Imbolc is the first of the three spring festivals and marks the recovery of the Goddess after giving birth to the God at Yule. It is one of the Greater sabbats, and as such, one of the oldest in the Wiccan calendar.
The God is a young boy, but his power is felt as the days start to grow longer. The warmth fertilizes the Earth (the Goddess) causing seeds to germinate. And so the earliest beginnings of spring occur.
Sometimes it is hard to believe that in the midst of snow and ice, spring is beginning. But Imbolc means "in the belly"; the quickening of spring in the belly of the Earth. Beneath the ground, seeds are stirring and buds can sometimes be seen on certain trees. But even when there is no visible sign of spring, we have faith in the cycle of the seasons, knowing that the cold will soon be behind us.
Imbolc is a sabbat of purification after the shut-in life of winter; time to prepare for the coming spring through the renewing power of the Sun. It is also a festival of light, once marked in Europe with huge blazes, torches, and fire in every form. Some female Wiccans follow the old Scandanavian custom of wearing crowns of lit candles, but many more carry tapers during their invocations. Fire here represents our own illumination and inspiration as much as light and warmth.
This holiday is sacred to the Celtic goddess Brigid (pronounced "breed" or "bride"). She is associated with poetry, healing, and smithcraft.
Imbolc is a traditional time for initiation into covens, and also self-dedication rituals.
Imbolc Traditions and Activities
Because Imbolc is a sabbat of light and inspiration, you may wish to try your hand at poetry, which comes from a deeper place than ordinary speech or writing. Allow Brigid to be your muse. Go within yourself and see what she shows you.
Fire is an element of purification, and at Imbolc, it can be used to heal ourselves. Think about what you need to heal in your life and how you are going to do it. This can be a physical healing, an emotional healing, or a change in attitude. Through the winter we have been forced inside, forced to slow down, forced to endure the darkness and cold. Now, we can enter into springtime renewed. Write what you wish to be healed on a piece of paper and hold it over a candle until it catches fire. Drop it into the cauldron, or a heat-proof bowl. As it burns, see the fire transforming you, consuming and destroying the old and making way for the new. This is a good time to reaffirm goals or affirmations set at Yule.
It is traditional on Imbolc to light candles and lamps in the home in honor of the Sun's rebirth. If snow lies on the ground outside, walk in it for a moment, remembering the warmth of summer. With your projective hand, trace an image of the Sun on the snow.
Colors appropriate for this sabbat are white, yellow, and orange. Foods appropriate to eat on this day are those from the dairy, since Imbolc marks the festival of calving. Sour cream dishes are fine, and also spicy foods in honor of the Sun. Spiced wines and dishes containing raisins are also symbolic and traditional.
This is a good time to look over your magickal cabinet to determine what you are low on and what you may need for the coming months. All Yule decorations and reminders of winter should be taken down and packed away. This is also a good time to work in the house, changing tablecloths and curtains, room painting and wallpapering, and fixing furniture.
Ritual For Imbolc
Symbols of the season should decorate the altar, such as representations of snowflakes, crystals, a white flower, or some snow in a crystal container. An orange candle anointed with musk, cinnamon, frankencense, or rosemary oil should also be there to represent the God. Snow can be melted and used for water during the circle casting.
Arrange the altar, light the candles and incense, and cast the circle.Say such words as the following:This is the time of the feast of torches,
Invoke the Goddess and God
when every lamp blazes and shines
to welcome the rebirth of the God.
I celebrate the Goddess,
I celebrate the God;
All the Earth celebrates
beneath its mantle of sleep.Light the orange taper. Slowly walk the circle clockwise, bearing the candle before you. Say these or similar words:
All the land is wrapped in winter.Stop before the altar, holding aloft the candle. Gaze at its flame. Visualize your life blossoming with creativity, with renewed energy and strength. If you need to look into the future or past, now is an ideal time.
The air is chilled and
frost envelopes the Earth.
But Lord of the Sun,
Horned One of animals and wild places,
Unseen you have been reborn
of the gracious Mother Goddess,
Lady of all fertility.
Hail Great God!
Hail and welcome!
Works of magick, if necessary, may follow.
Celebrate the Simple Feast.
Release the circle.
ritual from Wicca: A Guide For The Solitary Practitioner by Scott Cunningham
A really nice idea for the Imbolc ceremony comes from Jennifer Hunter in her book 21st Century Wicca. It can be performed as a group or solitary ritual. After setting up the circle, take a little snow saved from the winter and put it into a butter warmer or potpourri burner. Place a candle underneath it, which is symbolic of the Sun melting away the winter cold. As the snow melts, say your ritual passage, or tell an appropriate myth for the season--like the myth of Persephone's springtime journey from the underworld, into the arms of her mother, Demeter. When the snow has all melted and the story is over, pour the water into a vase of white flowers. Next, one of the ritual participants can say, "Now I ask you all to visualize new growth--be it plants budding as in the growth of the Earth, or else your own personal growth which is equally important. Empower these flowers with that energy. We call upon the Goddess and God in each of us, that they may aid us in our work."
Start a low chant, and quiety channel the energy raised into the flowers. After the ritual, everyone should be given a flower to take home, wet from the melted snow and infused with positive energy.