By Isabella @TheWandCarver
Imbolc is a sabbat which is celebrated roundly by most Wiccan folk. As it happens, all the sabbats seem to be celebrated more so by those who identify as Wiccan than any other neo-Pagan group. Witches by and large do not necessarily celebrate sabbats unless they do identify as Wiccan. All that said, the most predominant group of Imbolc celebrants are Irish, past and present. It is not hard to see why… the Goddess any of us identify as being the go-to goddess in an Imbolc celebration is Brigid. And Brigid as many of you may know was the “hook” for the early Catholic church to bring the Celtic/Gaelic Pagans into the church by naming their beloved Goddess as a saint. Whilst the Christians now celebrate Candlemas with St Brigid, we neo-Pagans and Wiccans celebrate Imbolc with our Goddess Brigid. Either way, she is the Goddess of light and beginning 1 February the light shines for the so-called beginning of Spring. I think of it more as a “pre-beginning of Spring”. You might get the oddly determined Bluebell peeking its head through the snow in late February, but Spring proper is still a good bit off.
Still, this is the time of year when the days become noticeably longer… more sunlight, that is! It is not a huge difference at the first, but we start noticing we have a few minutes less darkness now. And that is the promise of ever lengthening days until warmer weather will be back. I am sure many of you like me, are not completely opposed to a moderately warm day as, if you have had to go without heating this winter, as I always do, it can be quite uncomfortable at times. A word of advice – fleece lined leggings!! Oh, and fleece lined tights as well!
The Gaelic Irish would often leave a bed for Brigid and food and drink so as to receive her blessings should she visit them. And most of you are familiar with the straw Brigid’s Cross. The girls of the town would weave these, and they would hang from doors or above them or in windows for Brigid to see and bless the home it hanged from. Brigid was many times invoked to bless a family’s livestock as well therefore it would never be odd to see a Brigid’s Cross hanging somewhere on a barn.
Imbolc also marked the beginning of the planting/sowing season. Blackthorn begins flowering to produce sloes. It is also the onset of lambing season. To mark the occasion of Imbolc, and what it represented to everyone, fire rituals and festivals and the lighting of candles were and still are today, a custom which has endured the ages. This represented the return of warmth and the increasing power of the Sun over the coming months.
Spring cleaning is a large part of the Imbolc process and we here at the Covenstead are no different, especially with a new baby on the way. Yes, my eldest daughter, Rhiannon, is expecting her first child, a boy, in April! So, it has been a flurry of scrubbing and washing and ridding the house of the Winter cobbies and cat fur tumbleweeds [as we laughingly call them].
Traditional Imbolc eve repast would often include colcannon, dumplings, barmbrack, and in some homes, sowans – which I could never stomach. I think my Scottish ancestry left me short-changed in the ability to like many things they are known for. Not a haggis fan, either. Still, I loved the colcannon which is mashed potatoes with either cabbage or kale mixed in and who doesn’t enjoy a lovely ‘brack?
However you choose to celebrate Imbolc tonight and tomorrow, please do so responsibly and not with others outside your household. Please wear your masks, socially distance, and wash your hands. And obviously be careful with bonfires and candles. I wish everyone the blessings of Brigid and her protection of you and yours for good health and abundance. Many thanks for reading and warmest blessings to all whom this way wander x