February 2 for Northern Hemisphere; August 1 for Southern Hemisphere
Imbolc Lore Researched and Compiled by StormWing, ©1996 - 2016
Imbolc (pronounced "IM-bulk", "IM molg" or "EM-bowl/k") is one of the Greater Wiccan Sabbats and is usually celebrated on February 2nd. In the Celtic tradition it is celebrated on February 1st or the first Full Moon in Aquarius. Other names Imbolc are known by include Imbolg, Imbolic (Celtic), Imbolgc Brigantia (Caledonii Tradition, or the Druids), Candlelaria (Mexican Craft), Disting (Teutonic Tradition - celebrated on February 14th) Candlemas (some Pagan Traditions and/or individuals prefer this name), the Feast of Candlemas and St. Bridgets Day (Christian), Oimelc, Brigids Day, Lupercus (Strega), the Feast of Lights, the Feast of the Virgin, the Snowdrop Festival, or the Festival of Lights. The name "Imbolc" or "Oimelc", which is derived from Gaelic, means "ewes milk" after the lactating sheep that are feeding their first born lambs of the new season at this time of year.
This Sabbat is a time of cleansing and newborn lambs, a good time for the Blessing of seeds. It is a festival of the Maiden in preparation for growth and renewal. Imbolc is a time to honor the Virgin Goddesses, along with the first signs of returning life in a frozen Winterland. In many places, the crocus flower is one of the first to show itself popping up through the snow, and so it is also a symbol of this Sabbat. Candlemas is a Festival of Light and is therefore celebrated by the use of many candles.
Symbolically, many Pagans choose to represent Imbolc by the use of Candle Wheels, Grain Dollies, and Sun Wheels - these may be used in ritual or simply as decoration. Candle Wheels are generally round decorated "crowns" made of straw or some type of natural woven substance which is ringed with either eight or thirteen red, pink or white candles and decorated with colored ribbons. In many Imbolc rituals, it is traditional for the High Priestess or the Maiden to wear this "crown" during the ritual at some point.
Grain Dollies can be made many different ways, and need not take on human shape unless you desire. They are made of wheat or sheaves of other grains such as straw, corn or barley. The sheaves are formed into some semblance of a "dolly" by folding, tucking and tying here and there. They can then be "dressed" in white cotton or satin and lace to represent the bride. You may even choose to create a "bed" (from a basket usually) for your grain dolly, commonly called a "Brides Bed". There are many Pagan books available on how to create Candle Wheels, Grain Dollies, and Sun Wheels. Please refer to them for further instructions on making these decorations. Imbolc is also represented by burrowing animals, and the bride. Some other altar decorations may include a besom (Witchs broom) to symbolize the sweeping out of the old, a sprig of evergreen, or a small Goddess statue representing Her in the Maiden aspect.
Imbolc can be symbolically represented by a dish of snow, evergreens and/or candles. Ritually, you may choose to light and hold candles (symbol of light) within the Circle. You may also want to place a wheel symbol upon the Altar. It is traditional upon Imbolc, at sunset or just after ritual, to light every lamp in the house --- if only for a few moments. Or, light candles in each room in honor of the Suns rebirth. Alternately, light a kerosene lamp with a red chimney and place in a prominent part of the home or in a window. If snow lies on the ground, walk in it for a moment, recalling the warmth of Summer. With your projective hand, trace an image of the Sun on the snow. Other Pagan activities may include the gathering of stones and the searching for signs of Spring. It is considered taboo to cut or pick plants at this time.
Appropriate Deities for Imbolc include all Virgin/Maiden Goddesses, all Fire/Flame Gods and Goddesses, and Gods and Goddesses represented as Children. Some Imbolc Deities to mention by name include Brigid, Aradia, Anu, Arianrhod, Athena, Branwen, Inanna, Selene, Gaia, Februa, Februus, Pax, Cupid, Eros, and Diancecht. Key actions to keep in mind during this time in the Wheel of the Year include planning and preparing for the times to come. Spellwork for fertility and protection are appropriate, as well as those to help one define and focus on spiritual and physical desires for the future. Imbolc is a good time to get your life in order - whether physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, or all of the above. Make plans, organize, clean out drawers and closets to help create a refreshing sense of bringing in the new and clearing out the old. Preparing yourself and your home now will help to allow you to take full advantage of the wonder and freedom that Springtime will bring.
The most common colors associated with Imbolc are white, yellow, and pink. However, light blue, light green, red and brown are also appropriate colors for this Sabbat. Altar candles should be white, red, pink and/or brown. Stones to use during the Imbolc celebration are turquoise, amethyst, garnet and onyx. Animals associated with Imbolc include robins, sheep, lambs, deer, and burrowing animals like badgers and groundhogs. Mythical beasts associated with Imbolc are the phoenix, dragons and other types of firebirds. Plants and herbs associated with Imbolc are evergreens and willow trees, rosemary, angelica, basil, bay, benzoin, heather, myrrh, clover, dill, and all yellow flowers. For Imbolc incense, you could make a blend from any of the following scents or simply choose one: basil, myrrh, frankincense, wisteria, jasmine, camphor, cinnamon, and lotus.
Foods appropriate to eat on this day include those that represent growth, such as seeds (pumpkin, sesame, sunflower) as well as poppyseed breads, muffins, and cakes. Also quite befitting are foods from the dairy, since Imbolc marks the festival of calving. Sour cream dishes are fine. Appropriate meat dishes should contain poultry, pork, or lamb. Spicy and full-bodied foods in honor of the Sun are equally attuned. Curries and all dishes made with peppers, onions, leeks, shallots, garlic or chives are appropriate. Spiced wines, herbal teas, honey, and dishes containing raisins --- all foods symbolic of the Sun --- are also traditional.
May you all enjoy the Blessings of the Imbolc Sabbat and all that is represented at this time of year.