(Click here to read Part 1.)
An Introduction to Imbolc (Part 2)
Before I continue, I recommend you take a look at The Green Witch’s recent Imbolc newsletter. She’s based in Aberdour, Scotland and I get all my incense from her. Everyone who’s smelt it have said it’s the best incense they’ve come across. The quality is superb. She’s also very witty and provides some lovely insights into various rituals and traditions for each of the eight sabbats throughout the Wheel of the Year.
In this post, I wanted to briefly share some of the traditions and rituals commonly associated with Imbolc. You may be interested to know, for example, that the Romans dedicated this sabbat to Venus, and the Greeks to Artemis — both Goddesses of Love. As the crocus and iris were sacred to both goddesses, people would lavishly adorn their homes and alters with them. However, any white flowers (preferably spring-flowering — remember to try and work with whatever’s in season) are perfect for decorating your home, as they symbolise purity and the Virgin Goddess. Red and yellow flowers are also good colours as they symbolise the rising sun and the Return of the Light. Only six weeks to go until the vernal equinox and the spring forward of the clocks!
Staying with the Romans, did you know the month of February is named after the goddess Februa and the god Februus? Februa was the Goddess of Fresh Starts and her month was often euphemistically referred to as the ‘cleansing time.’ As this sabbat is traditionally associated with growth, renewal and getting rid of the old to make way for the new, you may want to start spring cleaning this week so, come 2 February, you can adorn your home with flowers and light candles in every room (preferably 100% beeswax) to welcome the new season in and honour the rebirth of the sun.
If you want to go the whole hog, place a besom broom by the front door to symbolise sweeping out the old and welcoming in the new. (Although, if like me you adhere to the principles of Feng Shui, you may want to place the broom upside down or brush-end up.) And if you think investing in a besom broom for Imbolc is a tad strange, it’s no crazier than dragging a Christmas tree into your house to honour the birth of Jesus. And if you say you don’t do it for that reason, just why do you do it? To celebrate Yule? In which case, why not celebrate Imbolc? Anyway, brooms are a fraction of the price, last forever and add charm. We’ll be hanging a couple of silver and white baubles on ours for good measure.
The more creative among you may want to have a go at making an Imbolc candle wheel or a Brighid’s Cross to decorate your alter or hang on your wall. Another way to celebrate the Return of the Light is to have a bonfire or release sky lanterns. If you do buy sky lanterns, however, please do make sure they’re eco friendly, wire free, and 100% biodegradable. If you’re in the UK, I recommend ones by Sky Lanterns Online. We used them on New Year’s Eve and loved them.
Finally, if you’re in the north of England, Marsden in Huddersfield (an hour’s drive from Manchester) will be holding a torchlight procession and Fire Festival in celebration of Imbolc on Saturday 5 February starting at 7pm. It starts at the Old Goods Yard near the National Trust Office, near the railway station. The following is taken from the Marsden Imbolc Fire Festival Facebook page:
Marsden Imbolc Fire Festival is a community festival of celebration. It is a fire festival based around the Celtic Imbolc marking the time when the earth begins to wake up after its winter sleep. The festival was started by Kirklees Countryside Volunteers about eighteen years ago, primarily for the people of Marsden to come together at a quiet time of the year, to explore the environment around them, and to be aware of the turning of the year.
Imbolc has evolved over the years and now draws from a larger, more diverse community in terms of both performers/participants and audience. The festival involves a procession led by three ‘druid’ type characters, Mr Fox, samba and other bands, stilt walkers mixed with the procession, and people carrying fire lanterns. This is followed by entertainment – a fire ‘circus’ accompanied by the Fox Drummers and a singing group. Jack Frost and the Green Man battle for the spring. We end by welcoming the sun with a firework finale.
I’m very much hoping to be at the procession. But whatever plans you decide to make, I wish you and yours a very blessed Imbolc.
(Psst… if you’ve enjoyed UD’s ramblings, why not take a look at her book here.)