tealight candle on human palms

Imbolc Traditions and Rituals

I have good news if you’ve been feeling cooped up, cold, and eager to be out of the winter season. Imbolc is upon us! Also known as Imbolg, Candlemas, Lady Day, and February Eve, Imbolc is the time when the Wheel of the Year turns closer to spring than winter. Here’s some background on Imbolc, the goddess Brigid, and ideas to help you welcome the coming of spring.

What is Imbolc?

Imbolc is a Pagan holiday — or sabbat — that marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring. It’s a cross-quarter day in the Pagan Wheel of the Year.

Cross-Quarter Days stem from folk customs from farming cultures. Because of this, they traditionally represent the end of one season and the beginning of the next. The other cross-quarter days are Belatin, Lammas, and Samhain.

On the other hand, quarter days mark the peak of each season. Yule, which occurs at the winter solstice, is the last quarter day we celebrated. Imbolc is the halfway point between Yule and Ostara — the spring equinox.

According to Raven Digitalis of Llewellyn’s Witches’ Datebook 2022, Imbolc is a “gestational” sabbat. As a matter of fact, the word Imbolg means “in the belly.” There’s a barely visible promise of potential, like the subtle curve of a newly showing baby bump.

Right now, it feels like the earth is pregnant with possibility, preparing for her spring renewal. All around us are the gentle stirrings of a new life force. Seeds that dropped in the autumn are beginning to germinate beneath their blanket of snow. Even indoors, I can sense spring coming as the Sun rises earlier and further east along the row of treetops visible from my kitchen window. 

When does Imbolc occur?

Imbolc usually happens between January 31 and February 7. According to Althaea Sebastiani, many American Pagans celebrate on February 2 because that’s Groundhog Day in the United States. Groundhog Day is when we acknowledge there are only six more weeks left of winter (or six weeks until spring).

Astrologically speaking, Imbolc occurs when the Sun reaches 15º of Aquarius. In 2022, that happens on Friday, February 4.

Who is the goddess Brigid?

Another name for Imbolc is St. Brigid’s Day because the holiday honors Brigid, the Celtic goddess of the home, hearth, and crafting. In addition to ushering in the spring season, Brigid is associated with fertility, inspiration, poetry, healing, prophecy, and cattle. Alternate spellings of her name include Brighid, Brigit, Bridget, and many others. However, you pronounce all of them the same way — like Breeds.

Myths about Brigid’s birth claim she came into this world with a flame in her head and nursed on the milk of a magical cow from the spirit world. She’s also recognized as the first to perform a keening, a traditional Celtic funeral practice of wailing to mourn the dead.

According to the Catholic Church, Brigid is the patron saint of Irish nuns, midwives, newborns, dairymaids, and cattle. They claim she was a historical person, with written accounts of her life dating back to the 8th century. She was known for showing charity to the poor and having great healing powers. As a result of her friendship with St. Patrick, Brigid became Ireland’s first nun

How do you celebrate Imbolc?

As with any sabbat, the way you honor Imbolc should reflect your personal beliefs, preferences, and lifestyle. The most important thing is to have fun. We’re celebrating the return of light, after all!

Some Pagans celebrate Imbolc by crafting a small doll to represent Brigid. Traditionally, people would make dolls from rushed or oats and place them in a basket. But you can use whatever materials you have on hand and place the doll on your altar to bring blessings to your home throughout the year.

Another option is to make a cross.

Imbolc St. Brigid's cross
St. Brigid’s cross from Wikimedia Commons

People who regularly practice crafting dolls and crosses for Brigid typically burn last year’s creations at Imbolc before replacing them with new ones. Additionally, bonfires, candles, lanterns, and hearth fires are good ways to honor Imbolc.

Other ways to celebrate include:

  • Lighting candles or lanterns
  • Turning on every light in your house to welcome the return of the Sun
  • Burning leftover evergreen decorations from Yule in a bonfire
  • Having friends over for a special feast and leaving a plate of food on your altar for Brigid
  • Opening the front door to welcome Brigid
  • Doing a deep spring cleaning and energetic cleansing of your home
  • Gathering (or ordering) seeds for spring
  • Baking seed bread or cake
  • Spells and rituals involving seeds, milk (can be plant-based!), and melting snow

I’m fairly new to spellwork myself. For that reason, I’m not going to describe any specific spells here.

Prophecy and divination

Because Brigid is associated with prophecy and divination, Imbolc is an ideal time to pull tarot cards.

~ Read How tarot cards can help with everyday mental health ~

Similarly, you can try scrying — the practice of seeing the future through a reflective medium like fire or water. However, I don’t have experience with scrying.

I can certainly help you with a tarot reading, though!

In conclusion, Imbolc is a time to celebrate the return of the Sun and the renewal of spring. Regardless of your beliefs, customs, or traditions, there are many ways you can honor this time. Whether it’s hosting a bonfire feast or simply gazing into candlelight, I hope you find joy in the changing of seasons!

Thank you for reading, and have a happy and blessed Imbolc!

You can find the books I referenced in my post, 2021’s best books about witchcraft, tarot, and astrology

Cover image via Pexels

3 thoughts on “Imbolc Traditions and Rituals”

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