Celebrating Imbolc

I’ve collected ideas for Imbolc over time.  This year, in a stroke of synchronicity, it felt right to make vision boards around this time, and that’s perfect for planting the seeds of what we want to “grow” the rest of the year, so I will be doing that this weekend with an awesome witchy friend.

Other ideas below…have a blessed Imbolc!

 

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  • Also called:Candlemas, Oimelc, Brigid’s Day; merged with Lupercalia/Valentines Day
  • dates:February 2, early February
  • colors: white, red
  • tools: candles, seeds, Brigid wheel, milk
  • energy: conception, initiation, inspiration
  • goddesses: Brigid, Maiden
  • gods: Groundhog, other creatures emerging from hibernation; young Sun
  • rituals: creative inspiration, purification, initiation, candle work, house & temple blessings
  • customs: lighting candles, seeking omens of Spring, cleaning house, welcoming Brigid

By February, most of us are tired of the cold, snowy season. Imbolc reminds us that spring is coming soon, and that we only have a few more weeks of winter to go. The sun gets a little brighter, the earth gets a little warmer, and we know that life is quickening within the soil.

Imbolc is a time of magical energy related to the feminine aspect of the goddess, of new beginnings, and of fire. It’s also a good time to focus on divination and increasing your own magical gifts and abilities. Take advantage of these concepts, and plan your workings accordingly. Because of its proximity to Valentine’s Day, Imbolc also tends to be a time when people start exploring love magic — if you do, be sure to read up on it first!

Imbolc is the festival of the lactating sheep. It is derived from the Gaelic word “oimelc” which means “ewes milk”. Herd animals have either given birth to the first offspring of the year or their wombs are swollen and the milk of life is flowing into their teats and udders. It is the time of Blessing of the seeds and consecration of agricultural tools. It marks the center point of the dark half of the year. It is the festival of the Maiden, for from this day to March 21st, it is her season to prepare for growth and renewal. Brighid’s snake emerges from the womb of the Earth Mother to test the weather, (the origin of Ground Hog Day), and in many places the first Crocus flowers began to spring forth from the frozen earth.

The Maiden is honored, as the Bride, on this Sabbat. Straw Brideo’gas (corn dollies) are created from oat or wheat straw and placed in baskets with white flower bedding. Young girls then carry the Brideo’gas door to door, and gifts are bestowed upon the image from each household. Afterwards at the traditional feast, the older women make special acorn wands for the dollies to hold, and in the morning the ashes in the hearth are examined to see if the magic wands left marks as a good omen. Brighid’s Crosses are fashioned from wheat stalks and exchanged as symbols of protection and prosperity in the coming year. Home hearth fires are put out and re-lit, and a besom is place by the front door to symbolize sweeping out the old and welcoming the new. Candles are lit and placed in each room of the house to honor the re-birth of the Sun.

Another traditional symbol of Imbolc is the plough. In some areas, this is the first day of ploughing in preparation of the first planting of crops. A decorated plough is dragged from door to door, with costumed children following asking for food, drinks, or money. Should they be refused, the household is paid back by having its front garden ploughed up. In other areas, the plough is decorated and then Whiskey, the “water of life” is poured over it. Pieces of cheese and bread are left by the plough and in the newly turned furrows as offerings to the nature spirits. It is considered taboo to cut or pick plants during this time.

Deities of Imbolc:
All Virgin/Maiden Goddesses, Brighid, Aradia, Athena, Inanna, Gaia, and Februa, and Gods of Love and Fertility, Aengus Og, Eros, and Februus.

Symbolism of Imbolc:
Purity, Growth and Re-Newal, The Re-Union of the Goddess and the God, Fertility, and dispensing of the old and making way for the new.

Symbols of Imbolc:
Brideo’gas, Besoms, White Flowers, Candle Wheels, Brighid’s Crosses, Priapic Wands (acorn-tipped), and Ploughs.

Herbs of Imbolc:
Angelica, Basil, Bay Laurel, Blackberry, Celandine, Coltsfoot, Heather, Iris, Myrrh, Tansy, Violets, and all white or yellow flowers.

Foods of Imbolc:
Pumpkin seeds, Sunflower seeds, Poppyseed Cakes, muffins, scones, and breads, all dairy products, Peppers, Onions, Garlic, Raisins, Spiced Wines and Herbal Teas.

Incense of Imbolc:
Basil, Bay, Wisteria, Cinnamon, Violet, Vanilla, Myrrh

Colors of Imbolc:
White, Pink, Red, Yellow, Green, Brown.

Stones of Imbolc:
Amethyst, Bloodstone, Garnet, Ruby, Onyx, Turquoise.

Activities of Imbolc:
Candle Lighting, Stone Gatherings, Snow Hiking and Searching for Signs of Spring, Making of Brideo’gas and Bride’s Beds, Making Priapic Wands, Decorating Ploughs, Feasting, and Bon Fires may be lit – and Vision Boards!

Ideas for Imbolc:
Place a lighted candle in each and every window of the house, beginning at sundown on Candlemas Eve (February 1) , allowing them to continue burning until sunrise.

Hold a candle-making party and then bless all the candles you’ll be using for the whole year.

This is one of the traditional times for initiations and rededications into the Craft.

Take a hike and Search for Signs of Spring.

Perform rites of spiritual cleansing and purification.

Make a potpourri for Imbolc by taking a piece of fabric, filling with dried leaves, pine cones, and fruit peels. Tie with a ribbon.

 

Imbolc candle activities:
Gather a white candle for each window of your home. Empower each candle with a goal that you would like to accomplish before the next Imbolc Sabbat. Place each candle in a fire safe holder. Put a candle in each window of your home, lighting each candle as you go. Leave the candles burning until they are gone.

Clean and cleanse your home:
Take some time during the week before Imbolc to clean your home. Go through your belongings. If there are things you no longer need, donate them to charity or give them to a family that you know could use the items.

This is a good time to cleanse the home of negativity. One of the easiest ways to do this is by burning sage incense in each room of your home. You could also take a broom and sweep the negative energy from your home.

Start an herb garden: Herb garden kits can be found at stores. Pick up a couple of these kits before the Sabbat. Spend some time on Imbolc planting an indoor herb garden. One of the potted seeds can be placed on the altar for decoration.

Solitary Imbolc rituals: Remember to honor the Goddess by doing a solitary Imbolc ritual. There are many rituals available online. If you don’t want to use a ritual from a web page or book, you can create your own ritual.

 

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(a note on) Personal Freedom

From the Inner Temple of Witchcraft

“Witches seek freedom from dogma, the freedom to personally delve into the mysteries of the divine and find our own answers.  There may be recommendations and guidelines in each tradition, but there is no official bible.  Our bible is the cycle of the seasons.  Our songs are the songs of the Earth.  No one central authority exists.  The experience of others can help us find our way, but ultimately we walk individual paths.  Others can support, guide, and comfort us, but cannot do it for us.  We are our own intermediaries to the Goddess and the God, the divine, the all, the Universe.  Each individual strives to be his or her own clergy.  Magick is used because it works, as is meditation and psychic abilities.  We don’t need to believe blindly because we are guided by experience.  Witches don’t simply believe, we do.  Such free spirits recognize that no one person or religion has the answer.  Being polytheists, we gladly acknowledge other points of view without feeling threatened.  Most of us come from other traditions and seek to escape past dogma.  Some still feel anger over the persecutions of the past and blame dogma and intolerance, but for the most part, witches do not harbor any biases against other religions.  We live and let live.

“those upsetting words”

Had some good talk time with book club friends tonight, and I was reminded once again how hard it can be to talk about my spiritual path – not because I don’t love it, but because the words available to me are sometimes so loaded.  It reminded me of this section from a book I use as a resource, and I thought it would be good to share here…

*note: I am not actually Wiccan. I don’t mind the word witch, because the root is simply “to change” – but Wiccan viewpoints largely align with most pagan or new age beliefs.  They just have more specific rituals and traditions, which is great for some folks, just not my personal path.  So, I use a lot of their materials, even though I’m not specifically Wiccan by a long shot.

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tough word #1: “witchcraft”
the root of the word wic, or wicca, means “wise”, for witches were/are keepers of wisdom.  Another definition was “to bend and shape”, meaning those who practice the craft can bend and shape natural energies to drive change, usually within themselves.

tough word #2: “power”
for Wiccans, power has little to do with control over people and things. Power is a natural state of being that comes from uniting with the vast flow of nature and operating from an experience of accord with that flow. In the Wiccan view, power is a shared, subtle energy that flows through all things.

tough word #3: “ritual”
Rituals in Wicca involve symbolic words, sounds, colors, and gestures. Wiccans understand that each element of a ritual speaks the language of the deep mind, and thus awakens the movement of psychological and spiritual energy. The symbols in Wiccan ritual emerge from both time-honored, shared correspondences, and personal associations that can emerge from dreams, meditation, personal experience and insight.  Rituals involve words and actions that help align your mind and body with specific energies, making you more connected to the divine. (example: in the Christian faith, the act of taking communion is a powerful ritual with a lot of meaning that helps those in attendance experience a certain power, emotion, energy – pagans do the same, but the rituals honor various energies, times of year, etc.)

tough word #4: “magic”
Magic is a term that sometimes causes confusion or fear. In popular imagination, magic is about getting things that you want through forbidden, dark, or dangerous forces. Wiccans understand magic as a natural process. It is the ability to change one’s consciousness – one’s frame of mind. It is the ability to arrive at substantial realizations and broadening insights that change one’s relationship as a human being to the world. Out of one’s change of consciousness comes change in the world. (“As within, so without”) The processes of magic reveal our internal patterns that can help us live in close contact with our full human power.  Empowerment and responsibility are the heart, and true lesson, of magic.  Magick (spelling with a “k” is sometimes used to differentiate from stage magic) is the art of making change, manifesting your dreams, and banishing the things that no longer serve you and hold you back.

tough word #5: “occult”
The word “occult”, derived from the Latin occultusanum, literally means “secret.”  Few Wiccans today use this term when referring to their contemporary magical or spiritual practices. However, the word simply refers to hidden teachings or energies that are available to all.  The world of spirit and energy is a mystery to most all humans, making it part of the occult.

tough word #6: “pagan”
Pagan comes from the Latin paganus, meaning “a peasant or country dweller.”  Formerly people used the word in reference to a non-Christian.  The word then expanded over time to pejoratively mean anyone who was not “of the Book”, namely a person who was not a Christian, Jew, or Muslim.  It gained negative connotations over time and came to mean someone who was an uncivilized “idolator.”  In contemporary practice, a pagan is someone who follows a polytheistic or pantheistic spiritual system. Typically, a pagan is someone who believes that the universe, the earth, and all of its inhabitants contain divinity.  The divine force is inherent in all life and form. Spiritual does not mean divorced from the physical, earthly realm. The earth is one of the most divine forms in all creation. All life, all nature, is the divine manifest, and most pagans honor the earth as a living being, a source of life.

tough word #7: “spell”
Simply put, a symbolic act through which anyone can channel nonphysical energies to move toward a goal. Spells are the same as prayers – simple acts of sending out intention to the divine, asking it to manifest.

tough word #8: “polytheist”
Although witches are usually considered polytheists, meaning they acknowledge and honor more than one deity, they recognize the one spirit running through everything. Perhaps the word monist, one who recognizes the divine in everything, is a more appropriate term, but most pagans identify as polytheists. The gods, goddesses, and spirits they recognize and honor are expressions of that one spirit, leading to a more personal relationship with the divine.

These words are often tough to explain in conversation, but hopefully, over time, they will come to reflect their true meaning – I find this spiritual path to contain some “dark” words, but in beautiful ways! The dark and mysterious can be beautiful, just as night can be beautiful, the space inside the womb can be beautiful, and even death can be beautiful…right?

(sources: The Inner Temple of Witchcraft, and Wicca: A Year and a Day)