As we reach the end of January, the days continue to grow longer, yet the weather tends to remain bitterly cold and it seems that the sun will never overpower the cold of winter. If you look a little closer, however, small signs of Spring are breaking through. New buds appear on the trees, beautiful spring flowers begin to sprout from the earth and a new generation of lambs are being born.
And then.....the festival of Imbolc arrives!
The celebration of our first Sabbat of the calendar year takes place on February 1st and 2nd. A Greater Sabbat fire festival, the name Imbolc means 'in the belly' or 'milk of ewes', referring to the fertility of sheep, but also of the earth.
So, what can we do to celebrate this cross-quarter day?
Traditions are abundant, but the one that stands out as a focus for the event is to welcome the Goddess Brighid into the household. Brighid (Brigid or Bride), is the maiden goddess of spring and is worshipped all across Britain and Ireland. She is also associated with many of the holy wells and springs. To welcome her into your home to bestow blessings, welcoming and cleansing rituals take place, a soft bed can be made near the hearth of the home, and corn dolly's and Brighid crosses are created as offerings or hung in the home as symbols of prosperity, protection and fertility.
This is a fire festival, so the burning of hearth fires and candles is a key feature in the celebrating on Imbolc. If you have any of your Yule tree or greenery that decorated your altar for Yule, it can be burned as a way of releasing the past to make way for the new.
Your Imbolc altar will be filled with new life, and light too. The colour white is abundant on an Imbolc altar representing light and new beginnings.
* A white altar cloth or piece of white cloth symbolises Brighid's mantle and the snow-covered ground.
* Include white and green candles to represent Brighid and the new life beginning in the earth.
* A bowl of cream or milk on your altar is an offering that reminds us of Brighid's generosity.
* Fresh, spring flowers.
Your offerings don't have to stop at the altar, either. You could give back to nature by putting out fat balls for the birds, or leaving piles of leaves outside for creatures to shelter. Plant new seeds to create new life. Obviously, being in the UK, you may want to do this indoors so that they survive the cold, and they can be transferred once the weather warms.
Consider the significance of the season, as this is what will define the key features of a Sabbat.
If you'd like to learn more about Imbolc and how to celebrate it, you can always join me for our Imbolc Wheel of the Year class where we'll look further into the history and folklore of the Sabbat, and explore the many traditions associated with it.
Look on our events page for full details.
Whatever you decide to do for Imbolc, remember to nurture yourself and others, look for the opportunities that are springing up before your eyes, and give thanks to nature for the many bounties it bestows upon us. Blessed Be