We are approaching the first festival after Yule, the first festival in 2023 and for me it feels as if the light is ahead of us. The days are already feeling longer and in my garden bulbs are appearing above the dark earth. Life is beginning to stir, the birds are busy preparing for the spring and their song is a calling for all of us to stir, to create new ways of being in the world. I can feel that stirring deep within, even though a part of me wants to stay ‘under the covers’. However I know I am being called and will at some point have to answer that call.
I have been walking my dogs these last few days on the wild and beautiful beaches and rivers of this land, I have met lovely women on my walks who were also wild and beautiful. One women who works with people in assisted living walked with her little dog Nancy, who can outrun Poppy, my little Jack Russel, who is the fastest dog in the North East. The second woman was like a sparkler on a dark and windy afternoon, full of life, full of joy and full of the beauty of the human spirit. These encounters remind me that the world is also full of magic and spirit.
So back to Imbolc, the word Imbolc means ‘in the belly of the Mother’. It is a night when women are invited to become guardians of the light, because women know about birthing, and on this night we birth the light of the coming year.
This festival is also known as the festival of Brigid a Celtic Goddess later ordained as a saint by the Christian Church. Brigid was a poet, a silversmith and a healer. She is the patroness of Ireland and held in high esteem and they celebrate St Brigid’s Day on this day.
Imbolc is on February 1st through until sunset on February 2nd. This festival is midpoint between Yule and Spring Equinox. There are many ways to mark this festival, I have often done a planting ceremony, the idea is to think about what you want to grow in your life over this coming year. With young children, we have made drawings or written words on a piece of paper. We then have a bowl of earth and plant these wishes in the soil, feeling our hands in the earth. We then plant a bulb on top which the children then water and watch it come into its glorious fullness of being.
In the Silver Lodge, a lodge of women elders that has been meeting for the last five years to plan the eight festivals, we came together to plan our ceremony for Imbolc. This year we decided to make gratitude candles out of sea shells collected on the beaches. We will burn them on the night of Imbolc and give thanks for all that has been. We agreed of three gratitude candles and that we would each make ceremony at 8.30 pm on May 1st. We will light new candles, filling the house with candle light and leave a light burning in the window that night to encourage the return of light. It would be lovely if other women chose to join in this ceremony so that we can create a circle of light to go out into this often desperate and dark world that we find ourselves living in.
One of the other traditions for this festival is to spring clean the home, clear out things that you no longer need or use and make space for new ideas and creative projects. It is traditional to make spirit dolls for the feast of Brigid and to make a St Brigid Celtic cross, you can find you tube videos showing you how to do this.
Cleaning the house, bringing in white flowers, using sweet oils after a shower and lovely food are all ways to prepare for opening yourself to spirit. In the past I have made a cake that is iced, half in white icing and half in dark icing to mark the change.
I invite you to join this ceremony, to create a circle of light that goes out into the world and to feel how you are woven into the world, woven into spirit and how spirit and nature are woven into you. Dance your connection with the earth and with each other as a way into this coming year and celebrate all that you are in your full and glorious being.
© Simone Silver Path