Imbolc

Helpful Information

Date: February 1st and/or 2nd

Other Names: Oimelc, Candlemas, St. Brigid's Day, St. Brigit's Day

Pronunciations: IM-blk

As with all Old Tradition observances, this holiday is usually celebrated beginning at sundown on February 1 and continuing through the day of February 2. Imbolc means in the belly of the Mother because that is where seeds are beginning to stir as it is Spring.

Another name for this holiday is Oimelc, meaning milk of ewes since it is also the traditional lambing season in the old world. 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. It marks the center point of the dark half of the year.

This holiday is especially sacred to the Celtic Fire Goddess, Brigit, patron of smithcraft, healing, midwifery, and poetry. It is the festival of the Maiden, for from this day to March 21st, it is her season to prepare for growth and renewal. The Maiden is honored, as the Bride, on this Sabbat. 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.

A Covens High Priestess may wear a crown of lights (candles) to symbolize the return of the Goddess to her Maiden aspect, just as the Sun God has reached puberty. Brighid's snake emerges from the womb of the Earth Mother to test the weather, (the origin of Ground Hog Day), and in many places the first Crocus flowers began to spring forth from the frozen earth.

The Christian religion adopted a number of these themes, as follows: February 1 became St. Brigit's Day, and February 2 became Candlemas, the day to make and bless candles for the liturgical year. The 'Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary' adapts the Maiden Goddess theme. The alternative date of February 14 Old Candlemas, Christianized as Valentine's Day is employed by some Covens.

Symbolism: Purity, Growth and Re-Newal, The Re-Union of the Goddess and the God, Fertility, and dispensing of the old and making way for the new

Symbols: Brideo'gas, Besoms, White Flowers, Candle Wheels, Brighid's Crosses, Priapic Wands (acorn-tipped), and Ploughs

Colors: White, Pink, Red, Yellow, Light Green, Brown

Herbs: Angelica, Basil, Bay Laurel, Blackberry, Celandine, Coltsfoot, Heather, Iris, Myrrh, Tansy, Violets, and all white or yellow flowers

Traditional Foods: Pumpkin seeds, Sunflower seeds, Poppyseed Cakes, muffins, scones, and breads, all dairy products, Peppers, Onions, Garlic, Raisins, Spiced Wines and Herbal Teas

Incense: Basil, Bay, Wisteria, Cinnamon, Violet, Vanilla, Myrrh

Stones: Amethyst, Bloodstone, Garnet, Ruby, Onyx, Turquoise

Ritual

Tools & Instruments

  • White Altar Cloth
  • Light Green Taper Goddess Candle
  • Light Yellow Taper God Candle
  • 13 White 4" Stick Candles
  • Brideo'ga
  • Small Woven Basket with White Flowers
  • Pentacle Candle Wheel
  • Handful of Acorns
  • Cauldron
  • Snow/Crushed Ice
  • Small White Pillar Candle
  • Potpourri Holder
  • Tea Lite
  • Basil, Bay, Heather Flowers, Cinnamon and Vanilla Potpourri Blend
  • Long Wooden Stick Matches

Preparation:

Sweep area, moving in deosil direction. Outline your circle with white cord Angelica leaves. Place Pentacle Candle Wheel in the center of altar. Place the lt. green taper Goddess candle to the top left of altar and the lt. yellow taper God candle to the top right of altar. Put the white flowers in the basket as bedding for the Bride's Bed, then place the Brideo'ga atop the flowers. Place the basket in front of the Goddess candle, to the left of the Pentacle Candle Wheel. Place the acorns in front of the God candle, to the right of the Pentacle Wheel. Place the tea lite in the bottom of potpourri holder, and put holder at front center of the alter. Place white pillar candle in the middle of the cauldron, fill cauldron about 1"-2" with snow or crushed ice, and position on floor in front of altar. Put the container with potpourri where it can be reached easily. Place the rest of your tools and props according to personal preference. Bathe or shower for purification. Ground and center. When ready, put on some soothing music associated with this Sabbat and your ritual.

Cast circle by holding out your right hand and tracing over the cord or leaves in a clockwise direction. As you trace over the outline envision flames of pure white rising up along the perimeter. When the beginning and the end join the circle is complete. Step up to the cauldron and light the white pillar candle, saying:

"Amidst the darkness the Lady is stirring,
Gently awakening from frozen dreams,
All the world has awaited this moment The return of the Maiden,
And Her promise of oncoming Spring."

Call Quarters. As this is a time to honor Mother Earth as she wakes from her winter's recovery of giving rebirth to the Sun King at Yule, start with North, the element Earth. Pick up the container of potpourri, step up to the altar and pour some into the holder, saying:

"Powers of Earth, the Maiden awakens!
Come join the circle and share in the light."

Put the container back where it was. Light the white candle at the North point of the Pentacle Candle Wheel. Continue, by waving your hand over the potpourri as if to create a breeze on which to carry the scent, saying:

"Powers of Air, the Maiden awakens!
Come join the circle and share in the light."

Light the white candle at the East point of the Pentacle Candle Wheel. Light the tea candle in the bottom of the potpourri holder, saying:

"Powers of Fire, the Maiden awakens!
Come join the circle and share in the light."

Light the white candle at the South point of the Pentacle Candle Wheel. Pour some water into the holder with the potpourri, saying:

"Powers of Water, the Maiden awakens!
Come join the circle and share in the light."

Light the white candle at the West point of the Pentacle Candle Wheel. Remove the white candle from the top point of the Pentacle. Since Akasha is the omnipresent, it need not be invoked. Light the candle and invoke the Goddess and the God by lighting the lt. green Goddess candle and the lt. yellow God candle with the white candle. Place the white candle back in the top point of the Pentacle Candle Wheel, saying:

"Be with me now, oh Ancients, eternal,
Hear now my prayers, hopes and dreams.
The Goddess has wakened, once more as the Maiden
By loving caresses from the strengthened Sun King."

Light the inner cross points of the Pentacle Candle Wheel, starting with the cross point to the right of the North point. Light all 5 cross points in succession, saying:

"The Earth now grows warmer, as the Wheel again turns
And as each passing day adds strength, To the Sun King's rays
The Maiden, of his gift of life, now silently does yearn."

Take a couple of the acorns from in front of the God candle and place them in the Bride's Bed with the Brideo'ga. Light the three aspects of the Goddess candles. All aspects are white because She is the Triple Goddess appearing as the Maiden, pure, and renewed. Step back from the altar and contemplate the light that is brought about by the re-union of the God and the Goddess saying:

"Behold the God and Goddess, Lord of the Forest and his Bride,
Once again the Earth is blessedw ith life anew inside.
Seeds shall soon begin to sprout and creatures shall young bear
For this is the Promise, the Cycle of Life that is born of the love They share."

Now is the time for meditation and any spellworkings. Spellworkings associated with Imbolc include those for fertility, defining and focusing on goals for the future, organization, health, and protection. Next, celebrate with Cakes and Ale (Poppyseed Cakes* and Spiced Tea*) Ceremony, saving some for the wee Folkes, outside. Thank the God and Goddess for Their presence snuff their candles. Thank and release the Quarters, saying:

"Though you leave this circle, tonight,
Water, Fire, Air, and Earth
Your symbols shall linger on a while
Blessing my home and hearth.
The herbs that scent this room tonight,
Were chosen with loving care,
To bless me, my family and my friends,
And my sisters and brothers everywhere."

Snuff each of the white candles at the directional points of the Pentacle Candle Wheel, starting with the candle at the top point first, then the West point and working in a widdershins direction. Snuff the inner cross point candles also in a widdershins direction. Finally snuff the three aspects of the Goddess candles. Step back from the altar and face the cauldron with the white pillar candle still burning brightly saying:

"I honor Thee, Maiden, most blessed Bride
As your candle burns through this night
And thank you for the renewed life you offer us all
As you emerge from the dark to the light."

Release the circle. Clean up, place the cauldron from the floor onto the middle of the alter. Let the candle burn out by itself. Place the potpourri in a spot where its scent and blessings fill the house. You are done.

Adapted by: Akasha Ap Emrys for all of her friends and those of like mind.

Child Activities

Brideo'gas

Materials: 1-peice Wooden Clothespin, Red, Yellow, or Brown Yarn, 1 White Pipe Cleaner, Several Scraps of White Material, Black and Red Markers, Scissors, Glue, Gold Glitter.

Children will enjoy making these little Bride images that can be used later as an alter decoration. Take a scrap of white material, (silk, satin, cotton, etc.), and cut out a 6" circle. In the center of the circle cut a hole large enough to poke the "head" of the clothespin through. Fold the circle in half and cut along the fold from both perimeters to the center hole, leaving approx. 1/8 inch between each slit and center hole. Dab "neck" of clothespin with a very small amount of glue, and push clothespin "head" up through the center hole in the material. Cut appropriate length of pipe cleaner to make arms and slide up through the slit in the clothespin until it is pushed up to the end of the slits on both sides of the material. Gather the material tight around the clothespin just under the arms, and tie off with a small piece of string or yarn. Glue a couple of short pieces of yarn to the clothespin head and make eyes and mouth with markers. Finish with dabs of glue and gold glitter around the white wedding dress. A bridal veil glued to the yarn hair is optional. Explain to the children how the Goddess is a sacred bride, pure and renewed, waiting to be re-united with her consort the God.

Bride's Bed

Materials: A Box, Colored Construction Paper, White, Yellow, Green, and Red Tissue Paper, White Flowers or Cotton Balls, Glue, Paint Brush, Crayons, Scissors, Glitter.

This is a great little activity for the smaller children in the household, and they two can boast of helping with your alter decor. Paint one side of the box at a time with a bit of glue, not too thick, just enough to adhere green tissue paper. Cover the entire outside of the box with the green tissue paper. Cut a 2" wide strip of colored construction paper the length of the sheet (11"/14"). Let the child draw symbols and pictures that reminds them of Spring, the Goddess, brides, and weddings on the strip. Cut the white and yellow tissue paper into 2" diameter circles. While you are doing this, allow the child to draw pictures and symbols on the box with glue, and sprinkle with glitter. Place finger in the middle of a tissue square and draw up tissue around finger. Give a slight twist to crinkle paper into a flower shape. Remove finger and adhere to box and decorated construction paper strip with a dab of glue. Remember to leave about 1-1/2 inches on each end of strip. Attach these ends to the inside of the box with some glue. Let dry. Fill with white flowers or cotton balls. Tell story to children of how the Maiden is a Bride and that the Earth is her Bride's Bed.

Priapic Wand

Materials: Small Tree Branch, Acorn, Thin Brown String or Thread, Yellow, Green, and Gold 1/4" Ribbon, Small Gold/Silver Jingle Bells.

Children will love the sound of this magical wand as they walk about pointing and shaking it at plants and trees, invoking them to wake up from Winter's sleep to witness the union of the Bride and the Lord of the Forest. Select a small branch about 1/2" to 3/4" in diameter. Cut top end flat. Approx. 1/2" below top score a groove (parents only) with a sharp knife. Take 1' long piece of string/thread and tie in groove. Take another 1' piece of thread and tie in groove on opposite side of branch. Place acorn at top of branch (flat end) and adhere with some glue. Now pull the string up over the cap and wind once around acorn. Repeat with all 3 other pieces of string. Pull strings back down to the groove in the branch and tie off. This will hold the acorn in place. Decorate the branch by wrapping it with the ribbons, leaving enough length at top for streamers. Tie gold/silver jingle bells to the ends of the ribbons. For smaller children, thread the bells onto the ribbon while wrapping the branch. Tell the children about how the acorn-wand is a symbol of the Lord of the Forest, and how this magical wand helps the sleeping plants and animals wake up and prepare for Spring.

Brighid's Crosses

Materials: Dried Wheat Stalks, Brown Thread.

These crosses were exchanged as symbols of protection. They are easy to make and not at all time consuming. Take eight stalks with sheaves still attached. Place four stalks on flat surface with two sheaves at the top and two sheaves at the bottom. Measure approx. 6" of stalk between the sets of sheaves and cut off excess. Tie all four stalks together with the brown thread, first under the top sheaves, then above the bottom sheaves. Cut off excess thread. Repeat this procedure with the other four stalks, shortening the length between the sheaves to 4". Carefully separate the first set of stalks (two in front and two in back) and slip the second set through approx. 1" from the bottom of the top sheaves. Tie some thread in a knot just under the arms of the cross. Take the excess ends and diagonally wrap the thread over the opposite corresponding arm and back to the knot. Tie off in back and cut off excess ends. Let the children hand these Brighid's Crosses out to guests.

Bride's Bouquet Sachets

Materials: Imbolic Potpourri, 1 Yard White Netting Material, Yellow and Pink 1/8" width Ribbon, Scissors.

These sachets can be put in the children's clothing drawers or in rooms of the house that you'd like to smell of Imbolc even after the Sabbat is over. Potpourri is made with 1/2 cup dried basil, 1/2 cup dried chopped bay leaves, 1 cup dried Heather flowers, 1 cup dried Violets, 1 cup dried white or pink rose buds. Blend together in non-metal bowl. Cut netting material into 4"x4" squares. Lay out squares on a flat surface. Place 1 heaping tablespoon of potpourri in the middle of each square. Pull up all the corners to the middle of the potpourri and gather the excess material until potpourri is caught in a "bag". Give bag on twist to the right and tie off with yellow or pink ribbon. Use enough ribbon to make a small bow in the front of the sachet. Tell children how these sachets were exchanged as symbols of good luck and fertility.

Pentacle Candle Wheel (for the older kids)

Materials: Molding Clay, Pencil, Ruler, 13- 4" White Stick Candles (1/4" diameter), Paints (optional).

This Pentacle Candle Wheel is the perfect accessory to any Imbolc altar. Use enough clay to roll out flat with a rolling pin and cut out a circle 18" in diameter and 1/2" thick. Roll excess clay into rope, 1/4" in diameter and long enough to boarder the wheel base. Wet the clay rope enough to stick to base. This will contain any wax that drips from the burning candles. Score the image of the pentacle into the wheel base with the pencil, using the ruler to make straight lines. The Pentacle's points should be approx. 1/2" away from the border. Take one of the white candles and press bottom slightly (approx. 1/4" ) into each Pentacle point, each cross point (inner angles of the Pentacle) and three depressions in a pyramid shape in the top Pentacle triangle ray. Now allow the clay to dry and harden. The Pentacle Candle Wheel can be painted if desired after dried. Place candles in each of the depressions and place in the center of the Imbolc altar. Remember that the Candle Wheel is the symbol of the light that ensues from the union of the Bride and her consort, the Lord of the Forest.

Poems

Maiden's Chant

Awake sleeping Maiden,
Thy consort is close,
He comes through the woods for thee.
I light your candles
and pierce the darkness
Your re-union for all to see.
-- Akasha

Imbolc Prayer

We've made it to the mid-point
of the Winter dark and bleak.
From this day on the Sun
will climb and thaw the
ground and creeks.
Bless us now, oh Maiden fair,
and keep us in your loving care.
Showing signs of new life everywhere
as you awaken from your sleep.
-- Akasha

Recipes

Maiden Wakes Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 Carrots, grated
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 green apple, peeled, cored, grated
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup almonds, sliced
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. vanilla

Soak raisins in hot water, in a covered bowl, for 30 minutes. Drain thoroughly. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large non-metal bowl, mix flour, soda, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in carrots, raisins, apple, and almonds. In a separate bowl, beat eggs, oil, and vanilla until well blended. Stir egg mixture in to the flour mixture until just wet. Grease muffin pan with a little butter or use cupcake/muffin cups. Divide the batter into the cups and bake for 20-22 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan. Makes 8 servings.

Returning Sun Spice Bread

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/8 cup poppyseeds
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 cup raisins, plain or golden
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 cup butter/margarine
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 3/4 cup Karo golden corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 4 tbsp. milk
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp. mixed spices: equal parts of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice

Sift the flour, soda, and baking powder into a non-metal bowl. Add the mixed spice and ginger. Next add the brown sugar and raisins. Mix. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. In a small sauce pan, melt the butter and the syrup over a low heat, then pour liquid into the well in the middle of the flour mixture. Add the beaten egg and the milk, and mix very well. Pour into a well greased 2-lb loaf pan and bake in a preheated oven at 325 degrees for 40-50 minutes. This bread can be made the night before as it improves with age. Makes 8-10 servings.

Bride's Brunch

Ingredients:

  • 2 9-inch pie shells
  • 3 tbsp. green onions/chives, finely chopped
  • 1/2 pound Canadian style bacon/thin sliced ham
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 8 eggs
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tbsp. milk

Line a quiche dish with 1 pie shell. Arrange 1/2 of bacon or ham in bottom of shell. Break 7 eggs into the dish. Pierce the egg yolks with a fork, but do not mix the egg yolks with the egg whites. Add the green onions/chives, salt, and pepper. Arrange the remaining bacon or ham on top. Cover with remaining pie shell. Mix the remaining egg with the milk and lightly brush the top crust with the mixture. Bake at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Serve hot or cold. Makes 6 servings.

Ewe-L Love This Potato Soup

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. butter/margarine
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 medium onions, peeled
  • Salt & pepper (to taste)
  • 3 large potatoes, peeled
  • 1 sprig thyme, bay leaf, and bunch parsley
  • 2 pints milk
  • Chopped chives to garnish

Melt butter in a large pan and add thinly sliced potatoes and onions. Toss well in the butter. Put a lid on the pan and allow the vegetables to simmer over a low heat for about 10 minutes. Don't let the vegetables turn brown. Add the milk and all other ingredients, except for the chives, and simmer for about 30 minutes. Remove thyme, bay leaf, and parsley. Pour soup into food processor or blender (on chop) for about 1 minute. Pour into soup bowls and garnish with chives. Makes 6 servings.

Winter's Light Creamed Cabbage

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. pre-cooked ham, 1" cubed or shredded
  • 1 heaping tsp. flour
  • 1 firm white cabbage
  • 1/2 tsp. each salt & pepper
  • 1 cup cream
  • grated nutmeg

Cut cabbage in half, then into four (small head) or six (large head) pieces. Plunge into a pot of boiling water and cook for 5 minutes. Drain and run under cold tap water. Drain again. Slice across the grain in 1/4 inch strips. Melt a little butter/margarine in a sauce pan and add shredded cabbage. Toss well, and keep stirring all the time. Add salt, pepper, and a dash of grated nutmeg. Next add the heaping teaspoon of flour, mix well. Add cream, still stirring, and let it come to a boil. Add the cubed or shredded ham, and lower the heat. Cover the sauce pan and let the mixture simmer for about 30 minutes. Serve hot. Makes 6-8 servings.

Imbolc Feast Lamb Stew

Ingredients:

  • 2 - 1/2 lb. lamb neck chops
  • 1 tbsp. lamb fat
  • 4 medium onions
  • 1 tbsp. butter/margarine
  • 4 medium carrots
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 4 medium potatoes
  • 1 tbsp. parsley, chopped
  • 1 tsp. each salt & pepper
  • 1 tbsp. chives, chopped

Don't let the butcher trim the fat off of the lamb chops. Shred some of the excess fat and cook it down in a large pot or Dutch-oven. Peel the onions, carrots, and potatoes. Cut the onions and carrots into quarters, and put all the vegetables aside. Cut the meat into8 pieces, and trim away the rest of the excess fat. The bones need not be removed. Place the meat in the hot fat and brown. Repeat with the onions and carrots. Add water, salt, and pepper carefully. Put whole potatoes on top. Cover pot and simmer gently until meat is cooked, approx. 2 hours. Remove from heat. Pour off the cooking liquid into a separate sauce pan, allow to cool for a few minutes, skim off grease, and reheat. Add butter, chives, and parsley to the reheated liquid in the sauce pan. Pour heated liquid back over the stew. Serve hot. Makes 4-6 servings.

Blessed Bride's Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup walnut meats, chopped
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp. baking powder

Mix all the ingredients together until they are wet. Do not over mix. Pour into a greased and floured 9"x9"x2" square baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes, or until knife inserted in middle of cake comes out clean. Allow to cool before serving.

Carefree Corn-n-Cabbage Combo

In a 1 qt glass casserole dish, combine 1- 10oz package frozen whole kernel corn, 2 cups chopped cabbage, 2 tbs. chopped onion, and 2 tbs. water. Cover and microwave on high for 3 minutes. Stir. Cover and microwave for 3 minutes more. Drain in a collander. In the same casserole dish combine 1 cup cream-style cottage cheese, 2 tbs. grated Parmesan cheese, 1/4 tsp. salt and a dash of pepper. Stir in drained vegetables. Microwave, uncovered, for 3 minutes. Stir and microwave, uncovered for 3 minutes more. Stir and serve heated.
Makes 6 servings.

Imbolc Ritual Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp. poppyseeds
  • 1 tbsp. grated lemon peel
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • powdered sugar

This is all done in one pan, so clean up is a breeze! Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix flour, sugar, poppyseeds, baking soda, and salt with a fork in an ungreased 9"x9"x2" baking pan. Stir in the remaining ingredients, except the powdered sugar. Bake 35-40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, and the top is golden brown. Remove from oven and cool. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Makes 8 servings.