Imbolc (pronounced "IM-bulk" or "EM-bowlk") literally means "in the belly". This is because it is the time of year it seems as though life begins to stir within the belly of the Earth, and it is also when the flocks begin to give birth. It was also called Oimealg, ("IM-mol'g) by the Druids. It is the festival of the lactating sheep. It is derived from the Gaelic word "oimelc" which means "ewes milk". Herd animals have either given birth to the first offspring of the year or their wombs are swollen and the milk of life is flowing into their teats and udders. It is the time of Blessing of the seeds and consecration of agricultural tools as well. It marks the center point of the dark half of the year. It is the festival of the Maiden, for from this day to March 21st, it is her season to prepare for growth and renewal. Brighid's snake emerges from the womb of the Earth Mother to test the weather, (the origin of Groundhog Day), and in many places, the first Crocus flowers begin to spring forth from the frozen earth. It is a originally one of the Celtic high holy days, and celebrations are primarily centered around the Celtic Goddess Brighid.

The Maiden is honored, as the Bride, on this day. Straw Brideo'gas (corn dollies) are created from oat or wheat straw and placed in baskets with white flower bedding. Young girls then carry the Brideo'gas door to door, and gifts are bestowed upon the image from each household. Afterwards at the traditional feast, the older women make special acorn wands for the dollies to hold, and in the morning the ashes in the hearth are examined to see if the magic wands left marks as a good omen. Brighid's Crosses are fashioned from wheat stalks and exchanged as symbols of protection and prosperity in the coming year.

Home hearth fires are put out and re-lit, and a besom is place by the front door to symbolize sweeping out the old and welcoming the new. Candles are lit and placed in each room of the house to honor the re-birth of the Sun. Many places also make their candles on this day, and burn them throughout the night, as this is also the Festival of Lights.

Focus of Imbolc

This is a time for renewal. Dispense with all that holds you back and start fresh. Purify your soul and everything that surrounds you. This is a time for initiations or rededications.

Community Focus for Imbolc

Since this is also Festival of Lights, many pagans seek to awaken the slumbering Goddess, that she will rise for the coming Spring. Community rituals should work with the growing light to awaken the Goddess and prepare for her return. Some themes that are also common for this sabbat revolve around healing, nurturing, motherhood, revitalization.

Community pathworkings can focus on traveling to the Underworld, to the sleeping Mother Goddess, bringing light to the darkness to help wake Her.

Ravenna's Imbolc 2006

2005 brought a lot of sorrows to my life. I've lost loved ones, and brought new life into the world. Though my family and I have seen lots of changes, we have been so very blessed. I did two rituals this year, one alone, and one with my coven Sisters. The one on my own I planted wishes with flower seeds. It was lovely and very nice.

With my coven we got together and invoked Brighid, and then we made Brighid's Crosses to hang in our homes and give as gifts. I made one for my sister, who also moved into a new house this year. I gave it to her as a housewarming gift, and I think she liked it. This year was much different from last year, where last year was filled with anticipation and joy, this one has filled me with a great deal of introspection and solemnity.

~ Ravenna Angelline

Ravenna's Imbolc 2005

So this year was a little different. This year, I celebrated Imbolc with other pagans that I know and love. I haven't done a group Imbolc ritual since 2000. Wow. That's weird to think of!

In 2000, a group of pagans that I knew of invited me to their home and we did ritual there. I got to be the Maiden for the ritual, but all I really did was just stand there and look cute. I was a prop. Plus, the ritual seemed rather empty and void of meaning. Eh, we were all newbies back then and didn't know any better.

Oh, but this year was beautiful! We called in the God and Goddess, lit Their candles (which were made ever so lovingly by the Priest) and it was worth noting that the candles burned so close together that they fused. It really was beautiful. We also wrote our hopes for the coming year, burned them in the Sacred Fire, and wove Brighid's crosses. I very much enjoyed myself and hope to be able to join these people again for ritual in the future.

I'll leave the rest of the details out, but needless to say, this year's Imbolc ritual was very healing, and purifying for me and the group I was with.


~ Ravenna