February 1st (or 2nd according to some) is the pagan festival of Imbolc. Imbolc was practiced by the druids and was the festival of lactating sheep. It is derived from the Gaelic word, “oimelc”, which means “ewe’s milk”. Ewes would give birth to their lambs, nursing them at this time. With the darkest days of winter behind, the sheep signified the upcoming spring.
Nature reveals signs of spring as well. The ground begins to thaw as the first of the flowers begin to arrive and the days lengthen. With all the rebirths in nature, Imbolc is a symbolic time of purification and new beginnings.
Modern pagans still practice Imbolc today. Connect to the ancient energies of this festival and celebrate Imbolc for yourself! Here are seven ways you can celebrate the season.
Create an Altar
It’s time to transform your altar with the new Imbolc energies. The traditional colors of Imbolc are white (representing the snow), red (representing the returning sun), and green (representing the emerging new growth). Add these colors through candles or a linen cloth. Candles are important to have, since they connect to the rebirth of the sun. Gemstones that connect to Imbolc are garnet, moss agate and moonstone. Add traditional herbs such as basil, angelic, rosemary, or bay laurel. Get inspired from nature and add early spring flowers such as crocus, or even a birch twig, since the Druids connected the birch to birth.
Many Imbolc traditions revolve around Brighid. She is associated with the season of spring, fertility, healing, poetry and smithcraft. She is also believed to be one of the triple goddesses. To connect with her for Imbolc, write a poem, make a Brighid doll, or leave her offerings that are associated with her.
Imbolc is a time of purification and rejuvenation. It’s a time to look back and reflect on the old year and to look forward to the months ahead. What are your goals and intentions for this upcoming year? Cleanse your mind and think about what you can achieve for this year.
I’ve said this before, but fire is an important tradition in all pagan holidays. For Imbolc, lighting candles is significant. Due to the coldness of winter, candles were lit indoors to represent the rebirth of the Sun. Place a lit candle in each room of your space to honor and connect to the returning sun. This tradition has transformed into the Christian celebration of Candlemas.
Clean your Home
Imbolc is all about rebirth and starting new, so it is a perfect time to bring these energies into your home with a “spring cleaning”. What items are you holding onto that no longer serve you? Go through your home and purge, removing old items and their energies to make room for the newness of the season. In pagan practice, brooms were tools used for spiritual cleaning. The “sweeping” motion would sweep up the negative energy and bless the space.
Do Yin Yoga
In the spirit of rebirth and rejuvenation, heal your body, mind, and soul with some restorative Yin yoga. It is a great way to purify yourself for the season. When doing your yoga, light some candles and use basil or rosemary to connect to Imbolc traditions.
Visit a Wishing Well
Like with the festival of Beltane, wishing wells were visited during Imbolc. People would pray and leave offerings at the well, hoping that they would be blessed for the new year. Since the element of water is also restorative and purifying, it was a place to heal as well. If you aren’t near a “modern” wishing well/fountain, go to a stream, lake, or other body of water found in nature, offering your blessings and letting the power of water heal you.