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Imbolc (pronounced "IM-bulk", "IM mol'g" or "EM-bowl/k") is one of the Greater Wiccan Sabbats and is usually celebrated on February 2nd. In the Celtic tradition it is celebrated on February 1st or the first Full Moon in Aquarius. Other names Imbolc are known by include Imbolg, Imbolic (Celtic), Imbolgc Brigantia (Caledonii Tradition, or the Druids), Candlelaria (Mexican Craft), Disting (Teutonic Tradition - celebrated on February 14th) Candlemas (some Pagan Traditions and/or individuals prefer this name), the Feast of Candlemas and St. Bridget's Day (Christian), Oimelc, Brigid's Day, Lupercus (Strega), the Feast of Lights, the Feast of the Virgin, the Snowdrop Festival, or the Festival of Lights. The name "Imbolc" or "Oimelc", which is derived from Gaelic, means "ewe's milk" after the lactating sheep that are feeding their first born lambs of the new season at this time of year.
This Sabbat is a time of cleansing and newborn lambs, a good time for the Blessing of seeds. It is a festival of the Maiden in preparation for growth and renewal. Imbolc is a time to honor the Virgin Goddesses, along with the first signs of returning life in a frozen Winterland. In many places, the crocus flower is one of the first to show itself popping up through the snow, and so it is also a symbol of this Sabbat. Candlemas is a Festival of Light and is therefore celebrated by the use of many candles.
Symbolically, many Pagans choose to represent Imbolc by the use of Candle Wheels, Grain Dollies, and Sun Wheels - these may be used in ritual or simply as decoration. Candle Wheels are generally round decorated "crowns" made of straw or some type of natural woven substance which is ringed with either eight or thirteen red, pink or white candles and decorated with colored ribbons. In many Imbolc rituals, it is traditional for the High Priestess or the Maiden to wear this "crown" during the ritual at some point.
Grain Dollies can be made many different ways, and need not take on human shape unless you desire. They are made of wheat or sheaves of other grains such as straw, corn or barley. The sheaves are formed into some semblance of a "dolly" by folding, tucking and tying here and there. They can then be "dressed" in white cotton or satin and lace to represent the bride. You may even choose to create a "bed" (from a basket usually) for your grain dolly, commonly called a "Bride's Bed". There are many Pagan books available on how to create Candle Wheels, Grain Dollies, and Sun Wheels. Please refer to them for further instructions on making these decorations. Imbolc is also represented by burrowing animals, and the bride. Some other altar decorations may include a besom (Witch's broom) to symbolize the sweeping out of the old, a sprig of evergreen, or a small Goddess statue representing Her in the Maiden aspect.
Imbolc can be symbolically represented by a dish of snow, evergreens and/or candles. Ritually, you may choose to light and hold candles (symbol of light) within the Circle. You may also want to place a wheel symbol upon the Altar. It is traditional upon Imbolc, at sunset or just after ritual, to light every lamp in the house --- if only for a few moments. Or, light candles in each room in honor of the Sun's rebirth. Alternately, light a kerosene lamp with a red chimney and place in a prominent part of the home or in a window. If snow lies on the ground, walk in it for a moment, recalling the warmth of Summer. With your projective hand, trace an image of the Sun on the snow. Other Pagan activities may include the gathering of stones and the searching for signs of Spring. It is considered taboo to cut or pick plants at this time.
Appropriate Deities for Imbolc include all Virgin/Maiden Goddesses, all Fire/Flame Gods and Goddesses, and Gods and Goddesses represented as Children. Some Imbolc Deities to mention by name include Brigid, Aradia, Anu, Arianrhod, Athena, Branwen, Inanna, Selene, Gaia, Februa, Februus, Pax, Cupid, Eros, and Diancecht. Key actions to keep in mind during this time in the Wheel of the Year include planning and preparing for the times to come. Spellwork for fertility and protection are appropriate, as well as those to help one define and focus on spiritual and physical desires for the future. Imbolc is a good time to get your life in order - whether physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, or all of the above. Make plans, organize, clean out drawers and closets to help create a refreshing sense of bringing in the new and clearing out the old. Preparing yourself and your home now will help to allow you to take full advantage of the wonder and freedom that Springtime will bring.
The most common colors associated with Imbolc are white, yellow, and pink. However, light blue, light green, red and brown are also appropriate colors for this Sabbat. Altar candles should be white, red, pink and/or brown. Stones to use during the Imbolc celebration are turquoise, amethyst, garnet and onyx. Animals associated with Imbolc include robins, sheep, lambs, deer, and burrowing animals like badgers and groundhogs. Mythical beasts associated with Imbolc are the phoenix, dragons and other types of firebirds. Plants and herbs associated with Imbolc are evergreens and willow trees, rosemary, angelica, basil, bay, benzoin, heather, myrrh, clover, dill, and all yellow flowers. For Imbolc incense, you could make a blend from any of the following scents or simply choose one: basil, myrrh, frankincense, wisteria, jasmine, camphor, cinnamon, and lotus.
Foods appropriate to eat on this day include those that represent growth, such as seeds (pumpkin, sesame, sunflower) as well as poppyseed breads, muffins, and cakes. Also quite befitting are foods from the dairy, since Imbolc marks the festival of calving. Sour cream dishes are fine. Appropriate meat dishes should contain poultry, pork, or lamb. Spicy and full-bodied foods in honor of the Sun are equally attuned. Curries and all dishes made with peppers, onions, leeks, shallots, garlic or chives are appropriate. Spiced wines, herbal teas, honey, and dishes containing raisins --- all foods symbolic of the Sun --- are also traditional.
May you all enjoy the Blessings of the Imbolc Sabbat and all that is represented at this time of year.
The following "Renewal" is written by a cherished friend of mine...
by Mayfair Lightwind
Each year, we celebrate February 2nd around the world. We call it Brigid, Candlemas, Imbolc, St. Brigid's Day, and yes, of course, Groundhog's Day. Why do we celebrate on February 2nd? Is it like President's Day - providing a nice day for state and federal workers to stay at home? Not really... Brigid has been celebrated for many thousands of years. It is the day on which we recognize and honor the awakening of the maiden aspect of the Goddess.
Some of us celebrate the holiday as Brigid, in honor of Brigid who was a Celtic Goddess of poetry, healing, fire and smithcraft. In years past, the people of the British Isles would build a nice fire in their hearth, light torches and candles, and celebrate Brigid. What were they celebrating? The Maiden aspect of the Goddess awakes or returns from the underworld. At Winter Solstice she was impregnated with Spring. She sleeps until Brigid and returns, bringing Spring and renewal for the earth with her. The other names for this holiday are just different names for the same celebration.
Some may ask what this really has to do with us? We see that some of the animal kingdom hibernates through the dark time of the year. We tend to follow the same cycle. During the dark time of the year we retreat within ourselves. We focus internally. We stay inside our homes in the warmth and think about what is upcoming for us. We may not even recognize it. We may not even think about it consciously, but subconsciously we are very much aware of it. We are very much a part of the spiral of birth, death, and rebirth throughout the year. We are interconnected with the earth and all that is on it. You have likely heard the old expression "Spring Fever" many times before. This is simply our anticipation of Spring's return, when we can go out and live a full life upon the earth once more.
Often if we look at our ancestors and the His/Herstory, we can find the answers to many of our questions. I hope that everyone has a beautiful Brigid and remember... Spring is just around the corner.
And now here is a nice little excerpt for Candlemas from The Witches' Almanac
At nightfall on Candlemas Eve (February 1) an ancient tradition is observed by witches. Every candle in the covenstead glows with living fire to encourage the swift return of the sun and the spring season. The holiday has a deeper significance too, for it is the prelude to an interval of purification. This is the time of year to eliminate from one's life all that encumbers --- from old clothes to worn-out dreams. Just as candles illuminate the darkness, a witch seeks to penetrate the hidden recesses of the mind and heart in order to greet the coming season with a clear horizon in view.
Alchemists described the climactic day of an experiment, when baser metals were to be transmuted into gold, as "a day of projection". Candlemas marks for us a period of projection, from February 2 to March 21, during which a personal transformation takes place.
Mundane matters such as settling debts, returning borrowed items, and catching up on correspondence are attended to during early February. A systematic clearing out of drawers, cabinets and closets eliminates unnecessary articles which accumulate over a year's time. Appraise all your possessions to determine what should be discarded or passed on. This stage of Candlemas Custom subtly increases the power of decision and prepares us to examine the quality of our individual lives.
(The above Candlemas Custom is quoted dir from The Witches' Almanac, page 36, Spring 1993 to Spring 1994 edition, prepared and edited by Elizabeth Pepper and John Wilcock, Published by Pentacle Press, 1993.)
by Scott Cunningham
3 parts Frankincense
2 parts Dragon's Blood
1/2 part Red Sandalwood
1 part Cinnamon
a few drops Red Wine
To this mixture add a pinch of the first flower (dry it first) that is available in your area at the time of Imbolc (February 1st). Burn during Wiccan ceremonies on Imbolc, or simply to attune with the symbolic rebirth of the Sun --- the fading of winter and the promise of Spring.
(The above recipe for Imbolc Incense is directly quoted from Scott Cunningham's book: The Complete Book of Incense, Oils & Brews, page 72, Llewellyn Publications, 1992.)
Candlemas Ritual Potpourri
by Gerina Dunwich
A small cauldron filled with homemade potpourri can be used as a fragrant altar decoration, burned (outdoors) as an offering to the old gods during or after a Sabbat celebration, or wrapped in decorative paper and ribbons and given to a Wiccan sister or brother as a Sabbat gift.
45 drops Myrrh Oil
1 cup Oak Moss
2 cups Dried Heather Flowers
2 cups Dried Wisteria
1 cup Dried Yellow Tulip Petals
1/2 cup Dried Basil
1/2 cup Dried and Chopped Bay Leaves
Mix the myrrh oil with the oak moss, and then add the remaining ingredients. Stir the potpourri well and then store in a tightly covered ceramic or glass container.
(The above recipe for Candlemas Ritual Potpourri is directly quoted from Gerina Dunwich's book: The Wicca Spellbook: A Witch's Collection of Wiccan Spells, Potions and Recipes", page 161, A Citadel Press Book, Carol Publishing Group, 1994/1995.)
And finally, here are some words of advice, a rhyme, along with a few nice devotional incantations/poems with proper credit given to each author...
Enjoy and May Ye Blessed Be!
by Rhiannon Cotter
Candlemas is a celebration of beginnings, initiations, saintings, and circle starting. Deep in the cold of Winter, thoughts of life begin to stir. Reflection has chosen the seeds of new works to be accomplished in the coming year. The Goddess reigns supreme as that internal reflection begins the transition to external actions. Now is the time when wants and needs are expressed. But beware, wishes expressed on Candlemas have a way of coming to pass. Be sure you wish for what you truly want.
This is a nice little rhyme that ties Candlemas/Imbolc to Groundhog's Day...
"If Candlemas Day be fair and bright,
Winter will have another flight;
If on Candlemas Day be shower and rain,
Winter is gone, and will not come again."
If the sun shines bright on Candlemas Day,
The half of the winter's not yet away."
Bright Poet Queen
Invocation to Brid, Celtic Triple Goddess
by Dettie Em Freefoot
Brid, I call you.
Oh, Bright One! I call you.
Goddess of Fire, Healing, and Inspiration, Hear my cry.
Help me stand strong like the Rowan, that I may become your Brigand and rise up against the darkness.
Oh, Bright Arrow! Guide my judgment, protect me in my wanderings.
I will remember always --- Brigantia.
The Imbolc Love Necklace Spell
By Silver RavenWolf
Ancient mystery, magic night
Cut pink rosebuds by fireside bright.
Thread of white, a needle sharp
Candle red to stay the dark.
Place all upon the altar stone
Consecrate from witches bones.
Cast a circle from outstretched hand
Call the quarters, make it grand.
Elements are good, and angels too
Universal love can be their cue.
Banish winter, out, out, out
Raise your staff, turn thrice about.
Throw Yule greens in the fire,
Dance to bring in Springs desire.
Dress the dolly, corn she be
The harvest bride from last year's seed.
String the rose buds, one by one
Circle and tie when you are done.
Empower it now, hold it high
Ask the Gods to bring love nigh.
Raise your energy, bright and strong
Hum a tune of loving song.
Release your power, quickly please
Ground and center, feel at ease.
Dismiss your quarters, circle down
Open the space with a rapping sound.
In the morning, when the sun doth rise
Place the dolly under new day skies.
Leave her there, without the gown
To summon prosperity all year round.
When Autumn chill doth kiss your cheek
Return the doll to the ground or creek.
Save the necklace, keep it close
Give it to whom you love the most.
Kiss them once upon the lips
Tell them it's an Imbolc gift.
(The above The Imbolc Love Necklace Spell by Silver RavenWolf is quoted directly from Llewellyn's 1996 Magical Almanac, pages 16-17, Llewellyn Worldwide publications,1995.)
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Articles: Wiccan Wheel of the Year
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