The Goddess celebrated at Imbolc is Brigid, (Brigit, Brigid or Bríg or in Scotland Bridhe).
A member of the Tuatha De Danann, she is the Goddess of fire, passion, fertility, poetry, invention and in Scotland she is also associated with Serpents.
Imbolc marks the turn in the seasons where winter is moving into spring, it is one of the four original Celtic fire festivals. There is archaeological evidence, both written and found, to suggest Imbolc has been celebrated in Celtic lands for thousands of years. Initially it was tied to a lunar calendar and a moveable feast, but over time the festival became associated with St.Brigid’s eve on the 1st of February. Traditionally Celtic celebrations lasted from sunset to sunset and therefore Imbolc starts at sunset on the 1st and ends at sunset on the 2nd.
Imbolc is the time of expectations, when winter still has us in its grip but is loosening, the buds are growing on the trees, Lambs and calves are starting to grow in their mothers wombs – an early spring means these new lives will have more chance of living. The Earth is ready to burst into life again and Imbolc celebrates that. Imbolc celebrations also make offerings to the darker side of living from the land, the harvest would still be six months away, stores can run low from coming through the winter, blight, rot, rodents could all be the difference between survival or not. The festival is an important petition for support through to the summer, to when food becomes plentiful again, that the spring comes early, that life is survivable.
If asking a member of the Tuatha De Danann for a blessing we seek to trade, to recognise their efforts with efforts and thanks of our own. They will never take more then you can offer. Something as simple as making sure to give back to mother earth – planting trees or herbs/flowers that are beneficial, feeding birds and other animals during winter. To show that you do not expect the Gods to do all your work but seek a to work yourself for their help.
A Prayer for Brigid’s Blessing
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.)
Making a Brigid’s cross crafted using reeds if you have not made one before we will be putting up a tutorial soon. Until then this is a good basic tutorial here: Colourful Crafts
This is a great thing to do with Children. Children’s crosses are normally hung above or near their beds. Adults used to put the crosses under the mattress for fertility or other blessings and used to bless the seeds before the next planting.
Spring cleaning –
Now is the perfect time to clean out the house after the stuffiness of winter. Cleansing you home and opening windows to let in the Spring (if you can bear the cold). Clean down your surfaces and get rid of negative energy – The Unicorn has written some great guides on decluttering the house (if you have Children now is also a great time to try and tackle the toys that are no longer needed…).
Visiting waterways – hanging cloths
Imbolc was the time to visit holy water and seek out the blessing of the water for the year ahead. If you have a well to visit near you that is fantastic, otherwise visiting waterways, rivers and other water sources is fine. Dip a strip of cloth in the water and hang from a tree, branch or out of your window over Imbolc to ask for a blessing. Remember to take the water with thanks and if there is any rubbish on the waterway please remove to show our gratitude and love to the Earth.
Feasts and Fire
Unfortunately this year (2020) due to the pandemic a large social gathering to celebrate Imbolc is not happening, however if you have space to light a fire or a candle (Red for good luck if you have one) and just take time to calm, reflect, thank and ask for blessings. With family it’s a time for a nice drinks of mead, (or other tipple), food and thanks for hearth, health and wealth (wealth not meaning monetary – but what are you thankful for).
In Marsden, a large village in West Yorkshire, holds a huge Imbolc fire festival each year. The village comes together to follow the fire, celebrate, dip cloths in their well to ask for blessings. Here is a video of their 2018 festival and how they celebrate Imbolc:
Bake a seed cake or cake.
When making a seed cake, the seeds are full of endless potential with both cakes you are making something to share a community offering. We are partial to Mrs Beechams’ Seed cake but not everyone is fond of Caraway seeds so we bake a sponge as well and decorate with snowdrops (or try too!)
Shared cake and food with friends, family and strangers show the strength of community and that we are all needed to support each other through the dark times of the year as well as the light and what better way to say thanks to all those close than sharing food!
Decorate an Altar
Items we can use to connect to Brigid include Snowdrops, as the first symbol of spring, the flower coming up through the snow to show us winter is almost past.
Rowen tree berries the Rowen tree is known as a tree of protections, the berries sustain animals and people through winter and support them into spring. The branches of the Rowan are also used as divining rods. Tress were planted bear houses to ward off spirits and in Scotland it was taboo to cut down a Rowan tree. (Tree information from Woodland Trust – Their website and shop is fantastic!)
Animal symbols of Brigid are Serpent and sheep and swans. A swans feather can offer protection and is a powerful symbol. The best place to obtain one is when out walking near where they live, if you manage to find one it is a gift. Wool or yarn is a good way to recognise the importance of the sheep (not many of us can fit a full size sheep on our altars).
Herbs associated with Brigid include, Blackberry’s, ginger and coltsfoot. Coltsfoot is a great herb for winter with many uses including being great for a sore throat.