Timing of Imbolc
Sun moves into Aquarius (Uranus and Saturn energy) usually falls 40 days after Winter Solstice and is midway between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox. It is usually celebrated August 1st /2nd in the Southern Hemisphere and the start of February in the Northern Hemisphere.
The most accurate timing for Imbolc 2010 is August 8 (00:45 Sydney time)
Stories and history of Imbolc
In Irish, Imbolc (pronounced im’olk) from the Old Irish, meaning “in the belly” (i mbolg), refers to the turn in the season and the subsequent pregnancy of ewes, and is also a Celtic term for Spring. Another name is Oimelc, meaning “ewe’s milk”. Milk was poured into the ground at this time, nurturing the Mother.
It is known as the ‘feast of the waxing light’ as the Goddess returns from the underworld a pregnant virgin. It is the time of new beginnings, as the land is made pure to prepare for spring. It is the rite of the maiden, a time for celebrating new beginnings, purity and initiations. The maiden passes through the country blessing the land. It is a fire and moon rite. Goddesses that feature are Bridget (fire, women’s magick, fertility) and Blodewedd (maiden initiator, lunar mysteries and owl) Brighid’s Crosses are made from wheat stalks and exchanged as symbols of protection and prosperity in the coming year. The Maiden is honored, and traditionally Straw Brideo’gas (corn dollies) were created from oat or wheat straw and placed in baskets with white flowers. Young girls carried the Brideo’gas door to door, and collected gifts. The dolls were layed on sacred bark of birch, broom, or white willow. Older women made special acorn wands for the dollies to hold.
The Winter Crone Calleach sends a dragon to kill the maiden Bridget of spring. Brigit sends a lamb and wins, thus becoming the time of the maiden. We celebrate the growth of the young horned God and chant the Mother back to the Earth. The next waning moon is said to take away the rains.
Fire and purification rites have been used for centuries during Imbolc. Fire represents the increasing Sun, and also the power to transform and cleanse the spirit.
In Australia Wattle day is also celebrated around this season, and is a highly appropriate use of flower for Imbolc as the land bursts into this bright, joyous and abundant flower. This rich maiden time is often used as a time to bless the home and garden, let go of the old and prepare for new growth. Herbs, mixed with milk, honey and white or yellow flowers are used to bless the garden and traditionally young girls in white would bless the fields.
Candles burn in house and garden for Fire Goddess Brigit, and to welcome and lure back the sunshine. Honey cakes are baked, to share and to leave as an offering with candles during the night. A white silk ribbon or clothing was also hung outside the doorstep for blessing on this night. Traditionally Celts use ribbons to tie/knot a wish or commitment and tie ribbons into the trees to send the wish on the wind. The clothes or ribbon were kept for 12 months as protection from harm.
Peacock, moon, white or yellow flowers (I use white eucalypt and wattle) and symbols of the maiden
Herbs and Trees
Birch-renewal, new beginnings
Basil- initiations, cleansing
Ash-re-birth/ continual circle between worlds
Angelica- visions, joy
Heather and white and pink flowers- alter decorations
Rosemary- enhance memory, protection of home and purification, enhances energy
Myrrh- spiritual awareness, brings peace
Things to do at Imbolc
· Use herbs, mixed with milk, honey and white flowers and bless your garden or local lakes and parks.
· Burn candles in the house and garden for Fire goddess Brigit, and to welcome and lure back the sunshine.
· Bake honey cakes and leave as an offering with candles during the night. Buttered bread and milk may also be left.
· Make straw brigets crosses
· Put white flowers and light white candles throughout the house\
· Write or read poetry and tell stories.
· Hang a white silk ribbon or piece of lace outside the doorstep for blessing on this night.
· Decorate or build a new alter in white for the season(white shells, white feathers, sage, quartz crystals etc)
· Cleanse and bless your home
· Think about what is new and being dreamed or birthed in your life and celebrate that beginning in ritual
· Dance, sing, play
· Spend time with young children, or host a special children’s Imbolc sleep over with everyone dressed in white and play games into the night
· Make corn dollies for Bridget
· Self purification rites eg smudging and water blessings
· Write a blessing or poem for your child, or a child close to you
· Make Priapic Wands (acorn tipped) made as the season warms to spring as a symbol of male fertility
· have a group of women over dressed in white and plan something creative, writing, art, clay (maybe bring a change of clothes for messy art) J
· Build a bon fire, celebrate, burn the old, cleansed and new from the Imbolc season
· Place a candle in each room to welcome Bridget and to also welcome the rebirth of the Sun
· Place a besom (Broom) by the front door to symbolize sweeping out the old and welcoming the new (Celtic custom)
The milk flows - as the Sun grows
The maiden sweeps in with her sweet, cool, crisp breath
and we are cleansed, washed clean….
Blessed with flowers, honey and the power of Her light
Reborn we are now seen…