that fans out into three or four separate tines, tied together at the ends. Creating one of these crosses is a meditative process that offers a chance to slow down and appreciate the ritual of Imbolc – welcoming in the spring.
Another way to celebrate Imbolc is through cooking – after all, this is the feast of Brigid we’re celebrating, and food is always the most enjoyable part of any pagan festival or ritual! I personally love to bake bread or biscuits for each of the sabbats, using seasonal flowers, plants, or spices to welcome in that turn of the Wheel.
For Imbolc, I bake biscuits that include the newly blossomed dandelions to welcome in the return of spring and the sprouting of new life!
This is also a time for welcoming in the new and clearing out the old, so the tradition of clearing out your home with a spring clean occurs around Imbolc! You can take this in the most literal sense, by giving your house a good deep-clean and clearing out unnecessary clutter, or more figuratively by cleansing your house by burning a smoulder stick.
You can also use this time to clear your life of anything that is no longer needed – it’s the perfect time to take stock of habits, commitments, and relationships that no longer serve you. Try making a list of where your energy is going and decide if there is anything there that needs to be cleared out to make way for new growth.
Follow Your Intuition
As with any pagan festival, ritual, or spell, it’s also important to follow your own intuition. There’s no point in following traditions and rituals if they feel rigid, restrictive or inauthentic. Instead, you can use this list as a guide around which to craft your own celebration of Imbolc in a way that feels authentic to you.