With Imbolc approaching next week on the 1st – 2nd February, I wanted to share some creative rituals to help you mark this potent time of year and to harness its transformative potential to bring new growth into your lives.
Despite the freezing cold temperatures here in the Northern hemisphere, Imbolc is an ancient Celtic holiday that marks the first day of Spring. If you look closely, signs of new life are all abound in the emerging shoots defiantly defeating the frozen ground, swelling buds on the trees responding to the rising sap, and the birth of little lambs. As such, the word Imbolc literally means “in the belly” in the old Irish Neolithic language, referring to the pregnancy of ewes at this time. The earth is pregnant with potential right now, on the cusp of giving birth to the potency and virility of Spring, and with it offers the promise of renewal, of untapped potential, and great hope.
It’s a wonderful celebration of the first stirrings of new life as the life force awakens, rousing the earth from her winter slumber. Can you feel this potency of rising energy within your spirit? Can we muster up the courage to shake off the winter doldrums and rise from the cosy comforts of hibernation to plant new seeds to germinate and grow in the coming season?
“May the stirring of life underground, stir new dreams into life within you.
May the flames of inspiration and new growth be ignited within your Being.”
— IMBOLC BLESSING
SPIRITUAL SIGNIFICANCE OF IMBOLC
After an inward time of incubation and rest, life reawakens along with the growing sun.
As the energy slowly shifts from the dark depths of winter and the dreamy feminine realms of the unconscious, towards an outward action orientated energy of the masculine, the potential of manifestation is inherent at this time. Imbolc therefore lies on this potent threshold between the feminine and the masculine energies, represented by the formidable return of Father Sun (male), bringing growth and renewal to the earth (female). Since our inner spirit intimately mirrors the cycles of nature, Imbolc offers an invaluable opportunity to intentionally tend to the creations that are ready to sprout, grow and bear fruit in our lives in the coming months. A potent time for creativity, invoking a muse or for starting new projects. Essentially, we can harness this active energy to ignite our inner fires (our life force) to help sustain us throughout the remainder of winter and to nourish our seeds of intentions into blossoming dreams come Spring.
8 WAYS TO CELEBRATE IMBOLC CREATIVELY
Here are some of my celebratory creative rituals over the years, ideal for solo celebrations or to share with all the family. My hope is that they inspire your own personal rituals in any way that is meaningful to you.
1. Seasonal Candle Wreath
If you’re like me, and looking forward to the arrival of longer, warmer days, then Imbolc marks the hopeful time when we wave farewell to the harshest days of winter and welcome the light and warmth to come. It was traditionally a time to light fires to celebrate the power of the sun, which our ancestors survival more intimately depended upon. Imbolc is one of the four fire festivals along with Samhain (Oct 31), Bealtaine (May 1), and Lughnasadh (Aug 1) so is the ideal time to light a fire, and give thanks for the blessings of the light.
I made this seasonal wreath by weaving evergreen foliage such as conifer, yew and ivy around a circular hazel twig base and inserted eight candles, each representing a turn on the Wheel of the Year. On Imbolc I light each one, whist invoking a blessing for the coming cycle and to activate my own inner fire to help inspire divinely guided actions that will help manifest my dreams.
To super charge these blessings, I will visualise the light as a warm, illuminating energy that envelops me and my loved ones, healing our ailments, igniting the spark of creativity, fuelling our passions and purifying any stagnant energy. It also makes for a sweet table decoration bringing the healing power of nature indoors.
2. Brigid’s Cross Weaving
Imbolc has long been associated with the Celtic solar goddess Brigid; keeper of the sacred flame, and guardian of the holy wells. A goddess of both fire and water, at Imbolc she appears in her Maiden aspect, blessing the land with fertility and new growth. She is also renowned to be a master healer, midwife, and all round powerful creatrix. Brigid’s Crosses were traditionally made as protective amulet to hang over doors to invoke Brigids protective healing blessings.
Brigid’s Crosses can be made from rushes, straw or wheat ears like mine, or even using colourful cardboard strips. The process involves bending your reeds and hooking them into each other to form a cross shape and takes a little practice. I recommend this sweet little tutorial here and plenty of patience! You can secure the four ends (representing the four quarters) with string, thread, ribbon etc. and decorate the completed cross with ribbons, swan feathers or whatever is meaningful for you.
I will hang my finished piece over my doorways to protect members of the household from harm. The arms represent each of the four elements and four directions and as such, I lit some candles around my cross as pictured to offer four prayers invoking Brigid’s healing and protection:
- for myself
- for loved ones
- for the Earth and animals
- for the community/ greater collective.
3. Orange Rind Luminaries
Since Imbolc is all about honouring the light of the returning sun, and invoking the spark of imagination and illumination in our own lives, a lovely way to celebrate is by making your own candles. I love the zesty fresh smell of oranges which bring an energising and uplifting energy, as well as offering the health giving properties of Vitamin C. The colour orange alone generates joy, happiness, endurance and strength as the red of passion is tempered by the yellow of wisdom. It is the ultimate symbol of the sun, so a very fitting addition to my imbolc decorations.
Making orange rind luminaries is a simple, fun exercise that involves slicing your orange in half, scooping out the insides and punching holes in the rind to reveal the glow. I used a cookie cutter to punch out the star shape, but you can get creative carving your own. Simply add melted candle wax and a wick, or for ease, use a readymade tea light candle or LED light to have them glow. I added some cloves to complete, to harness their associations with money and prosperity. Once dry, they can be placed on a table or used to decorate your altar, but enjoy them while they last as they perish quickly!
4. Brigid’s Doll
The creation of a Brigid doll is an ancient tradition of forming a simple doll out of straw, wheat or reeds as a dedication to the goddess Brigid, and welcoming the potential of the year to come. As she symbolically represents fertility, healing and the awakening of nature, placing a Brigid doll next to ones hearth or over your door is said to attract health, wealth and general prosperity to your home. According to pagan custom, Brigid Dolls are crafted on Imbolc and placed into little “Bride’s beds” of white sheet next to the fireplace, to welcome light and fortune to the home.
Decorate you Brigid Doll with ribbons, feathers or jewellery, adding to her each year. I chose white feathered wings to represent how I see Brigid as a mighty angel figure. I kept my design simple, but you can get creative with the various array of weaving methods available online. Here is a great tutorial on how to make your own Brigid doll.
5. Brigid’s Cross Weaving
A Brigid’s Cross, or God’s Eye as it’s also known, is a traditional prayerful weaving craft made to hang on the doors or windows at Imbolc, to invoke the protection of goddess Brigid over our lives and our homes. They can be made from coloured yarn like mine pictured, or using dried grasses, reeds or rushes for a more natural look. I chose colours symbolic to Imbolc:
- White for innocence, purity and spiritual connection
- Light green for new growth and fertility
- Dark green for evergreen resilience and eternal life
- Red for the life force, strength and vitality
The cross shape is made by binding two sticks together of equal length, upon which you wind your wool, straw etc over and under repeatedly in a meditative fashion. You may like to weave in your intentions and wishes for the coming cycle as you create, and as you see see your threads coming together to form a beautiful design, can you imagine your wishes bearing fruit come spring. Here is a link to an online tutorial I recommend.
6. Bird Seed Feeder
These super sweet birdseed cakes are easy peasy to make and help to sustain the birds during the remainder of the cold weather. I simply mixed birdseed with dried fruit and used coconut oil to bind together. Peanut butter and gelatine are other options. This was then scooped into hollowed out oranges and apples and hung from the trees much to the birds delight!
7. Create an Imbolc Altar
I love nothing more than adorning my home with fresh seasonal foliage and nature crafts that hold significant meaning to me. It’s a lovely way of bringing nature indoors, particularly when the winter weather doesn’t tempt us outdoors so often. I shift my alter up every eight weeks to reflect each Sabbat, or festivals that follow the solar cycle known as the Wheel of the Year.
My simple Imbolc altar above includes the following items and their symbolic meaning:
- Framed artwork of goddess Brigid by the fabulous artist Wendy Andrews to invoke her presence
- Candles to invoke the flame of illumination, inspiration and eternal light of the soul
- Homemade clay star candle stick holders to represent the pentagram
- Catkins and pussy willow to reflect new life and fertility
- Snowdrops to symbolise the first gift of Spring in the bleakness of Winter
- Red rose to represent the awakening life force
- Brigid’s cross weave
- Swan feather, a powerful amulet representing loyalty, fidelity and faithfulness
- Crystals relevant to this time as per below:
- Amethyst ~ for healing and protection of the home
- Carnelian ~ for fertility and vitality
- Green Aventurine ~ for new growth, zest for life, and good luck
- Snow Quartz ~ for innocence and clarity
- Calcite ~ for energy & success in new projects
8. Mindful Nature Walk
Spend time outdoors witnessing natures unfurling growth helps us feel first hand the emerging life force. Walking mindfully and intentionally in sweet solitude allows us to be present to the seasonal changes, to notice the beauty all around us, and to make space for inner contemplation. Somehow my mind seems more spacious, less cluttered whilst out in nature, so I make the most of this valuable opportunity for introspection and self reflection. As you walk, ask yourself:
- What is emerging in my life right now?
- Who am I becoming?
- What new growth would I like to see in my life?
The more we attune to seasonal cycles, the more we begin to recognise how it mirrors our own spirit and offers valuable wisdom to help us initiate change in our lives. Nature speaks to me through metaphor, symbolism and meaningful encounters. And as I spy my first snowdrop sighting of the year, I contemplate how these delicate looking flowers symbolise hope, and enduring strength with their ability to thrive during the hardship of winter despite their fragile appearance. They can help us to find the inner reserves of strength necessary to carry on through difficult emotional times such as now. What are you noticing in nature right now and what message could it hold for you?
However you celebrate this Imbolc, may it be a blessed and bountiful one.
Love Emma. x