Many Pagans are solitary practitioners, either by choice or by necessity. But a lot of Pagan activities for Imbolc are designed for large groups. In 2014 and 2015 I wrote a series of rituals for those working alone on the Wheel of the Year. Every year they’re near the top of the list of most popular posts – here’s the Imbolc ritual.
But maybe you don’t want to do a ritual. Or perhaps you’re part of a group that holds its rituals on the Saturday nearest the holiday and you don’t want to do a second ritual. Here are eight things you can do to celebrate Imbolc as a solitary Pagan.
1. Make offerings to Brighid
Brighid, Bridget, Brigid, Brid… Wikipedia lists 41 variations in spelling of the name of the Irish Goddess of Smithcraft, Poetry, and Healing. And that’s before you get into all the different pronunciations. I’ve forgotten when and why I settled on “Brighid” but I did, and She hasn’t told me differently. If you call Her by a different variant, that’s fine with me.
Regardless of how you spell or pronounce Her name, this is Her day. February 1 is St. Brigid’s Day in the Catholic Church, and Her association with Imbolc predates Christianity. I pray to Brighid every night, but I make special offerings to Her on Imbolc.
Milk and milk products are traditional, as is grain and bread, and beer and whiskey. If you’re running tight on money, or if you just want to give something personal, make an offering of poetry or song.
2. Make a Brighid’s Cross
Another way to honor a Goddess of Crafting is to make something, especially a symbol long associated with Her. The Brighid’s Cross is usually associated with the Christian saint, but it may have Pagan origins.
There are numerous websites that have instructions on how to make them – here’s one.
After you make it, hang it in your house for protection and as a reminder of your devotion to Brighid.
3. Read a book on the Goddess Brighid
Not that familiar with Brighid? Know the name but not the person behind it? Read a book! There are several books on the Goddess and many on the Saint (who may or may not be the same person) – there are two I can personally recommend.
Pagan Portals – Brigid by Morgan Daimler is a quick and easy introduction. Its subtitle is “Meeting The Celtic Goddess Of Poetry, Forge, And Healing Well.” It discusses Her names, Her stories, Her symbols, and how She’s honored in our times.
It’s a collection of stories and legends about Brigid from Ireland and other places where the Goddess and the saint have been known. And it’s the experiences the author has had with Her. She mixes in meditations, rituals, and spells.
It’s an easy read, and while it’s not a work of academic history, the history in it is good. If you’re looking for an introduction to Brigid, or to Celtic-inspired Paganism, give it a try.
4. Clean your house
One of the themes of Imbolc is purification. If the cold and snow has kept you and your family shuttered up in a small hut since before the Winter Solstice, your house is probably getting rather rank. It’s too early to open the windows and air out everything – Imbolc is the Promise of Spring, not Spring itself – but you can do some cleaning… particularly if you live in a modern house that doesn’t rely on burning wood or coal or peat for warmth.
Start at the top and move to the bottom or start at the back and move to the front. If you’re not up to cleaning the whole house, pick one room and clean it the best you can. When you’re done, light a candle and celebrate your clean house!
5. Do weather divination
February 1 is Imbolc – February 2 is Groundhog Day. If Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow we’ll have six more weeks of Winter. But if it’s overcast and there is no shadow, Spring is just around the corner.
As with all divination, the closer you are the more the reading is going to apply to you. I’m not sure how relevant animal divination in Western Pennsylvania is going to be to me here in Texas, much less to people in Colorado, California, or Ireland. So do your own.
You can break out your runes or Tarot cards and see what that brings. Or you can learn some of the traditional weather signs of your region, then go see what the trees or the birds have to tell you.
6. Bless your candles
Whether the Christian holy day of Candlemas is a direct descendent of Imbolc or if it just happens to occur at the same time is uncertain. Either way, on February 2 Christians (of the liturgical sort, anyway – you won’t find Evangelicals celebrating Candlemas) bring the candles that will be used in the coming year to church to be blessed.
There’s nothing inherently Christian about blessing candles. If this wasn’t an ancient Imbolc custom, it is now. Gather your candles (this is a good time to resupply if you’re getting low), cleanse and bless them with incense, prayers, and your own energy. Then wrap them up until you’re ready to use them. I’d save anointing them for specific workings.
7. Start a garden (indoors)
Imbolc is the first of three Spring festivals on the Wheel of the Year, and nothing says “Spring!” like planting. Unless you live in Florida it’s probably too early to plant anything outdoors, but you can start planting flowers, herbs, and vegetables in pots and planters now. Here’s a link to a gardening site with a convenient table of when to start. Look around the internet and you can probably find something specifically for your region.
Then when the weather improves and the last frost is safely in the past, you can move your plants into your outdoor garden. Or if you don’t have an outdoor garden, keep growing them indoors.
8. Process to a holy well
Another Christian tradition that likely dates back to Pagan times is to process to a holy well on Brighid’s Day. The people of a village (often only the women) would process from a gathering point to a sacred well. The well would be cleaned and decorated (are you sensing a theme here?).
If you live in Ireland (where there are hundreds of holy wells, many of them dedicated to St. Brigid) you can probably find a procession to join, albeit a Christian one. Here in the United States, not so much. We don’t have the long tradition of public wells that exist in much of Europe. But if there is a public well near you, this is a good time to visit it.
Alternatively, you can borrow from Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF) and use a cauldron or other large container as a well. Fill it with water, set it up in your back yard, then make a slow and deliberate procession to it. Make your offerings, then contemplate the deep connections that the Well brings us.
However you celebrate and whoever you do or don’t celebrate with, may your Imbolc be warm and bright.