The wheel of the year turns. By Imbolc, the sunlight is returning! Every day, the sun rises a little earlier, making our days grow longer and giving us more visibility. At this sacred time of the year, the point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, we honor Brigid and the warmth in our homes and hearths.
Please read through the ritual before performing it to ensure you have all the items you’ll need.
The world is resting. It’s still chilly outside, and there’s not a lot of greenery to be seen. Depending on where you live, you may even have a layer of snow or ice on the ground! The seeds from last year’s crops are freezing and cracking in the earth, becoming tempered like metal in a fire. Some seeds need this cold spell, and can’t survive if it doesn’t happen. The cold makes the plants stronger, hardier, and more able to weather storms that come their way. Like the seeds, we are also enduring this cold season as best we can, with the warmth of our homes, loved ones, and the magic of hope.
Imbolc History and Lore
Imbolc is the first of the four Irish fire festivals that mark the cross-quarter holidays. Imbolc means ‘in the belly of the mother,’ as both the earth and livestock are carrying life in their wombs at this time. Even though life hasn’t sprung forth yet, we can be sure that the processes for new life are unfolding from deep within.
Imbolc is associated with Brigid, the Irish goddess of fire, healing, poetry, fertility, and metal smithing, among other things. At her heart, she’s a goddess known to be creative, kind, dynamic, fiery, strong, and steady. She’s so steadfast that dedicated priestesses have kept her flame burning for over 1,000 years!
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Traditionally, on this day, people cleaned their homes and hearths. They made corn or straw dolls for children, and some villages even had a tradition of carrying the dolls around the neighborhood to receive treats and gifts, like Halloween. The Brigid dolls were set by the doorway or the hearth to welcome Brigid into the home. Sometimes, a tiny bed was made for the doll as well. Later that day, the family feasted. All of the candles in the house were lit, and Brigid was asked to bless them. Many of the candles were kept burning all night long.
Due to the combination of fiery nature and cold temperatures, this holiday feels like fire and ice. It’s a time of looking toward the future, keeping close to the hearth, and trusting in the natural processes of life. Historically, it was a time when the cupboards may have been low, but spices like clove, nutmeg, and ginger were usually still there. Times like these remind us to look within for our own warmth and to honor what we have. Imbolc recognizes the light that is returning and the warmth that is yet to come. It celebrates the child-like spirit in all of us, our ability to heal, and the power to spark love in our lives.
Ritual Preparation (Home Cleansing)
A good home cleansing is traditionally performed at Imbolc. If you are so inclined, sweep out your ritual space or your entire home, moving in a counter-clockwise direction. Remove any dust, debris, stagnant energy, and anything else that isn’t in your highest good. If this cleaning feels good and you want to keep going, clean your hearth too (stove and oven).
You’ll also want to cleanse yourself for ritual as well. You could take a salt bath, sage yourself and your ritual space, take a walk outside, do yoga, dance, or meditate. Ideally, you’ll be clean and fresh, and your energy will have moved a little, so you can really let loose and expand into this ritual.
Set an Intention
Setting an intention creates an opportunity for you to open yourself up to its greater presence in your life. Think of your intention for this ritual. What lights your inner fire when the world seems cold and dreary? What thoughts or feelings keep you warm? What do you want to bring more of into your life? You could desire more creativity, healing, intelligence, courage, or self-love. Write your intention here. Use “I am” language rather than “I want.” For example, if your goal is self-love, write, “I am loving myself more every day.”
Think of a symbol that represents your intention. For example, if you want more love in your life, draw a heart. For new beginnings, you might use the rune Berkana. Or, for something more complicated that doesn’t have a symbol, you can create your own sigil.
Mix a little essential oil with a carrier oil in a dish. Choose warm, spicy notes, such as clove, ginger, vanilla, and maybe even a little citrus. With a little bit of oil, draw the sigil somewhere on your body, such as your forearm, your palm, or your chest. Feel your intention come alive with every stroke.
Cast a Circle
This method of casting a circle will use different elemental aspects of the goddess Brigid at the four cardinal directions.
Face the east, the place of the rising sun and moon. Take a deep breath and align from within. Think of the element of air. Feel its light, bubbly nature in your body. Say or think, “Brigid, goddess of bright intelligence and the art of poetry, I call upon your wisdom, your wit, and your poetic mind. Please be with me in my ritual.”
Turn to face the south. Think of the element of fire. Feel its hot, bright nature in your body. “Brigid, goddess of fire, goddess of the hearth and of metal smithing, goddess of passion, creativity, and courage, please be with me.”
Face the west. Think of the element of water, and feel its flowy, wet nature. “Brigid, goddess of healing, of self-love and the wisdom that comes from that love, please be with me.”
Face the north. Think of the element of earth. Feel yourself become more grounded as you connect with the earth energy. “Brigid, goddess of fertility, of health, seeds, groundedness, and strength, please be with me.”
Now, imagine a ring of fire in the circle around you. The flames represent Brigid’s presence, her steady strength, and her unconditional love. “Hail Brigid. The circle is cast!”
If you work with a specific or spirits, deity, invite them to be with you too.
State your intention out loud, then pick up a candle. Feel in your heart that you are worthy of receiving your intention. Accept it. Feel it in your heart. Know it in your mind. Ground it in your body. Let it wash over your spirit. You are worthy of your intention.
With the paring knife or a pin, carve the candle with your symbol or sigil. Keep your intention in your mind at all times. Your carving doesn’t have to be perfect. Just do your best.
Next, pick up the oil. Draw the sigil onto your palm, and inhale the scent again. Feel your energy rise up higher. Rub your palms together, then caress the candle with the oil until it’s completely covered, including the carving of the sigil. Hold the candle close to your heart and feel the manifestation of your desire. Feel it in all of the energetic frequencies: the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual, as if it’s already happening.
Repeat your intention one more time out loud with a strong, steady voice. Light the candle and see your desire made manifest. Let that flame be a mirror to the fire in your heart. Gaze into the soft flame. The light has returned! Cup your hands around the flame and feel the warmth. With a confident and happy voice, say out loud, “I honor the sacred fire within myself.” Repeat this two more times, each time feeling stronger.
If you wish to meditate on the flame, you may do so now. You may also light any other candles you have on your altar and ask for Brigid’s blessing on your candles. “Brigid, please bless these candles. May they burn bright and illuminate all that’s good in my life.” Every time you re-light one of these candles, you’ll respark a little bit of this magic.
Open the Circle
When you are ready, you can open or release the circle. Pick up the candle and hold it in front of you. Feel gratitude deep in your heart. “I thank my guardian spirits, angels, ancestors, and my higher self. I also thank ______ (deity) for all your assistance. I now release you from this circle.”
Like the casting of this circle, we will open it by thanking Brigid for her blessing at each cardinal direction. Face the east and feel the essence of air once again. “Brigid, I thank you for your blessings in my goal of ________ by providing me with wisdom and insight.”
Face the South: “Brigid, I thank you for your creative, strong assistance in bringing more _________ into my life.”
Face the West: “Brigid, I thank you for healing me, so that I may bring more ________ into my heart.”
Face the North: “Brigid, I thank for making me more grounded, so that I experience more ________.”
Return the candle to the altar and feel the warmth and the light. “Brigid, stay if you will, but go if you must. The circle is open.” In your mind’s eye, release the ring of fire by letting it die down. The circle is open.
Let the Imbolc candles burn as long as you can, but extinguish them before going to bed. If you’re a night owl, you could stay up late and meditate on your intention. You could also perform divination about the future using as tarot cards, runes, or a pendulum.
It’s important to ground after a big ritual. Be sure to drink a big glass of water or make some spicy tea, so you can drink in the warmth of the season. If you want to keep in line with the tradition of Imbolc, cook or bake some delicious food, or have someone else cook for you. There’s nothing wrong with feasting at a restaurant. Be sure to give yourself some loving self-care and downtime, such as reading a book or watching a movie. Go for a walk if possible, and breathe in the energy of the day.
Whenever you want to respark the hope and warmth of your sacred flame, draw the sigil on your body and light the candle.
In the next few weeks, signs of life will emerge. The days will grow ever longer as the earth continues to tilt on its axis. We trust that spring will come, as it always does. We know that we will rejoice with the appearance of every crocus, daffodil, and green bud. We know that soon, Ostara will be here and we’ll be celebrating the Return of the Maiden.
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