The Magic of Nature Awakening
Imbolc is a magical time of nature awakening. For thousands of years, our ancestors observed celestial events and Earth’s seasonal cycles with feasts and rituals. They honored the sun and moon cycles, believing these activities would help to harmonize human activity with the cycles of natural forces to ensure fertility, abundance, and good harvests.
One of the seasonal celebrations celebrated by our ancestors was Imbolc. It was also known as Candlemas or Brigid’s Day, which falls on February 2 or 3. This is a time of nature awakening in the Celtic seasonal calendar, near the halfway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox.
Honoring the Goddess of Fire
Imbolc celebrations took the form of a festival in honor of the pagan goddess Brigid, the Goddess of fire, who was evoked in fertility rites and oversaw poetry, crafts and prophecy.
Brigid is often associated with healing and herbcraft, so many plants sacred to her and the sun ( including sage, heather, chamomile, violets, and rosemary) are used in observances of Imbolc. Each is thought to bring its own powers of purification and cleansing, so ritually important at this time of new beginnings.
Make Space for New Beginnings
Just as seeds are stirring in the belly of the Earth Mother, so too do we all begin to stir from our winter hibernation. As the land slowly thaws and the sun lights up the sky a little longer with every passing day, we feel a glimmer of hope for spring and new life.
It’s time to let go of the past and embrace the present, making space for new beginnings in your life. This can be done in numerous ways, from spring cleaning your home to clearing your mind and heart to allow inspiration to enter for the new cycle. The holiday is a wonderful time to make a wish or to dedicate yourself to something new.
We ask ourselves what new potential lies in the new growth cycle to come, and how we can nurture this growth. This is a great opportunity to change old habits and patterns and work towards changing our relationship with the natural world; to see ourselves as part of nature and the great web of life, not separated from it.
The Magical Space Between Seasons
I love this time of year. It does not quite feel like spring yet but you can see nature awakening, even if it’s only little by little. The chill of winter hasn’t quite left the air, but there are signs that spring is on its way – the hint of buds and blossom on some trees and shrubs, as well as flowers that are brave enough to open up in the face of winter.
There’s a magic in the space between one season and the next – a sense of anticipation that grows as soft hints foreshadow the shift of one season to another.
In this fast-paced modern world, we tend to lose touch with these subtle signals. Maybe it’s easy to get distracted by the piles of tasks and chores that make up our daily routines. In any case, it’s hard to ignore just how connected we are, and how at times we may feel overstimulated. Amidst the hustle, sometimes we forget about natural cycles and the quiet movements of nature.
18 Ways to Celebrate Imbolc and Nature Awakening
As a marker of the year’s cycle, we can celebrate Imbolc in simple ways that honor the seasonal cycle of nature awakening. Below are some easy ideas to help you to reconnect with nature and its quiet movements.
1) Take a Walk and Connect With the Sun
As soon as you can, go outside and take a walk. Breathe deeply to feel the freshness of February. Feel your mind and body emerge from winter’s hibernation. Feel nature awakening and the cleanse that Imbolc brings for body, mind, and soul.
2) Set Some Goals
Think about the three changes you most want to manifest in your life this year. If you do not have any goals in mind already, you can think about your current situation and where you want to go with it. Look at what you want to gain, where you want to go, and the experiences that give you energy.
You can create manifestations by performing a ritual, meditation or writing them down in your journal. Visualizing your manifestation as a vision board and looking at it daily is a wonderful way to bring your intentions and goals into reality.
3) Make a Brigid Straw Doll (Brideog)
One way to honor the Goddess Brigid at Imbolc is by making Brideogs. These are made by twisting straw or rushes into the shape of a doll, wrapping it in white fabric to represent a little dress, and decorating it with the first flowers, greenery from the garden, and other pretty things you find in nature.
4) Make a Brigid Cross
Among the many customs associated with Imbolc is the making of Brigid crosses. The crosses are built by weaving straw laid out over a frame made from sticks; there are variations, and some have three or four arms. You can hang a Brigid cross anywhere in your home but children’s were usually hung over their bed. It was believed that the cross tucked under the mattress helped aid conception, and they were used to bless seed before planting in spring.
5) Bake Some Oatcakes or Bannocks
In ancient times, oatcakes were baked on the eve of Imbolc to honor the goddess Brìgid in the hope that St. Bridget would bless them with good health. Today, oatcakes are used as a means of celebrating winter turning into spring.
6) Light a Fire
As with many pagan celebrations, Imbolc is characterized by the lighting of fires. These fires are lit in honor of the Fire Goddess Brigid, who returns renewed energy after her winter sleep and also to celebrate the returning power of the sun and nature awakening.
In the Christian calendar, Imbolc is known as Candlemas, when candles are lit for Virgin Mary. Lighting a fire is a good opportunity to gather with friends and family, and reflect, share and laugh together.
7) Spring Clean Your Home
Keeping your home clear of clutter, inside and out, helps to keep the energy flowing smoothly. During Imbolc Eve in particular, you can perform a spring clean of your home by getting rid of anything that is cluttering up your life and stagnating the energy. You can scrub all the surfaces down thoroughly, if you can bear the cold, by opening all the windows to let in some refreshing air.
8) Visit a Stream, River, or Well
Traditionally, Imbolc was a time to visit holy water—a spring or a well—to purify ourselves and bring fertility to our dreams. Why not set off on an adventure to find some water near your home: a river, stream, or well. If the water’s clean, splash some over yourself as you set higher intentions for cleansing and purifying, then pick up any rubbish you find as an act of gratitude. Glennie Kindred suggests dipping some ribbon into the water, hanging it from a nearby tree to help you carry messages of hope and healing as you observe nature awakening..
9) Start a Nature Journal
Do you find yourself wishing there was more stillness in your life? Have you forgotten how to connect with nature on a deeper level? Finding that quiet connection with nature can be a rewarding process if you take the time to do it. Start a Nature Journal. Carve out quiet time in your day to enjoy the natural world around you. Simply focus your energy on observing and discovering the process of nature awakening around you and jot down what you observe.
10) Start Seeds
Imbolc is commonly a time of new beginnings, and starting seeds for your garden is a great way to reflect on what changes you would like to see in the coming year. This is a perfect time to think about rewarding yourself with a garden that contributes fresh food to your family while providing you with the spiritual rewards of connection to the earth, and ultimately, how using natural resources helps our planet.
11) Light Candles
Imbolc and Midwinter is a fire festival and the easiest modern way to incorporate this into your life is with the simple ritual of lighting a candle. Candles are a great way to honor the cycles of the moon, celebrate the changing seasons, and brighten your Sabbats in an easy-to-do way.
12) Be Present
Do you ever wish you could recapture the joy and wonder of childhood days? Do you feel as if you’ve lost the ability to appreciate and enjoy simple pleasures in everyday life? How can you incorporate simple, enchanting daily tasks that will bring you sheer joy and pleasure? Think of activities, and incorporate them into your daily routine that will help you stay present.
13) Start a New Craft Project or Hobby
Imbolc is a festival time for new beginnings, for setting new intentions for the year ahead and for drawing light into our lives. During this month as we move from darkness into light, a wonderful way to connect with nature is through creative projects – both individual projects or group projects. Imbolc is also a good time to start working on some nature-inspired craft projects or courses you have been meaning to take or to finish courses you have already started but have put aside until now.
14) Prepare an Imbolc Meal
Plan an Imbolc meal to share with family and friends. Honoring the season of fertility, rebirth, and nature awakening, the holiday of Imbolc is celebrated with all things creamy. Fresh, young cheeses paired with milk are a traditional favorite, especially cottage and cream cheese. Milk is poured into the earth in offering and thanks for a fertile crop to come. Seeds also feature, along with bread baked with seeds.
There are many ways to keep this holiday alive today even if you are dairy-free. Often, some of the food and drink would be set aside for Brigid. Brigid would be symbolically invited into the house and a bed would often be made for her.
The turning of the wheel, the days growing longer, and the world shifting into full bloom…if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, you’re probably dying to get out of the house because it feels like you’ve been locked up for a lifetime. Our ancestors needed to be very frugal this time of year to make it through to the warmer days ahead. If you’ve been needing to purchase an item, how can you get creative and find it at a thrift store? Better yet, what are some solutions you can create to avoid spending any money at all? What are some other ways you can be frugal right now?
16) Create Your Own Imbolc Tea Blend
Honor the goddess of fire with your own magical herbal tea blends. Milk teas flavored with herbs associated with Brigid are a wonderful way to honor the goddess. I like to make a mindful ritual out of my tea-making practice and use wildcrafted herbs whenever possible.
17) Take a Purifying, Herbal Ritual Bath for
On the eve of Imbolc, take part in a purifying herbal ritual bath to help cleanse your body, mind, & spirit. Think of it as a way to help you release old energy and let go of what no longer serves you. The water element is very strong on the eve of Imbolc and there is a natural link between water and cleansing. So what better way to honor this than by taking a purifying bath with healing herbs?
18) Meditation to Clear Mental Clutter
Imbolc is a time of year we seek to release old habits, ideas, and circumstances that no longer serve us. This can be a time of self-healing physically, emotionally, and mentally. The mind is an organ of the body, just like the heart or liver. It’s where we feel the emotional pains of life. Because we’re using our minds so much in our everyday lives, it helps to cleanse this part of ourselves from stresses that can accumulate from daily life. Meditation is one way to do this.
A Note on the Wheel of the Year
As we approach Imbolc (here in the Northern Hemisphere), I’m reminded of all that the Wheel of the Year represents: nature awakening, the cycles of light and dark, and of the constant flow and unending cycle of all things from birth, growth, and death to rebirth.
The cycles of the Wheel of the Year can be used to attune yourself with nature’s rhythms and therefore understand those changes in a more personal way.
Living in harmony with the seasons and the ebb and flow of nature can help you refine your soul connection to the universe. The Wheel of the Year is an ancient way of understanding who you are and your role in the world around you. Learn more about the Wheel of the Year: The Best Guide To Understanding The Wheel of the Year