February 2 (Northern Hemisphere)
August 2 (Southern Hemisphere)
The word Imbolc is thought to have come from the Old Irish word oimelc, which means “ewe’s milk”. It is also said that the word itself, Imbolc, literally translates to “in the belly”. This is a fitting name for this Sabbat as we celebrate the return of Spring. Imbolc is one of the four Celtic fire festivals, the others being Beltane, Samhain, and Lughnasadh (Lammas). The ancient Celts celebrated this day as the coming of Spring when their herds would start to produce offspring and the farmers would go back to work in the fields. The origins of this Sabbat, though, date back to Neolithic times. We know this (or speculate at best) because the inner chamber of the Mound of Hostages at the Hill of Tara in Ireland is aligned with the rising sun on Samhain and Imbolc. The Mound of Hostages was built about 5,000 years ago in the year 3,000 BC (9).
In Wicca, Imbolc is a time of fertility. It is the season of the Goddess as the Maiden as she prepares herself for the growth and renewal of the Earth. Traditionally, the Celtic Fire Goddess Brigit was (and still is) celebrated, for she is the patron of poetry, healing, and midwifery. Since she is closely associated with the element of fire, she is also regarded as a guardian of home and hearth.
The ancient Celts believed this was a time to read omens and predict the weather for the coming Summer. They believed that the Cailleach, a malicious creature in Irish folklore, was the key to knowing whether they would have a good summer. According to myth, the Cailleach would spend the day collecting firewood for herself if Winter was to last a bit longer. The myth says that if, on the day of Imbolc, the weather was clear and warm, Winter would last longer because the Cailleach needed good weather to collect the things necessary for a longer Winter. If the day was rainy or cloudy, Summer would be coming sooner and the Cailleach had already packed herself up for the coming Summer.
Imbolc Correspondences and Associations
- Rebirth and Renewal
- The colors white, pink, yellow, and light green
Imbolc Celebration Ideas
- Make a Brigit’s Cross! This decoration is widely believed to date farther back than the story of the Christian St. Brigit. It is believed that the Brigit’s Cross was hung on the door of a home to invoke the help of the Goddess to protect the home from fire and disease. To make one, you will need a few things.
What You’ll Need (10)
16 Reeds or Rushes
4 Small Rubber Bands
To make the cross:
- Hold one of the reeds vertically. Fold a second reed in half.
- Place the first vertical reed in the center of the folded second reed.
- Hold the center overlap tightly between your thumb and forefinger.
- Turn the two rushes held together 90 degrees anti-clockwise so that the open ends of the second reed are pointing vertically upwards.
- Fold a third reed in half and over both parts of the second reed to lie horizontally from left to right against the first straw. Hold tight.
- Holding the center tightly, turn the three reeds 90 degrees anti-clockwise so that the open ends of the third reed are pointing upwards.
- Fold a new reed in half over and across all the rushes pointing upwards.
- Repeat the process of rotating all the rushes 90 degrees anti-clockwise, adding a new folded reed each time until all rushes have been used up to make the cross.
- Secure the arms of the cross with elastic bands. Trim the ends to make them all the same length.
If you need a visual, check out YouTube for videos on how to make them. I know the written instructions can be a bit confusing.
- Light candles in each room after dark for a while to celebrate the Sun’s rebirth.
- Go hiking (or take a walk) and search for the signs of Spring! Be sure not to pick any flowers during this time because we want to encourage growth, not snuff it out before it gets started.
- Feasting! Use fresh fruits and vegetables of the season to create some of your favorite dishes. Decorate the table with flowers and colors of Imbolc.
- Keep track of the weather. Does the myth of the Cailleach hold true where you live?