Imbolc (pronounced ee-molc) is one of the four Gaelic traditional fire festivals, and it marks the conception of Spring. It falls on February 2nd, halfway between the winter solstice and the Spring equinox. Imbolc brings the stirrings of new life, it even means ‘in the belly’, referring to the fertility of the Earth. It is the changing of the Goddess from the Crone to the Maiden and historically was observed throughout Ireland, Scotland, and The Isle of Man. Imbolc honors the home, hearth and the fields which are blessed to ensure they are fertile.
Central to the festival is the Celtic Goddess Brigid (pronounced Breed), whose name means ‘exalted one’. Brigid is the keeper of the hearth/fire, and is the patron of all things domestic. She is also a Goddess of healing and midwifery who assists in all aspects of health and healing, aids women and animals in childbirth and also supports the birth of our creative projects.
On Imbolc, witches burn candles and fires, visit holy wells, and even have feasts. This year I plan to make a Brigid’s Mantle. In Celtic Pagan stories, Brigid’s Mantle (her cape or cloak) had powers of healing. It is believed that if you place a green or white cloth on the bough of a tree at Imbolc, Brigid will bless it in the night. I plan to start a tradition by using the same cloak every Imbolc so it will gain strength and power each year. I think green is probably a more traditional color to use, but white is also popular. (Brigid is often depicted wearing both colors.) The cloth I chose is a soft white muslin swaddling blanket that I purchased for my son Fox, shortly after discovering I was pregnant. The small blanket is special to me as it was the first thing I ever bought for him. Acquired already used from a local antique shop, it is extremely soft and comforting.
Once the mantle has been blessed you can use it to comfort and help heal a sick loved one. You can also use it to provide protection for women in labor. Some even claim Brigid’s mantle will help a newborn baby sleep if wrapped in it. I plan to use mine to comfort Fox when he isn’t feeling well; he can drape it over his shoulders and snuggle up in it while he is on the mend.
This little post doesn’t even begin to touch on the rich history and tradition of Imbolc and the Goddess Brigid. If you are curious and would like to know more, start with the links in this paragraph. If you continue your own research, you will find special foods, songs, and rituals for Imbolc. You may even decide to put a Brigid Goddess at your altar.
My husband Mark and I were lucky enough to be in Ireland during Imbolc in 2015. We had recently decided we wanted to have a child, and while we were at the sea in Kinsale, I prayed our son would join us soon. I love Ireland deeply, and Imbolc will always be special to me after spending it on The Emerald Isle. The following month, back in the States, we found out I was pregnant! My prayers were heard and nine months later our son was born under the protection of Brigid.
If you do anything special for Imbolc, please share with me in the comments below. I am always looking to be inspired by my magical readers!
~ Blessed Be ~