Imbolc or Imbolg, also called Brigid’s Day, is a Gaelic traditional festival marking the beginning of spring. Imbolc is one of the 4 Celtic fire festivals that is celebrated to commemorate the season of change or the passing of winter and the beginning or return of the sun or sprouting of leaves or Crocus flowers etc. Celtic goddess, Brigid, is considered as the goddess of healing, poetry, and midwifery. Celebrated on February 1st and 2nd, the festival marks the recovery of the goddess after giving birth to the God, a young lusty boy, yet powerful providing warmth, that fertilizes the Earth causing the seeds to germinate and sprout.
Although the traditions and customs died out in 20th century, it is still celebrated in Ireland, Scotland and Isle of Man as the festival that is symbolic of light, healing, and warmth etc. Celtic Neopagans and Wiccans celebrate the festival by lighting multiple candles. The white candles symbolic of Goddess Brigid and the yellow or red candles representing the God. On the eve of Imbolc, people believe that the goddess visits the virtuous households and blesses the inhabitants. Families prepare special meal such as Colcannon, Barmbrack and often set some of the food aside for the visiting goddess. In Ireland, a family member representing Brigid would take three circles around the home carrying rushes. They will be invited inside after they knock the door thrice.
The family member would be served with the meal and the straw is then made into a bed. Before going to bed, items of clothing or strips are left outside to have the goddess bless those items. Ashes from the fire are raked smooth and in the morning people will look for some mark or sign on the ashes to indicate the goddess visit. People in Ireland make Brigid’s crosses during Imbolc. The cross of the goddess usually consists of straw that is weaved into either three-armed crosses, a square or equilateral cross. They are left hung on doors, windows, and stables until the next year of Imbolc to have the goddess protect their families. The custom of people making Brigid’s crosses or visiting holy wells dedicated to St. Brigid on February 1st is still prevalent.
The Wiccan Imbolc ritual includes supplies such as white flower, snow in a crystal container, an orange candle anointed with cinnamon, rosemary oil and a red candle representing the elements. The actual ritual starts with arranging the altar, lighting the candle and burning the rosemary oil and casting a circle. The ritual follows with several hymns that begin after casting the circle, followed by invoking the elements. Spells related to fertility, protection, and growth etc. are associated with Imbolc and are cast after invoking the elements. The Closing of the Circle which involves thanking the goddess ends the ritual.