I know I have written about Imbolc before, but it is the first of the festivals to appear in any year, and as such, it is an important point in the pagan calendar.
Imbolc is the Celtic festival which marks the beginning of the lambing season and the first stirrings of new life in the land. At this time of the year, all of nature is pregnant, and only just visible. The celebrations which surround Imbolc reflect this. It is not the flashy celebration of life which will come later, at Beltane. Instead, Imbolc celebrates the hope of new life and the welcome return of the light.
Imbolc is a time to let go of the past and look to the future. It is a reflective celebration, a turning inward to attempt to work out the thoughts and habits which no longer serve any practical purpose in your life. It is also a great time for spring-cleaning, although this is an aspect of the festival that I personally struggle with!
For those who want to identify the festivals with a specific deity, Imbolc is one of the great Fire Festivals held in honour of the Goddess Brigid (or Bride, Brigit, Brighit, and a host of other spellings). She was held in such esteem that the early Christians converted her into St Bridget rather than attempting to discredit the worship of her. She is a Goddess of healing, poetry, and smithcraft. She brings fertility to the land and its people, and as such is closely connected to both midwives and new-born babies. She is one of the Triple Goddess, appearing at Imbolc in the guise of the Maiden.
It is traditional to light every lamp in the house at sunset on Imbolc – even if only for a few moments. Alternatively, light candles in each room in honour of the rebirth of the Sun. If there is snow on the ground outside, walk in it for a moment, while summoning thoughts of the feel of summer.
Celebrate by having a simple meal of meat and dairy products, remembering that this is only the start of the bounty that this year will bring.