How to celebrate Imbolc by Renee Rendall
• Jan 29th 2024 • by GLASGLOW GIRLS CLUB • 0 Comments
Winter can seem long and harsh, but witches have a way of finding hope and honoring the renewal of the Earth. On February 1st, we celebrate Imbolc, a fire festival that marks the midway point of winter and the first stirrings of new life. From blossoming snowdrops to sleepy hedgehogs stirring from their winter slumber, this sabbat reminds us that winter won’t last forever.
I’m Renee, and I’m the creator of Awesome on 20 Kitchen Magick and the co-host of The Coven of Awesomeness Podcast. I also offer tarot readings, spiritual coaching, and witchcraft workshops through Sagittarian Tarot & Coaching. I’ve been studying witchcraft since 2019, and I’m thrilled to share a little bit more magic with all of you.
The wheel of the year carries us on a never ending journey of darkness and light where change is the only constant. Every six weeks or so, the wheel spins, marking the seasons and the changes in the natural world. It’s a moment for us to pause and honor Mother Earth. The wheel of the year keeps us connected to the cycles of life, death, and rebirth that are part of our existence. It invites us to experience awe and reverence for the web of life we are intricately woven into and supported by.
Remember how the White Witch in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe made it always winter but never Christmas? I never understood what was so bad about that as a child, but these days, I see how bleak winter can feel as it seems to drag on endlessly. Once the festive lights are packed away, it feels like there’s nothing to celebrate. Life is just a daily struggle against the elements.
But then I learned about Imbolc, a holiday celebrated by modern witches and neopagans on February 1st. It taught me to be mindful of the subtle changes that occur in the Earth as the days slowly grow longer. This cross quarter day, halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, gives us a reason to feel hopeful. Maybe this year, you’ll slow down and notice the signs of new life all around us.
What is Imbolc
Imbolc is commonly celebrated on February 1st by Wiccans, witches, and pagans today. Some people celebrate when the sun reaches 15° Aquarius. You can honor Imbolc whenever it feels good to you and fits into your modern life. I’ll be celebrating with an Imbolc Growth Ritual on February 3rd at The Loft in Cambuslang if you’d like to join.
Because this day doesn’t neatly fold into a modern holiday, you’re free to make your own traditions. This festival is sometimes described as the quickening of the earth. It marks the first stirring of new life. You may see snowdrops and crocuses begin to appear in the fields or along the roadside. These are the first flowers to bloom in the winter.
This is also a time when animals begin to come out of hibernation. In fact, the American tradition of Groundhog’s Day on February 2nd is likely derived from old Irish traditions at the start of February. Again we see the slow signs of life returning.
This is also when lambs start to be born, which meant that sheep’s milk was plentiful for our ancestors. In fact, the word Imbolc may derive from oi-melg, meaning ewe’s milk. All this to say, milk and dairy products are an important part of the celebrations. This holiday is basically an excuse to eat as much cheese as you want.
Most importantly, this is a festival of creation. Imbolc means “in the belly,” so this is a beautiful time to set intentions for what you want to give birth to in the coming year. Whether that’s a book, a painting, a business, or a human baby, this is the time to get started. Consider the seeds you want to plant for the future. Imbolc is the beginning of the process.
What are the origins of Imbolc?
This sabbat is modeled after ancient Irish customs. Imbolc is also known as Brigid’s Day. Brigid is an Irish goddess of poetry, livestock, and smithcraft. She has close ties to St. Brigid of Ireland, whose feast day is also on February 1st.
The goddess Brigid is often depicted with a cauldron, a womb-like symbol of creation. She is also tied to midwives and healing. Brigid may appear as a pillar of fire or with flames shooting from her head. Her creative energy is potent and powerful. To honor her at this moment of the year seems perfectly aligned.
Imbolc also corresponds to the Christian feast day known as Candlemas. Fire is certainly an important aspect of both of these holidays.
How to Celebrate Imbolc
Imbolc is a beautiful time of year for intention setting. If New Year’s Day didn’t quite feel like the right time to commit to goals, Imbolc might be more aligned for you. As we see life returning to the earth, it can stir our own creative desires. Consider what you’d like to bring to life this year and simply write it down in your journal. Or if you like, you can create a more elaborate intention setting ritual complete with burning bay leaves.
Have a bonfire. It’s certainly needed at this time of the year, and fire is a symbol of inspiration and motivation. Use sacred wood or mix up a loose incense with some Imbolc herbs to carry your intentions to the Universe. Gather ‘round the fire with friends and family to give thanks for the blessings that you wish to call in for the coming year.
Honor Brigid by crafting a Brigid’s Cross. Traditionally, these simple shapes woven from straw were hung from the ceiling to protect the home from fire and bring Brigid’s blessing. You could also leave an offering of milk, blackberries, or bread for the goddess.
Create an Imbolc feast
Creating a feast is always my favorite way to celebrate any sabbat, but as a cheese lover, Imbolc might be one of the most delicious. Because this is the time when livestock, particularly lambs, started to be born, milk is an important part of the festival. So anything that’s creamy or cheesy would be appropriate. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Blackberries are sacred to the goddess Brigid, and also extremely delicious, so definitely consider incorporating them into your feast. Try this Brie & Blackberry Grilled Cheese to bring in the energy of mother’s milk as well.
To create a midwinter feast, our ancestors would have had to rely on what they still had stored from the Autumn harvests. Things like seeds and nuts, or dried grains and flour would have still been plentiful. Try these winter recipes.
And these recipes are just the beginning. If you want more ideas for your Imbolc feast, be sure to check out my Recipes to Celebrate Imbolc post for 99 awesome recipe ideas.
I hope you’re feeling inspired to celebrate Imbolc this year. Bundle yourself up, get out in nature, and take in the wonder of new life. Then go home and eat as much cheese as you could possibly want while you decide what you want to bring into the world. May your midwinter be full of possibilities.
I’d love to see your Imbolc celebration photos. Tag me on Instagram and let me know how it goes. Happy Imbolc, Glasglow Girls!