Imbolc. Candlemas. Brigid. This ancient pre-Christian holiday from the British Isles is known by several names and celebrated between January 31 and February 2 every year. Imbolc is a cross-quarter holiday meaning that it falls exactly between a Solstice and Equinox...in this case between Winter Solstice (Yule) and Spring Equinox (Ostara). In general, cross-quarters are potent, intimate, deep holidays in which the essential energy of that season is distilled and peaks in ritual. We call this “turning the wheel,” acknowledging and honoring that the Earth and our lives are changing, never to be the same, and yet, to be experienced again and again with each cycle.
Imbolc, for me, is the sweetest, most gentle, and most vulnerable of the holidays. It always sneaks up on me in an unassuming but confident way, tapping me on the shoulder and showing me its beauty and promise. In part, that’s because of the activity and unharnessed energy typical of Yule and the fact that we’ve been resting. But mostly it’s because this holiday knows who she is, is confident she’s been here before (and will come again), and is certain that after a few shoulder taps, we will remember her and welcome her with loving and open arms.
Imbolc is a wonder.
When we least expect it, we feel in the air, in the soil, in the sunlight that things are shifting. We are deep in winter and yet, and yet....spring is right there behind a thin veil. If we reach for her with too much expectation, if we demand too much, she will evade and retreat. Our only choice with Imbolc is to accept, wait, and welcome. She has to come to us.
Imbolc is the sweetest of holidays and it's also the most vulnerable. Spring is so tenuous and holds in her palm our deepest and craziest desires, wishes, hopes, intentions. Imbolc demands that we share these vulnerable thoughts and feelings with her and with others in ritual. We are invited to put ourselves out there and to speak hope.
This is so lovely.
On this holiday, we honor Brigid, the Celtic Goddess of art, healing, and service. Her symbol is Brigid's Cross, an homage to the four directions, East, South, West, and North, and to the way energy moves from the directions into the center to collect and swirl and then move outward again.
To celebrate, reflect about your purpose on the planet. What are you here to create? Whom are you here to serve? What causes are you here to support? And, significantly, are you on the right path to manifest all those things?
Write a statement dedicating yourself to your path on beautiful paper. Roll it into a scroll and tie with a ribbon. Place the scroll on your altar.
For ritual, decorate an altar in white (Bridgid’s color) with all four elements represented, your scroll and a candle (white is traditional). Call in the elements and Brigid. Read your scroll and light your candle in dedication.
Then get outside! Go on a lovely hike, have a winter picnic, enjoy the late afternoon sun on your skin.
End every ritual with gratitude. Give thanks for your skills, abilities, curiosity, and most importantly at Imbolc, the capacity of your heart to love and your spirit to hope.