The Festival of the Awakening Earth
While the Nature spirits are about to awaken, and the serpent life force is ready to be reborn, the Winter receptivity is giving way to an urge to move forwards into Spring energy. As the days grow longer, there is some activity happening in the soil. The bulbs push through the Earth and the seeds start to form roots under the ground. The animals are changing side in their warm hibernation nest and smell the promise of Spring before they go back to sleep through the last phase of the Winter. The Goddess Trinity manifests as the Virgin, the Maiden, the Bride, Brigid, Venus, the fertile potential of her Self awakening to her most feminine version. Her life-giving waters are the sacred springs and the holy wells of our land. The energy that She is bringing is the one of the returning Sun. It is this energy that is honored during Imbolc, a festival that in the Celtic world arrives at the beginning of February, bringing new energy, inspiration and creative forces.
Brigid, the Pagan Goddess of Fire, Creativity and Fertility
February 1st is the feast day of Brigid, who began her life as a Pagan Goddess and ended up a Christian saint. Her name originates from the Gaelic words Breo-Saighit, which means fiery or flaming arrow. The Church of Rome could not hope to extinguish her flame, so they attempted to control and contain it by creating a saint in her image, changing the name to Bridget. On her feast day, beginning at sunset on February 1st and ending at sunset on February 2nd, her statue was washed in the sea-for purification-and then carried in a cart through the fields surrounded by candles. Sacred fires were lit since she symbolized the fire of birth and healing, the fire of the forge and the fire of poetic inspiration. Brigid is the protector and preserver of all memory and knowledge-she is also called Brigit, Brid, or Bride. Her role is that of teacher and magical instructor and she empowers her students with wisdom and knowledge to nurture the land, keeping it safe and productive and for the good of all. Brigid is a Goddess of Fire, Creativity and Fertility. She is known as the Goddess of poetry, smithcraft and healing. She is the patroness of inspiration and midwifery.
Imbolc – A Time of New Beginnings
Imbolc means “in the belly”. This refers to the pregnant ewes who are about to birth their lambs. The Church incorporated this festival as Candlemas, celebrated on the 2nd of February. Candlemas is known as the festival of the purification of the Virgin Mary forty days after the birth of a male child. When Mary attended the temple and presented her new baby, she met the aged holy man, Simeon, who prophesied that the infant would become “a light for revelation”. In memory of this prophecy, candles are blessed in church on this day.
Imbolc is the time for initiation and healing, for invocation of the life-force and working with the dynamics of potency. Since this is a time of new beginnings, this is a good day to ritually celebrate all things new. Plan a ceremony to name a new baby, officially welcome a new person into your family or home, take on a new name or make a commitment to a new goal.
The symbols of Imbolc are Brideo’s gas, White Flowers, Candle Wheels, Brighid’s Crosses, Priapic Wands, and Ploughs.
The herbs of Imbolc are Angelica, Basil, Bay Laurel, Blackberry, Celandine, Colts-foot, Heather, Iris, Myrrh, Tansy, Violets, and all white or yellow flowers. Symbolic trees of the festival are rowan and willow. Rowan represents protection and inspiration. Willow is sacred to Brigid and is a tree of dreaming, deep emotions and spring.
You can honor the upcoming natural forces by devoting this day to offerings, ritual and other ways of self-renewal and growth:
- Set up your Imbolc shrine with the symbols of the season. Pick a vase of early spring flowers, budded twigs or bulbs in flowerpots –anything which suggests the awakening Earth. Light a candle at the center and use this space for your inspirations, dreams and visions.
- Make some space for meditation, writing poetry, playing music or chanting. Make up a new chant, or rhythm.
- Find ways to celebrate and revive women’s arts and crafts such as needlework, weaving, bead-work, macrame etc. Get together and work on a group project. You can also get involved men and children and create something of great inspiration.
- Make a Brigit’s cross, traditionally to hung on the door or windows for protection. Begin by binding two sticks together which are of equal length. Willow or Rowan would be appropriate wood for the significance they represent. Tie on the first piece of wool, wind it over and round this twig in the same way. Continue around and round in the same pattern, tucking in the ends. They represent the all-seeing eye of Brigid to watch over you through the coming year. Old crosses from last year should be ritually burnt to release the old and open the way to move forwards.
- At sunset light every light in the house, or candles in every room to celebrate the Sun’s birth.
- Visit a river, stream or well. If it is clean and safe splash some over yourself as a symbol of purification.
- Have a cleansing bath ritual. This will not only clean your body but purify your mind and soul.
- Plant seeds and start planning what you will grow now that winter is starting to pass.
- Clear out the old and make way for the new. Clean and clear your space. Give away unwanted stuff along with their associations. Wash all your crystals and leave them outside in the sunlight or moonlight to recharge. Re-examine the resolutions you made at the Winter Solstice.
The time has come to slowly let go of our Winter selves and embrace the blooming of our inner Spring. Let Nature be your guide and teacher and celebrate each moment as a moment of new breath. Imbolc power is here to inspire, empower and manifest our dreams.
Blessed spring transitions to all!