WELCOMING IMBOLC

Myth, folklore & storytelling:
how to celebrate this ancient festival of early spring

Table of Contents

Ah, the next spoke on the pagan Wheel of the Year is upon us: Imbolc. It strikes me as funny that we set new years resolutions in January, when winter still feels stark and our bodies are telling us to be slow, restful, contemplative. It may be too soon to put any plans into motion just yet, but Imbolc is the time of planting seeds and setting intentions. It is the marker of the first stirrings of Spring; the shoots of new life just about to break through the frozen ground. And whilst there may well be cold and bitter weather still to come, the light is unquestionably returning.

snowdrops poking through frosty ground in early spring

Imbolc is said to originate from an old Irish word, translating to ‘in the belly’, or perhaps ‘ewe’s milk’: as this is a time when ewe’s tummies are heavy with their babies, and their milk is collecting to nurture their new-borns.

Many animals are about to birth their children at this time, and perhaps poking their noses out of their winter dens – seeing if it is time to unfurl themselves yet. Old folklore says this is a time to spot if badgers or serpents are peering from their cosy dens.

WHO IS ASSOCIATED WITH IMBOLC?

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The goddess Brigid is synonymous with Imbolc. A Celtic deity who was later adopted into Christian faith as ‘St Brigid’ – so much so that the 1stFebruary is also known as St Brigid’s day. 

She is a symbol of fertility, healing, new life, and is a patron saint of Ireland. In fact, as of this year 2023, Imbolc/St Brigid’s day is now recognised as a public holiday in the Republic of Ireland. 

How wonderful is that!

Double and triple goddesses appear throughout Celtic myth.

For the related double-goddess here, imagine one woman with two faces: a coin with two sides.

One is young, bountiful, light. The other old, destructive, dark. The young side is Brigid – the goddess of the lighter half of the year; the old side is the Cailleach, the winter witch who rules the darker half of the year (I absolutely love the Cailleach – she is tempestuous, powerful, bristling with magick).

the crone triple goddess

This double goddess represents that we need death in order to bring about new life. Imbolc represents the turn into the fresh beginning. In fact, it is said that if the Cailleach feels the winter is going to last much longer, she will cast good weather on Imbolc whilst she gathers more firewood. However, if the weather is ‘bad’ during Imbolc, this means the Cailleach is still snoozing; Winter is soon to come to an end.

WHAT ABOUT THE TRIPLE GODDESS SYMBOL?

Similarly, the triple goddess throughout folkloric myth is that of Maiden, Mother, Crone. Imagine the moon; when she waxes, she is the fertile and energetic Maiden; when full, she is the abundant and fertile Mother; when she wanes, she is the wise and reflective Crone. The seasons represent these rhythms too; spring is the Maiden, summer the Mother, winter the Crone. Imbolc is the turn from Crone aspect to Maiden again. (CRUCIALLY; you do not need to have children to embody these spiritual cadences).

SO, WHAT IS IMBOLC IN A NUTSHELL?

Well; Imbolc tells us that renewed, vibrant energy is on the way. It is time to expel the energies of the past few months, making way for the new. A time to cleanse, blow away the cobwebs and think about intentions for the year ahead you’d love to see to fruition. A time to feel hopeful and buoyed by the returning of the light.

HOW CAN I CELEBRATE IMBOLC?

Clear and Cleanse

natural handmade candle uk in spring scent

Clean & tidy

Clear/tidy any areas of your home. Open windows, dust surfaces, prepare your home for lovely new energy

Have a lovely bath

to spiritually & physically cleanse

Go wild swimming

Visit a body of water such as a river, stream (or even the sea) for a beautiful wild swim (Brigid is also associated with holy water)

Bake

Colcannon

A traditional Irish dish using potatoes & cabbage – find a recipe here

Bannock

A traditional Scottish griddled bread – find a recipe here

Pancakes

These are made as their circular shape reflects the symbol of the sun. Find a recipe here

The symbolism of mylk at Imbolc

Pregnant ewes are bountiful at this time, and so the symbol of milk at Imbolc became popular all those moons ago. As a vegan for the animals, I see a ewe’s milk as her own to feed her own babies, but with plant mylks galore across supermarkets now, we can still use mylk as a motif during Imbolc. Why not stir up a gorgeous frothy latte for yourself over the next few days; heat a saucepan of your favourite plant mylk on the hob, adding in a chai tea-bag (or two), a dash of vanilla and or/maple syrup and a few extra spices (such as cinnamon or nutmeg). Ladle into your favourite mug and give thanks for the nourishment you are about to sip.

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Plant, Craft, Wear, Gather

Sow seeds

Plant hardier veg & flowers such as kale and cosmos. As you sow, visualise a goal or intention you would like to see to fruition. Your plant will then symbolically represent the growth of this dream

Craft a St Brigid Cross

St Brigid Cross are traditional at this time for good luck, protection & blessings. Learn how to craft one here

Wear Imbolc colours of red, white, green, yellow

Gather with loved ones to share a meal, walk, or cup of tea where you can swap stories of the winter months just past, and discuss intentions for the next few months

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Make Brigid's Cloak

This is a lovely one. If you place a piece of white cloth outside on the eve of Imbolc (31st Jan), Brigid will bless it. Find a scrap piece of fabric, tie to a tree branch outside your home over night and use as a talisman in the coming weeks.

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Candle magick

As Imbolc is a fire festival, mark the occasion by lighting a candle after sunset to celebrate the return of the sun. You could also set an intention for the next few months as you strike the match, meditating on the life you would like to create for yourself as the wheel of the year turns. Browse our sustainable, soulful candle collection here

Imbolc is a time for cleansing, exhaling old energy and making way for the new. Perhaps you have had some new inner stirrings in the past few days, or some little excited moments brimming with plans or inspiration. Now is a time to make room for these beautiful seeds to grow. Interestingly, February gets its name from ‘Februa’: the Roman festival of purification and cleansing

Now is a time to honour the darkness of the past few months and make way for the new. Feel proud that you have made it through most of the winter. Spring is on her way. Hope abounds.

 

MOVE WITH THE SEASONS

For a simple way to honour the cadence of nature, we have a candle for each of the four seasons, reflecting the natural aromas at each turn of the year. These help us to tune into the changing rhythms of nature and bring the outside in.

fresh & citral

notes of bergamot & mint

sweet & exotic

notes of citrus & patchouli

spicy & herbal

notes of cedarwood & thyme

sweet & woody

notes of orange & fir needle

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