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Imbolc - Sabbath of February 1-2

This year, Imbolc - also known as Ilmbolg, Oimelc (1st Milk), Brigid's Day, Feast of Brighid, Brigantia, Imbolic, etc - is celebrated from the evening of Wednesday February 1, to the evening of Thursday February 2, 2023 .

Imbolc Symbols:

- Colors: white, lilac, pink, yellow, green

- Crystals: Amethyst, Bloodstone, Ruby, Turquoise, Garnet.

- Herbs: Rosemary, dill, basil, bay leaf, chamomile, yellow flowers, angelica, blackberry

- Altar decorations: Brigid's cross, candle wheels, conifers, grain carts, sun wheels, flowers

- Associations: Candles, lamb, purification

History of the Sabbath:

Between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, the Sabbath of Imbolc has been celebrated since pre-Christian times in the British Isles and is considered the time when the energies and the earth awaken, preparing to rise out of the winter and thus make way for spring.

The first mentions of this Sabbath date back to the 10th century in Irish literature.

The feast was then, in an idea of rebirth, traditionally aligned with the first day of spring.

Imbolc means "in the belly". Animating this idea of nature awakening from its hibernation, this Sabbath invites us to recall the sun and the heat in order to warm and thaw nature.

We find ourselves between the end of winter and the beginning of spring, the darkest period of the year has passed since Yule, but the cold and the frost are still present.

Imbolc therefore marks this slow change.

Our modern comfort makes us somewhat forget what winter was for our ancestors and what the arrival of spring symbolized. Winter often sounded like a time of retreat to the community, whether it was the village, a hamlet or the family. The work of the year served mainly to survive the winter. It is also the season when lambs and calves are born, signaling the return of milk and the diversification of food. The arrival of spring was therefore, and in many respects, synonymous with joy and excitement for the beautiful days to come. We then observed nature, plants and animals to recognize the arrival of Spring.

Thus, it represents the calm, gentle and introspective time of preparation, before the planting of the new seeds during the awakening of the world.

Pagans use this celebration to strengthen their connection with nature and pray that the land will allow them to cultivate enough for the coming year. They take the opportunity to drink milk or consume milk-based recipes to give a little to the Goddess Brigid.

You can celebrate this Sabbath alone and take the opportunity to do personal reflection and life work to ensure that you are moving in the direction you want.

During Imbolc, it is therefore the pagan goddess Brigid (Brighid, Bride, Brigit) who is celebrated. Goddess who was incorporated into the Christian church as St Bridget.

Goddess of healing poetry, the forge, but also fire, sun and hearth, she brings fertility to the earth and its inhabitants, and, accompanying mother and child, is linked to midwives and newborns.

It is the triple goddess. However, during Imbolc, she shows up in her maiden aspect.

She was considered one of the most powerful Celtic gods being the daughter of Dagda, the oldest god in the Celtic pantheon Tuatha du Danann.

It is also associated with the first keening, a traditional complaint for the dead practiced at funerals by Irish and Scottish women.

Among Christians, this celebration is known as Candlemas/Chandeleur in French (yes), and is a symbol of purification and rebirth occurring 40 days after the winter solstice (Christmas). The term Candlemas comes from "feast of candles", translated from the Latin festa candelarum. It is then a question of celebrating the fact that "Jesus is light" and the purity of the Virgin Mary.

This celebration commemorates the presentation of Jesus at the Temple, according to the Jewish tradition that each male firstborn child of the family is brought to the Temple 40 days after his birth in order to be consecrated to the Lord. It was once these 40 days had passed that the mothers could again go to the Temple in order to perform an animal sacrifice there and thus recover their purity.

Candlemas then gives rise to a blessing of candles, then to a candlelit procession to the church where a solemn mass takes place, with the idea of reminding the faithful of the rise of Joseph and Mary carrying Jesus to the Temple.

Among the Romans, two celebrations were similar to that of Imbolc: Februalia - which welcomed spring - and Lupercalia - in mid-February or during the last full moon of the Roman year, symbolizing purification, cleansing, but also celebrating the power of the sexual energies, thus celebrating fertility and motherhood.

Among some Native Americans in North America, celebrations at this time of year also took place. Winter being a time of transition, first names were then given to newborn children. More than a period of rest, it is the best time for initiations, marriages and renewals of alliances.

In East Asia, it is around this time that the Lunar New Year is celebrated. Spring is celebrated there as the beginning of the year. We parade noisily dancing with a dragon or a lion, with the idea of frightening and chasing away evil spirits.

The dragon represents good fortune and spins the wheel of the year.

It is also an opportunity to make offerings to the ancestors and the gods while asking them for prosperity for the coming year.

In India, the Holi, spring festival, marks the end of winter, the beginning of spring and the new year which begins. It's a party during which everyone mixes regardless of their age, caste and gender, to celebrate a unifying and egalitarian idea.

In Japan, the traditional Setsubun festival, often referred to as the "bean throwing festival", marks the beginning of spring and the most important seasonal change of the year.

It is therefore customary to purify and exorcise houses in order to banish evil spirits. Beans are symbolically thrown to chase away these demons and give way to better energies for the new year.

Celebrations and rituals:

Modern pagan celebrations of Imbolc have activities aimed at celebrating the arrival of spring and energetically engaging with the cycle of the year.

Fire and light are an important part of the celebration.

Thus, in "Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner", Cunningham tells us that it is "traditional to light a candle in every room of the house or to turn on every lamp in the house after the sun has set to" honor the rebirth of the sun".

To celebrate Imbolc, you can:

- Light a candle - the flame being the traditional symbol of Imbolc, the fire festival.

- Do the spring cleaning at home - the house being at the heart of this celebration.

- Plan your plantings for the coming year - the site "hey-kate" thus advises us to plant tomatoes or sweet peas indoors in February.

- Plant flowers - which will also be appreciated by the climate, favor honey plants to help bees and butterflies.

- Take a walk near a river or a watercourse - just like taking a good bath (watch out for the water, friends!).

- Teach your children, if you wish, the tradition behind this celebration.

- Eat something creamy or made with cheese - the word coming from "sheep's milk", it makes one more excuse to enjoy cheese. Curry as a celebration of earth warming with spices is also an option.

- Decorate your altar, if you have one, with colors and symbols related to Imbolc or the Goddess Brigid.

- Make a Brigid cross the day before Imbolc - put outside to protect your home.

- Make a Brigid doll - to bring luck and fertility to your home.

You can also do rituals (obviously everything is in the symbolism) alone or with others.

You can, once night has fallen, light a candle, a symbol of light and warmth that return as well as a symbol of Imbolc and the Goddess Brigid.

Take the opportunity to reflect on the meaning of darkness, being the beginning and end, death and rebirth of the cycle. Meditate as much as you want.

Then thank the darkness while inviting the light back.

You can then make a wish before blowing out your candle.

As you will surely have understood, Imbolc is a celebration to celebrate the return of the sun and the warmth, while deciding what you want and planning how to move forward once the winter is over.


Written by and for SparkStudio, 2023.


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