Imbolc and what it is all about is a little more complicated. In short, Imbolc is about the beginning of the end of winter, the lengthening of days. It is at this time we start to “awake up” from our winter slumber to get ready for the year ahead.
Traditionally, Imbolc being of Irish origin, was to celebrate the Goddess Brigid. A Goddess of the Eternal Flame, the Hearth, the Anvil and so many other family and survival things!
Imbolc has many names; Imbolg, Oimelc, Bridgid’s Day and the Christian’s day of the Feast of St. Bridget. Now why didn’t I add in Candlemas? Because Candlemas is a different day with different Mythology and completely different meanings behind it.
Is Imbolc Candlemas?
Short answer, no. Somewhere in the ever growing pile of newage crap, when it comes to witchcraft, someone decided that Imbolc and Candlemas are one of the same when they’re not. Candlemas is the day after Imbolc. You can sit there and go “oh but Christians took Brigid, made her Saint Bridget and gave her two days!”, yes they made her a Saint, no they didn’t give her an extra day. Candlemas just happens around the time of Imbolc and is actually about the Virgin Mary and how “St. Bridget” helped her.
To be totally honest, Candlemas is a whole other story as there is argument as to why the Christian Imbolc starts on the 1st of February and ends on the 3rd. But bottom line is, Candlemas has always been a Christian add on and was/is always about Mary with St. Bridget as the midwife.
When is Imbolc?
Traditionally, Imbolc lands on the 1st of February in the Northern Hemisphere. However, down here in the Southern Hemisphere, it lands on the 1st of August.
Now, this is perfect for sowing seeds for the upcoming spring and summer as they will be ready for transplanting into the ground in 6 weeks time! Giving all your crops or flowers a head start for the season.
How to Celebrate Imbolc
Most of us don’t have farms, but at this time livestock started to have newborns, growing the farms production. It is at this time that livestock start producing milk in abundance. Hence the name Oimelc (Ewes-milk).
One tradition was to drag a decorated plough around the fields followed by the villagers dropping seeds, pieces of cheese and bread into the newly turned furrows as offerings to the nature spirits. At this time, tools for agriculture would be blessed so crops would grow in abundance.
On the eve of Imbolc, all the home fires would have been put out, cleaned out and re-lit symbolic of the returning light of the Sun.
Sweep out the old and welcome in the new! A broom made from Ash, Birch and Willow was placed by the front door.
When it came to feasting, a very large candle was lit and placed on the table where the gathered for food. Everyone would share their plans and promises for the year. Planting their seeds, so to speak!
It was also customary at Sunset to ritually light a candle in each room of the home in honour of the Suns return. I would not recommend doing this unless the candle is in a flameproof container.
“Brigid Crosses”; These are woven from leftover oat or wheat stalks for blessings and protection from the Goddess Brigid. You would exchange these with friends, family or neighbours in hopes they would be protected and blessed by the Goddess for a great year.
“Brigid Dollies”; Same as the crosses, you make them from left over oat or wheat stalks and then dress them up in female clothes. Sometimes a small bed was made for the dolly to lay in. This then became an offering of rest or fertility, especially if a symbol of male fertility was placed next to the bed,
Many of things listed are a combination of traditional northern hemisphere associations and Australian associations.
Herbs & Fruits
- Lemon Myrtle
- All Australian Wild Flowers
- New Beginnings
- Animal Magic
Cleanse and Sow Your Seeds
This is honestly one of my favourite holidays and I know I say that about all the Fire festivals but it really is! This is the time of the year where you plant seeds for your year, whether that’s figuratively or literally. I love seeing the bees, flowers and birds all returning with joy and I find that people, in general, are so much happier full of so much creativity.
After writing this I realised that I couldn’t cover everything I wanted and have it make sense, and I’m sure I’ll get the “that’s not right, I read this in blah blah”. This is just a guide, this is what I personally follow without getting into too much personal detail.
Like I always suggest, go outside, look around, do what feels right for you as a lot of what you read in books will not apply to those of us in the Southern Hemisphere.
Speak in Spells again soon!