Pagan Sabbats: 5 Small Ways to Celebrate Imbolc

Celebrating Pagan sabbats is a fun, meaningful way to mark the turning of the seasons. Following the Gregorian calendar, Imbolc is the first sabbat of the year (by the Celtic calendar in is Samhain which is in October).

Imbolc (pronounced ‘EE-muk’ or ‘IM-bulk’) falls on the 2nd February. It is the Pagan equivalent of the Christian Candlemas, and similarly it is also a festival of lights. Imbolc marks the return of the Goddess after her journey to the underworld. With her comes the first signs of Spring – the evenings are slowly becoming lighter, lambs are starting to be born, and snowdrops and daffodils begin to sprout. It is a time to celebrate the light, and focus on the bright times ahead now that winter is dwindling. The word ‘imbolc’ literally means ‘in the belly,’ referring to nature as it waits patiently in the belly of the earth during the last few weeks of cold before bursting through.

Brigid, goddess of fertility, fire, poetry, smithery, healing, and the hearth. Image from Spirit Blogger.

The Irish/Celtic Goddess Brigid (pronounced ‘Breed’) is also celebrated on Imbolc. She is a Goddess sacred to many things, but most notably fertility, poetry, healing, and fire. The hearth is her domain, and so is the forge – smithery is also associated with her.

Finding time and resources to have a full-blown celebration can be difficult, but that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the Imbolc goodness! Here are 5 small things you can do to mark the occasion. Choose one (or more!) which resonate with you, and then you’re all set to have your own little Imbolc celebration.

1. Make a Brigid’s Cross

Traditionally made in Ireland on Imbolc, these crosses symbolise the beginning of spring. There are woven from wheat, rushes, or grass. If you cannot get hold of any of those, pipe cleaners, string, or strips of paper make good alternatives. Hang your Brigid’s Cross somewhere in your house to ward off evil and hunger.

Once you’ve gathered your material, this video tutorial shows you how to make it into a Brigid’s Cross:

2. Light Candles. Lots of Candles!

Imbolc is a celebration of light. Get your home looking bright and warm with some candles! As it’s also the beginning of Spring, it’s traditional to have a good clean on Imbolc. Dust your shelves, sweep the floors, and throw open all the windows to let in some fresh air. When you’re finished, light a white candle in each room (just make sure you don’t forget about them – it may be a fire festival, but burning your house down would be a bit extreme!) Sit in front of one of the flames and watch it flicker for a few moments, and let it fill you with its peaceful warmth.

3. Burn Paper Snowflakes

Paper snowflakes can be made easily by folding small pieces of paper, cutting shapes out of them with scissors, and then opening them out. Burn them using one of your candles, and as you do so imagine the world thawing and the last of winter’s cold disappearing. Focus on the warmth the candle gives, and remember the feeling of the summer sun on your face.

4. Bake a Spicy Loaf Cake

Warms foods are associated with Imbolc, as is dairy because of the birthing of cattle. This spicy cake is one of my favourite Imbolc recipes. Not only is it a festive, yummy treat, it’s also big enough to  to share with your friends and family. The original recipe is from Soraya’s book The Kitchen Witch (which I highly recommend), but I’ve added my own touches to it. If you’re a baking queen then you can add some of your own, too! Also, if you don’t have a loaf tin then any large cake tin will do. The cake will just be a different shape, is all.

Spicy Loaf Cake

5. Set Out Goals for the Year

As Imbolc occurs at the start of the Gregorian year, it is a great time to clarify what you want to achieve over the coming months. Write a list of your hopes and plans for the year, and speak each one out loud to give it feeling.

Another way of doing this is with ribbons. Find some long lengths in bold colours. Colours associated with Imbolc are yellow, brown, red, white, pink, and green, so you might want to use some of those. Choose a tree or bush in your garden, or if you don’t have a garden then a large potted plant is also suitable, and tie each ribbon around a branch whilst thinking of something you wish to achieve this year. Be realistic, and don’t wish for anything which will hurt someone else. Focus on yourself, and the positive changes you can make to your own life. Not only will the colours of the ribbons brighten up the grey of winter, they will also remind you of your goals. Leave them in their place, and whenever you reach a goal then untie the corresponding ribbon and thank it.

However you choose to celebrate, I wish you a warm, productive, and creative Imbolc! Embrace the light, and take time to notice the earth stirring. Also, any reason to bake a cake is a good one, right?

 

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Amelia Starling is a writer and folklorist. She graduated from the University of Winchester with a degree in Creative Writing, and is Senior Editor for Folklore Thursday. She loves travelling and collecting stories, and spent 15 months living in Japan doing this alongside teaching English. Amelia blogs about folklore and fairy tales at The Willow Web. You can follow her on Twitter @amyelize.

2 thoughts on “Pagan Sabbats: 5 Small Ways to Celebrate Imbolc

    1. Yes, I think Groundhog Day has tenuous origins in Imbolc. I think Groundhog Day is more of an American thing though, we don’t do anything over here for it that I know of. Interesting how different countries/cultures have different ways of celebrating the same thing!

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