Part of the Celtic ‘Wheel of the Year’ (a seasonal calendar), Imbolc or Candlemas marks the beginning of Spring and falls on February 1st or 2nd. Imbolc means, literally, 'in the belly' (of the Mother). This is Brigid’s season, the Celtic goddess who in later times became revered as a Christian saint. The powerful figure of Brigid the Light-Bringer plays a role in both pagan and Christian celebrations.
Like many festivals, the Imbolc celebrations centre on the lighting of fires. Fire is perhaps more important for this festival than others as the lighting of fires celebrates the increasing power of the Sun over the coming months. For the Christian calendar, this holiday was reformed and renamed 'Candlemas' when candles are lit to remember the purification of the Virgin Mary.
At this time rituals are performed for the security and protection of the fertility of the fields. The success of the new farming season was traditionally of great importance. As winter stores of food were getting low Imbolc rituals were performed to harness divine energy that would ensure a steady supply of food until the harvest six months later. It was also a time when divination rituals took place to forecast the weather for the year to come.
At Imbolc the Earth is no longer still, but stirring with buds forming on trees and spring bulbs pushing up. This is a time to prepare for changes ahead and a time of healing. It is the time to get outside and reconnect with the Earth, traditionally by visiting holy wells and weaving Imbolc rings from tree cuttings. When visiting a holy well take a piece of ribbon with you to soak in the water, make your promise, prayer or intention, then tie your ribbon to a nearby tree. Ask the tree permission to take cuttings to weave your ring.
Human actions are best when they reflect the actions of nature, so as the world slowly springs back into action it is time to tackle any small tasks that are neglected through the busy year. Rituals and activities might include the making of candles, planting spring flowers, and the all important spring clean! Make your own Brigid’s crosses and hang them up, especially in the kitchen where her influence can bless your food. Meditate upon what you would like to see grow in health and strength this year: for yourself, your family, your community and the Earth.