Holidays

What is Imbolc? Goddesses, History, and How to Celebrate

Imbolc is an ancient Pagan holiday based on Celtic traditions; it marks the halfway point between winter solstice and the spring equinox in Neolithic Ireland and Scotland. This is the time of year when we start to emerge from the darkness of winter in preparation for the Spring. 

In today’s modern world, we are far removed from the hardships of Winter, compared to our ancestors who lived thousands of years ago. At this point in the year, people have been hunkered down inside for months, living off root vegetables, salted meat, and what little they could fish or hunt. Their sheep, who naturally tend to breed in Autumn, are ready to give birth right around Imbolc. The ewe’s milk flows for the first time all Winter, and fresh milk and cheese were the first signs that Spring is about to arrive. Imbolc was a time to celebrate the coming of brighter days, surviving the harsh Winter, and planning for the year’s sowing season.

Being mindful of the natural energies, the ebbs and flows of the year, can help us stay connected to the elements, the season and the earth. Ancient Pagans followed the Wheel of the Year, eight Sabbats consisting of four solstice festivals, and four fire festivals.

All about Brighid (Brigid)

On Imbolc, ancestors in Ireland and Scotland particularly, honored the Goddess Brighid. Brighid can take on any appearance she wants, young or old, human or snake. She is a Triple Celtic Goddess, the embodiment of the child, the maiden and the crone. She is the Goddess of the Eternal Flame, the trinity also represents three types of fire: hearth fire, forge fire, and the fire to create and transform. She is also known as the Goddess of the Sacred Well, protecting healing waters. Brighid was the patron of poets, healers, and magicians.   

Brighid (Brigid) Imbolc

Imbolc Correspondence for the Modern Witch

Foods associated with Imbolc are milk, butter, yogurt, and cheese (and nondairy alternatives will do just fine). This is the time to savor creamy soups, spring onions, leeks, potatoes, and Irish Soda Bread. Oils associated with Imbolc are spruce and fir, cinnamon, rosemary, patchouli, jasmine, and vanilla. Colors are white, light blue, and light pink. 

Imbolc is sometimes referred to as Candlemas, and a common practice is to make and bless candles. You can make corn dollies or Brighid’s Cross out of any kind of grass or hay you have available. 

Ceromancy, or candlewax divination, is a great way to connect with the magic of the season. Imagine a goal you are working towards, a seed you wish to plant. Really meditate on this goal, and develop a question with a yes or no answer. Use a paper plate and draw a line down the middle. Label on side yes, the other no. Light a small spell candle or tealight. Journal about your vision or meditate more (while supervising the candle). When it has burned all the way down, observe which side of the plate collected the most wax. That is your answer!

Imbolc Spell Kit

4 Ways to learn more about Imbolc

  1. Listen to my Imbolc playlist on Spotify, with seasonal songs and podcasts
  2. Check out my Imbolc board on Pinterest for more ideas
  3. Order an Imbolc Spell Kit from my Etsy Shop (pictured above)
  4. Join me for a magic workshop:

Learn more about Brighid, the Roman Goddess Juno, and the Egyptian Goddess Renenutet. Pull tarot cards, receive reiki, and relax during a guided meditation that will help you plant your own fire seed of intention. 

  • In Person workshop at Saltitude Sunday 1/31 1:00-3:00 pm (learn more)
  • Virtual workshop on Zoom Monday 2/1 5:30-7:00 pm (learn more)

Sources

Neal, Carl F. Imbolc: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for Brigid’s Day. Llewellyn, 2016. 

Moura, Ann. Grimoire for the Green Witch: a Complete Book of Shadows. Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd, 2018.

Astrology and Tarot

December 20 – 26, 2018: Death

Life has been so crazy, that I missed my blog last week! With trying to wrap up the semester and the work year, preparing for the holidays, something had to give. Well, besides my sanity. And so this week brings the Death card.

This is actually one of my favorite cards in the deck because it’s all about, “out with the old; make room for the new.” A skeleton knight rides in on his white horse to take the life of the king. This is a reminder that death comes for all walks of life: rich or poor, bad or good, young or old. The skeleton represents the strongest part of the human body, the only part that remains after death. The armor makes death invincible, nothing can stop him. In the distance is a beautiful sun scape and you can see the towers from the moon card, as though from the other side.

The Death card means that a chapter or a situation in your life is coming to and end and there is much potential to start anew. Remember that death is just as much a part of life as birth, as we usher in the full moon in Cancer on Saturday, December 22nd.

The full moon is a time to slow down and fill your cup. Give gratitude for your blessings. The energy of Cancer in this context will help you balance your heart and mind. You will be in the mood for spending time with family and friends, which is perfect because this week we also celebrate the holidays.

Many people will celebrate Christmas, which actually carries a lot of the same traditions as Yule. Yule is the winter solstice, also called Christmastide. This year it falls on Friday, December 21st. This tradition is traced back thousands of years to Germany and Scandinavia, as late as the 4th century.

Although most of the Yule traditions were absorbed into Christmas, many Neo Pagans and Wiccans still celebrate. Some of these traditions include bringing various winter-hearty plants into the home, like evergreen, holly, birch, mistletoe and pine. This was a type of sympathetic magic, meant to guard the essence and spirit of the plant. A wild boar was sacrificed for the feast, although today a ham is more commonplace. The Viking God Odin was called the first Father of Christmas; he was known to disguide himself as a wanderer with a long white beard.

Yule is celebrated on the night of the Winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. And the celebration is all about light in any form: candles, bonfires, burning the yule log, etc. Many holiday traditions are centered around light: the star of Christmas, there’s Hanukkah with its brightly lit menorahs, Kwanzaa candles, and more.

I think that Death was actually a fantastic card to represent this week. The year is winding down; I’m taking the time to slow down and I have some pretty big plans to reveal in my life in 2019. Sometimes the hardest part of growing, is saying goodbye to the old you. It’s also a reminder not to take life too seriously! To keep your loved ones close, because your time with them is limited. I feel a stirring of change, growth and new beginnings for the new year. Death to the same boring old comfort zone!

 

Here are some excellent sources that I consulted for this blog!

https://www.biddytarot.com/tarot-card-meanings/major-arcana/death/

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/winter-solstice-pagan-yule_us_585970abe4b03904470af4c5

https://www.thoughtco.com/history-of-yule-2562997