Imbolc, sometimes called Brighid’s Day or Feast of Brighid, falls on February 2 in the Northern Hemisphere (August 1 in the Southern Hemisphere). Since the Winter Solstice/Yule, the days have been getting gradually longer, though there are still weeks of winter to go. Hidden in the earth, however, is the potential for spring, and Imbolc is the chance to celebrate that.
Prepare for Spring
Spring is the time to work on our plans, but there’s much to do before that. We begin the planting by working the foundation, turning it over completely so that we loosen the potential for growth. We plant the seeds with care and set up a routine for nourishing them. Too much care or too little care will kill them before they’ve gotten a chance to produce their harvest. We work hard throughout the spring months to bring our plans to fruition in the summer.
Imbolc anticipates this work. It’s not quite time yet to begin working the foundation, but we need to start thinking about it. The Celtic goddess Brighid is associated with fire and thus with cleansing and purification. Imbolc is the time to bring light into the darkness of the mind and dig up some of the major issues that could block our growth this year. It’s a good time to bravely examine what we know to be toxic in our lives and start thinking seriously about how to remove it.
Imbolc is the time to sit down with a journal and have a few good cleansing sessions. Writing things down helps fix them in the mind. Here’s an exercise to try. Make two columns on a page. On the left side, make a list of everything you want to get rid of in your life. This could be toxic people, an exploitative job, limiting beliefs, or destructive behaviors. Then on the right side of each item, write what you’d like to have instead. By clarifying what you don’t want and then what you want, you’re planting the seeds of change at just the right time, on the cusp of spring.
Tapping into the “Feminine”
Many Neo-Pagans identify three aspects of the goddess or “feminine” aspect of Spirit: maiden, mother, crone. At Imbolc, the emphasis is on the maiden. This includes fertility and nurturing, and the link to spring symbolism is pretty clear. To me, this means nurturing the potential for bringing our yearly goals to fruition. That makes this festival a time of hope, very different from the death symbolism of Samhain/Halloween and Yule. It’s about bolstering trust in what’s to come.
The goddess Brighid is also linked to healing. In the Tarot deck, the card called The Star is often interpreted as representing hope and healing, and I think there’s a good reason why they’re linked. Hope heals. It gives us the strength to move through the darkness, trusting that we’ll eventually reach that opening where we can climb up into the light. If we didn’t have that hope, there would be no point in making the effort, and Imbolc is certainly about feeling that the effort is worth it.
Finally, the Celtic goddess Brighid was considered the patroness of poetry, and her fire represents inspiration. I see this as being more about creative gestation, that potential to bring something out of the darkness as the seeds bring the harvest out of the earth. It’s a good time to be inspired, no matter how weird or impossible the ideas may be right now. When we identify some specific desires, plans tend to take shape in a vague way at first, and if we trust the energy within the process, we’ll know when the time has come to actually sit down and map out some concrete steps to achieving those desires.
To get the most out of Imbolc, we need to be willing to look into some of the darker parts of our life, which is harmonious with the winter that still surrounds us. At the same time, we must be strong enough not to let that darkness bring us down. As all seasons pass, so will winter. Grey, cold days will eventually give way to bright, warm ones, and if we’ve done some cleansing at Imbolc, we’ll be ready to open ourselves up to everything spring has to offer us when it arrives.