While Imbolc is the first Sabbat of the Calendar year it also is the last Holiday during the Dark Time, which makes it the last Festival in the Astrological Year; as most Witches celebrate Samhain as New Year it can also be construed as the Third Sabbat.
As I stated in the first blog post last week, the Wheel of the Year can be started at just about any Sabbat, since it continues to march on in an eternal cycle.
In the Celtic Tradition this day is dedicated to Brigid, Goddess of Fire the Forge, Inspiration, Herbal Healing, Poetry and Midwifery.
Imbolc is a Festival of Light and Fertility, and the word literally means “In the Womb”. It is the very beginning of Winter yielding forth to Spring!
Here we celebrate the Goddess being very much pregnant with her children, who move lower in her womb as she readies herself to give birth to them again.
Imbolc is also known as Candlemas, Oimele, Brigantia, Lady Day, Ground Hog’s Day, or Candlearia.
In one tradition, where Groundhog’s Day is concerned, the ancient Goddess Cailleoch would awake from her slumber this day. If the weather was nice she would go out for more firewood to keep her home warm and we would have a longer winter; if the weather was poor she would go back to sleep and winter would end sooner!
It is on this Sabbat that Brigid’s snake emerges from the womb of the Earth to test the weather, another Groundhog’s Day legend.
Imbolc was traditionally started at Sundown on February 1st and continued through the day on February 2nd. It is the First stirrings of Seeds and Spring.
Around now is when the first Crocus Flowers begin to bloom, making them a traditional flower for the Sabbat Rituals!
It would not be uncommon for the Presiding Priest or Priestess to wear a crown endowed with lit candles.
Any of the Young Gods or Hero Gods is appropriate to invite at Imbolc.
As the God was reborn at Yule he is just reaching Puberty in his Eternal Cycle, so we work with him at Imbolc in this aspect.
Aenghus Og(Celtic), Eros(Greek), Faunus(Roman), and Pan(Greek) are commonly represented Imbolc Deities.
This Sabbat is a Festival to the Maiden, so any Maiden Goddess can be celebrated here.
Imbolc is especially sacred to Brigid.
Aradia(Italian), Aphrodite(Greek), Venus(Roman), Bast(Egyptian), Ceres(Roman), Cerridwen(Celtic), Gaia(Greek), Hestia(Greek), and Vesta(Roman) are commonly Celebrated Maiden Goddess for Imbolc.
Imbolc means “in the womb” or “belly of the mother”
Other names for this Sabbat include Oimelc which means “ewe’s milk” as in the secular world this is about where Lamb’s are born.
Fashioned from Wheat Stalks these crosses are braided and given as gifts to be hung in the home.
These equal-armed crosses are a sacred symbol to Brigid and making one to be hung in the home would ensure her blessing for Protection and Prosperity in the year ahead!
The Hearth Fire & Candles
Home fires would be extinguished the eve before and re-lit in the morning, with candles burning throughout the night.
This symbolized the rebirth of the Sun, and the introduction of the first hints of Warmth and Spring to the World.
It is from this tradition that Hestia, Goddess of the Hearth, is most welcomed into Imbolc. This is also where we get the name Candlemas from.
The lighting of the Candles represent the Puberty of the Sun God, who was reborn at Yule, and the return of the Goddess to her Maiden aspect.
The Acorn Wand
Wands would be crafted here, of any kind of wood available, and be tipped with an acorn.
These would be created after the traditional Feast, and represent the full potential of the coming Spring.
Afterwards they would be placed in the fire to be burned. When the fire is extinguished you would check the ashes for signs left behind by the wand, examining them for signs of good luck.
These wands are called “Priapic Wands”
Imbolc is a Sabbat focused on Growth, Purity and Renewal.
This Festival celebrates the Sacred Reunion of the Goddess and God, where Fertility is dispensed to the World, and the Old is cleared away to make room for the new.
Lighting a candle in each room, specifically in the windows, is a tradition of Imbolc.
People would commonly go searching through the snow, looking for signs of Spring and blessings from Brigid.