Wheel of the Year: Imbolc
Call forth the magic Imbolc holds
Drink, drink the milk of life.
I welcome the gentle kiss of Spring
I honor the cycle of returning life.
- Julia Ferguson Andriessen
The ancient Celts celebrated eight sacred annual holidays marking rebirth, fertility, harvest, and death. This is known as the Wheel of the Year, ever turning and renewing, welcoming each season.
These pagan holidays were redressed over time; originating with Celtic mythology and folk history, they were recast as the region became Christianized, and festivals were relabeled as saints’ days. In modern times, many neo-pagans, witches, and people on other magical paths have reclaimed the Wheel as a connection to history and the earth.
Today, we’re beginning our series on the Wheel of the Year and pagan festivals with Imbolc, which falls first in our modern calendar year.
Celtic name: Imbolc
Traditional date: February 1
Other names: Oimelc, Candlemas, St. Brigid’s Day
Origins: From old Irish Gaelic for “in the belly,” referring to the time when ewes are gestating new spring lambs; oimelc means “ewe’s milk.”
Significance: Known as the first day of spring in the old calendar. Imbolc is the midway point between the Winter Solstice, or Yule, and the Spring Equinox, or Ostara. It is the holiday of rebirth, representing the first awakening of Earth following the slumber of winter. As with the natural world, it is believed that Imbolc is an ideal time to create new beginnings and celebrate life.
Deities: Brigid, goddess of spring, fertility, healing, fire, passion, poetry, and blacksmithing. Often considered a triple deity, with all three of her aspects sharing the same name. Daughter of the Dagda, who was the chief of the Tuatha de Danann, the Irish ancestral gods. Since early in the Common Era, she is popularly associated with St. Brigid, patron saint of Ireland, dairy workers, farmers, midwives, nuns, poets, printers, and sailors.
Traditional celebration: Celtic peoples prayed to Brigid to protect their homes from fire, often crafting a Brigid’s Cross or “corn dolly” to gain the goddess’s favor. On Imbolc Eve, a food sacrifice of grain, butter, milk, or bread was left for Brigid to ensure abundance for the coming year. The next day, celebrants would light fires and lanterns in her honor.
Modern celebration: Personal rituals may be focused on intentions, manifestation, purification, and family heritage traditions. Imbolc is ideal for candle magic and straw crafts like Brigid’s Cross; an Imbolc altar might include white flowers and a bowl of milk as well. It’s also the perfect time to begin spring cleaning in your home. You may even consider visiting moving water - a bayou, river, or beach - for purification and abundance.
Animals: Sheep, deer, bear, groundhog, phoenix
Colors: Silver, white, pastels, brown
Crystals: Amethyst, onyx, ruby, turquoise, garnet
Foods: Bread, cake, herbal teas, milk, cheese, spiced wine, yogurt, honey cake, poppyseed muffins
Herbs: Rosemary, lavender, basil, angelica, chamomile, frankincense
Susan (aka the Dragonfly Charmer) is an Indigo Moons staff member and an intuitive reader with over 25 years of experience. She also teaches Tarot classes at the shop. Visit her Linktree for all the other places you can find her.
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