he season of Imbolg is upon us at the midpoint between Yule and Ostara. The spark of light, life & hope born from the womb of the Goddess at Yule emerges from the cave of darkness, bringing forth the stirrings of newly regenerated life. Imbolc, meaning ‘in the belly’ is also known as Imbolg, Oimelc, St. Brigid’s day and the Christianized Candlemas is observed starting on sundown of February 1st through sundown of 2nd. This sabbat marks the beginning of spring, though admittedly in the PNW it doesn’t feel very spring-like. The light birthed at the Solstice, though not wholly noticeable, has increased incrementally enough that our hens are intermittently blessing us with a welcome egg or two.
Historically a festival celebration of lights is held in honor of Brigid the goddess of healing, smith work, poetry, sacred wells. Brigid’s association with water saw her as the protectress of holy wells where divination for the coming season would take place. Additionally, since Imbolc is a festival of fire and lights, omens may be discovered in symbols and imagery of the sabbat fire and subsequent ashes.
It can be quite cold where we live with combinations of wind, rain, fog and snow making travel treacherous. In all honesty, this is not a favorite time of mine to be out and about, so the first snowdrops peeking through the snow as well as the new fluffy white lambs lift the doldrums of the heart and mind. Living in the woods this time of the year means the potential blessing of early mushrooms, however, it also means diligence in walking the fence lines to check for coyote-dug holes that need filling or downed trees removed from fences.
The sparse but growing light gently awakens our souls from inner contemplation and asked to attune ourselves to the energy of purification, the promise of warmer days and growing things. We are not quite ready to be active, however, it is now the time to contemplate what we will sow in the coming year based on what knowledge was gained since the Season of Samhain. Externally our gardens are planned, seeds are purchased and the remaining yard and garden chaff of the previous year is removed and the land made ready.
Altars during the Season of Imbolg are simple, reflecting the newness and fresh start of purification. The dredges of winter are washed away in rituals of self-purification. Homes, altars, tools and sacred spaces are “spring-cleaned” in an effort to alleviate stagnation. Both sacred space and self are rededicated to the Divine and vows are reaffirmed to the path of the Old Ones. Candles of white and blue grace the altar along with small vases of rosemary, hellebore, willow branches, and snowdrops along with garnet, lunar quartz, aventurine, tigers eye, citrine and an offering bowl of milk & honey. Incense of frankincense, cinnamon, clove and last year’s lemon verbena fragrance the air and ignite excited expectation. A Brigid’s Cross made of reed rest on a corn doll embracing a priapic wand awaiting the many kisses of the ladyfolk. Baskets of candles await consecration and dedication to future works and sabbats.
As we cast our circle and call forth the God and Goddess, we make ready ourselves for the blessing and birthing of inspiration that is aroused after a season of surrender. While the Maiden circumambulates sacred space with her head wreathed in lights, we turn our mind’s eye partially outward and strike a spark to the hearth fire from which every candle is lit as a beacon to the sun in the darkness. However this must be done gently and with finesse; much the same way one strikes sparks onto dry kindling of leaves and twigs, then gently blows life-giving breath to the tinder encouraging a flame. We must now hold this flame in the palm of our hands and give the flame what it needs to have a full life, be it tinder or breath. Too much or not enough of one or the other kills the flame. It often seems that spring bursts forth quickly, however, we know it is reflective of the long and careful preparations that have been made to support the burgeoning and powerful forces. Until that time we sit quietly and give thanks for the simple beauty of the maiden goddess of light and life. As our rite closes we hold close to our hearts all that the eyes and ears have beheld so that we may ourselves be lights in the dark.
Hymn to Brigid
An Tri numh (The sacred Three)
A chumhnadh, (To save,)
A chomhnadh, (To shield,)
A chomraig (To surround)
An tula, (the hearth)
An taighe, (The house,)
An teaghlaich, (The household,)
An oidhche, (This eve,)
An nochd, (This night,)
O! an oidhche, (Oh! this eve,)
An nochd, (This night,)
Agus gach oidhche, (And every night,)
Gach aon oidhche. (Each single night.)
To the Feast!
How to do you and yours prepare for spring?