What is Imbolc?
Imbolc is known as Candlemas or Brigid’s Day. It is the date in the Pagan calendar to celebrate the first stirrings of spring. The point in the year where the change of the Goddess from Crone to Maiden occurs. It celebrates new life and rebirth and the beginning of a new agricultural year.
Imbolc is the celebration of the return of the light. After the long winter nights it is a celebration of the rebirth of the sun and longer days.
It is one of the fire festivals and is celebrated by the lighting of candles or bonfires. It can be celebrated in modern times by turning on every light in the house for a few minutes at dusk.
Many celebrate by purifying body mind and spirit in order to come into the following year renewed. It is a time for letting go of things that are no longer useful. Let go of ideas, perceptions and outdated beliefs. Spring cleaning is part of this ritual.
As with most “nature” rituals, this spring clearing out and cleaning makes sense. After being inside for the long winter months the first breath of spring is a relief. Cleaning out the accumulated dirt and dust of the winter makes everything lighter.
As an Herbalist I am always interested in the herbs used at such festivals. The herbs for this festival include blackberry, coltsfoot and ginger.
Blackberry is anti-viral, anti-bacterial and antioxidant.
Their use in Imbolc is to attract wealth and healing. It has an extremely high antioxidant level as well as helping ward off viruses and bacteria. Perhaps the pagans were on to something.
Coltsfoot is used medicinally for congestion and cough. It is a demulcent which means it has a cooling calming effect. For Imbolc it is thought to move emotional and physical stagnation and to bring peace. More parallels between the medicinal uses and the “magical” uses of a plant.
Ginger is used medicinally to quell nausea, stave off colds and reduce inflammation. Ginger is a hot herb which is used to treat heat and inflammation. For those that are always cold, drinking ginger tea can help warm the body from the inside out. See more about ginger at my blog here and here. For Imbolc it is thought to stimulate and revitalize the fire within.
Imbolc takes place every February 2. Groundhog day is thought to have evolved from this Celtic celebration.
How Do I Celebrate?
Want to celebrate Imbolc but don’t know where to start? There are a number of sites that can help you with traditional Imbolc celebrations. To me the point of these celebrations is to come up with your own way to celebrate. I believe that anything that celebrates the newness and freshness of spring is a celebration. Take a walk in nature, light a candle, clean out a closet. The best part of Imbolc is the knowledge that Spring is right around the corner!