Wordsmithing Magic from the Crossroads

Awaken Us to Renew Again – Wishing You a Blessed Imbolc

Imbolc altar items

Blessed Woman come to me
Woman of the Fires,
Woman of Poetry.
Blessed Woman come to me
Woman of Healing,
Woman of Skillful Means.

Blessed Woman of the land
Guide my heart and guide my hand.
Blessed Woman of the streams
Guide my soul and guide my dreams.

Blessed Woman come to me
Woman of the Fires
Woman of Poetry.
Blessed Woman come to me
Woman of Healing
Woman of Skillful Means.

Blessed Woman of the hills
Heal all wounds and heal all ills.
Blessed Woman of the flame
Awaken me to renew again.
Lisa Thiel, Song to Brighid, from Invocation of the Graces

Today we celebrate the great sabbat called Imbolc, Oimelc, or Brighid, or the more Christianized name of Candlemas.

And for our friends in the Southern Hemisphere, we wish you a Blessed Lughnasadh today!

This is a cross-quarter sabbat, meaning that it falls halfway between the astronomical times of Solstice and Equinox. Normally celebrated between Feb. 1 and 3, the exact celestial timing would be when the Sun is at 15º Aquarius. That would make it around Feb. 4 this year, if you want astronomical precision.

Another sky marker of Imbolc for those of us above the Equator is that it is celebrated when the Pleiades are at their zenith in the sky at sunset.

The word Imbolc (usually pronounced “Imm’-ulg”) comes from the Gaelic word referring to the lactating of the sheep. Lambs are born much earlier than calves, and the coming in of the ewe’s milk was a lifeline for agrarian families whose Winter stores would have been very thin by this time. Thus, this first sign of Spring offered a vital gift of life-giving sustenance, shared by lambs and humans alike.

Imbolc is the time when we of the Old Ways dedicate to new studies, renew and deepen our spiritual devotions, undergo initiation to a new level of practice, or perhaps simply set our magical intentions for the coming year.

The somewhat interchangeable celebrations of Brighid and Imbolc are ancient Fire Festivals, when the powers belonging to the Winter of the year are clearly waning, about to be overcome by the first glimmers of Spring’s return. This is when the Goddess as ancient Crone is reborn as the young Maiden.

Now is the time when we discover, as if for the first time, that the creative energy of the life force is strong within us.

What is this life force, exactly? By what name do you understand it?

It has many names, including Qi (or “chi) that I discussed some years ago in my posts about the ancient art of feng shui and the kundalini that spirals through our body’s chakras.

Public domain snowdrops in a patch of snow

We may also experience it as flow, creative energy, and our life-line to God, Goddess, Soul, Source, or Higher Power, or as author Julia Cameron’s names the unnameable – Good Orderly Direction.

She describes it as a form of spiritual electricity that animates us and, even more, drives us to be creators. Thus, on this magical day, our creative dreams stir, like the tiny green shoots of crocus and snowdrops that are emerging now from the frozen ground.

Celebratory Rites

One of my favorite ways to observe this holy time is to bless some seeds that I will be planting once the ground is warm and the danger of frost has passed. They may represent a creative dream I have for the coming growing season, or fondest wishes and hopes about my cherished relationships.

Other rites you might consider would be to celebrate the return of the Sun’s light. In many Pagan homes at sunset, it is a tradition to light every lamp in the home, for at least a few moments. Or you might like to light a special candle in every room. Even just lighting a red candle and placing it in a prominent window is a beacon of joy and hope for this happy holiday.

John and I have long made it a tradition to sing and chant as we walk from our cottage out to our well that supplies the fresh, clean water for our home. There, with the help of pastel chalks, we decorate the concrete cap and sides where the pump is. We also tie ribbons onto the trees and sturdy shrubs that guard our well.

Personal photo of our well decorated for Imbolc at Laurel Hill Cottage

If you have snow on the ground where you live, walk in it for a while, and draw a symbol of the Sun, as your call to the slumbering Earth to awaken. Whether you have snow or not, skip, stroll, dance upon the earth at your home.  I love to do this in the style of Morris-dancers, wearing jingle bells on my ankles.

Recall how things looked and felt last Summer, reminding yourself and the spirit of the land that those days are coming again, for Winter’s grip is already changing.

Awakening the Sacred Land

Try singing or chanting a waking-up song, or make a song of gratitude. Let your self-made music align you with the awakening of the living land.

With your songs and words, you are engaging in the original sense of the word en-chantment: to chant or sing with intention, to achieve a desired result. By doing so, you bless and bring to life all within the sound of your voice.

You can also do this to invoke the protectors of the Land — the ancient Underworld beings who are the guardians of Grandmother Gaia’s well-being. It is clear that we are in great need of their assistance, as there has been a devastating undoing of the past progress on the environmental protections and mediation we all worked so hard for.

So as you celebrate the strengthening of the Sun’s fire, take this opportunity to establish or deepen your cooperation with these ancient, cthonic beings.

Magical Foods and Other Practices

As has been pointed out, the word Imbolc refers to “ewe’s milk” as this is the time when sheep begin to lactate in preparation for birthing their lambs. So traditional dishes for Imbolc include any type of dairy foods. This is reinforced by the fact that cows are sacred to Brighid, and many of Her stories feature them in magical ways.

The Celtic people depended heavily on milk products, known as “white meats” during the Spring and Summer months. Milk was often soured and processed into different forms of curds and soft cheeses, as hard cheeses were uncommon.

So you might want to prepare something rich and comforting with sour cream, ricotta, or cottage cheese. In addition, spicy, full-bodied foods in honor of the Sun are equally magical at this time. Curries and all dishes made with peppers, onions, leeks, shallots, garlic, or chives would also be lovely.

Brighid is also a Goddess of brewing, so spiced wines and mead are appropriate libations. It is traditional to pour the first sip or two out upon the Earth as an offering of gratitude.

Purification and Setting Intention

The six week period from Imbolc to Ostara (Spring Equinox) is also the traditional time of cleansing, purging and preparing the ground (literal and metaphoric) for planting. As most gardeners know, there is wisdom in turning over the soil while it is still too cold to plant, thus exposing burrowed-in,  non-beneficial insects and weeds to the killing cold.

Similarly, this is the perfect time to clear away what no longer supports or delights you. Imbolc is the perfect holiday for cleansing and re-consecrating your altars and ritual tools.

And as my friend, the late Waverly FitzGerald used to suggest, this could be considered Pagan Lent. But rather than the Christian Lenten practices of deprivation and mortification of the flesh, she suggested that we might embrace this time as a chance to welcome a mind/body/spirit refresh. Waverly noted, “The very name of Lent is synonymous with the season, for it comes from the Anglo-Saxon lenctene, meaning the time when the days lengthen.”

So this could be a time you decide to reduce or even cut out refined sugar or red meat, at least for the six weeks between the sabbats. Again, this is not in a spirit of denial or loss, but to increase your energy and well-being!

And Spring tonics can be taken to detox your Winter-weary system. Look for the first tender green leaves of dandelion or ramps, or else dig through your dried herb collection to make teas that support your immune system.

For example, combining equal parts nettle leaf and rose hips into a soothing tea can help with that persistent cough that is going around (disclaimer: I am not a qualified herbalist or medical practitioner. This is just a gentle suggestion – please do your own research).

Thus it is that after Winter’s stasis, change is afoot. We are entering into an ideal time for initiating auspicious modifications in our lives. As we consider what those changes might be, and how to begin, I invite you to consider the ways that you open, listen, dream, and absorb your inner guidance.

As the light so clearly grows stronger now, may we lighten up our own hearts, knowing we are always enfolded in the safekeeping mantle of the Lady.

May your rites be merry, for merry we meet, and merry we part, and merry we shall meet again.

(With thanks to my Coven sister, Alruna for sending me this video. I recommend you go to full screen).

Blessed be.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Kathy February 2, 2024, 7:32 am

thank you

Beth February 2, 2024, 8:52 am

blessed Imbolc, and thank YOU, Kathy. 🐑❤️‍🔥🌱🙏🏻💚

Raven February 2, 2024, 8:47 am

Beth, thank you so much for the video – not seen it before – nourishing and uplifting.

Beth February 2, 2024, 8:50 am

Isn’t it glorious? Blessed Imbolc, dearest Raven! 💚💚💚

Aimee February 2, 2024, 9:48 am

Thank you so much for shining so much light on this day! So many delightful ways to recognize it and celebrate it. I appreciate all you do to educate us on the history and customs of the ancient holidays since the mainstream world ignores them.

Beth February 2, 2024, 9:50 am

Thank YOU, beautiful Aimee, for inspiring me to do so! Blessings to you and your loved ones this glad day!

Kate Stockman February 2, 2024, 9:53 am

This is my favorite holyday, the magical first stirring of the seeds underground! For over 20 years I have practiced hibernation with the intention of rest, renewal, and study to conceive something new to gestate and incubate something to birth in the spring at Vernal Equinox. But each year, I would feel the need to create, to be more active, around early February. Then my sistah Stephanie introduced me more deeply to this fire holyday and everything made sense. I embrace Brigid and all that she offers us. And I ALWAYS eagerly anticipate your missives that are so chock full of information and mystery at the holydays. Thank you, sistah, for continuing to share your wisdom and magic! Be well. Blessed be!

Beth February 2, 2024, 10:14 am

Blessed be, dearest Kate! May your most delicious, wondrous seeds flourish! 💚🌱💚

Jean February 2, 2024, 10:16 am

Thank you so much for the wonderful insight. Without knowing this information I have started some of the suggestion. I have no explanation how I know what to do. But you have given me great satisfaction that I am doing the right things.

Beth February 2, 2024, 11:15 am

I love that, Jean… Of course you are being guided — by deep memory, by the loving, Unseen Ones, and by the magic of this liminal time itself! Blessings!!

Suzanne February 2, 2024, 1:45 pm

Thank You dear Beth! for your elaborate essay of Imbolc. I was unfamiliar with this ancient Lore as the Seasons cross-quarter.
I particularly appreciate the concept of Gaia’s Lent with its etymology “lenctene • days lengthen”. Daylight is indeed returning. A Spiritual Cleanse & Clarity time for our seeds sowing of a better nurturing “mind|body|soul” life fulfilment.
That Imbolc follows the “Ten of Cups” of the week, is Serendipity at its brightest.
Happy Imbolc Bblessings! 🌟🕯🌟

Beth February 2, 2024, 6:28 pm

And to you, dear Suzanne! Thank you for your insights and kind words. 🙏🏻 🔥 🙏🏻

Marguerite February 3, 2024, 2:20 pm

The video was so moving and beautiful, truly touched my soul and heart. Thank you so much for mentioning Waverly and her clear vision of Pagan Lent. She was one of my first friends when moving to Seattle. Her beloved Daughter graced and honored me with her Vicky Noble Motherpeace tarot deck when she departed this earth. Many thanks for sharing your personal connection to such a special time and to the Goddess, Brighid…Winter Solstice and Imbloc/Candlemas are my favorite times of year – the angle of the Sun, the little buds popping up all over, and of course the days of light increasing….yet I am such a night owl! Go figure. Thanks you so much for your beautiful teachings. Blessings today and always as the wheel turns!!!

Beth February 5, 2024, 2:18 pm

Awww… Marguerite! I love that you have Waverly’s Motherpeace deck and that she was your IRL friend. I never got to meet her in person, and that’s too bad, because she was really a big influence in my early days of following the magical calendar. I took her correspondence courses, and she was so very generous with her personal time and support. We lost a vast, sacred library when she departed us.

Sending you vast blessings of the Awakening Season.. Lots of love! 💚🙏🏻🔥

The time you enjoy wasting
is not wasted time.

~ Bertrand Russell

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