Imbolc: The Promise Of Brighter Days
In the northern hemisphere, daylight hours began increasing on Yule. Still, the long hours of darkness enveloped us through January. But now that February is here, Winter’s icy grip finally begins to slip. As we leave the coldest month of the year behind, we embrace the promise of brighter days and warming temperature.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Spring’s full awakening is weeks away—several weeks in the furthest northern realms. Still, as we watch the sun rise higher in the sky each day, and set below the horizon a little later each night, we’re reassured that Spring will, indeed, arrive.
On the wheel of the year, Imbolc is the cross quarter day occurring between Winter Solstice, or Yule, and Spring Equinox, or Ostara. It is most commonly observed on February 1st or 2nd. However, the precise occurrence at the midpoint between Yule and Ostara, is on February 3rd this year, when the sun reaches 15-degrees of Aquarius.
Loosely translated, Imbolc means in the belly, or time of milk. Traditionally, spring was the time when lambs and other livestock gave birth and began nursing their young. In early farming cultures, this was the time of quickening in the belly of Mother Earth. Deep within the life force began to stir.
- Awakening Bear or Snake
- Sheep or Lamb
- Fire or Flame
Groundhog Day, Candlemas And Imbolc
In one way or another, Imbolc, Groundhog Day and Candlemas all share the observance of light. Regardless of which one you practice, February clearly marks the promise of brighter days ahead.
Candlemas, is a Christian observance, and derives its name from Candle Mass. This is the day all candles that will be used in the church are ritually blessed. In a way, the careful preparation and blessing of a good supply of candles, is the promise of continued light throughout the liturgical year.
Then there’s Groundhog Day. Come February 2nd we’re all watching and waiting for that cute little fella to poke his head out of his burrow. On any other day of the year, clear blue skies and sunshine are a welcome sight, but not on groundhog day. When the groundhog sees his shadow, we can look forward to six more weeks of winter.
Do you have trouble remembering whether shadow or no shadow predicts an early spring? This little rhyme of olde may help. If Candlemas day be fair and bright, winter will have another flight.
Or, try this Imbolc version —
Imbolc Foods, Herbs, & Incense
The Goddess of Spring
When it comes to choosing a Goddess of Spring, there are many to pick from among the various pantheons. Some of the more recognizable include Gaia, Persiphone, Flora, Freya, and Eoster, the personification of Ostara, or the Spring Equinox.
At Imbolc, I think of Persephone first, banging around down in the underworld. She’s busy getting out suitcases and packing her things. After spending the dark half of the year with Hades, her trip back to the surface is nearing.
Meanwhile, above ground, Demeter feels the quickening of her daughter stirring. She knows her Persephone will be returning soon and is glowing with anticipation. In her contentment, she calls for the return of Spring. The anticipation we see in both Persephone and Demeter is the very essence of Imbolc for me.
However, the Celtic Goddess Brighid, pronounced Breej, is the deity most closely associated with Imbolc. There are many variations of her name including Bride (prounced Breej-eh) Brigid, Briga, Brigit, and Brigantia. However, both Brigit and Bride (or Bridey), commonly refer to the Catholic Patron Saint of Ireland
Imbolc Is A Time For Dreaming
In February, the worst of winter has passed. We look forward to more sunshine and warmer days, and we begin watching for signs of spring.
If you live in the far north, the harbingers of Spring might be dripping icicles, or water running in the streets as mounds of snow disappear. In milder regions, the return of migrating birds, or the purple buds of spring crocus poking through the last bits of snow are the messengers of Spring’s arrival.
My favorite sign of Spring isn’t found in nature, though. It shows up like clockwork, every year, when flower and seed catalogs begin arriving in the mail. The colorful pages burst with the promise of brighter days and bountiful gardens. I pour over the selections, plotting my flower and vegetable beds, dreaming of a lush summer landscape.
I think of Imbolc as an opportunity to dream and plan for the future, the same way I do for my gardens, by asking where I want to go and how I’ll get there. What dreams do I have for my life? Which seeds can I plant to manifest my desires? How can I best prepare the foundation and tend my dreams as they take shape? What tools and strategies will I use?
Imbolc’s unique energies of awakening and growth make it the perfect time for answering these questions and setting the gears in motion with a little magical boost. Be sure to consider which correspondences of Imbolc and Brighid, or other Goddess you work with, support your efforts. Place them on your altar, light candles to the deity and call your dreams into being. Feel them quickening and coming to life.
Harnessing The Energy of Imbolc
If you like to include activities in your Imbolc observance, there are plenty to choose from. Crafty witches can make a Brighid’s cross or doll. If you have a green thumb plant an indoor herb garden, or start seeds for your outdoor gardens. Try writing your desires on larger seeds, like squash and pumpkin then cast a spell for your dreams to grow and thrive as your plants do.
Draw on the energy of renewal to spring clean your home, or if you live in an area of mild weather, begin tidying your yard. Light an outdoor fire, write your plans on slips of paper and toss them into the flames, sending your desires into the universe with the smoke.
On February 11th, charge moon water beneath the new moon. Add crystals, herbs or a few drops of essential oils. Leave the water out overnight to be enchanted with the energy of fertility, growth and abundance. In the morning, strain your quickening water into a misting bottle.
Use your magical potion to anoint yourself, and to spray your sacred space as as you work on manifesting your desires. Consecrate your tools, both magical and mundane. Spray it on “seed money” to manifest the cash you need for your goals.
Spray your pillow before going to sleep. Ask for dreams showing the way to your desires. Or, add quickening water to a ritual bath to boost your odds of success before a job interview, when applying for a loan, or starting your business.
Use your quickening water on anything and everything you want to awaken and manifest in your life—even your love life.
Imbolc is the promise of brighter days and abundant growth. When you use that energy in your magical workings, your personal harvest will be abundant.
Making Quickening Moon Water
You will need:
- Quart size or larger jar with cover
- Distilled or Spring Water
- Moss Agate
- Sun Stone
Fill jar with water. Add lavender, angelica and jasmine either in dried form or as essential oils. If using oils, add 6 to 12 drops of each to your preference. Add moss agate and Sun stone.
Lavender brings air and fertilization energy. Call on it to pollinate your plans for growth. Angelica aligns with the sun and fire, to ignite your magickal workings. Moss agate is a stone of abundant growth, and sun stone illuminates hidden talent.
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Cover the jar and leave outside overnight. In the morning, strain the water (if you used dried herbs), bottle and label. For longer life, keep refrigerated or add up to 3 TBS of clear alcohol, like vodka.