Imbolc is a welcome, hopeful vibe amidst an otherwise challenging season. While it is a pagan celebration rooted in the milder climate of the UK & Ireland, here in Canada, we can still enjoy the increase in light even if much of the country is entering its coldest, snowiest stage of winter. We can look to the lighter skies and have faith that the first stirrings of rebirth begin now and will eventually become tangible in spring.
Imbolc originates in Celtic traditions, especially in Ireland and Scotland. The goddess Brigid is the deity venerated at this time. She is the pre-Christian goddess of fire, healing, smithcraft, the hearth, the flame of life and creative spark that resides within us, as well as protection and fertility. She eventually became the Christian St. Brigid. Her light shines brightly in the hearts of many and lives on through regional folk customs and traditions inspired from these all over the globe today.
Many of the traditions of Imbolc involve children and youth, symbolizing the energy of renewal of the season. Girls would go door to door with their Brigid dolls wearing white, while boys go door to door singing and dancing, and they would collect money. Homes were cleansed and prepared for new life- as Brigid was invited into the home to bless and protect it. Sometimes the youngest in the house was tasked with finding rushes with which to make the St Brigid’s Cross- a protective symbol for the home. Many folks are keeping these traditions alive today.
Weather divination is also popular at this time- involving snakes, badgers, or in in North America- groundhogs-who foretell an early spring or a longer winter.
The Return of the Light & Spiritual Faith
Modern themes of this season include hope, visioning and spiritual renewal, which correspond to the increase of light which is now noticeable. Some celebrate the return of the light at Winter Solstice, as it is the time from which light increases each day, however I find that it is around Imbolc that the light is noticeable enough to affect our psyches.
Increased light and longer days affect us in many ways, namely bringing a sense of increased hope, optimism and energy. Light is also associated with faith, spirit, and our inner flame of conviction. When I speak of our inner flame- I mean that which lights you up and inspires you forward in life. For some, this corresponds to their spiritual faith. It may also correspond to one’s creative spark.
Some Pagans use this time to renew their dedication to their deities, or to dedicate to a new deity. It is also a popular time for coven initiations, which initiates one’s commitment to their spiritual community.
I resonate with the desire to refresh and re-dedicate myself to my path and spiritual practice this time of year. I tend to clean all of my altars, or completely re-do them. My relationships with deities are forged or strengthened with rituals and prayers. It’s like hitting the spiritual ‘reset’ button. I let go of what isn’t working and experiment with new ways of strengthening my practice.
I allow inspiration and my intuition to lead me to what feels right. I focus on the practices and rituals that expand my inner flame of strength and love; My feeling of being spiritually protected and enlivened and my ability to express my best self.
Winter is tough, and for many, spiritual faith is what carries us through the tough times. So, February can be the perfect month to revamp or up-level our spiritual practice!
Resonance with the Crescent Moon and Childhood
In the lunar cycle, the energy of the New Moon resonates with the Winter Solstice and the Crescent Moon resonates with Imbolc. This is where we can see the first slice of light in the sky. This brings with it hope, innocence and creative intention after coming out of the darkness.
In the life cycle, the Winter Solstice resonates with the Elder energy, whilst Imbolc resonates with the Child energy. There are moments during this season where we may straddle both worlds- There can be a bit of struggle between the old and the new- the darkness and the light- or between fear and hope. We may know what we want but fear to step forward. Or, we take one step forward and two steps back. This is part of our birthing process, like contractions- where we are slowly exiting one reality and preparing for another.
This energy may cause us to go back and forth with decisions, as we may fear taking risks or need to pause and reflect before making plans. This is all well and good, because we are meant to be gentle with ourselves and protect this nascent new life we carry and wish to grow into the new year with.
There is no need to rush into anything, and it is healthy to conserve our energy in the winter. However, we are invited to make a shift to our comfort zone now and open to new avenues, even just within our own mind and heart. A new perspective is the first step forward.
The Astrology of Imbolc, Creativity & The Inner Child
Since astrology is a big part of my path, I feel it important to discuss the significance of the Aquarius-Leo axis, which is the axis of creativity activated around Imbolc.
Traditionally, Imbolc is celebrated when the Sun is at 15 degrees Aquarius, as this is the exact midpoint between the Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox. (However, I personally feel you can celebrate it anytime you start to feel the energy of it).
Aquarius is an interesting sign, because it it both ruled by conservative, structured Saturn and rebellious, free-spirited Uranus. Like those labour contractions I mentioned before, the push and pull of these two parts of us may be a point of stress this season. It may bring into question what traditions we follow or boxes we’re stuck in that may be holding us back. We may discover a new perspective which prompts us to re-invent, eschew or let go of certain traditions, change the shape of our box or completely free ourself from one altogether! The key energy of this time is change in perspective.
Every sign carries an opposite- and they both have much in common because they are opposite sides of the same coin. When it is Aquarius season, inevitably the energy of Leo gets brought into the mix as a balancer. At the full moon this balance is highlighted.
The Aquarius-Leo axis is about creativity. It also has a resonance with the Inner Child, which is reflected in the Imbolc traditions involving children.
Aquarius is the element of air- the open, curious childlike mind. It is about seeing things from a fresh perspective and asking ‘why?’. Aquarius helps us question the status quo and invent new ways of doing things.
Leo is the element of fire- the playful, childlike heart. It is about self-expression and showing the world our talents. Leo helps us stay true to ourselves and live with passion.
Both signs are also brave, independent, and despise being told what to do! They thrive on the creative impulse, which often doesn’t fit well into boxes. Aquarius follows this impulse on the hedges, edges and outskirts of the mainstream- in order to gain a creative perspective. Leo follows this impulse from within, on centre stage, in order to radiate the creative energy outward.
Both energies exist in all of us, and one cannot exist without the other. They both come into focus this time of year, showing up in the Leo full moon, which happens very close to Imbolc this year, on Feb 5th.
What does this mean?
It means this is a great time for exploring new ideas, to question the status quo, to see our life from a fresh perspective. We can let go of any rigid conditioning and embrace the part of us that is innocent and open to change. We can discover ways of living by our ideals and hopes for the future, while also honoring our creative impulses. We can give ourselves permission to follow the light of inspiration and magic in our hearts.
If this is very challenging for us, it is a wonderful time to do our own inner child healing- with a therapist, through an art form, or spending time with children.
Experiment, try something new, play and create, make new art, or new pathways for your energy to manifest itself in the world.
The bright radiance of Brigid lies within us. The young ones singing and dancing in Her honor, the warm flame lit in the hearth, they live within us too!
The beautiful energy of Imbolc is about re-igniting our inner flame- the passion and creativity within us, the childlike enthusiasm, the wonder and inspiration that prompts us to wish upon stars, believe in faeries and talk to trees.
All of this can be re-awakened now, to nourish and feed our inner flame.
Ways we can tend to our inner flame at Imbolc:
- Do something you find fun! Go out with friends, dance, knit, paint, go bowling, play with your cats- whatever it is, let it be something that makes you laugh, or at least smile!
- Take some time to really connect with your heart. What expands your love and inner light? How can you manifest and share more of that in your life, even in small ways?
- Tune into your womb space or creative centre in the pelvic bowl. What desires are stirring within? Write them down.
- Clear a pathway for your desires to manifest. Re-arrange your schedule, change your habits, cleanse your space, your body and mind of toxic energy that is holding you back.
- Envision your desire manifested. See it in detail. Are there are small steps you can take now towards it?
- Connect with the goddess Brigid- Learn about Her and the traditions She is rooted in and make a Brigid’s Cross.
- Reflect on your spiritual faith and practice. Does it energise and inspire you? Make changes, commit or re-dedicate yourself to your path.
- Care for your home and tend to your sense of being at home within yourself. You can read my blog about this topic from Imbolc last year here.
What do you feel called to do at Imbolc this year? How are you tending your sacred flame of inspiration, creativity and spirit for the year ahead?
If you’d like to celebrate this magickal season, you’re invited to join my online Imbolc Circle on Fri Feb 3rd @7pm EST! You can learn all the info and register here.
May your inner flame burn bright and your wishes come to pass.
In light and warmth,
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As a Witch who makes her home and practice in Tkaronto (Toronto) Ontario, I deeply thank the original stewards of this land: The Mississaugas of the Credit, Mississaugas of Scugog, Alderville, Hiawatha & Curve Lake; The Chippewas of Beausoleil, Rama & Georgina island, the Haudenosaunee and Wendat nations. I acknowledge the resilience of the First Nation, Inuit and Metis people who live and work here in the present, in a system of inequity and oppression. I am working on uncolonising my own practice, amplifying Indigenous voices and supporting Indigenous communities in whatever way I can.