Imbolc or Imbolg, is a Gaelic festival marking the beginning of spring. Most commonly it is held between January 31st and February 2nd, or halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. It is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals, along with Beltane, Lughnasadh and Samhain. This holiday is also known as Candlemas, or Brighid’s (pronounced BREED) Day. It commemorates the changing of the Goddess from the Crone to the Maiden and celebrates the first signs of Spring.
Traditionally, the holiday was a festival of the hearth and home, and a celebration of the lengthening days and the early signs of spring. Celebrations often involved hearthfires, special foods (butter, milk, and bannocks, for example), divination or watching for omens, candles or a bonfire if the weather permitted. Fire and purification were an important part of the festival. The lighting of candles and fires represented the return of warmth and the increasing power of the Sun over the coming months. It is traditional upon Imbolc, at sunset or just after ritual, to light every lamp in the house – if only for a few moments. Or, light candles in each room in honor of the Sun’s rebirth.
If snow lies on the ground outside, walk in it for a moment, recalling the warmth of summer. With your projective hand, trace an image of the Sun on the snow.
Foods appropriate to eat on this day include those from the dairy, since Imbolc marks the festival of calving. Sour cream dishes are fine. Spicy and full-bodied foods in honor of the Sun are equally attuned. Curries and all dishes made with peppers, onions, leeks, shallots, garlic or chives are appropriate. Spiced wines and dishes containing raisins – all foods symbolic of the Sun – are also traditional.
Deities of Imbolc:
All Virgin/Maiden Goddesses, Brighid, Aradia, Athena, Inanna, Gaia, and Februa, and Gods of Love and Fertility, Aengus Og, Eros, and Februus.
Symbolism of Imbolc:
Purity Growth and Renewal, The Re-Union of the Goddess and the God, Fertility, and dispensing of the old and making way for the new.
Symbols of Imbolc:
Brideo’gas, Besoms, White Flowers, Candle Wheels, Brighid’s Crosses, Priapic Wands (acorn-tipped) – shown right, and Ploughs.
Herbs of Imbolc:
Angelica, Basil, Bay Laurel, Blackberry, Celandine, Coltsfoot, Heather, Iris, Myrrh, Tansy, Violets and all white or yellow flowers.
Trees of Imbolc: Luis, or the Rowan, is the tree usually assigned to this time of year in the Celtic (Ogham) Tree Alphabet. It has long associations with the Maiden aspect of the Triple Goddess. It is also known as the ‘Quickening Tree’ and is associated with serpents. Traditionally it protects and wards of evil. A sprig of Rowan can be put near the door of your home (we have a whole tree), or a sprig worn for protection. Rowan berries have a tiny five-pointed star on the bottom reminiscent of the pentagram.
Come celebrate the season at Rifka’s Curiosity Shop at 120 Sullivan Street in Wurtsboro, NY during the the 2015 Wurtsboro Winterfest! Jessica from Salem’s Moon will be demonstrating how to carve and decorate our Wyscan Candles. It’s also a great time to purchase your Salem’s Moon Spell Kits while they are still on sale at Rifka’s – Buy Any 3 Spell Kits and Receive an Oil or Incense of Your Choice – FREE! Rifka is also participating in the Winterfest 2015 Treasure Hunt – so stop by and say hello.